Free Speech and Hate Speech
Yonatan Zunger

You seek protection from hurtful speech. I sympathize. I wish I were a mind reader so that I could detect when such hurtful speech happens. Then I would apologize and find a better way to say what I want to say.

But I am not a mind reader and neither is anyone else. Further, trying to establish ground rules for speech is fraught with many problems.

There are contexts where free speech is not expected, such as a teacher for elementary school children. But once a child becomes of age, there are no rules. We must prepare them for this eventuality. Sooner or later they will travel to other places where taboos are different. Other will say terrible things in front of them and they will say terrible things in front of others.

We must teach everyone to deal with that reality. There is nothing we can do about it. That is why is wrong to criminalize speech. That is why it is wrong to attempt to shut anyone down.

Unless the speech involves imminent threats of bodily harm or murder (such as a hit list), banning it can be even more deadly and dangerous than permitting it. Squelch anyone’s right to free speech, and they will have cause to take up arms. What alternative do they have? They seek the right that we all seek: civil discourse among like minded people. That discourse can be angry, wrong, stupid, or profound. We can not distinguish what it will be before it is said.

For adults, there can be no safe spaces.

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