If baboons could talk ... J.S. Mill on freedom of speech and the limits of racial discourse

SOURCE: Politikon
OUTPUT TYPE: Journal Article
PUBLICATION YEAR: 2006
TITLE AUTHOR(S): K.A.Bentley
KEYWORDS: FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION, FREEDOM OF SPEECH, RACIAL SEGREGATION
DEPARTMENT: Democracy, Governance and Service Delivery (DGSD)
Print: HSRC Library: shelf number 3840

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Abstract

This paper seeks to analyse the potential conflict between non-discrimination and freedom of speech using the example of an article, written by the Vice Chancellor of a South African university, likening the behaviour of white South African men to baboons. J.S. Mill's argument for freedom of speech is juxtaposed with his (lesser known) argument on racial equality, and this paper questions if this is a contradiction in Mill's theory, or if pronouncements by those in `authority? can constitute an instance of harmful action when the evolving jurisprudence on hate speech in South Africa is considered. The paper argues that legislation criminalising hate speech is likely to be ineffective, and that more deliberative methods of confronting issues of race and identity in South Africa are to be preferred. However, instances of inappropriate racial discourse can be dealt with using other, social, sanctions, as public figures in some instances have supererogatory duties that exceed their rights.