ADF International


So What’s Wrong With Hate Speech Laws?

Any serious discussion of “hate speech” laws should start with a consideration of George Orwell’s prophetic look into the future—specifically the book Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Recall that in Orwell’s book, Big Brother sought to control not only all thoughts but also to language used to form thoughts. To that end, he created the language of “Newspeak,” described as “the only language in the world whose vocabulary gets smaller every year.”

In a separate essay, Orwell explained that Newspeak is closely based on English but has a greatly reduced and simplified vocabulary and grammar.

In the book, this suits the totalitarian regime of the “Party,” whose aim is to make any alternative thinking a “thoughtcrime” or, in the language of Newspeak, a “crimethink.”

The language of Newspeak removes any words or possible word constructs which describe the ideas of independent thinking, freedom, rebellion, disagreement, or unapproved values. The underlying intent of Newspeak, of course, is that if something can’t be said—because the words have been criminalized, banned, or no longer exist—then it is hugely more difficult to think.

There are many lessons to be drawn from Orwell here. Law itself represents society’s standard of conduct, defining acceptable from unacceptable behaviour. The end goal of any criminal law is the elimination of certain specified behaviour. If this is the case—as we know it is—what can we make of a law that bans the mere utterance of certain words.

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