The Regulation of Hateful and Hurtful Speech: Liberalism’s Uncomfortable Predicament

Conférence de Jocelyn Maclure

Dans le cadre du colloque Words that Kill

Organisée par le George and Irina Schaeffer Center for the Study of Genocide, Human Rights and Conflict Prevention

Date et lieu

mardi 29 mai 2018, 11hAmerican University of Paris, Paris


Jocelyn Maclure présentera une conférence dans le cadre du Panel 4.2 « Hate Speech and Free Speech » du colloque

The aim of the international conference Words that Kill is to reexamine the questions of hate speech and freedom, the production and circulation of lies, and violence-inducing identity discourses. Through interdisciplinary investigation and critique, we aspire to foster intellectual and policy responses to injustice, exclusion, and violence.

There is a continuum linking symbolic violence (in images, signs, stories) and physical violence. Social violence is bred by the construction of otherness, the mobilization of myth (purity of origins), the use of libel, falsehoods and mistruths-performative acts that foment hate and generate the conditions of possibility of mass violence. They are common elements of strategic propaganda to scapegoat, contaminate, exclude, and dehumanize targeted groups, preconditions for discrimination, repression, mass violence or genocide. Mass violence requires narratives authorizing killing, words that not only distance perpetrators from their involvement but also rationalize and naturalize injustices, normalize crimes and, in the aftermath, erase them from social memory.

In our current troubled historical moment, where toxic discourses are being mobilized for political ends, there is growing concern and debate over the perilous effects of post-truth regimes, false news and lying in politics. The phenomenon is not new: As Hannah Arendt notes in Lying in Politics, penned after the publication of the Pentagon Papers, “Secrecy…and deception, the deliberate falsehood and the outright lie used as a legitimate means to achieve politics ends, have been with us since the beginning of recorded history.” But it has become increasingly acute, affecting and poisoning political discourse and daily social intercourse.

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