The internet is like a gun. Firearms can protect or attack. The Internet can inform but also incite. With a restrained electronic highway, racism and antisemitism wouldn’t have spiked the past 12 years in the Western world.
The election of President Obama heartened non-Whites everywhere but also enraged White supremacists. The reign of Trump after that, has so emboldened US hate groups that we now see there, neo-Nazis and White supremacists stronger than ever. All via the Internet and social media propaganda — first and foremost coming from the misleader in chief.
The Sages warn us that the tongue is like a sword. It can convey the loftiest ideas but it can also kill. On Yom Kippur, Jews contemplate and try to move away from sins done by improper speech more than any other sin.
After neo-Nazis stormed the seat of the American Parliament gathered in a joint session, to kill the Vice President and the Speaker of the House at instigation of the US President, social media companies finally fall over each other blocking hate speech. But this worries liberals. They’re wrong.
Understandably, a limit on free speech reminds us of dictators. But not all speech blocking is the same. And the distinctions are easy. Just like we must fear a murder attempt when someone draws a knife and walks up to someone in the street. But the same in an operation theater is not suspect.
This is the central, guiding lesson: Free Speech is not a stand-alone right. Its goodness only exists when it’s joined with Democracy, the idea that everyone counts equally, even when less rich, good-looking, or smart.
That means this crucial lesson: Free Speech is only a right for the mouths of those who support democracy. People who want to talk about looking down on certain groups of people cannot claim a right to Free Speech.
The American Constitution’s Freedom of Speech is only for those who support the Constitution. Terrorists, supremacists get no free rein.
Just like no one should be allowed to stand for office if they are for discrimination of any oppressed group. That is not a limit on democracy. That is democracy not being naive about having enemies.
So, it isn’t anti-democratic to stop hate speech. In fact, it protects equality.
Western societies have great trouble setting limits on personal liberties. Drunk driving and public smoking are regulated because one endangers others. But someone who wants to hurt themselves is free to do so. Although wearing of helmets or safety belts is also regulated because otherwise, the medical costs become prohibitive. I’m not saying that self-harming should be punished. But, at least, it shouldn’t be seen as ideal and inevitable. But no one faints from lockdown and still thousands of viral transmissions. While they imply that many don’t obey the restriction.
Now, please tell others who are still confused. Thank you.