Legislating ‘Hate’ Speak

Yesterday Stuff.co.nz published an article and shared it on facebook. The article was titled: “Criminalising hate speech: New Zealand considers policing hateful expression.”

Following from the Christchurch shootings, this article informs about the drive for criminalizing ‘Hate’ Speech. New Zealand’s Justice Minister has informed that they want to fast track a review around our current legislation that cover hate speech.

I decided to throw my 10 cents worth in and made the following comment on Facebook: “Who determines what is ‘Hate’ speech. Take Folau, he is speaking to his beliefs, he does not ‘hate’ homosexuals.
Yes, many people may be offended by what he has said, BUT, if you looked at things from his perspective his ‘warning’ comes from a place of love, not hate.
Where do we draw the line? Just because someone finds something offensive does that make it ‘Hate’ speech.”

My comment started a really great discussion that brought viewpoints from many different perspectives.

Firstly, let me make it quite clear, I am not defending or supporting Isreal Folau’s actions or comments. My point is what constitutes Hate Speech as opposed to someone spouting a load of offensive words? And who has the authority to determine this?

In today’s polarizing world anyone saying anything about anything will be considered offensive by someone else. Even if it wasn’t intended to be offensive.

Why does everyone have to take offence and get all up in arms about what someone else’s view points are? And, often when people are retaliating against someones ‘offensive’ views, they themselves don’t even believe those views.

In fact, the more people make a big deal out of someone else’s viewpoint or comment, the more they validate and give credence to that viewpoint. Instead, if we just ignored comments that we didn’t agree with or found offensive – they wouldn’t gain any momentum.

A classical example of this was Dan Brown’s ‘The Da Vinci Code’ – where the Catholic Church kicked up such a fuss and even went so far as writing a counter-book. The affect that had was to further publish and promote Dan Brown’s Novel, which went on to record sales. If the Catholic Church had just ignored it, taking it as what it was meant to be – a work of fiction, then there wouldn’t have been so much publicity.

There is a famous quote: “Don’t argue with a Fool. Onlookers won’t be able to tell the difference.”

If we start down the path of dictating what people are allowed to say, we are on a slippery slope. George Orwell’s prophetic novel “1984” provided a great insight with the ‘Thought Police.” And history has already shown us at least two great examples of what happens to a society when we the powers-that-be start dictating speech and views; Nazi- Germany & the Soviet Union – both of these economies collapsed completely.

As a society I strongly believe we need to be more tolerant, and re-adopt the old adage “Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

Words, are in essence just that, WORDS. And only hurt us if we choose to let them. Everyone is entitled to their own viewpoints – however misguided some may be (that’s one of my viewpoints). Do we really need to legislate what people are and aren’t allowed to say or post?

I would love to hear other’s point of view on this matter. Feel free to comment – I won’t be offended!

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