First, some temporal context: There's been a lot of hubbub going in the US lately regarding the clashes between the ctrl-alt-left and the ctrl-alt-right. Lotsa violence from both sides, some death and destruction. There are a good number of racists in the alt-right, pretending to be "Nazis", causing a ruckus at various rallies. Not many people like racists, so this is currently a hot-topic for the various medias, social and otherwise.
I was replying to someone posting a link to this graphic by some guy calling himself Karl Popper (alleged Philosopher). Popper's argument is essentially that we ought to make hate speech outright illegal, because to do otherwise would be inviting all the racist boogeymen to power. Now, all disdain for racism aside, I hope you understand why that very notion is both inane and dangerous.
If you don't readily get why, here is my cross-post from BookFace:
To clarify my point: this isn't about giving racists a voice or not, but it is about preventing abuse of the *legal precedent* that would be set if a certain classification of speech were made illegal; or rather if the First Amendment was de facto voided in this manner.
Let me paint a hypothetical:
Let's say that Karl Popper's idea was reality; that hate speech was literally illegal. Can you not imagine someone like, say, Trump getting elected, getting majority control of the legislative branch AS WELL as control of the judicial branch, and then ABUSING this legal precedent? Let's say he comes up with some B.S. reasoning to outlaw, say, media criticism against the presidency (sound plausible??). Now in this hypothetical, the First Amendment has been severely de-fanged in the name of "intolerance of intolerance" remember. So he would have a MUCH easier time getting something like that passed with complete control of all three branches of government AND no constitutional restrictions.
Lo and behold, what started out as looking rational on paper has turned into a BIG problem in practice.
This is my point: I think we have more to fear giving the government that much power than we do from a few angry and ignorant racists hopped up on Mountain Dew...
And that hypothetical is just the very tip of the iceberg of what could happen if a government is allowed to prosecute someone for speech alone. It opens the floodgates to much, much worse things than some derps causing trouble at some gathering. The police can (or should) handle violent outbreaks from any group, regardless of supposed intent, but there IS NO protection against a government that is unrestrained from assaulting someone's (and if not careful, YOUR) personal sovereignty. The only option from there is to leave.
Which is why I must underline this point, once again: Legally letting derps shout racist things is not about protecting their liberty to speak freely, it is about protecting THE liberty of speaking freely.