“Hate speech is speech that attacks a person or group on the basis of attributes such as gender, ethnic origin, religion, race, disability, or sexual orientation.”

On the surface, this sounds like a great thing to advocate for. Helping oppressed minorities, freeing them from torment… Only it hasn’t and if Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump have shown us anything, its that racism and bigotry is still rampant. Neither side of the political spectrum is totally clean though. The extreme right continuing to shout down anyone who isn’t the same ethnicity or political stance as them, the extreme left targeting those who they deem “privileged” Claiming they are the perpetrators of all that is bad in this world making themselves sound oddly like nazis. The thing is that they’re both somewhat right, to a degree… I just think their anger is misplaced.

After Brexit, there were a lot of angry people complaining about how the world was going to end. My friend, who is an aspiring illustrator, posted a drawing of his which was in reference to some of the anti-brexiteers and the rhetoric they had been spouting (he did one for both sides as an effort to show that both sides of the debate felt lied to, and misrepresented). Someone we both knew from school left an angry comment on his photo. He said he was glad we had gained a vote to leave, and that people like him were the cause of his problems, that people coming to this country were stealing the disability benefits one of his family members should be receiving. He also wasn’t getting as much help as he should be for the mental illnesses he’d suffered. I decided to get involved after some persuading and I explained that my friend was not the cause of his problems, that shouting down would be friends and allies without first understanding their actual position and views is childish. The argument came to a close and my friend thanked me before complaining that the guy had told him to “Go back to Spain”, which he hadn’t, I pointed out that the guy had merely said that he was in a better position because he had somewhere to run to, whereas he didn’t. He was stuck. I was accused of “sympathising with a racist” and got blocked just for pointing out that he had misread something.

All of these are valid concerns true or not, but the real culprits are those in power, the people in charge of the allocation of funding. Whether it is due to a strain on various services from an increase in immigration is, in my opinion, irrelevant, the immigrants are not to blame, the legislators and politicians are. They know how much money we have available and how many people should be let in, so surely the people here who need it most should be getting the funding.

blocking out an alternative point of view before listening to the person is exactly what hate speech laws are doing. I am of the opinion that most people are reasonable and only want the best, even if their views are seemingly crazy. That if given a chance, if engaged with can have their opinions changed, a great and uplifting piece I read recently was how a black guy had befriended and convinced 200 members to leave the KKK, this speaks volumes to me, that giving these people with extreme views a chance and engaging in dialogue can change their hearts. If a man in the street was yelling “lets kill all minorities” and you put tape over his mouth, he still has his views and opinions, nobody learnt anything. Engaging with others is important.

Another point is the wording:
“A person who uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or displays any written material which is threatening, abusive or insulting, is guilty of an offence if—
(a) they intend thereby to stir up racial hatred, or
(b) having regard to all the circumstances racial hatred is likely to be stirred up thereby.”

Given what I have said, I actually think this is a very dangerous law to have in place as it restricts the likelihood of the people with these views being discussed, but instead being incarcerated and potentially causing even more unrest among extremists and others who share their views. Part “a” is particularly worrying given the vagueness of the wording: intent is particularly hard to prove given that can’t truly know why someone would say something. Part “b” proving or disproving that someone “might” stir up hatred, is equally hard to prove, this is completely down to each persons’ interpretation. At the moment I don’t see this being much danger, but as people become less and less used to opposing views, I can see this law becoming more and more divisive. At the moment while the government still doesn’t have access to all of your social media posts it relies on your fellow internet users to report you to the authorities.

So as long as people are open to discussion with the more reasonable among those with opposing views, people posting what might be interpreted as hate speech are still safe and might have the opportunity to change.

“If all printers were determined not to print anything till they were sure it would offend nobody, there would be very little printed.” Benjamin Franklin