What should be illegal?
By Cazzy Lewchuk, Opinions Editor
Like most rational people, I am strongly anti-hatred. I believe humanity has a natural tendency to turn against each other, and that equality and tolerance is the foundation of progress.
In many parts of Europe, hate speech is a crime. If you speak at a Nazi rally in public in Germany, you will be arrested. This is for fairly obvious reasons; Europe knows exactly how dangerous and horrible Nazis are, having had millions of their citizens slaughtered by them in living memory.
In North America, such speech is generally frowned upon, but isn’t explicitly illegal. Freedom of speech is a right we all strongly value. It’s certainly not a good idea to speak at a Nazi rally here, as you will most likely be protested, booed, and physically assaulted. I can’t say it wouldn’t be deserved, either. Advocating for a society in which other people are exterminated is a really, really horrible thing to do.
Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences, which is something many fail to understand. There is a difference between being arrested for what you say and being told that what you are saying is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. If you stand in public and shout racial slurs just because you have the legal right to, you may still be told not to do that by others around. Your legal rights are not always the same as your societal rights. It’s legal to never take a shower, but you should still probably do so once in a while if you want to be out in public.
Despite my extreme distaste for intolerant views, I do think free speech is one of the most important things to have in this society. It is a conflicting belief, because the thought of actual Nazis banding together to discuss their toxic, evil beliefs makes me sick, and I don’t want that sort of thing to happen. However, the government telling people what they can and can’t talk about is a slippery slope.
Who makes the rules on acceptability in freedom of speech? Each person believes the views they find tasteful should be accepted, and that others should be discouraged. However, where the limits are can vary widely, on all sides. Saying things that are intolerant or hateful towards certain groups of people should always be discouraged, though some argue that this limits any challenging or critical discussion on sensitive topics. If we aren’t allowed to say one thing, perhaps soon we may not be allowed to say many things. There is a difference between criticizing aspects of certain people (as unpleasant and prejudiced as they may be) and advocating for the extermination of said people. Ideas and ideology are different from incitement.
Of course, in a perfect world, people would only say things that are tolerant and mutually understanding of others. In my really perfect world, everyone would only say things that I personally agreed with. Sadly, this probably isn’t going to happen anytime soon, but until that time, it’s important that people are legally allowed to express their beliefs, even ones we don’t agree with.