Online “free speech” is a gateway to hatred

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While the Charlie Hebdo team were targeted for exercising their right to freedom of speech, there remains far more inflammatory and derogatory expression on Facebook and social media that goes unchecked. What often flies under the radar is the pervasive hate speech that is more or less ubiquitous on the web, alongside cat videos and Tumblr blogs, choking Internet forums and clogging YouTube comment sections.

In a very real way, the presence of hate speech online has far more toxic and worrying ramifications, many of them below the threshold of awareness.

As a fundamental right, freedom of speech is protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Canada. The right allows and protects the independent voicing of opinion, without fear of censorship or punishment. Under this protection, the West is lauded for its diversity, culture, and fair forum for equal and respectable discussion. It is this freedom that allows for Seth Rogen’s The Interview, Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, and satirical cartoon  publications such as Charlie Hebdo.

Not coincidentally, freedom of speech is also one of the most theatrically abused freedoms in the West, next to the United States’ Second Amendment. Whereas Charlie Hebdo had a legitimate claim to be protected by freedom of speech — the pieces in question being satirical cartoons — the usage of the phrase online is more often a blatant excuse than a reason.

Besides infantile homophobic and racist comments under YouTube videos, tasteless sexist jokes on 4chan forums, and religious-bashing flamers on Twitter, hate groups and speech on Facebook have become a serious problem, promoting and encouraging intolerable behaviour online.

The naturalization and advancement of bigotry leads to an acceptance and encouragement of base behaviour.

Though these sites promise safety, fairness, and freedom for their users, a considerable chunk of provocative hate slander and ignorant bashing goes unregulated, unfiltered, and becomes normalized through time. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen “fag,” or “slut” framed casually in a comment, alongside supportive statements or scathing replies.

It is that same casualness elicited in comments and posts that is equally potent and dangerous to the hate groups formed on Facebook. Groups such as “Jewish Ritual Murder” on Facebook promote false and bigoted information and bias, disseminated, which hurts and affects communities, and the ubiquity of racist, sexist, and homophobic slurs in online colloquial settings even further damage.

They do damage not only in their offhand manner, but in their naturalization and acceptance of prejudice. Is this really a safe society for everyone, where a hashtag like #KillAllMuslims trends online, or where rape culture chants from the comments section of pictures are the norm?

I’m not reframing the broken windows theory when it comes to what makes an unsafe society, but the naturalization and advancement of bigotry does lead to acceptance, and possibly encouragement, of this sort of behaviour. The Internet is no less subject to this ideological propagation than the natural world. The Internet gives a voice to people, but ultimately, it is the voice of the human condition in its idealism and squalor: both the best and the worst aspects of humanity are online.

Freedom of speech becomes a problem when groups and communities begin to feel physically threatened and powerless. Whether it be casual or personal, hatred and bigotry has no place in democratic societies, and especially not online. Social media needs to smarten up and learn the difference between respectful speech and bigotry or discrimination when it comes to “free speech” on their platforms.

2 COMMENTS

  1. So,..How is it that any reference to JEWISH RITUAL MURDER is considered “taboo” & to be “hate speech”, when there is significant historic records on this subject to indicate that that “ritualistic” murders of Christian children, by Jews, have occurred over the centuries, at various times & places

    Considering the records, how can any Jew deny that JEWISH RITUAL MURDER, has ever taken place,.?

    The idea that today’s Jews can know , with any degree of certainty, that no JEWISH RITUAL MURDER has never, ever,..taken place is just to silly to be taken seriously, in that how could any Jew, living today, have any way of knowing, whether, or not, that, this Jew, or that Jew, at this place, or at that place, or at this time or at that time had ever committed a JEWISH RITUAL MURDER,.?

    I am of “Celtic” origin & I cannot speak for the actions of ALL Celts throughout history, so how can today’s Jews, speak for the actions of ALL Jews, throughout history,.? The answer is, that they can’t.

    The fact of the matter is,..that over the centuries, & in various places, Jews have been convicted, in various courts of law for the RITUALISTIC murder of Christian children to obtain CHRISTIAN blood, for “religious” purposes,..& no Jew, today, can prove that all of these convictions of Jews for the crime of JEWISH RITUAL MURDER are false..

    Convictions of Jews for the crime of RITUAL murder being on the books,.. today’s Jews cannot prove that any & all of these convictions are just the result of “Gentile bigotry”,.

    Considering the consistency of the details of these cases, the record would indicate, that certain elements of Jewry were & are even today in th practice of JEWISH RITUAL MURDER & the attempt of the ADL to discount this fact as being “HATE SPEECH” is just another attempt by the Jewish power structure to maintain the “myth” that Jews are, & always have been just the innocent victims of Gentile bigotry …,.

    The case can be made, that Judaism has a “dark side” & the historic record of JEWISH RITUAL MURDER represents just one face of that “dark side” of Talmudic Judaism,…..As if “Talmudic” Judaism has a “lighter” side,..,..,…

  2. “The naturalization and advancement of bigotry does lead to acceptance, and possibly encouragement, of this sort of behaviour.”
    –> Dude, this reasoning is completely circular. If a behaviour is accepted, then by definition it has been naturalized; if a behaviour is being advanced, it must have followed that it was encouraged.

    “Freedom of speech becomes a problem when groups and communities begin to feel physically threatened and powerless.”
    –> “The premise that the broken windows theory operates on—that social disorder and crime are connected as part of a causal chain—is faulty.” You are making a similar fallacy. I don’t know if this is what you are intending, but it the way your article comes off (see: the title) is that you are implying that a freedom in speech implies “the naturalization and advancement of bigotry.” In reality, it would be the current ubiquity of bigotry on the internet that implies the naturalization and advancement of bigotry. While it is true that -effectively- silencing the bigots on the internet would stop their behaviour from spreading, I highlight the word effectively because doing so by any means one might imagine is nigh impractical. I am sure you know this to be true.

    If one wants to change an uneducated person, one does so by educating them, not by silencing them and forcing their own views upon them. Racism and slut shaming are problems that are rooted in history, and it hasn’t been until recently that we have started cracking down on the problem. The fact that the internet is characterized by free speech is not the issue. The issue is that people that haven’t been educated have yet to become so. In order for the paradigm to change, people need to be educated.

    Well how does this education occur? In a variety of ways! Think to how you and your friends and I came to the conclusion that using prejudicial slurs is not the best means of communication. And as such, it logically follows that more education, not more silence, is the correct course of action here. We should be inviting discussion, not shutting it down.