Archive

John Stossel: Counter hate speech with more speech | TribLIVE.com
Featured Commentary

John Stossel: Counter hate speech with more speech

576092gtrcmnsStossel122918
Gavin McInnes

My New Year’s resolution: Make a careful distinction between speech and violence.

America’s First Amendment says “yes” to most speech, including speech that criticizes, insults — even speech that promotes hate. But the law applies only to government.

Private organizations can ban hate speech if they choose.

I can write columns saying nasty things about you — if newspapers, websites and my distributor are willing to run them. But, the law says I can’t tell people to go beat you up. At the point that speech becomes a direct incitement to violence, the law says “no.”

That’s pretty clear.

Then there’s Gavin McInnes.

McInnes is a political commentator who takes pride in provoking the politically correct.

He makes nasty jokes that I wish no one would make, like, “Mexico sucks ‘cause of Mexicans.”

A few months ago, McInnes was invited to speak at a New York City Republican club. Before he even spoke, protesters vandalized the building.

In the speech, he held up a sword and told the audience to respect the example set by a Japanese 17-year-old, Otoya Yamaguchi. Yamaguchi had stabbed a socialist politician while he was giving a speech.

After McInnes’ speech, antifa protesters confronted his followers, who call themselves the Proud Boys. Some Proud Boys looked eager to fight and brutally beat several antifa protesters.

So is McInnes to blame? Did he incite violence by bringing up Yamaguchi? By saying “Western culture is the best”? By praising “violence in self-defense”? Or is he just a proud American urging his followers to defend themselves?

Should he be banned from the airwaves and social media?

McInnes renounced the Proud Boys after the street fight and says he won’t be their leader.

Nevertheless, CRTV dropped McInnes’ show “Get Off My Lawn.” He has been banned by Facebook, Twitter, PayPal and Amazon. He was temporarily kicked off YouTube, supposedly for copyright violation , though critics say YouTube is more aggressive about enforcing copyright rules if people posting the material are controversial .

I understand the censors’ impulse to clamp down on speech that could lead to violence. But, here’s why I think that approach is backward.

When I was a kid, homophobia was normal. Not only was gay marriage forbidden, gay sex was sometimes illegal. Police would even beat gay men for sport.

Today, most Americans’ attitudes are very different. What made that happen was open speech.

People watched gay characters on TV and came to like some of them. Bigots expressed hate, but people who heard them thought about what they said, and most rejected it.

Life changed dramatically for gays in America in a relatively short time . Free and open debate helped make that happen.

Speech can provoke violence, yes, but the greater danger is people losing interest in talking — giving up on arguments altogether. Then people often go “settle this outside.”

So while social media platforms can exclude McInnes if they want to, it’s better if they don’t.

The more we get accustomed to settling our disagreements with words, even offensive words, the less we need to settle disputes with fists and swords.

To avoid political censors, some right-wingers fled recently to a Twitter-like platform called Gab. Gab prides itself on letting people say whatever they like. A company that hosted Gab on its servers banned Gab, so Gab relocated to another host.

One Gab executive says someone tried to blow up his parents’ propane grill, probably to punish him for permitting “hate speech” on Gab.

I don’t know where to draw the line on what speech is inappropriate for a given private venue.

But I know that the answer to hateful speech is more speech.

John Stossel is author
of “No They Can’t! Why Government Fails — But Individuals Succeed.”

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.