The People’s Feelings May Not Be Hurt

Many dictatorships, especially those based on ethnicity, have restricted the press from writing anything that might “hurt the feelings of our people”. Since all of the people will have their feelings hurt some of the time, and some of the people will have their feelings hurt all of the time; since, even if they don’t, it is hard to prove the negative; and since the dictator can always claim that anything he doesn’t want to hear “hurts the feelings of our people”, it necessarily follows that practically nothing can be written with impunity. Once you admit the principle that government is there to prevent Feelings being Hurt, there is no place to stop. Hateful speech is not always true, far from it; but any true speech will inevitably gore somebody’s ox – at the very least and by definition, the oxen of liars. When this happens, it will mostly certainly benefit that ox-owner to stigmatise the inconvenient truth as “hate speech”. Ergo, speaking the truth can always be called “hate speech” by someone, somewhere. And not only in formal dictatorships.

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