Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here’s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.


 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate

Subscribe!
Subscribe





On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.
___________

Syndicate
RSS/XML


RSS 2.0

'Hate speech' censorship: the reality

By Laurence Maher - posted Monday, 28 September 2015


The ordinariness of "hate"

Why all the fuss about so-called "hate speech"? "Hate" is an ordinary English word which bespeaks an ordinary human emotion. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) entry is, in part, "1. An emotion of extreme dislike or aversion; detestation, abhorrence, hatred." The short answer is that the unhelpful but influential expression, "hate speech", is no more than an ideological label used to dress up the latest manifestation of the ever-present human impulse to gag other human beings from expressing opinions which differ from the censors' approved opinions.

The long answer involves probing the modern censors' attempts to define "hate speech" and contemporary arguments for suppressing selected categories of dissent. The essence of the "hate speech" dogma is that there is a hierarchy of ideas, some superior, some inferior, some approved, some disapproved and to be suppressed.

Advertisement

In 1990, members of the Supreme Court of Canada referred to "hate" as "the most severe and deeply felt form of opprobrium." Reasonable minds will differ as to whether that formula adds anything not conveyed by "extreme dislike".

The reality is that public controversy in Australia is notable for daily doses of "intense dislike" or, in a word, hate. Intense dislike of ideas and those who express them is, in the sense contended for by the late Ronald Dworkin, a "constitutive" characteristic of a free and open and equal society.

Former Prime Minister Abbott and the Leader of the Opposition are hated men. In 2015, there have been as many examples as might normally be expected of their dedicated haters subjecting both men to torrents of vituperation. And megalitres of vitriol have been released in condemning a former Leader of the (ALP) Opposition and a former Justice of the High Court.

In the long Australian tradition of dissent, adherents of conflicting social, economic, political and religious opinions hurl hate-filled epithets at one another. To draw attention to that reality is not to approve or encourage vulgar, scurrilous, bigoted, malicious, or blindly prejudiced habits, or content, of speech.

The volume of hateful language and prejudice increases by the day. For some of the citizenry, the World Wide Web (WWW) is, at best, an agglomeration of humbug, cant, trivia and drivel. And, to borrow the arresting alliterative tag applied by W J V Windeyer QC at the Petrov Royal Commission in 1954, at its worst, the WWW attracts "farrago[es] of facts, falsity and filth", to which might be added - fable, fabrication, fantasy, fear-mongering and fatuousness. And then there is the more recent arrival of social media, a great advance in freedom of communication or an open sewer depending on one's opinion.

In recent times, the selective acceptance of "hate speech" has been evidenced in the conspicuous failure of the proponents of "hate speech" censorship legislation to be troubled in the slightest degree by public exhortations (in one case violent) that then Prime Minister Abbott, anthropogenic global warming "deniers" and persons who "insult" religious ideas and beliefs be put to death. What is "hate" to one person is "truth" (earthly or divine) to another. What is "respectful discourse" to one person is "nauseating" to another.

Advertisement

"Who could disagree?"

Both the self-identifying "Left" and "Right" in Australian politics have their pet doctrinal verities some of which are shared. The dogmatic censorial cast of mind is that since it is inconceivable that that any sane person could disagree dissenters should not be tolerated.

Opinions will, of course, differ, but the "Right" seems more inclined to resort to hatred, contempt and ridicule than imposing legal penalties on the folks they abhor.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. 3
  5. All


Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

14 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with del.icio.us Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

L W Maher is a Melbourne barrister with a special interest in defamation and other free speech-related disputes. He has written extensively on Australian Cold War legal history.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Laurence Maher

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Photo of Laurence Maher
Article Tools
Comment 14 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend
Advertisement

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy