Free speech, hate speech, and the problem of (manufactured) authority

Sarah Sorial*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper, I suggest that the concept of incitement as a way of identifying hate speech sometimes locates the harm caused by speech in the wrong sorts of places. Hate speech expressed in the form of reasoned argument or academic debate by persons with the relevant authority or expertise potentially causes more harm, though perhaps in less obvious ways. Literature on the concept of authority has demonstrated the way authoritative speakers or speakers with perceived expertise are able to secure uptake for their views. In this paper, I demonstrate how authority and expertise can also be manufactured, enabling speakers to secure uptake in the same sorts of ways as legitimately authoritative or expert speakers. While I am not suggesting legal penalties for speakers who manufacture authority in these ways, I am arguing that we should nevertheless be sensitive to the ways in which this can occur, how it might cause various kinds of harm, and how these harms might be mitigated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-75
Number of pages17
JournalCanadian Journal of Law and Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • free speech
  • hate speech
  • incitement
  • authority
  • Holocaust denial


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