Opposing Hate Speech
by Anthony Cortese
November 2005, 248pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-275-98427-4
$46, £35, 40€, A63
eBook Available: 978-0-313-03667-5
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Shows how hate speech in all its forms, whether on the street or in the media, can lead to hate crimes, and argues that the harm it can cause needs to be weighed against the competing value of freedom of expression.

What happens when two deeply held American values, freedom of expression and freedom from discrimination, clash? In any well-established democratic society, people have the right to free speech as well as the right to equal treatment and protection under the law. But when one person’s speech harms another person on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, it may qualify as hate speech and be subject to restriction. Cortese argues that restricting hate speech does not violate the guiding principle behind the First Amendment, but he is not eager to see more lawsuits. Effective restriction, he asserts, should not focus on litigation but on speech codes and moral education.

Is there a limit to freedom of expression in a democracy, and if so, where should the line be drawn? In attempting to answer that question, Cortese makes a solid case for paying attention to context and common sense. Some hate speech is more reprehensible than others; not all discriminatory statements are equally serious. There is a discernible difference between an offensive remark and an incitement to commit murder. There is also a fundamental distinction between intentional and unintentional discrimination. In this book, Cortese rethinks some of the issues that have been silenced in ways harmful to many—especially those that have been brutalized, oppressed, manipulated, dominated, segregated, and disadvantaged. We should recognize the grave injuries inflicted by hate speech and the potential tensions between legal solutions to those injuries and the First Amendment. We must push for moral education, educational speech codes, and when necessary, a formal, legal-structural response to hate speech in order to reinforce our commitment to tolerance as a value.


"Employing critical race theory to structure his thesis, Cortese sketches a stage-developmental model of hate speech severity to make a case for the pervasiveness and perniciousness of hate speech in various institutional sectors of contemporary society....Recommended. General collections."—Choice, September 1, 2006

"Cortese provides his readers with tools for talking back to speech that incites hatred or violence based on religion, race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation. Cortese sees prevention as a more effective technique than legal restrictions on hate speech; he outlines a rational basis for rejecting bigoted talk by focusing on equal treatment and equal protection under the law. His focus is on media sources--Web sites, film, television, radio, newspapers, magazines--as well as social movements, pride marches, and demonstrations that fight for minority rights and those that oppose them. He concludes by exploring what readers can do to counter and eliminate hate speech at the individual level."—Reference & Research Book News, May 1, 2006

"Cortese traverses the tense terrain between the First and Fourteenth Amendments with skill and precision. His discussion takes the seem between freedom of expression and equal protection apart thread by thread, uncovering bias in the application of First Amendment Rights we, as a society, should do well to acknowledge and rectify. Cortese's intervention is a significant contribution to our understanding of hate speech and the undemocratic structures that support it under the guise of free speech. Truly a must-read for anyone concerned with creating democratic--tolerant and unbiased--spaces, from homes to schools at every level and beyond."—Gabriela Sandoval, Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of California, Santa Cruz

"Dr. Anthony Cortese has stepped forward and offers a profoundly insightful, passionate, and helpful contribution, not only offering a comprehensive and integrated analysis but also suggestions for how society can address such a volatile issue as hatred among individuals and groups of people through social policy....Opposing Hate Speech is an important and timely contribution to understanding hatred and its impact on persons and people selected out for such treatment because of their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or religion. This excellent volume explores and offers examples of hatred, not only as an American problem, but a human issue that spans the world. I highly recommend it for the classroom, but also for the clergy, school boards, higher education leaders, concerned citizens, as well as legislative leaders who shape social policy."—David Maldonado Jr., President Emeritus, Iliff School of Theology

"[T]he work is a must for the general public as well as courses dealing with minorities, social problems, conflict resolution and social change. Grounded in the basic sociocultural and political divide of our age--reason and alientation, it is an important and timely book which deserves to be widely read."—Fabio B. Dasilva, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, University of Notre Dame

"Dr. Cortese's de-construction--of hate speech and its many negative consequences across the spectrum of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, and sexual orientation--is a gigantic contribution to public discourse on these phenomena."—Joseph W. Scott, Professor of Sociology, University of Washington
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