The Authority of Hate Speech

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Could hate speech have authority? Yes. Some hate speech is propaganda, and has epistemic authority. Some hate speech is directive, and has practical authority. Some has both, in part because epistemic authority can be a basis for practical authority. Hate speech can acquire authority informally through a process of accommodation, whereby a presupposition of authority is accommodated by hearers, and becomes acceptable or true. This phenomenon is familiar to philosophers of language, but has political implications, as this chapter shows, drawing on work by Lewis, Thomason, Witek, and Maitra. Authority makes a difference to what is done with words; and the accommodation of authority can make a difference to hate speech, enabling it to enact norms, rank people, or deprive them of powers. The accommodation of authority matters, because it alters the force hate speech can have, as a speech act.

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Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Law Volume 3
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