Cover: The Harm in Hate Speech, from Harvard University PressCover: The Harm in Hate Speech in PAPERBACK

The Harm in Hate Speech

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$22.00 • £19.95 • €20.95

ISBN 9780674416864

Publication Date: 10/06/2014


304 pages

5 x 7-1/2 inches

1 line illustration

Oliver Wendell Holmes Lectures


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A powerful little book that seeks to dismantle familiar defenses of the right to indefensible speech.—Kelefa Sanneh, The New Yorker

[Waldron’s] book sheds light on a number of difficult issues, and occasionally exposes the difference between historical fact and fiction… He elegantly and convincingly advocates that our leaders should not only avoid the use of hate speech themselves, but also condemn its use by others… We should all do our best to preserve President Ford’s conception of America as a place where we can disagree without being disagreeable. An understanding of the arguments in Waldron’s book may help us to do so.—John Paul Stevens, The New York Review of Books

Waldron…challenges society and its legal system to do something about [the harm done by hate speech]. But the likelihood that something will be done is slim if Waldron is right about the state of First Amendment discourse: ‘[I]n the American debate, the philosophical arguments about hate speech are knee-jerk, impulsive and thoughtless.’ Not the arguments of this book, however; they hit the mark every time.—Stanley Fish, The New York Times

The Harm in Hate Speech is the fullest embodiment of arguments that Waldron has been developing for years… Waldron’s treatise is primarily a philosophical defense of hate-speech regulation. He argues that hate speech is an ‘environmental’ problem that pollutes the atmosphere of security and dignity that society should provide to all its members… Speech intended to intimidate or malign destroys this assurance… While we should continue to protect the free speech of those we disagree with, The Harm in Hate Speech makes a compelling case that they are not the only ones who need defending.—Daniel Townshend, The American Prospect

Waldron is firmly on the side of the hate speech legislators. He wants free speech dogmatists to think again, and presents a series of challenges to the prevailing view in the U.S.—Nigel Warburton, The Times Literary Supplement

To the (mostly white) liberals who say they hate the content of hate speech, but defend its right to exist under the First Amendment (often while patting themselves on the back for their tolerance), Waldron replies, in essence: easy for you to say. In this brief, eloquent book, he urges readers (at a bare minimum) to think about how hate speech feels from the point of view of its targets… From key court battles Waldron teases out the ideas that matter in deciding how to balance free expression with a free society, one in which everybody can ‘know that when they leave home in the morning, they can count on not being discriminated against or humiliated or terrorized.’—Kate Tuttle, The Boston Globe

This is a wonderful book. It conveys complex ideas in an accessible and convincing way… Jeremy Waldron has put together a clear and compelling rationale for hate-speech laws—the harm that it causes to human dignity.—Katharine Gelber, Times Higher Education

This book develops a theory of hate speech that challenges existing U.S. legal rubrics. U.S. courts have repeatedly held that the First Amendment forbids criminalization of hate speech, but Waldron advances a broader view of the link between free expression and important social values such as tolerance and inclusiveness… If dignity is a concept that is valued by a polity, Waldron argues, then there are important reasons to distinguish hate speech from other forms of expression that merit legal protection. An elegant synthesis of modern legal philosophy and leading cases, as well as a critique of the positions of prominent legal theorists such as Ronald Dworkin and C. Edwin Baker, the book is a readable, thought-provoking contribution to the literature.—S. B. Lichtman, Choice

A vigorously argued, intelligent challenge to the ‘liberal bravado’ of U.S. First Amendment scholars. In an eloquent reply to free-speech advocates, Waldron moves step by step in building the argument as to why hate-speech laws are good for a well-ordered society… The author argues that the damage caused by hate speech is like an ‘environmental threat to social peace, a sort of slow-acting poison’ that robs the intended victims of their dignity and reputation in society. Waldron’s analogy between hate speech and pornography—in terms of the defamation of women—is particularly noteworthy. He responds carefully to the notion of free speech as a necessary part of democracy’s ‘marketplace of ideas’ and looks to the Enlightenment philosophes for their views on toleration and defamation.Kirkus Reviews

Waldron is a legal and political thinker at the height of his powers. Even, or perhaps especially, for someone who disagrees with his position on hate speech legislation, this book conveys a subtle, rich, rigorous and deeply challenging argument.—Timothy Garton Ash, St Antony’s College, University of Oxford

Jeremy Waldron’s vigorous defense of restricting hate speech will benefit those who agree with him and those who do not. The book is clearly written, both subtle and inventive in its arguments, continuously stimulating, and shows a remarkable generosity of spirit. This is quite an achievement.—George Kateb, author of Human Dignity

We have plenty of free speech in this country, but not nearly enough free speech about free speech itself. In this elegantly written, fair minded, and carefully reasoned book, Jeremy Waldron raises important issues about the real harm caused by certain kinds of speech. His argument is certain to give even free speech absolutists pause.—Louis Michael Seidman, Georgetown University

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