Human Rights Cartoon (78): The Worst Forms of Speech

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human rights cartoon

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(source, source)

Some forms of speech give freedom of speech a bad name. Think of pornography, hate speech, libel etc. In many places, those “bad” forms of speech are cited as reasons to limit speech more generally. After all, if the general rule is that speech is free, exceptions are hard to justify. And you also never know what new types of “bad” speech will pop up in the future and what kind of harm they will produce. So better to err on the side of restrictions.

And yet, that would be wrong. Even “bad” speech has a raison d’être, at least in general. John Stuart Mill is famous for the argument that a “clearer perception and livelier impression of truth [is] produced by its collision with error”. I’ve restated this here in more detail, and it remains a powerful argument. However, this doesn’t mean that there can never be good reasons for very specific and circumscribed limits on some forms of speech. Speech can cause harm, but only in very exceptional cases. The general rule should be to protect speech, even speech that brings up images like the one above.

More on hate speech, incitement, the right to insult, holocaust denial, derogatory speech, pornography and the right to libel. More cartoons.

1 Comment

  1. I love Human Rights Cartoon (78): The Worst Forms of
    Speech | P.a.p.-Blog // Human Rights Etc.
    Wonderful site you have here but I was curious if you knew of any forums that
    cover the same topics discussed in this article?
    I’d really love to be a part of online community where I can get opinions
    from other knowledgeable people that share the same interest.
    If you have any recommendations, please let me know.
    Thanks a lot!

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