Free Speech, Anti-Semitism and Line Drawing

Posted on June 7, 2007 In Blog

UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh writes on the Wall Street Journal web yesterday that “a little” anti-Semitism might be good for the Jews, for American Jewish institutions and for Israel.

His point that he himself is relatively nonobservant and uninvolved in the fabric of Jewish communal life notwithstanding, he makes points that we have all, to a greater or lesser degree heard before. He also makes the standard “if we want them to allow our speech, we must allow theirs” argument. But his kicker really is that the best way to avoid hate speech taking effect, is essentially, to allow hate speech to take effect. Allow those with hateful thoughts to speak them, and the argument seems to go, a) average people will see them and their opinions for what they are and discard them as well as b) this gives us, the good guys, the opportunity to fight back against the hateful rhetoric with the “truth.”

It’s an interesting argument, firstly, because it seems at odds with much of progressive America’s bent given hate crimes legislation and the like. The current PC thought is make people speak in a PC fashion, and that will lead to a more tolerant society. Given the difference in tolerance between the US and Europe the PC folks may have a better factual case. On the other hand, the professor raises a good point, which is, everyone in America probably needs to be more tolerant of issues they disagree with.

We wonder who’s right in the end…