Sources & Extracts

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In Only Words, Catherine MacKinnon presents her view of the harm done to women in the making of pornography and through the use of pornography. She also discusses the current interpretation of the First Amendment. Her arguments, while often aimed specifically at pornography, are frequently applicable to hate speech.

In the following passage she describes how she and others argued against hate propaganda in a Canadian court case. He argument stresses the hierarchy or inequality promoted by hate speech.

We argued that group libel, most of it concededly expression, promotes the disadvantage of unequal groups; that group-based enmity, ill will, intolerance, and prejudice are the attitudinal engines of the exclusion, denigration, and subordination that make up and propel social inequality; that without bigotry, social systems of enforced separation, ghettoization, and apartheid would be unnecessary, impossible, and unthinkable; that stereotyping and stigmatization of historically disadvantaged groups through group hate propaganda shape their social image and reputation, which controls their access to opportunities more powerfully than their individual abilities ever do; and that it is impossible for an individual to receive equality of opportunity when surrounded by an atmosphere of group hate.
We argued that group defamation is a verbal form inequality takes. . . . We argued that group defamation in this sense is not a mere expression of opinion but a practice of discrimination in verbal form, a link in systemic discrimination that keeps target groups in subordinated positions through the promotion of terror, intolerance, degradation, segregation, exclusion, vilification, violence, and genocide.

Reference: Catherine MacKinnon, Only Words, p. 99-100.