I just finished commenting on a religious show (insight) about the idea of when ‘free speech becomes a hate crime’. The show was concerned with the right of a political party to speak their mind and propose their plan of action concerning homosexuality in Canada. For me, I have no problem with the actual conversation with the whole premise (ie: free speech in discussion) but I have to draw a line in the sand – when does your speech actually cross that line?
Firstly, the question needed to be clarified to ‘when does free speech become hate speech’ (not crime)…that’s comparing the same thing. For me ‘hate speech’ is when someone espouses ‘discriminatory dislike or threats’ about a certain group. If someone can logically state why they do not like a certain group then are free to discuss that – I am not sure that is hateful. It is when that logic does not line up or someone demeans a group for no good reason we start to see some semblance of hate speech.
The people on the program were from a political party and based their agenda on statistics and medical journals for their platform on the gay lifestyle. As far as that discussion goes – I am not sure it is hate speech. For me, since they never said what the actual line was in hate speech, the problem comes when you start calling the gay lifestyle an addiction and base part of your political platform on ‘dealing with that addiction’. To be fair, they never stated to treat gay people badly or anything – but their platform does draw a divisive line in which one has to figure out what they mean by their platform.
Hate speech becomes a true problem when it starts to become an action plan – and action based on limited knowledge of the problem or biased opinions creates blurred vision. The plan may be quite simple – to ban gay marriage via law (then I am not sure that’s hate). But since addictions are defined as ‘not normal’ then what is next in the path to ‘dealing with that addiction’? Are we talking jails here? What level of tolerance towards gay people becomes acceptable after something like this is passed? This is where I see real ethical problems with the whole stance.
The platform, being not really clear, makes people decide what is meant to be done with this ‘addiction’. The party compared it to alcoholism – and the way that addiction is dealt with. Alcohol is a legal substance in Canada – but it is a substance (not a person). They are trying to make the point being gay is not internal but external to the person (and even if it is internal – these are defects that cause problems). What is the cure then? Are they gonna subject gay people to medical testing? The true issue is this is gay is defined as being a problem – not normal – and needs to be ‘dealt with’…that my friends is called discrimination.
So the question is – when does free speech cross a line into hate speech – and when does hate speech become a problem in society?