There’s a thoughtful discussion in a recent New York Review of Books entitled “Free Speech and the Menace of Hysteria.” Though he passes by without comment the title’s term that associates the womb with a mind out of control (groan), Jeremy Waldron does provide an interesting review of a book by Anthony Lewis, Freedom for the Thought That We Hate. A later comment by Perry Link summarizes a point Waldron argues for:
In his excellent essay “Free Speech and the Menace of Hysteria” [NYR, May 29], Jeremy Waldron shows how, in the United States over the last two hundred years, the state came to be viewed as sufficiently stable that it “did not need the support of the law against the puny denunciations of the citizenry.” To subject the state to “free trade in ideas” is by now seen as carrying little risk and as having considerable advantages for democratic rule. Next, Professor Waldron argues that the case is not parallel for vulnerable minorities—such as, in our society today, Muslims from Asia or Latinos in the Southwest. Here the hate speech that might appear in the marketplace can bring grievous and irreparable harm, and perhaps should be restricted by law.
Link also argues that there is a serious problem about who employs the restraint. I hope both the article and the comment are available electronically. It could be used to set up a good discussion.