Many civil libertarians argued against passing “hate speech” laws because when you start saying that some speech isn’t protected by the First Amendment, that means someone gets to decide what that banned speech is, and that’s a slippery slope toward partisan censorship. For instance, here’s a story about a former Congressman and the President of the American Jewish Congress arguing that the government should use hate crimes laws to ban entire social media platforms or political campaigns that are determined (by whom? Them?) to be promoting “extremism.”
Ironically, that claim is so extreme that even Twitter’s lawyers slammed it, with other legal experts noting that there are plenty of court precedents that the First Amendment does protect so-called “hate speech.”
Well, we have hate speech laws anyway, and now, the slope for what’s “allowable speech” has become slipperier than a water slide. But I’ll bet you never saw this one coming: an “analytic philosopher” and a lecturer in political theory from Britain’s Sheffield University have written a paper in the Oxford Journal of Legal Studies called “Should We Protect Animals From Hate Speech?”
Utilizing an impressive barrage of both doubletalk and gobbledygook, the authors compare racist hate speech to “speciesist” hate speech and argue that if hate speech laws can ban hate speech that doesn’t actually hurt anyone, then why not apply the same ban on hateful words that don't wound to hateful words about animals that they can’t understand? Their summation:
“We thus conclude that, absent a compelling alternative argument, there is no in-principle reason to support the censure of racist hate speech but not the censure of speciesist hate speech.”
Granted, it’s not entirely clear whether they’re arguing that we need anti-animal hate speech or that all hate speech laws are as justifiable as banning phrases like “Beat a dead horse.” Another question: would animal hate speech laws also apply to animals? I’ve heard parrots say some pretty hurtful things. Personally, I just hope we never make it illegal to say bad things about cats or I’ll be facing a lot of lawsuits.