Opinion

Hate Speech, Free Speech, Better Speech

REUTERS/Stephen Lam

Nirmal Dass Researcher with a PhD in translation theory

The film was made during the Soviet Great Purge (1936–1938), in which a million people died – likely more. The photographs of the victims were meticulously mutilated, the faces scratched out. The photos could easily have been destroyed. But it is the refinement of cruelty to have just the ghost of the victim, forever faceless, in human memory.

“Fewer but better” should be the motto of the various tech-giants who now police their digital fiefdoms to ensure “hate speech” is eliminated from their realms. The recent purge of Alex Jones and Infowars should come as a salutary lesson to all conservatives – those in power will always limit freedom for the sake of ideology.

The reason for the elimination of Infowars is supposedly a moral one, in that netizens are to be protected from the baleful influence of hate speech by enforcing human rights.

Thus, a new heresy has emerged — training people to utter better speech, which supposedly makes free speech useless. There will be fewer but better speakers in society. “Better” means social engineering, and more technocracy, where experts provide the correct words — or safe speech, which is also code for internal censorship. Think before you speak!

To bolster the argument, campus intellectuals are fond of referring to speech code theory, where speakers must follow a set of rules that stipulate what to say and how to say it, in order to conform to the needs and demands of the community. Thus, meaning belongs not to the individual, but to the group.

If all this sounds Sovietesque – that is because it is. The term, “hate speech” is an old piece of Soviet agitprop, first introduced in the 1950s, whose purpose was to dismantle and ultimately destroy the very soul of the West — free speech. During the height of the Cold War, free speech was the great rallying cry of the West — and thus it was also the greatest enemy of the Soviet Bloc which any decent politburo wanted to eradicate.

The earliest justification of suppressing hate speech was made in 1961, in the U.N., by a Soviet Bloc member: “The Yugoslavian representative explained that although it was important to prohibit advocacy of violence, ‘it was just as important to suppress manifestations of hatred which, even without leading to violence, constituted a degradation of human dignity and a violation of human rights.'”

A few years later, the Soviets used the U.N. to bring their hate speech agitprop to the West — namely, Article 20.2, which was added to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 1966. This is where hate speech was first defined as, “Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.”

Soon thereafter, the Soviets succeeded in adding Article 4 to the earlier International Convention for the Elimination of all Racial Discrimination (1965), which stated in part that signatory nations ‘shall declare an offense punishable by law all dissemination of ideas based on racial superiority or hatred, incitement to racial discrimination.”

All Western countries are now signatories to both these conventions. Such is Russian collusion!

A few years earlier, in 1950, when the Soviets first began to push for international suppression of hate speech, Eleanor Roosevelt provided a clear critique — that, if the government can prohibit words, then “any criticism of public or religious authorities might all too easily be described as incitement to hatred and consequently prohibited.” In effect, hate speech can be anything — all it needs is a government label.

By this time, hate speech was being studied and promoted at Western universities, where theorists like Samuel Walker, Louis Althusser, Jeffrie Murphy, Jean Campbell, Judith Butler and David Goldberg were touting its merits.

A post-Christian, communal morality was needed – and hate speech filled the bill, for it was ultimately a secular and materialist concept that could be used to control personal behavior. The Left has always chased Utopias and left behind countless, faceless victims.

After some 50 years, the old Soviet plan has finally worked. All of the West (Europe, Britain, Canada, and Australia), with the exception of the United States, now protects human rights by proscribing hate speech. Precisely what the Soviets wanted. And true to form, by focusing on hate speech, free speech has been the casualty.

For example, a Canadian government official, when asked about free speech, rather infamously observed, “Freedom of speech is an American concept … It’s not my job to give value to an American concept.”

Thus, the United States is the “last man standing” when it comes to absolute free speech. What happened to Infowars shows that the First Amendment can safely be ignored, and the Internet is easily made into a tool for tyranny. It was Karl Marx, interesting enough, who made this important observation: “The truly radical cure for censorship would be its abolition.”

It would appear that such abolition now has fallen to conservatives, who alone can understand that hate speech is fake news, which must be exposed, so it can crawl off into the dustbin of history.

Nirmal Dass is a former university professor specializing in the Early and High Middle Ages. His areas of research are philosophy, history and ancient languages. He has written several books and is actively engaged in literary translation.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.