- 2018 Annual Volume, Volume 46

“It Ain’t So Much the Things We Don’t Know That Get Us in Trouble. It’s the Thing We Know that Aint’s So”: The Dubious Intellectual Foundations of the Claim that “Hate Speech” Causes Political Violence

Article by: Gordon Danning

2018 PEPP. L. REV. 98 (2018)

The United States is an outlier in its legal protection for what is commonly termed “hate speech.” Proponents of bringing American jurisprudence closer to the international norm often argue that hate speech causes violence, particularly political violence.  However, such claims largely rest on assumptions which are inconsistent with social scientists’ understanding of the causes of political violence, including that ethnic identity and ideological salience are more often the result of violence than a cause thereof; that violence during conflict is generally unrelated to the conflict’s ostensible central cleavage; and that violence is generally instrumental and elite-driven, rather than spontaneous and “bottom-up.” Therefore, censorship of hate speech cannot be justified by the argument that such censorship is necessary to prevent or forestall political violence.

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