Universities and other Institutions – not Hate Speech Laws – are a threat to Freedom of Political Speech

Etikk I Praksis - Nordic Journal of Applied Ethics 1:5-19 (2022)
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Abstract

_One of the strongest arguments against hate speech legislation is the so-called Argument from Political Speech. This argument problematizes the restrictions that might be placed on political opinions or political critique when these opinions are expressed in a way which can be interpreted as ‘hateful’ towards minority groups. One of the strongest free speech scholars opposing hate speech legislation is Ronald Dworkin, who stresses that having restrictions on hate speech is, in fact, illegitimate in a liberal democracy. The right to express oneself freely concerning any political decision is, according to Dworkin, a core democratic principle; it is what self-governance – and hence liberal democracies – are built upon. Dworkin and many other free speech scholars based in the United States see hate speech legislation as a threat to expressing oneself freely and critically. I argue that Dworkin and other US-based free speech scholars tend to overlook actual hate speech legislation in countries where such laws have been implemented and have functioned for decades. Furthermore, I argue that the real threat against political speech lies not in hate speech legislation but rather outside of the law, namely, in private institutions such as universities and museums. Restrictions on political speech in various societal circumstances have been on the rise over the last decades – first and foremost in the US. I analyse why these restrictions on political speech are more widespread in the only Western country without laws against hate speech than they are in countries with implemented hate speech laws._ _Keywords_: political speech, hate speech, hate speech legislation, private institu-tions, universities, USA.

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Sigri M. Gaïni
Roskilde University

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