Saturday, June 28, 2008

Thoughts on Hate Speech


Thanks to Michael over at Anti-BVBL, I have some intellectual cud to chew on this morning. Michael provides numerous examples of what he considers hate speech derived, apparently, from the whole world, more than I do in this immigration debate! I guess it comes down to levels of tolerance and language. But then, I tend to have different boundaries than some people. I will listen to an AWFUL lot before I start calling it hate speech.

I consider words like "invasion" and "parasites" and references to children as dog food hate speech. I consider threats hate speech. I consider certain words said against my gender as hate speech (i.e. "You're a slut....cunt...douche bag..." you get the picture). And yes, I might categorize people who direct this language at me and other women as misogynists. I might call them idiots as well.

I don't consider someone calling me an idiot or wigger or WOP or even dame or chick hate speech. I might call it offensive or sexist but not hate. I might call it ignorant and annoying as all hell, and I might get very irritated. But that's not hate speech. Neither is using true irony (i.e. something I say but would NEVER EVER CONSIDER). Unfortunately, much irony and satire are rarely understood without the context of actually knowing the person. That's why I label things "satire" or "irony," so people KNOW I am not serious. Irony is so over-the-top, most people know it would not reasonably be considered likely (like J. Swifts "A Modest Proposal"). Sometimes, though, what we consider "over-the-top" is reality for others. That makes irony a bit tricky and representative of a sad world.

Hate speech comes down to this. Does it affect society in such a negative way that people endorse it and act on it? Do people take the speech and put it into motion? Does the speech cause others to be persecuted, misrepresented, harassed, or discriminated against? Does it have the potential to cause a hate crime? Is an organization supporting this behavior?

Supporting one organization or another doesn't meet the above criteria automatically. It's what the organization DOES in the name of its purpose that matters.

I would say, for instance, the MAFIA promotes hatred and violence against certain people. I might call them organized crime or a hate group, depending on the crime. Gangs can be hate groups. I would call F.A.I.R. the same thing, as I would call BVBL a forum for hate speech. To me, HSM is also a hate group because of the kind of leadership and socially negative action it endorses. I have suggested people who don't want to be associated with BVBL/HSM/GL etc. leave the group and form something that will earn respect and take them away from the F.A.I.R. association. I say this because not every member is a "hater." Some are just angry. But that's just my opinion.

I would say calling someone a "wigger" isn't socially a good thing, but in and of itself, so what? It might make you really mad to be called that, but unless there is underlying racial tension that is turning explosive, names are just names and words are just words that we hear in the media all the time. Still, it's not good practice because it could raise the level of intolerance and eventually lead to violence. In that context, then yes, "wigger" could constitute hate speech.

This is why it's so disturbing when the media uses words like "invasion" as common rhetoric. We don't want hate speech becoming the norm, and as we know from television censorship debates, we might not even want swear words becoming the norm. Consider how television shows now have ratings, how words like "bitch" have made their way into mainstream entertainment, how music and games also have ratings...our word usage is changing in ways many of us do not appreciate. But I would say there is still a distinction between hate speech and offensive speech. I offend people all the time. We all do. That doesn't mean it's hatred, however. And as many a lawyer will tell you, "You do not have the right to not be offended." You DO have the right to be protected from hatred, discrimination and violence, however.

Finally, if you want organizations that cater to others besides people who are considered minorities, try places like the Elks, Knights of Columbus, Sons of Italy, Irish American Club, etc. The wonderful thing about diversity is there's something for everyone, EVEN YOU Michael : )

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