Hate Speech—What It Is

Years ago, I learned that not all speech was protected in the US by our First Amendment to the Constitution. The words as they are written sound as if they are. In fact a former Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. once asserted that the Constitution and the First Amendment are not just about protecting “free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.” Here’s what the First Amendment actually says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. (emphasis mine)

However, as time passed the Supreme Court pivoted a bit, believing there were abridgments, or curtailment of rights, in speech. The classic example that makes such perfect sense is that no one has a right to yell, “Fire” in a crowded theater when there is no fire. To do so could be harmful, so people don’t have that freedom.

The idea of “hate speech,” then, was first tied to the concept of harm—if someone said something to incite violence, that was hate speech.

But like so many things, the concept of hate speech expanded. According to an article at The Heritage Foundation by Kim R. Holmes, Ph.D.,

All this started to change with the rise of radical multiculturalism. Under its influence the ideas of hate speech and hate crimes were invented. Instead of worrying about the violent intent of individuals, hate speech advocates wanted to ban utterances, gestures, conduct, or writing that they deemed prejudicial against a protected individual or group.”The Origins Of Hate Speech

The article goes on to identify President Clinton’s broad-brush blame placed on “the loud and angry voices of hate” for the Oklahoma City bombing, as moving the needle from blaming the actual persons engaged in speech deemed hateful to blaming people who held political or moral beliefs that they shared with that individual.

A decade later, the idea of hate speech advanced further:

In 2009, the National Hispanic Media Coalition outlined its definition in a report. It specified four areas as hate speech: false facts, flawed argumentation, divisive language, and dehumanizing metaphors.

Hate speech was no longer about the explicit words of individuals meant to incite violence, but a general atmosphere of public opinion that could be construed to encourage violence against certain kinds of people.

With this expanded definition, then, social media platforms declared a discussion of election irregularities as “false facts” (what an oxymoron), and therefore felt justified in removing those posts and even blocking any number of people from using their site.

Sadly, we have moved so far along the line that a writer at the Washington Post concluded his article by saying, “All speech is not equal. And where truth cannot drive out lies, we must add new guardrails.”

Ironically, his argument hinges on the idea that truth doesn’t always win out. We can’t just let people discuss ideas because they can be fooled. He cites some stats about middle schoolers and high schoolers to prove his point. Middle schoolers? High schoolers? Apparently his belief is that adults are just as easily fooled as they, though there was a marked increase in the ability of the older kids to discern lies.

Oddly, when I was of that middle school age, I had teachers who taught the class how to recognize loaded, slanted, negative words that were used to manipulate rather than to inform. We called it propaganda, and the USSR was the prime example of its use, though clearly anyone trying to sell something was apt to use loaded, slanted, and overly positive words to manipulate, too.

In fact, one of the reasons it’s important to know who is backing a particular article (the Washington Post vs the Heritage Foundation, for example) is to help recognize the direction of the slant those words might take.

Clearly, the move toward the use of “guardrails,” which is just a palatable way of saying censorship, is accelerating. The real issue today is, who gets to tell the rest of us where those “guardrails” are? In other words, who gets to censor our speech? Personally, I tend to think censoring someone is apt to make them angrier and less inclined to unite, rather than make them feel all peaceful and fuzzy and warm. Maybe that’s just me.

Featured photo by Stas Tsibro from Pexels

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12 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Funny you should mention this, Rebecca…
    Today I was informed that an interview I shared on Facebook contained “false information.” Amazing how a doctor can study viruses for 20 years, and an anonymous “fact checker” can tell immediately that she’s wrong.

    Quote of the day: “If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, fact checkers will say it’s a squirrel.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It seems that hate speech is any speech delivered by a person whom the listener hates. J.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Welcome back Becky, computers…who needs them apart from everyone.

    On the post, let us put the issue of the election in perspective, you can imagine quite easily that any kind of claims that the election was rigged was going to rile up a lot of Trump supporters, especially when it comes from Trumps own mouth and especially since the FBI have categorically identified the white supremacist groups that led the riot into the Capital Building.

    These unproven election claims were not free speech, they were simply lies and were proven to be lies and they were inciting domestic terrorism. In most countries such as Australia our leaders would have been physically restrained and removed from office for lying to the country simply to incite violence.

    It was not just a simple “discussion of election irregularities” that was happening, they were removed from media and blocked because it was obvious what was going to happen when you have radical right wing white supremacist groups directly involved.

    Censoring may make an angry person angrier, however saving lives from these people who want to vent their extreme idealistic beliefs so they may feel peaceful, fuzzy and warm and not go into the streets is not the kind of risk the authorities could justify.

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    • Really, since BLM and Antifa bussed in people to conduct that riot (and posted it on websites) at the WH, “categorically identified” could be construed as hate speech since it’s untrue.

      Excellent post, Rebecca.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the welcome, Steve.

      Unfortunately I see you’ve been drinking the media’s cool-aide. First, the things you say were “lies” did not “incite domestic terrorism.” Security cameras—and I’ve seen the footage myself—show hooded figures planting pipe bombs around the Capitol the night before the crowd stormed past the security. This had absolutely nothing to do with what President Trump said.

      Second, conservatives believe in law and order and want above all to see the law of the land followed. There is a process for contesting elections if someone has evidence that fraud or irregularities took place. President Trump was doing nothing more than following the law and asking others to do the same. That is not lying. In fact, if you listen to any number of witnesses testify before various state committees, you got a good picture of the problems of the election. These have been verified: dead people voted, ballots were harvested in states where that is illegal, false addresses were given, people voted in more than one state, and more. These are factual, and no one can say President Trump was “lying” when he said all these problems taken together affected the outcome of the election. That’s not a lie if he is basing his opinion on fact. That should be so clear it ought not be debatable. But the media and their “hate speech” ideas have made it a “lie” to hold a different opinion from theirs.

      And “the authorities” you are talking about in the last paragraph, are private citizens who blocked, well, the Commander in Chief of our nation who you’d have to believe is an actual authority, along with any number of other private citizens.

      Just know, Steve, if you are relying on your news from the legacy media, you are getting only biased reporting, so you probably don’t really know what happened with the US election.

      And things will only get worse, sorry to say.

      Becky

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      • It is quite simple Becky, I only drink cold beer and I believe the media content in my country and the overseas government media outlets such as the ABC and BBC who have correspondents in America and recorded exactly what Trump said and are professional enough people to decipher the facts from the fake news. Of course you would follow twitter and the face book gossip and watch Fox News owned by Rupert Murdoch and just like his media in the UK and Europe and the Sky News he owns in Australia it produces right wing hysteria parroting Fox and QAnon. By the way the governments in the UK and here are our right wing versions of your Republican party, however they are far more respectful in the prevention of virus deaths and try much harder to prevent political division and riots, and are politically smart enough to not attempt to shut down the factual news.

        I suppose it was not the lovely innocent Christians of “QAnon” or the “Proud Boys” who planted the pipe bombs, what do you think, you should know by now what these groups stand for, or don’t you even care? In your world view it must have been the evil Democrats who are responsible for all the violence. Fortunately however in the real world, the FBI and the families of the people who died in the riot will know the truth. Of course the same old fake news claims will come from you and the disillusioned.

        You are correct in that it will get worse and I expect more people will die as a consequence and is this acceptable to obtain a political ideology, so I ask do the Christian principles not apply any more when it comes to politics, sure both sides are guilty but do you not want tolerance and your country to repair?

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        • “and recorded exactly what Trump said” You mean like the Washington Post, Steve, which had to issue a correction because they had misquoted President Trump regarding the story they “broke” about his phone conversation to an election official in Georgia? Let me ask you, did you ever read anything about what President Trump did that was beneficial? To anyone?

          And again you make baseless assertions about me arrived at from your presuppositions. I don’t have cable TV and don’t watch any of those programs you are talking about.

          The only people who are shutting down “factual news” as you call it, at least here in the US, are the big tech social media platforms. When they stop a story about Hunter Biden from being dissemination because they falsely claim it is “Russian disinformation,” but publish false reports about President Trump and Russian collusion–for years they created those false stories based on a secret anonymous narrative they chose to believe—then it’s easy to see that they are not really engaging in truth finding or accurate reporting. They only want to push their agenda.

          “it must have been the evil Democrats who are responsible for all the violence.” After witnessing months of BLM riots and the destruction of federal property, the destruction of personal property for BLOCKS in Seattle and Portland, and absolutely no rioting generated by conservatives, why would we think that the storming of the Capitol, which had nothing to do with President Trump’s speech, was prompted by conservatives or even by conservative extremists. There’s video in which some of the crowd is trying to break windows and others are trying to stop them as they say, “They’re Antifa.” I’ve watched these videos myself. That’s what actually happened. Yes, a good portion of the 200 people that followed the Antifa leaders were conservatives, and they were wrong, but of the million or so people there were there, that was a small percent and there was no planned attempt on their part to do anything like try to overthrow the government.

          As it turns out the woman the Capitol police shot and killed was not armed. It’s tragic that people died, but bowing to the false narratives the legacy press put out there will not do away with conflict or unrest. Breaking our own Constitution’s provision of free speech is not going to make people “more tolerant.” The conservatives here want to continue discussions in order to build consensus, but the liberals only want to shut people up as if that and that alone will bring peace. Just don’t let them speak was what the Soviet Union did. Remember their state-run newspaper was called Pravda—translated, Truth. But there was no truth in their reporting. It was propaganda, pure and simple, and apparently that’s the kind of reporting Big Tech now wants in all the world, since apparently they are influencing your airwaves, too.

          Becky

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          • The Washington Post does not rate as trustworthy enough in my opinion anyway. The most trustworthy as US publications are concerned my source and quite a few others claim that it is both the Associated Press (AP) and the Wall Street Journal, but what is most interesting is that they also list the BBC the worlds largest broadcaster, Canadian and British based REUTERS and The British Financial Times and the Economist that is a London based weekly newspaper as the most unbiased overseas media.

            https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/top-5-world-news-websites-guaranteed-free-censorship/

            You obviously read Republican leaning web sites or listen to Republican only people who you are believing have the real news. If you are an investigative writer it makes absolute sense to want to learn what is really happening in the US, therefore go to these sites and avoid politically motivated big business orientated American news agencies.

            You stated “The only people who are shutting down “factual news” as you call it, at least here in the US, are the big tech social media platforms. When they stop a story about Hunter Biden from being dissemination because they falsely claim it is “Russian disinformation,” but publish false reports about President Trump and Russian collusion–for years they created those false stories based on a secret anonymous narrative they chose to believe—then it’s easy to see that they are not really engaging in truth finding or accurate reporting. They only want to push their agenda.”

            Exactly, the reasons to not indulge in these media sites.

            I totally agree with you about the BLM and Antifa, I have said in the past that both sides are guilty. However as far as being involved in the Capital riots I tend to believe your FBI over the media you have believed. Please give me the link to the videos that prove Antifa were involved, a person in the crowd claiming someone is from Antifa does not make it a fact unless they are identified as such by the FBI.

            The shot woman who was ex-air force was warned with a weapon pointed at her not to enter and from her training should have known better but her aggressive mind set killed her. What do you believe would have happened if the mob had got hold of Pence and the Democrats in that building? I don’t believe you understand what a hyped up mob is capable of. I served in the military and I was confronted with these kind of aggressive mobs for days at a time, we had helmets and shields and we used rubber bullets that did not always deter them, I know very well what happens to victims of these people when they are in this state of mind.

            Like

          • I don’t know who these “others” are, Steve. I liked the article you linked to, and what they said about their own ethics standards is the kind of reporting I want to see. But sadly, as the article pointed out, that’s rare in the US. In part the conglomerations that hold all the power are responsible.

            Not shockingly, that Washington Post lie was repeated over and over by any number of other sources—ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN and many in the print media.

            As far as where I get my info, I don’t rely on only one source, and if possible, I will hear for myself what people say. Like those state committee hearings about the election that I mentioned. I heard the witnesses in real time in the Georgia, Wisconsin, (or was it Pennsylvania?), and Arizona hearings. I saw the security footage of Georgia election people sending away counters and those assigned to monitor the process, then bring boxes of ballots from under a table, where no boxes had come from before, and count thousands of ballots after they said counting had stopped. These things don’t need any particular side of the political spectrum to report them. They just should be reported, not hidden, and let people make up their own minds.

            Because of the lies, I agree with you: the sources of this bias reporting are not the places I want to go to as the major source of info. But once in a while I will check in with CNN or MSNBC or Fox on YouTube, just to see what their take is on a story. For things like the ridiculous impeachment hearing, or the US Supreme Court nominee’s confirmation hearing, I listened to C-Span. From the various sources, I draw my own conclusions.

            The FBI is hardly unbiased, but for the most part, they do their job. The reporters do not. For weeks we were told that the Capitol police officer was bludgeoned to death with a fire extinguisher. But a month and a half later the coroner’s report comes out saying he had experienced no blunt-force trauma. But how many people today still believe he died in the way the media falsely reported? I used to believe the rush to be first was responsible for a lot of false information, but I can’t ignore that bias has become a huge part of the picture, too. The whole narrative that President Trump incited the whole Capitol breach is a perfect example. Security footage shows people breaking windows to enter the building while President Trump was still speaking!

            It’s sad that this event has been blown out of proportion and the days of rioting in the northwest have been largely ignored.

            Of course I understand what a riled up mob can become. We have a history of a lawless west. That’s why conservatives stand, in large part, on the rule of law. Follow the Constitution. Which says we have the right of free speech. But the cancel culture crowd is finding a way around that, and justifying it as they go. But we don’t have to look as far back as US history. Just get some footage of the destruction, the looting, the raping and killing that took place in Seattle last summer. All a result of the angry mob who didn’t think the left ruling mayor had done enough to meet their demands. It’s shameful that apparently politicians are OK with that for the ordinary citizens, because they let it go one and one in one of the bluest of blue states in the US. It still upsets me, as you can undoubtedly tell.

            Becky

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  4. Great article, Becky. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. “Personally, I tend to think censoring someone is apt to make them angrier and less inclined to unite, rather than make them feel all peaceful and fuzzy and warm.”

    My understanding of Cloward-Piven leads me to believe that this anger and alienation is the intended effect. They know what they’re doing; there is no winning by trying to make nice with the people behind all of this, and fighting gives them what they want.

    Unfortunately, I believe that it might take years of Communism to teach them the error of their ways–just as it has in many other countries. And that breaks my heart.

    Liked by 1 person


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