Jay van Tol, Myocum
I refer to Mandy Nolan’s Freedom of Hate Speech (Echo March 20). The purpose of legal rights and freedoms is precisely to preserve those rights that, when exercised by others, are contrary to our own opinions or inclinations.
That we would be in favour of freedom of speech, but only so long as we agree with what others are saying – or for that matter, that we only say what others will agree with – is antithetical to the nature of free speech.
Readers who skim this letter without much reflection might conclude that I’m promoting hate speech, but that’s wrong. Reading Mandy’s views, I empathise with the outrage she feels at all those who promote hatred and bigotry. Where we disagree is solely in their right to express it, and I write in defence of that right (which is actually absent in Australia).
Whereas Mandy’s view is that ‘We need to shut them down’, my own view is that we need to speak out against them – and here I support Mandy entirely. A proper defence of freedom of speech deserves much more argument than can be expressed here, but a good starting point might be John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty, a classic treatise on the subject.