…uaranteed right, relegating it to a regrettable, yet unavoidable cost that we must pay for freedom. However, if our elected leadership aims to authentically tout the ideals of liberalism and egalitarianism, then I contend that they must take violations of civility, presented by hate speech, more seriously.
I’m going to be an ass! But hopefully an informative one.
It is often presented that Free Speech is a fundamental, irrevocable freedom that has equal weight with the lives of, or rather is a justification for the persecution of, others. That is actually fundamentally false. Certainly under international law.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which the USA is a signatory (though I suspect something similar exists the US Constitution in any event), there is the crucial article 30. Otherwise known as the Salvatory Clause. This becomes important in a number of ways.
The UDHR presents freedom of expression, and of thought, as part of articles 18 and 19. This is what the proverbial right to free speech is often attributed to. It regulates your right to speak about something, but nowhere in the declaration is there a requirement or a right to an audience. There is no requirement for anyone to be heard. Indeed, it is many people’s freedom of expression to ignore, walk out or even shout louder.
In addition, a crucial aspect of hate speech is this baseline that targeted individuals are not equal, or are persecutable. However, this is a direct violation of article 1 of the declaration of Human Rights. Hence, hate speech that seeks to needlessly denigrate any group as less than human, or “differently human”, is itself a violation of human right.
This is where the Salvatory Clause comes in.
Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.”
What this means is that, for the protection of Human Rights, no group can use the freedoms listed in the UDHR as justification to persecute and breach anyone else’s Human Rights. That means nobody can claim they’re allowed to incite violence, employ racism, or any similar such hate speech. This clauses is also what gives justification for extra-judicial killing of armed civilians in war or civilian life. It is also fully legitimate to use it to prevent the abuse of human rights by someone seeking to justify hate speech or hate action, by using ‘free speech’. There is no contradictory position. It was a problem that was solved 70 years ago this year. Free speech does not trump Human Rights! Ever. On anything.