November 03, 2017

Study: 53% of Americans Think 'Hate Speech Is an Act of Violence'

Kristin TateRebel Buzz Contributor

Over half of Americans believe hate speech is an "act of violence," according to a new study by the Cato Institute. 

From the study:

We find that Americans believe free speech has both benefits and costs. First, nearly two-thirds (67%) think that “freedom of speech ensures the truth will ultimately win out” and 58% say free speech does more to protect minority viewpoints. But also, most believe that speech can turn violent: 53% say hate speech is an act of violence and even more say that hate speech leads to violence against minority groups (70%). Ultimately, a majority (56%) think it’s possible to both ban hate speech and still protect free speech.

There are wide racial and partisan divides over how people think free speech operates. Democrats, African Americans, and Latinos are more likely than Republicans and white Americans to believe that hate speech is violent and allows majority views to crowd out minority viewpoints, that supporting a racist’s free speech right is as bad as being a racist, that people who offend others with their ideas have bad intentions, and that we can simultaneously ban hate speech and protect free speech.


It's troubling that over half of Americans believe that society can both "prohibit hate speech and protect free speech." As Cato notes, the issue is most likely that "hate speech" can often be an amorphous idea with varying definitions. For example, many on the left believe that rhetoric used by President Trump to describe illegal immigrants constitutes hate speech.

According to the study's respondents, if such stated beliefs truly are hate speech, then they should be restricted. Otherwise, it could lead to "violence against minority groups." 

Citizens in countries like Canada, or the UK for example, are subject to far more onerous speech laws than in the United States. The First Amendment gives United States citizens unique freedoms that should be cherished. To think that over half of Americans want those freedoms infringed upon suggests a naive populace that doesn't fully appreciate the rights granted by free speech protections. 

You must be logged in to comment. Click here to log in.
commented 2017-11-05 12:07:32 -0500
Jay Kelly, take a moment to view Gad Saad’s commentary. Very good lessons you can learn.
Thought Police and Political Correctness in Modern Academia (THE SAAD TRUTH_133)
commented 2017-11-05 10:15:54 -0500
Let me put it to you this way Jay: Would you rather someone raped you with their wit or physically raped you? Think long and hard before you break anyone’s bones. LOL
commented 2017-11-05 10:05:45 -0500
Jay what a dry colorless world you are describing where everyone walks around with their nose in the air looking to get offended and no one can take some light ribbing. Kind of sounds like those 53% might feel more at home in Iran where their religious leader assures us there is no place for humor in Islam.
commented 2017-11-05 02:38:58 -0500
Jay Kelly NO! They have a right to their opinion.
commented 2017-11-05 01:12:28 -0400
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

But we know from our own experience that words do hurt. In fact hurtful comments can be more painful than a physical attack.

As a sort of defensive mechanism some will claim that the physical attack was more serious than the mental one.

53% of Americans are right. ‘Hate Speech Is an Act of Violence’
commented 2017-11-04 12:30:41 -0400
Jay Kelly: You can’t protect people from the totality of life. I would like to see the bullying in schools stop but after years of talking about it and talking about it we seem to be no further ahead. If persistent constant verbal abuse goes on people can take steps to stop the harassment but there is no way to legislate people from never saying anything mean and it all comes down to who defines what is mean? But to try and prevent people from living in the real world when the child leaves the protective barrier of the over protective family and finds out the real world can be hard and you have to develop a measure of toughness or you are going to get crushed and won’t have learned any coping mechanisms.
commented 2017-11-04 11:51:15 -0400
Excellent post Laurence Coakley!
commented 2017-11-04 11:01:38 -0400
If the psychological (thought and feeling) state or condition of ‘hate’ could actually be be legislated away (it can’t) governments would likely begin to add other psychological states or conditions to law. Then no longer would a person’s unacceptable physical actions and conduct be the State’s sole concern for such legislation (as it ought to be).

“Hate” naturally belongs in the realm of one’s reasoning processes and emotional sensations which can affect one’s physical body. But as long as a person’s reasoning processes are functioning well and are sound no physical action would be taken (without due consideration and grounds for cause); only if a person’s reasoning processes are faulty and unsound might there be reason for concern or possibly even alarm.

To legislate against what some describe as hateful words or hateful speech is to legislate against a person’s psychological state or condition. Really, ought there to be criminal or highhanded civil laws which prosecute a person for having a particular psychological state or condition at any given time. States or conditions such as: to experience “intense dislike; feel antipathy or aversion towards” aka “hate”; or to experience “strong sexual desire, passionate desire, eagerness to possess, intense longing” aka “lust”; or to experience “hot displeasure provoked by some action, incident, situation, etc.” aka “anger”; and on we could go. Ought there to be laws against these. If so, where would or should we draw the line. Which thought and feeling might be next on the chopping block.

If wanting to change people’s hearts and minds there are much better courses of action which could be taken (continued sharing of truthful information and honest education; providing opportunity for open discussion and debate; providing “safe spaces” ;-) for venting – whoops, how’d that get included) than to have the government passing laws to make illegal a person’s thoughts or feelings. To only be “permitted” to hold particular thoughts and feelings inside one’s own head or heart but never be allowed to give outward spoken or written expression to them, because someone may be offended or perhaps emotionally feel hurt, is, to me, oppressive, and is often used to silence detractors (not everything is worthy of or deserves praise), stifles debate, and runs contrary to freedom of expression.

/soap box put away
commented 2017-11-04 09:38:24 -0400
Criticism of an ideology whose “holy book” has 109 calls to Jihad is love speech.
commented 2017-11-04 01:45:28 -0400
Jan G, thank you for your four comments.

Do you believe that hateful words can be considered acts of violence? If someone punches you in the gut it is rightly and obviously an act of violence. But what about the hateful words? My impression is that the words can be more hurtful, and leave more lasting scares, than the punch.

I grew up in a large family and my older brothers would sometimes tease me physically. But when I think back, it was hurtful words that had more power.
commented 2017-11-04 01:28:18 -0400
Jay Kelly: Don’t mistake ignorance for hate speech. Obviously you were an only child, possibly divorced parents, so your socialization did not include siblings who taught you about interacting with peers and learning how to deflect insults.
The young people of today are victims of broken families, lacking these social skills learned from normal, family home environments. As a result, they grow up to be bullies in order to vent their frustrations and anger.
Sound familiar?
commented 2017-11-04 01:22:38 -0400
Jay Kelly: Aren’t you thankful for the opportunity to exercise your hate speech here?
commented 2017-11-04 01:21:04 -0400
Take the media, for example. All news channels would be go off the air, including tv programs like The View (which would be a welcomed relief), especially CNN.
commented 2017-11-04 01:18:45 -0400
It depends on who is defining what hate speech is.
Since all the relativists believe what’s true for you is not true for them, then what hate speech is to them is not hate speech to you.
It’s all relative.
commented 2017-11-04 01:15:58 -0400
Drew Wakariuk, thank you for your response. When, as a child, you were picked on for being “fat” I am sure it hurt. Perhaps even some ignorant children may have punched you or hit you.

But isn’t it true that real violence lies in the hateful words, the mocking, and so on? Drew, you “would never want anyone silenced” but don’t you wish they their words could be taken back?
commented 2017-11-04 00:28:42 -0400
The term “White Privilege” is hate speech, i wonder how many of these people will stop using it?
commented 2017-11-04 00:15:25 -0400
Jay Kelly tell that to all the lefties hating on white people, i was a fat kid and picked on a lot, i would never want anyone silenced.
commented 2017-11-04 00:03:32 -0400
Hate speech as violence?

We might try this little test: When was the last time, or were you ever, the victim of violence. “Violence” meaning a hurtful, painful, or demeaning act against you. Something that really hurt you as a person.

Chances are the event was not a physical attack, but a verbal one. Chances are it was carried out by someone close to you, someone who you trusted or even loved.

The pain comes not from someone out of the blue hitting you with a hammer, we can get over that. The pain comes with someone pointing at you and saying “I know you. You are worthless.” It hurts.
commented 2017-11-03 20:47:15 -0400
Everywhere in today’s overpriced worthless universities throughout the Western world any uncomfortable truth is labelled " hate speech"
commented 2017-11-03 20:44:00 -0400
commented 2017-11-03 18:06:15 -0400
Mind Control, the dream of every Politician, especially those who stand with Sad Sack Trudeau and his Marxist Marauders.
commented 2017-11-03 17:32:39 -0400
The only “hate” speech that should be restricted is that which calls for violence against certain groups or individuals, not including those to which you are at war.
You should have the right to be rude. Example: You’re a scumbag chink, or You’re filthy white trash, or We should deport all Peruvians.
But NOT have the right to say things like: We should KILL all whites or blacks or Christians or Muslims.
(While being considerate of community standards on billboards and public displays.)
commented 2017-11-03 17:17:47 -0400
Censorship is hate against all people. I wonder how many of these people would react if you said kneeling for the anthem is an expression of hate?
commented 2017-11-03 17:16:23 -0400
Iain got that right, as if they are the ones who get to define such things that are merely a matter of opinion and perspective. Legitimate criticism is not hate speech. And the numbers being higher among racial lines shows who the actual racists are. If you try and label some non white persons vitriol against white people as hate, they would get all upset and defensive, such hypocrisy.
commented 2017-11-03 16:27:49 -0400
… Inevitable. “Hate” speech as defined by the Left are simply ideas and values that they disagree with.
… Telling themselves the demented lie that expressing ideas that they disagree with is violence, allows them unlimited license for violence against others.