When Hate Speech and Free Speech Collide
This week the line between free speech and hate speech was thrust to the fore when the University of California at Berkeley cancelled a speech by the ultra-right movement’s Milo Yiannopoulos, editor of Breitbart News. Scheduled to speak at campus, Yiannopoulos’ speech was cancelled after protests and concerns that police could not guarantee security at the event.
Protestors gathered with signs stating that ‘Hate Speech is not Free Speech’ in response to Yiannopoulos, whose comments have been criticised as racist, misogynist, and anti- Muslim.
U.S. President Trump waded unto the debate with a tweet “If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view - NO FEDERAL FUNDS?”
Hate speech and free speech have an uneasy relationship. Last week, New Zealand’s Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy was reported as asking for police to ‘record hate crime statistics to combat racism’.
EXODUS AT RUSSIAN PEN
Writers are abandoning PEN Russia. It is reported that Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich, follows 30 other writers in leaving PEN to protest the expulsion from PEN Russia of journalist and activist Sergey Parkhomenko.
PEN’s strength has always been in its ability to bring writers together irrespective of culture, language or political opinion. PEN was founded on the idea that ‘no politics in PEN Clubs – under any circumstances’. Since 1921 PEN has stood since for freedom of expression, peace and friendship, not political debate.
Being apolitical is not an easy line to walk. In 1933 German PEN failed to protest against the burning of books in Nazi Germany and tried to prevent a Jewish author from speaking at the Congress in Dubrovnik. As a result, German PEN had its membership withdrawn.
Now, we see a similar controversy in Russia. PEN Russia has issued a statement in its defense which can be read here.