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For some reason, when it comes to hate speech, a lot of otherwise liberal thinking people give it a free pass. The reason? Because taking it down impairs “freedom of speech“.

The idea and reason behind protecting freedom of speech is not to protect bigots or liars; it’s to protect people with genuine political or cultural or sexual or other differences from discrimination and harassment, and by doing so, to promote democracy through expression of differences in opinion.

There’s something seriously wrong about protecting the right of people to hate-monger and in many cases incite violence.

Using “freedom of speech” to encourage discrimination against the people that free speech is meant to protect! It’s backwards and preposterous!

There is of course a difficult line to be drawn between genuine criticism or humour and hate speech. I grant you that. However the worst offenders in the category of hate speech are usually pretty obvious.

Neo-Nazi groups; people who incite violence against “the Muslims“; gay-bashers; Facebook groups with offensive “jokes” portraying Aboriginal people as drunk dole-bludgers; pro-rape groups or vilification of rape victims.

This is all pretty unsavoury stuff. It’s not exactly “oh, we made a criticism about some other people”, it’s violent, offensive, discriminatory rubbish.

As with many other concepts and theories, freedom of speech is something that does well when it comes to usual situations but falls apart when it comes to edge cases or extreme cases. Freedom of speech isn’t a end in and of itself, it’s there to protect vulnerable people.