When you get a user archly explaining that he disapproves of curbs on hate speech because he's a First Amendment absolutist, you can pretty much assume that you're dealing with a straight white affluent male.
For some reason, this subspecies believes that if there are problems stemming from prejudice and/or ugly language, the right answer is not to suppress the behavior or the speech; it's to publicly debate the issue at length until everyone can see why prejudice and hate speech are bad things. There are three problems with this. First, it would mean any troll or bigot could derail any discussion, and their beliefs would take center stage in the public discourse. Second, naive First Amendment absolutists are seldom politically active, and they never attend or read about the sort of earnest public debates they urge on everyone else. Third, such debates don't actually have much power to change people's minds.
What they're really saying is "I don't want anyone else to have the power to say I'm in the wrong."
An extended example collected in the wild:
- Well you see, that's the problem right here: deciding that some speech should be punished is arbitrary. You can say racist speech should be punished, and I can say speaking about soccer/football should be punished. And I can make up a lot of reasons to support my argument: football incites violence (see: riots from angry supporters), it exploits poor countries (see: how much money the governments of African countries spend on the World Cup when they host it).
- Football is a bad thing, just like racism is a bad thing, and we must stop people from speaking positively about it because it lets all these problems continue.
- Do you see the problem here? It doesn't matter what your arguments are for banning some type of speech: in the end, you can't prove that any kind of speech is bad - you can think a type of speech is bad, but you can not absolutely, positively prove it: in the end it will all come down to a matter of opinion. And of course, any argument you use to ban racist speech can be used to ban any other kind of speech, like I just demonstrated with football.
- Also, words are just words. They only hurt if you care what somebody thinks of you. And you shouldn't care what racists think of you, that's silly. Also, nobody is entitled to be loved by everyone, so get over it. We're supposed to be mature adults, yet we can't ignore some idiot we never even met who insults us or a group we belong to... Am I the only one to see a problem with this? Anyway, if you can't get over the fact that there are idiots on this planet who won't like you, it's still not a reason to censor anybody or anything. That would be a disproportionate response.
- Finally, censorship also helps hatred and racism much more than it stops it. Censorship just hides the symptoms, i.e. racist comments. But it has some very negative consequences too:
- - Censorship doesn't people less racist. Let's clear that out right now.
- - Censorship can be used to make racists look like victims "look, we can't even state our opinions! That's oppression and thank those [insert some race here] for using the law to control what we can say!".
- - Censorship doesn't stop the speech, it just makes it more subtle and go unchallenged.
- Racism is still very visible in politics today. Except that instead of taking the form of Hitler and a holocaust, it takes the form of politicians blaming crime on foreigners and promising to act against this. It takes the form of people being born in a country, having lived there 18 years, and then being kicked out back "home" because they broke the law one time.
- Censorship didn't solve these problems. And you know what else? People don't even seem to realize that sending somebody back to Africa even though he lived all his life in Europe is racist. That's because this is a subtle form of racism, and therefore it is never challenged.
- If we allowed people to express racist views, we would also see these people get challenged. Let racists explain why they think other races are inferior, and then counter them with your own arguments why all races are equal. If you're right, you'll have no problem proving it. There's obviously a good reason why you aren't racist, right? Surely you must be able to argue why every race is equal, aren't you? Then what are you afraid of?
- I'll give you another example: A few days ago I was watching a video about Muslim extremists protesting in the UK, and speaking of violence. Now if you ask me, I think these extremists are a minority and don't represent the majority of Muslims. But... People who think these extremists represent most Muslims, are discouraged from speaking out. They're not allowed to say "I'm scared, we should kick out all Muslims". If they do, they could be socially stigmatized or even fined or jailed.
- These people still dislike Muslims and fear them. Shutting them up doesn't change that fact. But maybe if they were allowed to speak up, non-extremist Muslims would start to realize that the extremists give them all a very bad reputation, and the non-extremist Muslims might decide to do something to show everyone "hey, don't worry, these idiots are just a minority, we're cool people really".
- When Switzerland banned minarets not long ago, there were some angry Muslims and many Western countries condemned this decision. But interestingly, a group of Muslims decided to cool things down instead of expressing anger or disappointment at the ban. They basically said "This ban shows that Islam has a bad reputation, thanks to extremism. So we, Muslims, instead of getting angry, need to start showing the Swiss people that most of us aren't extremists". Instead of fighting the Swiss racism, they opened up to it and fought the cause of it: Islamic extremism. And that did a lot to improve the image of Islam in Switzerland. I'm not going to say everyone in Switzerland now loves Muslims, but you could feel that relationships have changed for the better since these events.
- Now if the minaret ban hadn't been allowed to happen, or if the Swiss people had had no way to express their fear of Islam, Switzerland would have a bigger racial conflict today. But because people were allowed to express their anger/fear, and because some Muslims were wise enough to address the problem, things have improved.
- Hiding our heads in the sand doesn't achieve anything.