Hate Speech: between Identity and Loyalty

In most Western democracies hate speech bans, although endorsed across a centrist political spectrum, have been strongly advocated by the left. How, then, is leftist hate speech itself to be viewed? Leftists widely concede its existence, but argue that it is the voice of resistance to power, such that it cannot be equated with speech that targets historically disempowered groups. Yet that response is inadequate from international and comparative perspectives. For over a century, leftist hate speech has been the voice of power under dictatorial regimes, damaging untold millions of lives through propaganda denouncing ‘traitors’, ‘conspirators’, and other supposed menaces. International human rights bodies have side-lined such speech by assuming only an identity paradigm of hatred, while overlooking an equally important loyalty paradigm. This article introduces the loyalty paradigm with the aid of a little-known tract in which Friedrich Engels lambasts the Jewish poet Karl Isidor Beck. Engels avoids condemning Beck’s Jewish identity as such. Instead, he converts it into a betrayal of socialism. While the identity paradigm may suffice for Western democracies, much norm-creation concerning hate speech takes place at international levels, particularly in our era of cross-border communications. To continue excluding the loyalty paradigm would be to entrench the very Eurocentrism that advocates of bans widely claim to be combatting. This article takes no position for or against bans per se. Rather, it calls only for ethical coherence. If, in cross-cultural perspective, we are to accept identity-based bans, then we cannot credibly exclude loyalty-based bans. By contrast, if we are to add the loyalty-based hatred, then the scope of bans expands ever further, casting doubt on standard claims that hate speech bans represent only minimal infringements of free speech.