Hate speech and distorted communication: rethinking the limits of incitement

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Hate speech is commonly defined with reference to the legal category of incitement. Laws targeting incitement typically focus on how the speech is expressed rather than its actual content. This has a number of unintended consequences: first, law tends to capture overt or obvious forms of hate speech and not hate speech that takes the form of ‘reasoned’ argument, but which nevertheless, causes as much, if not more harm. Second, the focus on form rather than content leads to categorization errors. Hate speech taking the form of ‘reasoned argument’ is often legally characterized as either political or academic debate, and so is deemed both permissible and justified in societies where free speech principles exist. In this paper, I argue that it is important to identify instances of hate speech as hate speech, no matter how articulately or reasonably the speech is expressed. The danger in mischaracterizing an instance of hate speech by calling it academic or political debate is that it risks normalizing the views and sentiments that are expressed and accepting those views as an important part of our political and academic discourses. With reference to Habermas’ account of ‘distorted communication’, I propose different criteria for defining and understanding hate speech and suggest that there might be good reasons for interpreting the concept of incitement more broadly, so as to include these different kinds of it.

LanguageEnglish
Pages299-324
Number of pages26
JournalLaw and Philosophy
Volume34
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2015
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

hate
communication
Communication
Hate Speech
Law

Cite this

@article{0f0a472508a74bd68dfc3a1ceffc01e9,
title = "Hate speech and distorted communication: rethinking the limits of incitement",
abstract = "Hate speech is commonly defined with reference to the legal category of incitement. Laws targeting incitement typically focus on how the speech is expressed rather than its actual content. This has a number of unintended consequences: first, law tends to capture overt or obvious forms of hate speech and not hate speech that takes the form of ‘reasoned’ argument, but which nevertheless, causes as much, if not more harm. Second, the focus on form rather than content leads to categorization errors. Hate speech taking the form of ‘reasoned argument’ is often legally characterized as either political or academic debate, and so is deemed both permissible and justified in societies where free speech principles exist. In this paper, I argue that it is important to identify instances of hate speech as hate speech, no matter how articulately or reasonably the speech is expressed. The danger in mischaracterizing an instance of hate speech by calling it academic or political debate is that it risks normalizing the views and sentiments that are expressed and accepting those views as an important part of our political and academic discourses. With reference to Habermas’ account of ‘distorted communication’, I propose different criteria for defining and understanding hate speech and suggest that there might be good reasons for interpreting the concept of incitement more broadly, so as to include these different kinds of it.",
author = "Sarah Sorial",
year = "2015",
month = "5",
doi = "10.1007/s10982-014-9214-9",
language = "English",
volume = "34",
pages = "299--324",
journal = "Law and Philosophy",
issn = "0167-5249",
publisher = "Springer, Springer Nature",
number = "3",

}

Hate speech and distorted communication : rethinking the limits of incitement. / Sorial, Sarah.

In: Law and Philosophy, Vol. 34, No. 3, 05.2015, p. 299-324.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

TY - JOUR

T1 - Hate speech and distorted communication

T2 - Law and Philosophy

AU - Sorial, Sarah

PY - 2015/5

Y1 - 2015/5

N2 - Hate speech is commonly defined with reference to the legal category of incitement. Laws targeting incitement typically focus on how the speech is expressed rather than its actual content. This has a number of unintended consequences: first, law tends to capture overt or obvious forms of hate speech and not hate speech that takes the form of ‘reasoned’ argument, but which nevertheless, causes as much, if not more harm. Second, the focus on form rather than content leads to categorization errors. Hate speech taking the form of ‘reasoned argument’ is often legally characterized as either political or academic debate, and so is deemed both permissible and justified in societies where free speech principles exist. In this paper, I argue that it is important to identify instances of hate speech as hate speech, no matter how articulately or reasonably the speech is expressed. The danger in mischaracterizing an instance of hate speech by calling it academic or political debate is that it risks normalizing the views and sentiments that are expressed and accepting those views as an important part of our political and academic discourses. With reference to Habermas’ account of ‘distorted communication’, I propose different criteria for defining and understanding hate speech and suggest that there might be good reasons for interpreting the concept of incitement more broadly, so as to include these different kinds of it.

AB - Hate speech is commonly defined with reference to the legal category of incitement. Laws targeting incitement typically focus on how the speech is expressed rather than its actual content. This has a number of unintended consequences: first, law tends to capture overt or obvious forms of hate speech and not hate speech that takes the form of ‘reasoned’ argument, but which nevertheless, causes as much, if not more harm. Second, the focus on form rather than content leads to categorization errors. Hate speech taking the form of ‘reasoned argument’ is often legally characterized as either political or academic debate, and so is deemed both permissible and justified in societies where free speech principles exist. In this paper, I argue that it is important to identify instances of hate speech as hate speech, no matter how articulately or reasonably the speech is expressed. The danger in mischaracterizing an instance of hate speech by calling it academic or political debate is that it risks normalizing the views and sentiments that are expressed and accepting those views as an important part of our political and academic discourses. With reference to Habermas’ account of ‘distorted communication’, I propose different criteria for defining and understanding hate speech and suggest that there might be good reasons for interpreting the concept of incitement more broadly, so as to include these different kinds of it.

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=84939876620&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1007/s10982-014-9214-9

DO - 10.1007/s10982-014-9214-9

M3 - Article

VL - 34

SP - 299

EP - 324

JO - Law and Philosophy

JF - Law and Philosophy

SN - 0167-5249

IS - 3

ER -