If you hate the way police in the United States abuse, threaten, and sometimes kill citizens during routine law enforcement, and you also oppose hate speech and want the government to ban it, take note of how Germany enforces its hate speech laws: They send police to raid people’s homes and arrest them.
This week German police, in a coordinated effort, raided the homes of 36 people accused of violating the country’s hate speech laws. From The New York Times:
Most of the raids concerned politically motivated right-wing incitement, according to the Federal Criminal Police Office, whose officers conducted home searches and interrogations. But the raids also targeted two people accused of left-wing extremist content, as well as one person accused of making threats or harassment based on someone’s sexual orientation.
“The still high incidence of punishable hate posting shows a need for police action,” Holger Münch, president of the Federal Criminal Police Office, said in a statement. “Our free society must not allow a climate of fear, threat, criminal violence and violence either on the street or on the internet.”
Nothing helps prevent a “climate of fear” like police officers busting into dozens of people’s homes because they said things the government has outlawed, am I right, folks?
Americans who want to create an exception that “hate speech” not be protected by the First Amendment often point to Europe and insist countries with such speech bans are no less free for it.
On the theory alone, they’re wrong. Prohibiting offensive messages is an imposition on freedom, regardless of whether one favors the laws. You are inherently less free when you face criminal penalties for saying certain things.
In practice, we see the obvious truth of hate speech law enforcement: gangs of police officers breaking into people’s homes and charging them with crimes. In the context of America’s struggles to hold police officers accountable for violent or reckless misconduct, the enforcement of hate speech laws in America would get people killed.
And if people think the victims will be those alt-right folks, they’re just not paying attention. It’s undoubtedly going to be some minority teen who recklessly tweets “Kill Whitey” in response to some news item of the day.
Yesterday we noted the government’s tendency to unfairly apply speech regulations to benefit the powerful over the disenfranchised is a great reason not to give government power to determine hate speech. We have plenty of other examples showing how hate speech laws would actually play out in the hands of our government.
Several years ago the mayor of Peoria arranged for the police to raid the home of a man who made a Twitter account parodying him. After news of the raid went viral, the mayor showed absolutely no remorse for the absurd reason behind it and insisted he was the one who had his freedom of speech trampled.
Politicians would like nothing better than to possess the means to punish those who make fun of them. The local college diversity committee wouldn’t be meting out punishment. The politicians would.
Look at what’s happening to hate crime laws. People enacted these laws allegedly to protect minorities from violence based on their identities. Now states have added law enforcement as a protected class, and police are calling for sentencing punishments for those who say mean things about them when they are arrested.
It’s reckless to think that hate speech laws won’t end up in a similar place. Eventually we’ll see police raiding people’s homes for tweeting mean things about them. The kernel of this is contained in tweets from a police inspector in Sussex, England, who did not like people making fun of a rainbow-colored cop car.