On Hate Speech

Ann Althouse riffs off of Kathy Griffin’s tweet on the Robertson issue with some thoughts about hate speech. I’ll pull a long quote here:

Hate speech similarly affects the minds of the members of the group against whom hate has been expressed, and it can produce the same kind of fear of violence that is caused by a report of a hate crime. Now, there is hate speech and there is hate speech. Think of the most virulent hate speech, and you should see how powerful it is, how justified and painful the fear is. In extreme cases, members of the targeted group should take alarm and even flee in terror. A purveyor of hate speech need not commit an act of violence to create a fear of violence. He might inspire others to commit those acts of violence, and even if he doesn’t, the threat of violence alone has an effect. False reports of hate speech work the same harm.

In the set of statements that could be characterized as hate speech, what Phil Robertson said was not that bad. Many would argue for a narrow definition of hate speech such that what Phil Robertson said would not be in the set at all. Defining the category very broadly is a political and rhetorical move, and it isn’t always effective. At some point — and perhaps with Robertson, we’ve hit that point — you’re being too repressive about what can be said on issues about which decent people are still debating, and it would be better to hear each other out and remain on speaking terms.

There is more good to be achieved by talking to each other and not shunning than by treating another human being as toxic. In fact, to treat another person as toxic is to become hateful yourself. It’s better to let the conversation flow, and if you really think your ideas are good, why switch to other tactics? What’s the emergency? Especially when your cause — like gay rights — is for greater human freedom, you ought to resist becoming a force of repression.

Since making his controversial remark, Phil Robertson has put out the message that as a Christian he loves everyone. Love speech is the opposite of hate speech, and it has so much more to do with Christianity than the reviling of sin in the earlier remark. He wants to speak against sin, but it’s a problem when you aim a remark at a kind of person who has, over the years — over the millennia — felt a threat of violence and the burden of ostracism. I think Robertson knows that.

Hate speech is an actual thing. I don’t think anyone would doubt that a KKK rally is meant to threaten, intimidate and frighten others. But I think, in the discussion of what does and does not constitute hate speech, a respect for open dialogue, mutual understanding and a robust debate requires us to draw the line as narrowly as possible.

If Robertson had said he thought gays should get the Matthew Shepherd treatment that would be hate speech (putting aside that the Shepherd killing may have had more to do with drugs than gayness). But he didn’t. He expressed a moral view that homosexuality is wrong (a view about half of Americans hold) and that he wishes that gays, like all sinners, would turn away from their sin. It’s simply not comparable to what, to pick an example almost at random, Alec Baldwin said about Henry Hyde. Or the insults he hurled at a gay man. In both cases, Baldwin was shouting violent threats at someone he didn’t like. That’s not even in the same ballpark.

Unfortunately, there is an effort in this country, especially from the Left, to define the bounds of “hate speech” as broadly as possible. I have even heard radio talk show hosts accused of hate speech because they have the temerity to vigorously criticize Democrats. Of course, the Left are never guilty of hate speech. No, sir. When they call Phil Robertson a bigot and a homophobe, that’s not hate. When they insult his looks, his family, his faith and his show, that’s not hate. When they compared Bush to Hitler, that wasn’t hate. When they mocked Romney for his temple garments, that wasn’t hate.

Needless to say, I oppose all attempts to outlaw hate speech. And I think speech codes on campuses and elsewhere are shameful. Your right to free speech does not mean your employer can’t fire you for saying something that embarrasses them. Or that you can’t be prosecuted if you provoke other people to violence. But I find the idea of any kind or prior restraint repulsive, especially when we’re talking about a moral debate we’re still having. That’s not “creating respect” or “stopping hate”. That’s trying to make the other side shut up.

There are tens of millions of people in this country who have changed their opinions about gays and gay rights. They didn’t change their minds because they were told to shut up. They did it because people debated them, talked to them, persuaded them. They did it because they got to know gay people as friends, family members and co-workers. They did it because, at bottom, they were decent reasonable human beings. They opposed gay rights not because of “hate” but because of their love of our traditional culture and values. When they are convinced that something is not a threat to that, they tend to come around. I know this because it’s a journey I myself went on 20 years ago when I was in college. That didn’t happen because of speech codes.

Comments are closed.

  1. Section8

    Another great post Hal.

    At the end of the day there is plenty of social adult behavior the left despise and have no problem demeaning or degrading.

    — Smokers
    — People who eat fast food or don’t maintain what they would consider a healthy lifestyle, although fellow leftists seem to get a pass
    — Hunters, even if they eat the meat the hunt
    — Christians
    — Being a John
    — Anyone who owns a gun, but again leftists seem to get a pass

    So in the end the left have no credibility. The word “hate” is simply a political tool to stifle debate and that’s that.

    The gay movement among the left is nothing but designer feelgood politics. I’m sorry, but gays have not been beaten down regularly in this country any time over the past several decades. I have worked in the corporate world for years and have seen plenty of same sex individuals in positions of power, and as long as they’re doing their part to steer the ship right (like anyone in the position of power should), no one gives a fuck what they do on their own time. That hasn’t been good enough though, the pendulum has swung way over to you nutty territory that you must accept and embrace and crave the idea of man ass or you’re a terrible person. Do some get bullied in school? I’m sure they do just like short people do, fat people do, tall people do, ugly people do, too pretty of a person, extra smart people, and extra dumb, and the list goes on and on.

    As far as same sex marriage, what about single people? What benefit do they get because they don’t want to get married or just can’t find the right mate? It shouldn’t have been a right to marry movement to begin with, but a get the government out of the marriage business movement by removing needless incentives. Any individual should be able to choose who will be their beneficiary, have power of attorney when necessary, and have visitation rights, etc. That would have been a more noble cause.

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  2. richtaylor365

    Needless to say, I oppose all attempts to outlaw hate speech.

    I abhor all hate speech laws, they should all be repealed, for 3 reasons;

    Criminalizing thought is anathma to any freedom loving society. Thoughts do not harm people, actions do.

    We already have laws on the books, good enforceable laws, that criminalize speech that incite violence towards others.

    And lastly, hate speech laws are wrong because they are never ever enforced uniformly, there is always an agenda attached to all enforcement. You never saw Rev. Wright brought up on hate speech, The Black Panthers when they put a bounty on Zimmermann, Spike Lee when he advocated violence against Zimmermann, or all those incidents where blacks specifically targeted whites for violence for payback against the Zimmermann verdict. Even the “knockout game”, you never hear the hate crime tag attached to these crimes. There is no equal protection under the law when it comes to the implementation of a hate crime enhancement.

    I think Robertson knows that.

    She just couldn’t help herself, could she? Robertson should have kept his mouth shut because, afterall, he should have known what a bunch of whinny crybabies GLAAD is. Even though he targeted “sin” in general and listed about 8 different sinful acts, he should have known that even mentioning the gays would have unleashed a firestorm, so yes, he should have known that and kept his trap shut.

    (putting aside that the Shepherd killing may have had more to do with drugs than gayness)

    If you put that aside, then her entire rant is meaningless, right? Even though the evidence proves not only that this was a drug deal gone bad, perpetrated by a jilted ex lover, but that the gay community pretty much knew this from the beginning. But they had an agenda to push, and what better poster boy existed at the time than Shepherd?

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  3. Hal_10000 *

    If you put that aside, then her entire rant is meaningless, right? Even though the evidence proves not only that this was a drug deal gone bad, perpetrated by a jilted ex lover, but that the gay community pretty much knew this from the beginning. But they had an agenda to push, and what better poster boy existed at the time than Shepherd?

    Althouse was more talking about hate speech than the Shepherd thing. There are some people who dispute the Book of Matt’s findings, but I was pretty convinced hearing him talk about it and lay out the evidence. And the reaction to his findings convinces me that this was about propaganda.

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  4. richtaylor365

    Althouse was more talking about hate speech than the Shepherd thing

    When I said “her entire rant”, I was referring to Griffin, not Althouse. Ann’s piece was fine, all except for that lost comment, no, my ire was directed at that disgusting harpee Griffin. She is just like Sheen;

    http://www.tmz.com/2013/12/21/charlie-sheen-phil-robertson-duck-dynasty-beatdown/

    Trying to rehabilitate her image by pandering to the gay community, they both suck.

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  5. Seattle Outcast

    Ironic that these clowns hate as much as anybody in history, but can’t see it in themselves. In slightly related news, the “knockout game” does exist, but only when a white guy is doing the assault. They are prosecuting a white guy with a “hate crime” for beating up an elderly black man.

    Somehow the left just can’t see it as an issue when the skin colors are reversed.

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  6. salinger

    Well A&E just lifted their suspension – you knew it would happen – too much money to be made from their hillbilly minstrel show.

    The thing is that all the supporters seem to think that because his misguided and wrong ideas are rooted in his interpretation of Christianity that he should be tolerated. The guy is wrong – plain and simple and should be called out for it. Same as the morons who think creationism should be taught alongside evolution in science class. They are wrong – their beliefs are stupid – they need to be called out pointed and laughed at.

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  7. richtaylor365

    The thing is that all the supporters seem to think that because his misguided and wrong ideas are rooted in his interpretation of Christianity that he should be tolerated.

    Nope, not even close. His supporters (many of which do not share his religious views) felt that it was wrong that he was targeted and threatened for having an opinion, and they see GLAAD for what it is, a belligerent thug group who welds threats and intimation to silence anyone who disagrees with them.

    The guy is wrong – plain and simple and should be called out for it.

    Aren’t you lucky that you have the bullies on your side, see, you can say anything you want, believe anything you want and know that at the end of the day an organization will not target you for termination and public ridicule, you are home free. Too bad you and those Hitler youth over at GLAAD are not interested in an open discussion and an honest exchange of ideas, nope, it is all about silencing the opposition, and hopefully getting him fired. A society where lives are ruined over voicing an opinion because a self appointed identity group is offended, this is OK with you?

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  8. salinger

    A society where lives are ruined over voicing an opinion because a self appointed identity group is offended, this is OK with you?

    So I take it Martin Bashir and the Dixie Chicks were equally discriminated against? Wipe the crocodile tears away before you cry me a river. If an opinion is blatantly wrong, yeah there should be ramifications. You have a problem with that?

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  9. Section8

    Such hate and anger from Salinger. Tell me Salinger, how does the love of man ass make one so intelligently superior? What’s your experience with it? Tell me why it’s not longer fine just to tolerate it (yet disprove of it), but now everyone has to say it’s great or be pushed into silence. Personally the idea of a cock in my mouth repulses me. I have no shame whatsoever in saying that, but that’s just me. What’s your experience with cocks in your mouth and why do you enjoy it so that you believe anyone that feels otherwise is so horrible?

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  10. salinger

    Oh look – Section8 has rendered my argument ineffectual by inferring that I simply must enjoy big hard cocks in my ass and jism dribbling down my chin. I surrender – you got me – carry on. I just want to say how privileged I feel to participate in another typically lofty discussion here.

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  11. AlexInCT

    So I take it Martin Bashir and the Dixie Chicks were equally discriminated against?

    Yeah sure, because I am certain you would think saying that taking a dump in someone’s mouth simply because of the fact you are a progressive idiot and hate the person for not being a sheep is just offensive, and not more of the usual despicable behavior. I am sure you do understand that had the Duck Dynasty guy said something equally onerous – about anyone – that he would never have gotten the support he got this time, right?

    As for the Dixie Chicks the issue was not discrimination, but them dissing their fans and their beliefs when their income came from a group that was not OK with that. You can say the same applied for the Duck Dynasty people, but then you are either being obtuse or stupid, and on purpose. The Duck Dynasty guy didn’t diss his fans: he was attacked by people that didn’t like what he and his fans believe and have had great success in the past using their powerful lobby to force conformity. You can pretend not to see that if you want.

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  12. Section8

    Salinger you seem to take it that I was insulting you. Why would you view it that way? What’s insulting about my comment? I take it that you have no desire to have a cock in your mouth, so much so that you find the idea of someone suggesting it insulting. Why would that be? Could it be because you have no desire for it? This would make you just as “hateful” as anyone else that doesn’t have desire for it, at least in the realm of this insane movement that’s going on that you must either shut your mouth on the topic or think it’s wonderful. Sorry, but not everyone thinks it’s a wonderful behavior. Just look on the bright side, he wasn’t proposing taxes, fines, or jail time for this behavior among consenting adults. Can you say the same regarding other social behaviors that you disprove of? Like say smoking, prostitution, food consumption, etc?

    Oh and for Bashir in your other comment. I wish he would have stayed at MSNBC. He’s absolutely representative of the classy and “intellectual” leftist movement going on these days, and is a perfect fit for MSNBC. It’s a shame he left.

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  13. InsipiD

    If an opinion is blatantly wrong, yeah there should be ramifications.

    I agree. When can the ramifications begin for your blatantly wrong opinions? Since the standard “ramifications” for this among libs seem to be that you’re fired from your job and publicly ridiculed, I can’t wait for you to be the one looking for work while your name thrown about as a pariah and your opinions inaccurately portrayed. Do you get it yet?

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  14. Iconoclast

    If an opinion is blatantly wrong, yeah there should be ramifications. You have a problem with that?

    Yes, I do, and the problem is this: Who gets to decide which opinions are “blatantly wrong”? You? Your fellow liberals??

    From your cited article:

    My argument against this position is that Christianity is simply incorrect: There is no God, and religion is made up.

    Like it or lump it, that is an opinion, not a “fact”. Do I get to proclaim that it’s “blatantly wrong”? Or do you get to proclaim that my proclamation is “blatantly wrong”?

    It’s simply absurd to even suggest that an opinion with which one disagrees must therefore be “blatantly wrong”.

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  15. salinger

    I can’t wait for you to be the one looking for work while your name thrown about as a pariah and your opinions inaccurately portrayed. Do you get it yet?

    Luckily for me I have work booked out for two years. In the meantime, unlike Sara Palin and her ilk, I actually read the interview, but here is a synopsis for those who didn’t. I think more inaccuracy is being peddled by the folks coming to this guy’s defense with reinterpretation when direct quotes from the interview pretty much sum things up in his own words. You fine with all he has to say? If so there is little hope we would ever find common ground.

    http://www.businessinsider.com/when-you-defend-phil-robertson-heres-what-youre-really-defending-2013-12

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  16. richtaylor365

    Ah, I see what your problem is ,Salinger, you keep reading the opinions of idiots and somehow think that they make sense, oh well, birds of a feather.

    unlike Sara Palin and her ilk, I actually read the interview

    Tell me, who of “her ilk” did not read the interview? Or are you just trying to be clever? Here’s a hint, skip the clever, you don’t do it very well.

    Let’s take this bozo’s nonsense one at a time;

    1) Robertson thinks ALL blacks were treated just peachy in the Jim Crow south. You pat yourself on the back for actually reading things, did you read the “What The Duck” post? this very point was addressed thoroughly in that post, and thoroughly dismantled.

    2) Roberton thinks Japan bombed PH because they did not believe in Jesus. All attempts at triviality aside, I think his point was history is replete with example after example of non Christian (atheist, communist, and yes, Shintoism-the belief that the emperor was divine/God like) nations committing mass acts of genocide, do you dispute that?

    3) Robertson hates gays. Now this one was the real dozy and should have relegated this author to the trash heap of journalism. Interestingly he had to dig a bit and find an old quote to bolster his claim (not enough ammo in the GQ interview, I guess). Here, the author extrapolates (wrongly) that if I claim that Salinger is a “God hater” that this proves I hate Salinger, how funny {translation-sad}. Yes, I think that old diatribe was a bit harsh, but some context is in order. He, Robertson, was not speaking to the general public, he was not speaking to the “God haters”, otherwise a more conciliatory tone would have been used. But taking any of this and translating it out to prove that Robertson hates gays, ridiculous, and only thrown out there to make this atheist gay (the author) feel better about himself.

    Here’s a clue for you, to help with future exchanges here, if you are going to claim that Joe Blow believes X, get a direct quote from Joe Blow saying ,”I believe in X”, otherwise you are just projecting.

    If so there is little hope we would ever find common ground.

    You keep reading (and being swayed by) lunatics, then there is little hope you will ever find common ground with any rational thinking individual.

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  17. salinger

    this very point was addressed thoroughly in that post, and thoroughly dismantled.

    By an apologist for this phoney redneck. Remember this guy is no backwoods hick as he and his clan pretends on TV. In fact this guy holds a maters degree in education – a strike against him for many of the commentators here, haven’t seen that raised yet.

    If one needs his words reinterpreted by others in order to make sense of his old-timey backwoods sensibilities (when one has a liberal post graduate degree) something isn’t passing the smell test. I take the guy at his word – with the the actual words that come from his mouth.

    So – tell me how does a “rational thinker” interpret this?:

    http://youtu.be/yfAM3dxXLYQ

    You guys are backing the wrong horse here.

    Here’s another just for fun:

    http://youtu.be/KW343K1-upo

    Who’s being played?

    If it walks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck…

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  18. HARLEY

    “By an apologist for this phoney redneck. Remember this guy is no backwoods hick as he and his clan pretends on TV. In fact this guy holds a maters degree in education – a strike against him for many of the commentators here, haven’t seen that raised yet.”

    wow, if that aint a slam against people of a certain cultural background i don’t know what is…
    ….so bigotry is only ok, when its your political side eh?

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  19. salinger

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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  20. Seattle Outcast

    Why is everyone getting their panties in a wad over this?

    A man stated his opinion. He has a TV show. People that don’t watch the TV show didn’t like his opinion and tried to shut him down – they failed. Those people are complete assholes, and have been since day one.

    Get back to your regularly scheduled stuff, this really isn’t worth the effort you’re pouring into it.

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  21. richtaylor365

    By an apologist for this phoney redneck.

    For someone that portrays himself as educated and sophisticated, taking masturbatory glee in pointing out other’s spelling errors and misuse (your opinion) of how others use words, you keep coming up short wrt the English language. Do you know what an “apologist” even is? Robertson was asked a questions about his experiences growing up and he answered anecdotally, who is apologizing for what he experienced? Or are you calling him a liar? Figures, liberal snobbery, telling someone he didn’t really see what he says he saw.

    Remember this guy is no backwoods hick as he and his clan pretends on TV.

    Do you know anything at all about Vivian or West Monroe, in the era that he grew up in? You can read his bio, he grew up about as poor as you can get, eating whatever he could gather or kill, no electricity or toilets, yeah, I’d say that is the very definition growing up as a backwoods hick, but you know better, right?

    In fact this guy holds a maters degree in education

    Obtained afterwards, after the time in his life in the fields, the time frame in his life he was asked about in the interview.

    I take the guy at his word – with the the actual words that come from his mouth.

    Oh goody, so please show me direct quotes from the interview where he said specifically that he hated gays or where he said specifically that ALL black folks in the deep south, when he grew up were treated fairly.

    These guys are performing what amounts to a redneck minstrel show

    Ah, you do know what a minstrel show is, don’t you? I knew it, you are a racist.

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  22. Xetrov

    I find it interesting that nobody is talking about the second to last paragraph of the interview.

    We hop back in the ATV and plow toward the sunset, back to the Robertson home. There will be no family dinner tonight. No cameras in the house. No rowdy squirrel-hunting stories from back in the day. There will be only the realest version of Phil Robertson, hosting a private Bible study with a woman who, according to him, “has been on cocaine for years and is making her decision to repent. I’m going to point her in the right direction.”

    How many people claiming this guy is a hate filled bigot have ever let a cocaine addict into their own home to try to help them get clean? The guy practices what he preaches. Which is more than we can say for just about everyone slamming the guy for his opinions.

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  23. Xetrov

    They only practice what they preach when the TV cameras are on or they are making an “appearance”.

    From all appearances, you’re dead wrong about this guy, and his family, Salinger. You’re as hate filled as he is.

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  24. AlexInCT

    The left just doesn’t get this. They are furious that they got beat by what they believe are just a bunch of stupid backwoods rednecks, and they just are besides themselves with furious anger that yet another of the arrows in their quivers was broken. They first misused accusations of racism, as often as they could, practically always when there was no racism or racist intent of any kind, to shut down any debate and opposition to the destructive shit Black Jesus, leading the flock of true believers, was doing They cried wolf so often and so fast, regardless of the truth or the merit of the argument, and lost that weapon. Now people are wising up to the false accusations of homophobia as well, and they fought the destructive GLAAD machine to a standstill.

    Their anger is because they are seeing yet another tried & true means of shutting down discussion, debate, or people they don’t like down. If people suddenly start paying attention instead of just taking the word of the left’s lobby, this thing will soon stop working for them, and they do not like that.

    I have no problem with racists & homophobes being called out on their shit. But I have a huge problem with the fact that in 99 out of 100 times they accuse someone of racism or homophobia that it is false. Even worse, I am furious at the double standard that allows leftists to be died in the wool racists or homophobes, but still get a pass.

    Glad to see their negative PR machine crashing & burning. It’s about time.

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  25. Iconoclast

    …this phoney redneck…

    I take the guy at his word…

    Can’t have it both ways, chief.

    For the record, nobody here is necessarily defending what the guy said — we’re just defending his right to say it without fear of reprisal. You do understand the difference, don’t you?

    As for what he actually said, it certainly appears that at least some of it is being systematically misrepresented by your journalist friends, as Rich has already touched upon this in his December 29, 2013 12:10 PM posting.

    You guys are backing the wrong horse here.

    Well, of course we are — we always do. And we’re ususally “on the wrong side of history”, too.

    Who’s being played?

    I would say it’s anyone who thinks “rights” come from government, or anyone who equates being educated with being “phoney”. Who’s to say that all of the Ivory Tower Eggheads aren’t the phoney ones?

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