Under The Sun

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Naughty speech redux. Eugene Volokh defends (only on principle, of course) Sen. Rick Santorum's reading of US law. It seems to me that Prof. Volokh is letting his libertarian bias trump common sense; I'm not sure that matters to his argument, but it does illustrate again that two very similar minds can disagree about what speech is worthy of condemnation, let alone punishment.

My question is, why do people want to restrict remarks like Lott's, Cubin's, Santorum's? The only legitimate ground for restricting speech is that it's dangerous--else you're just trying to restrict belief, which is impossible. So how might a racist or homophobic statement be dangerous? It might threaten, but if so it's hate speech; none of these were. It might incite, but that too is actionable, and clearly wasn't the case here. No, our objection to the three Congresscritters' remarks is merely that they were wrong. And the proper response to wrong speech is not condemnation or punishment; it is correction. Rather than calling for censure, officially or otherwise, we should emphasize our competing, and morally superior, positive position: we should vocally support equal rights, and encourage our representatives to do the same.

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