Herbert Marcuse, author of Repressive Tolerance
This is a somewhat stream of consciousness presentation of the dangers of the current slide to the right not only in the White House but in the media, mainstream, and alternative. It is based on the classic essay by Herbert Marcuse Repressive Tolerance, in which he argues that tolerating intolerance is repressive of human rights. For instance, those urging the ban on Muslims, or firing liberal teachers, or muzzling leftist critics, all are perverting free speech to advocate denying the rights of others. I am pointing out that opposing hate speech is not repressive of free speech but protective. I am pointing out that promoting racist ideas is not covered by freedom of speech, but calling out racism is the freedom of speech.
Would Voltaire defend to his death the right of Hitler to call for the extermination of the Jews?
In nations which have absorbed the lessons of history, where hate speech is understood not as free speech but as the enemy of free speech and the justification and prelude to hate crimes, speech which incites discrimination and/or violence is prohibited as a way to protect free speech, just as poisons are prohibited in food preparation to protect healthy food.
When Donald Trump declared, in contradiction to all evidence, that "Mexicans are criminals....rapists..." he incited discrimination and violence. Hate crimes against those perceived as Mexicans skyrocketed and a landlord who is approached by a Mexican seeking to rent would be likely, if he believed Trump, to reject the Mexican based on the Big Lie that was allowed to pass as "free speech."
Free speech is intended to extend human dialogue and rights, not destroy it as hate speech does. Hate speech ranges from stereotypes (refugees are terrorists) to dehumanizing rhetoric such as calling people parasites, vermin, rats, etc.
Such dehumanizing speech constricts human rights by denying them to others and justifying treating them as "animals' without rights, such as when the Ukrainians call the Russian-Ukrainians cockroaches as a prelude to massacres or as when in Rwanda, the signal to slaughter hundreds of thousands of Hutus was in the form of radio messages announcing it was time to kill the cockroaches. When we tolerate such speech, we cripple human freedom; tolerance of intolerance, as history repeatedly teaches, is a suicide pact. Tolerance of intolerance, whether racist, fascist or just dehumanizing, is complicity with human rights abuses and must NOT be tolerated if we are to protect the kind of free speech which is the foundation of a free society.
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