Last month, Debito Arudou surprised his critics. He didn't write another Japan Times column "bashing" Japan over its human rights record with foreign nationals — as those critics would put it. Instead, he wrote about how "America needs to get on the same page as Japan" and "outlaw hate speech."

The background for Arudou's argument is the seemingly unstoppable rise of white supremacist, neo-Nazi groups in the United States on President Donald Trump's watch. Capitalizing on Trump's appeal to populist resentments among American voters, their frightening rhetoric spilled over into homicidal violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, last month.

In this febrile atmosphere, Arudou believes, there is no guarantee that freedom of speech will maintain a marketplace of ideas in which enlightenment wins out over hate. Right now, the opposite is happening. And this, the argument goes, is why America should follow Japan and Western European countries by passing laws outlawing hate speech.