There are some related things I hear or am asked fairly often. One of these things represent a thoughtful inclination to review and examine before leaping. The other form questions (by denial) the legitimacy and acceptability of a thing. Actually, I run into these more than occasionally due to a habit of going forward in damning torpedo mode. Those who read here regularly know the habit of which I speak.

The two things are these. 1, “Why did you say/write that? OR 2, “You shouldn’t say/write that.” I’m fairly OK with 1 unless being asked (as it often is) comes wrapped as an opener to a formal denunciation. 2 tries to impose a rule or standard I don’t feel is valid or useful. The worst part of a Type 2 challenge is the person giving it thinking this model of censorship is not only perfectly acceptable but to the good as well. I’ll usually “get” why a person objects to something, but what I will not go along with is queasiness and prejudgment as reasons to limit speech. The supposed risks and dangers of free speech are something we manage to live with every day with people exaggerating cases or damning, etc. others. We survive it because full and open reply is available to all. We can disagree as avidly as we need to our heart’s content. I’ll gladly book the risks of free speech over the dangers of tyranny.

You see, being told what you may and may not freely express gives birth to a twin. The twin is being told what you must express and appear to agree with. Here’s an example what I mean. Years ago I went to Auschwitz to learn in person. I confess being overwhelmed by the place and the experience. It was powerful to stand in a landscape where millions, roughly half to civilian victims of the Holocaust, of human beings were systematically in factory style efficiency removed from this earth.

The previous paragraph would not be possible in most of the four dozen plus Islamic states where the Holocaust is officially considered a hoax. People believing in the hoax notion must accept a bigger fraud that somehow, just in advance of the Allies large number of Jewish “actors” made themselves up to look starved while the forces of MGM made a set to stage the hoax. This is implausible, but rigid theological orthodoxy that requires antisemitism as an article of faith is very clear about what can be said and believed what cannot.

While at Auschwitz over a period of days I recall seeing letters that many prisoners (in Islamic state terms actors or guests in large Nazi run weight loss clinics) were told to write according to a set form stating they were well, being treated properly, etc. These letters were then taken from the prisoner (actor-guests) to be sent later, not infrequently after the writer was dead, to reassure those outside that all was well. (Terezin or Theresiensdadt was a concentration camp run as a decoy to persuade Jews facing resettlement this was a good thing. To keep the tenets of Islam happy it must be that the Jewish actors and MGM crews snuck in midway during the war to stage this and then conveniently dispose of the participants.

In the US freedom of expression is still fairly solid and accepted. But there is a growing body of people wishing to expand censorship and limit expression using hate speech as their reason. They have a valid point. Free expression can be and often is messy. What you and I call a spade can be two very different and contentious things. For the proponents of expanding hate speech life would be smoother and nicer if we all sang their Kumbaya, if we all sent the letter to the outside that all was well and we were being treated fine. The problem with expanding hate speech law is that doing so imposes orthodoxy in other areas. It is not freedom and liberty which say “don’t say that” “you should say this instead” and “you must believe and act in accordance with what you cannot object to and is now required as both belief and expression.” And since it is not freedom and liberty demanding obedience to dogmatic views it ends up that this seemingly nice and reasonable application of hate crime law is blasphemy law in new shirt and pants in its role of silencing opposition. When free expression is silenced freedom and liberty are squelched with it and in its place obedience to the narrowest forms of orthodox dogma that cannot tolerate question or challenge.

In America we often don’t fully appreciate the results of free expression. We are a raucous society, but given the tools available with which we could do so much damage to one another we are relatively restrained. I’ll remind you that it’s not people like me defending free expression who do damage on a regular basis. It is those who insist on orthodoxy and forced honoring of their beliefs who typically mount attacks on their imagined enemies. As either shield or device to promote peace, hate crime laws protect from challenge and disclosure those beliefs most responsible for acts of violent hatred. No matter how hate speech proponents puff it up, discharging harsh words in an open forum is not lethal the way emptying a clip from an assault weapon. I’d argue that hate speech law helps justify (by proving its value to the violent) further use of violence and terror to silence others.

You might keep this in mind. Ask any organization you belong to what percentages of members carry most of the weight? The answer is usually under 10%. A minority are the prime movers in your community, PTA, church, club, etc. At the start of WWII approx. 10% of Germans were active Nazis who used threats, orthodoxy, and intimidation to bully an entire nation into horror. It is estimated 10% of the population in ISIS territory are firmly committed Islamists demanding orthodox conformity and silencing opposition by punishing “hate” speech.