‘Speaking Back’: The Likely Fate of Hate Speech Policy in the United States and Australia<sup>1</sup>

Katharine Gelber

in Speech and Harm

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199236282
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191741357 | DOI:
‘Speaking Back’: The Likely Fate of Hate Speech Policy in the United States and Australia1

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A central idea within free speech arguments is that the most appropriate response to speech with which one disagrees, or which one finds intolerable, is to speak back. Some scholars have argued there may even be a basis for governmental or state support to assist some in speaking. This chapter develops this argument in relation to hate speech, arguing that because and to the extent to which hate speech may prevent its targets from speaking back, institutional, educational, and material support ought to be provided to enable the targets of hate speech to ‘speak back’. This would enable them both to contradict the messages contained within the hate speech and to counteract the effects of that speech on their ability to respond. The policy thus aims to ameliorate the potential effects of hate speech, and also to preserve and enhance speech opportunities. This chapter discusses the likely fortunes of a ‘speaking back’ policy in the United States and Australia; two jurisdictions with widely variant institutional mechanisms for the protection of free speech. It concludes that the speaking back policy is conceptually and practically useful in combating hate speech, and also potentially robust in differing constitutional environments.

Keywords: speaking back; hate speech; counter-speech; capabilities theory; Nussbaum; Australia; First Amendment; policy; free speech; vilification

Chapter.  9795 words. 

Subjects: Feminist Philosophy

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