I'm not ashamed to admit to having no idea what the practical implications of the Supreme Court's Whatcott ruling are. And I don't think you do, either, since the written decision was so infuriatingly obtuse -- really, couldn't the court have just come right out and told us exactly what we can and can't say? Alas.
At least most of us can take solace in the fact we're not bigoted enough -- or stupid enough -- to say out loud things that might get us into trouble. But on the other hand you just never know what a human rights commission is going to come after you for because hate speech is evolutionary -- statements that don't seem inappropriate right now could very well become inappropriate at a later point, just as statements that in the past wouldn't have got you in trouble now will.
If you truly want to cover your bases, there is only one solution: Stop speaking altogether. Excessive? Maybe, but it seems to me you can't get accused of hate speech if you don't speech in the first place. And besides, there are lots of good reasons for you and me to shut up.
- Half the people who hear anything you have to say -- no matter what it is -- will immediately think you're wrong or stupid or racist: This is unavoidable and in the Twitter age more people are emboldened to tell you exactly why they think you're an idiot, and who wants to hear that? You will feel compelled to respond to them, ensuring the cycle starts again. Do you really want to spend your time talking to people who implicitly think the opposite?
- The other half of people agree with you: Great, except you have nothing to talk about. It's like speaking to a mirror.
- When you're speaking, you're not doing: The Mishnaic scholars who wrote Ethics of the Fathers offer the following advice: "Say little, do a lot." Wise words. It's the doing -- not the speaking -- that's important, and there's a lot to do. I'm busy, you're busy, we're all busy -- so stop talking and start getting stuff done.
- Any really important message can be conveyed with facial expressions and your two arms: Just like mimes do.
- Some people aren't going to "get" you: Let's say you're trying to make a joke about, oh I don't know, the Holocaust or how Jews control Hollywood -- it's going to go over a lot of people's heads. They'll think you were being serious when you were just having a laugh about Nazi gas chambers. Before you know it the Anti-Defamation League will be all over your ass -- and they don't let off Jews easy, either.
- It never sounds as good out loud as it does in your head: Or, why Tom Flanagan is an idiot who deserved to lose his many, many jobs.A lot of things sound perfectly reasonable when we say them to ourselves, but that's only because we thought of them ourselves in the first place -- your inner monologue isn't the greatest when it comes to constructive criticism. If you're the kind of person who thinks the punishment doesn't fit the crime when we're talking about the worst scum off the earth, keep it to yourself. I assure you there is no way to make that sound anywhere near intelligent out loud.
- Your breath smells and your teeth are crooked: It's disgusting.
- Speech is on the way out: You might think that texting kids are annoying, but theirs are the ways of the future -- and they almost never talk to each other. Some day soon we'll all have little, tiny computer chips in our brains that just send and receive messages to and from the little tiny computer chips in other peoples' brains. No one is going to speak to each other then, unless the WiFi goes down, which actually isn't that different from where we're at now.
- Nobody is listening to you: They're too caught up in their own speaking to actually hear what you have to say -- it just goes in one ear and out the other. When everyone is trying to get a point across to everyone else, the consequence is that no one actually listens. More listening would be a good thing.
There are so few original thoughts out there that the chances you or I are going to come up with one of them is virtually nil -- we're far more likely to just vomit up some less-than-smart idea that was on Facebook and everyone you know has already seen it. Why not avoid the hassle? Just think of all the time you'll save when you don't have to be thinking up things to say. You'll feel better, you'll look better and people will definitely like you better.
Just because we're lucky enough to live in a place where freedom of expression is still -- with some exceptions -- a basic right doesn't mean we should feel the need to actually express our thoughts. Keep it to yourself and we all win.