Hysteria Over ‘Hate Speech’ Is Killing Civil Society

An obsession with policing the elusive evil of “hate speech” has made America a very tense and unpleasant place, where one wrong move can destroy reputations and livelihoods. As a result, many today censor their political beliefs out of fear. Even celebrities, billionaires, and former presidents live under the all-seeing eye, as recent events surrounding Kanye West and Donald Trump demonstrate. 

Consider some of the biggest news stories of the past month and a half: West caused a media firestorm and lost hundreds of millions in net worth overnight for saying he would go “death con 3” on Jews. NBA star Kyrie Irving was given a lengthy list of homework assignments after he tweeted an anti-Semitic video. The comedian Dave Chappelle was scolded for winkingly defending West and joking about Jews in show business on “Saturday Night Live.” And, of course, the melodrama found its way to Mar-a-Lago, when West had dinner with Trump and, apparently unbeknownst to the former president, the right-wing shock jock Nick Fuentes.

This encounter is supposed to have disqualified Trump, according to numerous mainstream conservative voices who have been on West’s case for weeks, often the same people who complain about cancel culture. “A good way not to accidentally dine with a vile racist and anti-Semite you don’t know is not to dine with a vile racist and anti-Semite you do know,” said Ben Shapiro, doing his best imitation of an aggrieved lefty.

The hate speech police are never able to articulate the abstract harms caused by these outrages. The real harm is in the inevitably extreme reaction, which leaves society more on edge than a moment ago. Does it matter that Trump had dinner with someone we are supposed to find objectionable? Should we weigh very much the effusions of West, an obviously mentally unbalanced person who subscribes to an absurd ideology, which teaches that blacks are descended from the Israelites of the Torah? 

As meritocracy crumbles around us under the rule of “diversity,” an absurd and fruitless fixation with hate speech has put civilization in a convulsive death spiral. There is hardly anything progressive about this endless shrieking recrimination, which requires us all to look over our shoulders and endorse lies, if not by our words, then by our silence. Conservatives, especially, ought to know better than to join the frenzy. It should be obvious that Trump can have dinner with whomever he damn well pleases because freedom of association is a core liberty. (The COVID lockdowns proved this much: tyrants fear nothing more than free people in conversation.) 

We have, to put it mildly, lost touch with our more tolerant, manly founders, who had much thicker skins and much more wisdom. 

When this country was founded, the only recognized form of “hate speech” was against God, which was called blasphemy. Today, nothing is considered more trivial: far from it, the state requires acquiescence in depravity, including the woke elites’ blatant sexualization of children, while using the word “hate” as a cudgel against those in protest. 

Without free speech, citizens are subjects without any protection against the abuses of a corrupt, tyrannical establishment like ours. The founders knew that the dogmas and superstitions of an establishment require no protection, which is why free speech is called free speech and not “approved speech.”  ” It’s also why the Left’s favorite sophism about speech, “hate speech isn’t free speech,” sometimes formulated as “free speech does not mean freedom from consequences,” is false. Those who echo the pieties of the woke face no danger of being persecuted: it is those who offend the state and its ideology, some say religion, of “diversity,” who must worry about retaliation.

Ironically, self-described “civil society” groups like the Anti-Defamation League have played a leading role in undermining civil society by wielding “hate speech” over the country like a sword. The goal of these groups is plainly not the preservation of civil society, but its elimination and replacement by a police state. The woke police have destroyed much goodwill by simultaneously endorsing the ritual humiliation of white people, a phenomenon that suggests the refrain of “hate speech” is merely a tool of power to be wielded by some groups against others. 

The founders understood that compelled belief is not true belief: you can only compel a person’s beliefs by taking away freedom. This means that Kanye West and Nick Fuentes are entitled to whatever beliefs they happen to hold, no matter how irrational or odious anyone may find them. When they require correction, it should be by the reproof of reason, not coercion. By the same light, no one should be required to stand in line and condemn any person or “-ism,” because America is, or at least used to be, a free country, not a cult or a political party.

About Matthew Boose

Matthew Boose is a Mt. Vernon fellow of the Center for American Greatness and a staff writer and weekly columnist at the Conservative Institute. His writing has also appeared in the Daily Caller. Follow him on Twitter @matt_boose. ‏

Photo: MEGA/GC Images via Getty Images

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