Hate Speech and Word Police
One of the most basic freedoms of humankind is the freedom of speech. Democratic societies boast about their citizens’ right to speak freely. Freedom has always been a controversial topic to people, but once we begin to pursue it, we will find the process being far from a simple one. Everyone has come across the notion of propaganda at least one in their lives. Propaganda relies on the power of words. Propaganda has changed popular attitudes and beliefs, it has helped control people’s minds to the point when it came to joining a war or attacking a country, for example. There should be no doubt about the power of words. Yet, there is still a very lively debate among professionals and nonprofessionals alike when it comes to the freedom of speech in a democratic society. More precisely, the issue of boundaries is one that causes a lot of controversy among those who study language or the effect language has on a society at any given time.
What is called “hate speech” counts among those types of speeches that exceeded the legal boundary in the U.S. Thus, one is likely to be held accountable in front of the law for having used this kind of speech publicly. In such cases, the First Amendment doesn’t protect freedom anymore. In Lakoff’s essay, “hate speech” is defined as the type of speech that offends any group based on race, gender, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation. Therefore, we will understand the appropriate “limits” of freedom are necessary. Lakoff underlines that when it come to what is known as “P.C.,” that is “politically correctness,” there are a set of coordinates that need to be set clear. She questions the value of p.c. when it comes to eradicating racist behavior, for example. By underlining the risk of encouraging hypocritical attitudes under the cover of being p.c., Lakoff point out the fact that the class issue and differences in class attitudes and manifestations related to racism is another variable that could change the whole purpose of banning “hate speech.” Yes, the notion “p.c.” arouse from the need to protect those who were holding a different opinion, or race or anything different, no matter the context, but Lakoff warns against the dangers of actually offering those who intend to harm others by means of their speech the perfect tools of camouflage by using the excuse of being “p.c..”
In his essay, Kakutani takes the matter further and talks about the “words police.” Like Lakoff, he agrees that the intentions behind those who favor “p.c.” are noble and unquestionable. Yes, because everyone agrees to be living…