Speech is like currency. We need currency to get things done. Understanding completely that there are people who buy evil things is a conclusion we all need to come to as adults. Limiting the amount of money someone has, no matter how evil will not deter them from making evil purchases.
More than money, we need the ability to express ideas, opinions, facts, needs, etc. That ability is called free speech. As long as you don’t cause false alarm or threaten people’s safety, I’d say everything else is completely free to use no matter how hateful, offensive, evil, racist, sexist, homophobic, misandristic, or transphobic.
Words are the vehicles in which we transport ideas from the brain to other peoples’ ears. It’s up to the individual receiving these words to determine whether or not they express good or bad ideas, not the government. As virtuous as the cause for eradicating hateful speech from public places sounds, the underlying malevolence of censorship still exists.
This entails limitation on-not selected words or phrases, but all speech. If in the hypothetical scenario where we are able to ban all hateful or offensive speech, then what’s left? An echo chamber of positivity. Sounds like a wonderful idea but it’s far from perfect. And in a case of complete agreement, what happens to progress? What happens to bravery? Humans are susceptible to error and in this magical case where we’ve cleansed language, there will still be inconsistencies.
Without disagreement to create intellectual conflict, we will not be equipped to deal with it. We would die. We need a small amount of disorder in our daily lives to understand how to combat actual hate when confronted with it. It’s the constant balance of war and peace in society. Without conflict, there is no resolution. No progress. No innovation. No freedom.
In cases of extremely hateful speech, any normal human being can recognize the horror that lurks beneath it. But we also have the capacity to judge and criticize it. Just like any virtuous position is up for debate.
Removing someone’s ability to make a conscious decision between right and wrong via government force does not help virtuous opposition. In fact it weakens it. We’ll be a society who never thinks we’re wrong. Only having one choice (even if it’s the better one) isn’t brave or heroic. If the only other option entails violence, job loss or other destruction-then is making that choice truly heroic? Can one be virtuous with a gun to their back?
This is where violence comes into play. Think of a street fight. The two people had a disagreement to start. They talk it out. Maybe irrationally, but there’s a subconscious effort to diffuse the situation without violence. Why else would there be pre fight trash talk? To intimidate your opponent into fleeing the fight is a negotiation. A distorted one as it seems, but it’s basically says “I don’t want to fight you. Walk away and we won’t have to resort to violence.”
There are cases where negotiation averts violence. Maybe in the case of street fights, one person intimidates the other person enough to make him leave the altercation. This is why access to ALL words by everyone is important. When we outlaw words, we’re only taking away a means to avert violence. A shortcut to violence is the refusal to negotiate. And when words fail, fists prevail.