I’m all for the freedom of speech. People should have the right to say whatever [choose your adjective] thing they want. We should, but in the interest of civilization we’ve set boundaries against things like hate speech, which the American Bar Association defines as communication that “offends, threatens, or insults groups, based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or other traits.” So we don’t have the right to use “fighting words,” which are “without social value” and could be expected to provoke the listener, but the First Amendment does give us the freedom to say things that are offensive and hateful or that the listener may disagree with. If someone wants to explain the difference, I’d be grateful.
It’s not threats or insults that concern me here. There’s no excuse for those. It’s the offending part of the definition that prompted me to write this, because in the news I’ve been coming across examples of censorship or self-censorship that come from fear of offending a group. (more…)