Study: racial prejudice a 'reliable predictor' you're about to hear about free speech from people who hate it

Surprise! Principles of free speech are often deployed by its enemies as cover for racial prejudice. Which is, of course, free speech.

The new study reveals a positive correlation (Pearson r = .43) between having racial prejudice and defending racist speech using the “free speech argument” — a stronger correlation than the researchers expected.

White and Crandall recruited hundreds of participants via the Amazon Mechanical Turk service, conducting several interrelated studies where participants responded to descriptions of recent news events or readings involving someone being punished for racist speech. The racial attitudes of the respondents themselves were gauged using the Henry and Sears Symbolic Racism 2000 scale, a standard measure of racial prejudice in social psychology and political science.

The underlying opposition to free speech is key: "many who defend racist speech using the “free speech argument” might not extend the same principle of free speech to negative comments aimed at authority figures or the public in general."

“You might think that, ‘Maybe people who defend this racist speech are just big fans of free speech, that they’re principled supporters of freedom,’” Crandall said. “Well, no. We give them a ‘news’ article with the same speech aimed at police — and prejudice scores are completely uncorrelated with defending speech aimed at police — and also uncorrelated with snarky speech aimed at customers at a coffee shop, but with no racial content.”

So much for the tolerant right!

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