Should Art be Censored?

Instead of censorship, some have opted for an alternative response to hate speech. We can challenge, refute or even undo the harms of hate speech with more speech. Speaking back presents counternarratives and counterevidence to the falsehoods expressed. This might involve publicly denouncing instances of hate speech and affirming the dignity of the groups targeted, or refuting transphobic speech in social media forums, or challenging racist speech on public transport or at home.

How effective is artistic counterspeech? Philosophers have noted the limitations of counterspeech more generally if speech doesn’t happen on an equal playing field. Normally, those targeted by hate speech hold less power, making speaking back difficult (for example, women’s testimony has historically been taken less seriously). There are also epistemic difficulties: the harm in much of hate speech isn’t explicitly stated and can be hard to unpack.

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