At Opinio Juris, my friend and former colleague Peter Spiro has an interesting post on recent events in Egypt and Libya. Peter argues that there is a foreign relations rationale for banning hate speech. In a world where obscure YouTube videos like “The Innocence of Muslims” can result in the murder of one of our ambassadors, he says, the US should consider banning such material. He notes that European countries have stricter limits on religious hate speech than we and still manage to have functioning democracies.
As I say, it’s an interesting post. Actually, though, this doesn’t seem a workable solution for the US, legally or politically. First, I don’t think Peter means “hate speech,” which typically connotes speech likely to incite violence against minorities. A ban on “hate speech” wouldn’t have applied to “The Innocence of Muslims,” which was not likely to incite violence against anyone, except perhaps the film’s producers. I think the category Peter is looking for is “offensive” speech, specifically, speech that would offend listeners’ religious sensibilities. It’s true that European countries are more comfortable than the US with Continue reading