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Author Archives: Corey Brettschneider
State Speaks Symposium: Responses to Chambers (Chapter 3), Rubinstein (Chapter 4), Vallier (Chapter 5) and Stilz (Chapter 5)
Response to Chambers
Simone Chambers raises several good questions, but I focus on two. First, Chambers claims that the loss that comes from banning hateful viewpoints falls well short of the Invasive State. Canada, for instance, has laws banning hate speech, but they are seldom used. So, why worry about largely dormant restrictions on hate speech?
I think it is important to appeal on this point to an intuition that is often brought out most clearly by republican theorists such as Phillip Pettit. Our autonomy may be restricted, not only by actual instances of punishment, but also by the perceived threat of it (or what Pettit calls possible acts of domination). Part of the worry here is the familiar one about the possible chilling effects of threatened punishment. I might not be speaking out of fear of being punished.
Response to Sarah Conly on Chapter 2 of When the State Speaks, What Should It Say? How Democracies Can Protect Expression and Promote Equality
I’d like to thank Sarah Conly and our commentators for raising an important set of questions about the book. In this post, I focus on Conly’s worry that reflective revision cannot include citizens who reject the core democratic values of freedom and equality. She suggests that reflective revision is largely relevant to people who already endorse the ideal of free and equal citizenship. But what about those people who simply reject these values? Moreover, what might democratic persuasion say to them?
An initial reply to this worry is that the number of people who reject the values altogether might be fewer than it first appears, and they may not be completely opposed to the values. Even groups that endorse hateful viewpoints might have at least some surface devotion to democratic values. Consider David Duke’s National Association for the Advancement of White People. The organization purports to endorse an ideal of equality in claiming that they are not for the unequal treatment of African Americans but rather only support the equality of Caucasians.
I would like to begin by thanking the contributors to Public Reason symposium for such careful summaries of the book and such thoughtful and probing questions. The discussions in the comments section have also been terrific and I am grateful to all who participated. I will begin to post responses now to participants, beginning with Jon Quong’s eloquent and lucid remarks on the introduction and chapter one of When the State Speaks, What Should it Say? (I note that due to vacation it might take me some time between some of my reply posts.)
Quong begins by outlining my ambition of avoiding both the dystopias of the Invasive State and the Hateful Society. He notes that I aim to do so by combining robust rights against coercion with “democratic persuasion.” The state engages in democratic persuasion when it combats hateful and discriminatory viewpoints by using its expressive capacities, including its spending power.
Quong asks why my opposition to hateful expression does not lead me to a more European rather than American approach to free speech. In Europe free speech is seen as a value but one that has to be balanced against other values. The European approach allows the state to use its coercive power to ban hateful expression, imprisoning people for their speech.
In contrast, my aim in the book is to defend the distinct American approach to free speech when it comes to rights against coercion. On my view, the state should follow the rule of “viewpoint neutrality” when it comes to its coercive power: it should not coercively ban any viewpoint as long as a speaker is not directly threatening a particular individual or group.
The mistake of the balancing conception is to think that the only way to recognize the values of liberty and equality is to trade them off. But value democracy proposes to respect those values simultaneously. We can pursue the transformation of illiberal beliefs while maintaining robust free speech commitments in the form of viewpoint neutrality.
One justification for limiting the right of free speech when it comes to hateful expression is that the liberal democratic state needs to “take its own side” by condemning viewpoints that are antithetical to the free and equal status of its citizens. But I argue that this can be done while protecting the right of free speech. The state can make clear its opposition and lack of complicity with hateful viewpoints by using its expressive capacity to condemn them and explain why they should be rejected.
According to the balancing conception, another rationale for coercively limiting hate speech is that it would make the society more stable by limiting views that might undermine liberal democracy. But to see the superiority of my approach over balancing, consider a world in which democratic persuasion was as successful in pushing back against hateful viewpoints as coercive punishment of those views. If there were a small-added advantage to protecting all viewpoints, this would recommend value democracy over its alternatives. But even if it were less successful, I maintain it can push back these views such that there is no risk of a collapse of democracy. Value democracy sufficiently answers what I call the “stability worry” about the Hateful Society.
But on my view the advantages of viewpoint neutrality to a democratic society are not small. They are significant such that even if democratic persuasion is successful in curtailing hateful viewpoints, but less effective than coercion, we should still pursue a path of protecting all viewpoints while engaging in democratic persuasion.
In the following piece, recently published on the Foreign Policy website, I discuss the implications of my account of free speech for the controversy surrounding The Innocence of Muslims, the anti-Islam video made in California. I focus on how my view might respond to international controversies involving hate speech:
My appearance with Glenn Loury on Bloggingheads.tv is now online. We discuss hate speech, Holocaust denial, and a variety of other free speech issues addressed in When the State Speaks, What Should It Say? How Democracies Can Protect Expression and Promote Equality. I thought it might be of interest to those who are considering participating in or following the upcoming online reading group on the book.
Now that the APSA annual conference is cancelled, Princeton University Press, which has a substantial list in political theory, is offering the conference discount through its website.