Free Hate Speech


The fake conservative love of free speech is really a defense of hate speech. What other kind of speech is being repressed these days?* They try to frame it as a defense of “all” speech because that’s the only remotely plausible way to defend extreme hate speech, bullying, white supremacy, Nazi rallies, racist propaganda, efforts to recruit and radicalize the disaffected, etc. They will also cynically use “free association” for the same purposes.

The irony is of course that the more power we allow the radical right to gain, the more they will attack the freedoms of others and the more they will escalate their attacks on free, open society, diversity, and modern democratic, cosmopolitan civilization. And the radical right won’t stop at repressing the speech and other rights of those who oppose them. Radical right ideology, unchecked, invariably leads to violence and murder.

This is a classic example of Popper’s paradox of tolerance (which they mock even as they exploit it).

Some fear that regulating extreme speech is a slippery slope. Partisan information control is a slippery slope with a clear historical and contemporary warrant (justification) for that argument. Since that is already a slippery slope in its own right, regulating hate speech doesn’t necessarily make it more so. Nor is control of hate speech necessarily partisan.


My view is that hate speech is a a form of aggression with a slippery slope towards violence and murder. That particular slippery slope concern has a detailed historical warrant vis a vis open democratic societies. Its not theoretical fear mongering. Hate speech >> fighting words >> incitement to violence >> violence.

IMO the legal and institutional brakes on that progression are in about the right place today, but the radical right wants to cut those brake lines, and too many naive conservatives and liberals are giving them support under the false flag of free speech.

Is there any warrant whatsoever that *regulating* hate speech is a slippery slope? I’m not aware of any, and thus that argument is a fallacy (fear mongering, etc.). It is entirely theoretical as far as I know, by which standard everything is a fatal slippery slope.

Jordan Peterson and his ilk may or may not be radical right fanatics themselves, but at the very least they are useful “idiots”; recruiting tools in the early stages of radicalizing “lost boys” whether they know it or not, whether they admit it to themselves or not. Their blend of benign and malignant stereotypes, tropes, myths, and sex/race pseudoscience (biological essentialism) is the perfect fishnet and on-ramp to more extreme radicalization.

Losing its grip on the mainstream and becoming a counterculture is precisely what has the current generation of conservatives so agitated and subversive. They want good social order on their terms only. They utterly reject a modern, cosmopolitan/multicultural framework in which countercultures become peacefully coexisting subcultures.

Defending their own hate speech (and no one else’s free speech) is the only real reason for conservatives making much ado about free speech these days.
* The cynical fraud (hypocrisy is too weak a word) of conservative free speech is also seen in the ways they try to smear and bully those like our freshman female Congress people who call out racism, sexism, and radical right Zionism in Congress and the Executive branch. If progressives criticize far right Israeli lobbies they are falsely smeared as anti-semitic. If they criticise the GOP’s use of racist props and tropes they are smeared as reverse racists. College students and faculty that oppose racists, homophobes, and fascists speaking, recruiting, and organizing on campus are also smeared as being weak, “coddled” (Haidt), or ironically authoritarian. This is not just a matter of conservatives defending a free and open marketplace of ideas. They try to use any lever of power they can get their hands on to silence their opposition. The recent executive order on campus free speech is a case in point. They would gladly block funds for cancer or climate research to protect hate speech and psuedoscience on campus.

Note: I’m not saying there aren’t many low-information conservatives (and some confused liberals) going along with this naïvely. But where such ignorance is at all willful ignorance, it is complicity.

Many hate speakers are victims of childhood abuse, neglect, insecurity and such. Hate speech may be a symptom of clinical or sub clinical PTSD.

Hate speech defenders and enablers are harder to figure. In some cases they just have a naïve idealism about absolute free speech. Some are simply sympathetic with the hate speaker. More often I think they share the sentiments of the hate speaker but lack the courage to be outspoken haters themselves.

That suggests quite a range of compassionate interventions. I don’t want to give up on anybody, but some of these haters should not be walking around without adult supervision. I don’t want to neglect fascism and radicalization and let them grow like mold until we are forced to fight them with lethal disinfectants.

I welcome any conservatives, libertarians, radical centrists, etc. who want to debate this with me. In fact, I fucking dare you. But I’m NOT going to give anyone the right to make gish-galloping rants on my page. If you disagree with more than one point I’ve made, state your questions/objections/claims one at a time, in one comment/reply for each. Or you can make up to 3 points per comment if you number each point. Otherwise I may delete your comment without reply. If you are too boorish I will block your sorry ass.

There will be ongoing edits to this post.

Poor Richard

The Reactionary Mind

Check out these new books on the philosophy,  psychology, and neuroscience of political ideologies:

1. The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin

(Video from Conversations w/ Great Minds – Thom Hartmann interviews Corey Robin. Executive summary: conservatism is fundamentally authoritarian and anti-democratic.)

Youtube link: Corey Robin, The Reactionary Mind

2. The Republican Brain: Why Even Educated Conservatives Deny Science — and Reality

This essay is adapted from Chris Mooney’s forthcoming book.

Video: Thom Hartmann interviews Chris Mooney about The Republican Brain:

YouTube link

3. The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion

 Jonathan Haidt, C-SPAN BookTV:

“Jonathan Haidt, psychology professor at the University of Virginia, presents his thoughts on the current political and social divisions that he contends separate the Left and the Right. The social psychologist examines the origins of these fissures and explains that people’s moral intuition, the initial perceptions we have of others, propagates the idea that people who view the world differently from how we do are wrong.” (full video)

Video excerpt (10 min):

How do Conservatives and Liberals See the World? (

“Bill Moyers and moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt talk about the psychological underpinnings of our contentious culture, why we can’t trust our own opinions, and the demonizing of our adversaries.”


Check these out! They offer much-needed modern perspectives to help us scientifically unmask, re-frame, and re-brand the right-wing world-view for what it often is: counter-revolutionary (vis a vis the US Revolution and other democratic revolutions), anti-democratic, and anti-enlightenment.  Conservative approaches may have utility under certain socio-economic and cultural conditions, but in general they are increasingly pathological and self-defeating in modern, liberal, democratic  societies.

Please note, I’m not saying that so-called liberal and neoliberal approaches are necessarily better, especially those that actually encourage or provide cover for corruption, crony capitalism (corporatism), neo-feudalism, or other excessive concentrations of  state and/or private wealth and power at the top.

Perhaps the single most important principle adopted by the US Founders was the separation of powers with appropriate checks and balances.  All such schemes aim at some more-or-less ideal distribution of power (and sometimes wealth) across various segments and institutions of society. When that distribution departs too far from the ideal, then some kind of redistribution is wanted. The differences between most conservative and liberal ideologies may boil down to differences in the preferred ratios and mechanisms of that distribution. In my opinion the ideal ratios and mechanisms for the distribution of power (and insomuch as it is a proxy for power, wealth) should be determined by experimentation and empirical data rather than by ideology. Most conservatives and liberals alike are still more attached to ideologies than to science (i.e. empirical data).


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