Wednesday, May 6, 2015

When Is Free Speech Hate Speech?

When the Charlie Hebdo massacre occurred, my friends, led by my Jewish friends came to the support of the magazine and its employees by saying and posting "Je suis Charlie."  I jumped on the bandwagon back then.  Lately, I've struggled with some questions.
Freedom of speech is supremely important, but... is freedom of hate speech the same thing?  Of course not, but where is the dividing line?  I'm afraid I can't give you a definitive answer.  All I can do is mimic Potter Stewart and say, "I know it when I see it."

Charlie Hebdo made fun of all religions: Islam, Judaism, Catholicism.  But the American Freedom Defense Initiative is not Charlie Hebdo.  And Pamela Geller is not GĂ©rard Biard.  Satire can be biting but deliberately tryng to provoke an attack by a Muslim, any Muslim, goes too far.
Geller is the president of the American Freedom Defense Initiative which has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.  She also runs Stop Islamizaton of America.  The United Kingdom has identified her as a leader of a hate group and will not let her into that country.

So, although I don't condone any kind of armed attack at all, I don't have a lot of sympathy for people that taunt and tease until their target blows his top and does something regrettable.