The Harm In Hate Speech Analysis

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To a certain extent, the majority of developed nations have complied with the United Nations’ requirements on hate speech and implemented some sort of legislation concerning its use, subsequently regulating free speech (Edmonds and Wartburton 2012). Converse to these nations as well as the UN's position on freedom of speech, the United States remains without hate speech regulation, as it is viewed as an infringement of the Constitution’s First Amendment, which purports an unrestricted right to freedom of speech (Edmonds and Wartburton 2012). Opinions vary regarding the juxtaposition of hate speech’s harm to free speech’s value, as scholars continue to discuss this subject. A notable scholar, C. Edwin Baker takes a quasi-absolutist First Amendment…show more content…
Jeremy Waldron challenges the absolutist position in his book, The Harm in Hate Speech, where he addresses the damage caused by hate speech and notes its relevance to an extensive freedom of speech (Potter…show more content…
To argue this idea, Baker dismisses the concept of speech as an illocutionary act. Instead, he claims that the purpose of speech, even if intended to injure, is solely “instrumental,” providing that the injury is a consequence of speech rather than an integral component of its utterance (Waldron 2012, 166). Incidentally, Baker approves of certain speech limitations, distinguishing these from other speech acts as bearing grave and imminent material consequences. Within these limitations he includes the harm to an individuals autonomy, as well as pre-existing exceptions like obscenity and sedition (Waldron 2012, 145). Contrary to these aspects, Baker views hate speech as a facilitator to potential material consequences, who's utterance alone does not present immediate effects. Accordingly, the responsibility of hate speech’s outcome is exclusively placed on the listener, asserting that the reaction to what is spoken dictates the consequence (Waldron 2012, 166). The listener’s integration of the speaker’s self disclosure is defined by Baker as “mental mediation,” where harm stems from the listener’s understanding. Therefore, those vulnerable to hate speech have the option to respond as a “critic or a victim” (Waldron 2012, 169).
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