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.

Extremist speech, militant democracy, and American exceptionalism

In this paper, we examine the treatment of extremist speech by the leading human rights courts in the US & Europe. Post-war European advocates of “militant democracy” urged state limitation of speech challenging fundamental tenets of the democratic order, and the comparative free expression literature often treats US courts as outliers in their refusal to accept such limitations. We assess this characterization via comparative examination of the treatment of extremist speech by the US Supreme Court & European Court of Human Rights. In particular, we examine all First Amendment/Art. 10 judgments involving extremist speech to assess whether the US Court has departed from the Strasbourg Court in extending robust protection to such speech, and if so, when that protection emerged and whether it has extended equally to different varieties of extremism.

Should democracies ban hate speech?

The goal of this paper is to develop a normative framework for justifiable hate speech regulation. The paper looks at four justifications. First, the line of argument developed by critical race theorists that assumes hate speech leads to direct harm and violation of rights of individuals. Second, the Weimar model that rests on the assumption that hate speech can lead to indirect harm to members of vulnerable minorities by creating a toxic environment. Third, the justification derived from the idea that forms of extreme public speech violate the basic values and principles of constitutional democracies. The fourth approach extends this argument from general values to the status of citizens by arguing that hate speech violates the equal standing of citizens by attempting to exclude certain members of society from the process of democratic deliberation. After discussing the five approaches to hate speech, the paper will develop a framework for regulating hate speech in the public sphere.