90 Miles From Tyranny : Libertarians Party For Hate Speech In New York City

Monday, April 29, 2019

Libertarians Party For Hate Speech In New York City

Last Thursday night down on Bleeker Street in Manhattan, the libertarian entertainment company We The Internet gathered to throw a bash celebrating its latest mini-documentary, and the launch of its “The Funny Thing About Hate Speech” tour. The 15-minute film, “5 Reasons We Need Hate Speech,” is a full-throated defense of free speech that is well-produced, very clever, and often quite funny. Both the documentary and the party were hosted by Lou Perez, We The Internet’s jocular impresario whose straightforward and aw shucks style cuts straight to the heart of the matter.

The party in a downtown club space was fun and festive, a gathering of free thinkers and iconoclasts. Reason magazine’s Nick Gillespie was there (yes, he wore a leather jacket), and former American Civil Liberties Union head Nadine Strossen and author Zachary Wood joined Perez for a panel discussion. Among the questioners from the audience was journalist Jesse Singal, who appears in the film.

The documentary is now airing on YouTube and is linked below. The reasons it discusses for why we need hate speech, or more specifically need to not ban hate speech, are not particularly new. They focus mostly on how such bans not only make hate speech stronger, but that defining hate speech always winds up as a slippery slope that captures at its bottom a much wider range of speech than was ever intended.

What makes the film special, and is true of much of We The Internet’s work, is how difficult it is to pin down politically. Indeed one of the central focuses is European and to a lesser extent American efforts to criminalize or ban criticism of Israel.

In one of the film’s more humorous moments, Perez is on his way to interview a pro-Palestinian group at Fordham University that had been denied the right to organize. Before he arrives, he receives an email from them, explaining that in light of his previous controversial work, they were declining the interview. The irony was amazing. Those demanding free speech were declining this opportunity to engage in free speech.

While We The Internet is not conservative, and Perez insists the group attacks all sides, in this case the libertarian value of free speech overlaps considerably with...

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