November 30, 2010

I regard free speech as a fundamental moral right, a normative as well as instrumental value. She treats speech rights as immoral when they involve expressions of hatred. She aims for a society in which people feel “safe” from exposure to the hateful feelings of others. I aim for one in which people can safely harbor and express their ideals and emotions, including their hatreds. She asserts that the law can regulate speech without regulating emotion or belief; I assert that emotions, beliefs, and speech are inextricably bound: I shape my ideas by articulating them; writing is how I formulate and clarify my thoughts. She regards hate speech as conduct; (censors often conflate speech and action). I insist that it’s speech. In other words, if our debate had devolved into an exchange of epithets, if we’d hurled hateful names at each other, then according to her standards, we would each have been guilty of criminal conduct. I’d say we were guilty of embarrassing ourselves.

She welcomes the intrusion of state power into personal relations when they involve what she considers hateful speech. I shudder at the thought of it. Her vision of a safe society inspires in me visions of a Maoist re-education camp.


Wendy Kaminer and Femi Otitoju debate the moral limits of free speech. 

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