Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Posts Tagged ‘hate speech

The fake-news problem

with 4 comments

When it comes to the fake-news and hate-speech* issues, there are three overlapping aspects that have disturbed me for some time and that have been repeatedly illustrated during the recent COVID-19 reporting:

*I will mostly leave out hate speech, for simplicity, but similar abuse is common, e.g. that statements with the “wrong” political opinions are often condemned as “hate speech” in a blanket manner, and often after a severe distortion, exaggeration, or unproved claim of intent. Cf. e.g. portions of [1], [2], [3].

  1. What is considered fake news is determined less by objective criteria* than by (a) who said it, (b) whether it matches the perception** of scientific consensus or some other ideal, e.g. the ideological*** message a certain journalist or politician wants to push.****

    *E.g. statistics cited and arguments raised.

    **An important word: politicians and journalist often have the science incredible wrong, as with e.g. I.Q.—especially, when the ideas or consequences are not compatible with their ideological positions. Sadly, the same applies to many social scientists. In the Wikipedia consensus debates, it is often not a matter of establishing the true scientific consensus, but the consensus among the editors what the scientific consensus would be—or, even, just the consensus among the editors.

    ***While I have seen much more of such problems on the Left, especially in Sweden and Germany, the problem is by no means limited to the Left, especially in the U.S..

    ****Here and elsewhere: Note that there are many blatant cases of actually incorrect claims being described as “fake news” (e.g. “COVID-19 was created by Donald Trump to defeat China”). Here I concern myself with the more subtle, e.g. “COVID-19 numbers over-/understate the problem because X”. However, note that much of the same argumentation extends to more extreme cases due to the problems of (a) where to draw the border, (b) who decides. In particular, while COVID-19 is almost certainly not created by any government, it is not inconceivable that someone at some point in the future does try to direct an artificial virus against an enemy—and what if a rightful warning is shouted down with “Fake news! Fake news!” until it is too late?

    Was a particular text written (claim made, whatnot) by a journalist for a news-paper? Then it will almost always be considered “news”, no matter how poorly researched or reasoned it was. (And journalistic texts are poorly researched and poorly reasoned disturbingly often, and quite often incorrect too. Most of the exposure to actual “fake news” that the average person has is likely to come from journalists and politicians—exactly those complaining of “fake news” the loudest.)

    By a blogger? Might well be condemned as “fake news” even when the text is well-researched and well-reasoned. (The more so, all other factors equal, when poorly researched, but for non-journalists there is no guarantee even for a quality piece. Even actual scientists specializing in the area at hand might be condemned as spreading “fake news”.)

    Does the text match the perception of scientific consensus (the doctrine of the dominating ideology, whatnot)? If so, it will almost always be “news”.

    Does it go counter to the perception? If so, it is very likely to be “fake news”, even when it matches the real scientific consensus or when at least some reputable experts believe the same.

  2. There is no awareness of the risks involved in approaching a question with the attitude “this is the truth and no-one has a right to say the opposite” (instead of “I am almost certain that this is the truth, but let us look impartially at the arguments for and against each side”).

    While many perceived truths have been truths or very good approximations* of the truth, they have also often been wrong—and there is often a long period during which we cannot say for certain whether a perceived truth actually is the truth. When no-one is allowed to question these perceived truths, this might or might not be beneficial when they are truths, but it is highly damaging when they are not and they are allowed to hang on long past their expiration date. Indeed, those who have raised new and unconventional ideas that were correct have often been disbelieved, ridiculed, or even per- or prosecuted, as with criticism of many issues relating to religion or kooky ideas like evolution and continental drift. Today, sadly, even well established actual truths can lead to condemnation when they do not fit the ideologically imposed new “truth”, as with e.g. the influence of inborn factors on behavior or success in life.**

    *Even in science, it is par for the course that well established, strongly-supported-by-evidence theories are refined over time. Even something that, in some sense, actually is true is not necessarily the last word on the issue.

    **Indeed, here it is not uncommon that the mere mention of the possibility is met with a storm of outrage, e.g. that someone is condemned as a disgusting sexist for even contemplating the possibility of men and women (viewed as groups) having different inborn preferences for math and nursing.

    For my part, I have always found that my insight grows the most when I listen* to different positions and opposing arguments. This sometimes even for the patently absurd**; very often, when there is some room for doubt. This type of campaign does not just imply that the campaigner is denying himself the benefit of such growth, but that he is actively trying to prevent others from gaining it. Worse, any serious attempt at debate risks drowning in name calling, where whoever has the most or loudest supporters wins—not whoever has the best arguments. It certainly relieves the one party of the duty of providing own arguments.

    *A partial explanation for the problems discussed here could be that some are unable to understand the difference between “listens to” and “sympathizes with” or even “will be converted to”. (Possibly, because they are themselves so weak critical thinkers that they might be convinced in the same situation …)

    **For instance, consider the deeply flawed anti-evolution argument that evolution is like having monkeys type randomly in order to reproduce Shakespeare. It is almost entirely without merit and shows a fundamental lack of understanding of what it attempts to disprove—but understanding why it is without merit, etc., can help someone develop his own understanding. Notably, most people who “believe” in evolution do so just because they have been told that it is true—not because they have any own insight into the matter.

  3. It is a massive threat to freedom of speech, especially when entities like Facebook are more-or-less forced to track down and delete what is considered “fake news”, “hate speech”, whatnot. (Note recent political trends to enforce just such obligations, as well as the voluntary or “voluntary” efforts by such entities on their own.)

    For free speech to be worth anything, it is not enough that someone has the legal* right to speak his mind. It is also necessary that he is protected from attempts at sabotage, intimidation, ad hominem** attacks, whatnot. This includes the wide range of “fake news” accusations. If a certain claim or set of claims is false beyond a reasonable doubt, it is better for all parties (possibly, excepting the accuser) if this falsity is demonstrated, than if it is just met with outraged screams of “Fake news!”. If it is not false beyond a reasonable doubt, on the other hand, then the outraged screams are entirely and utterly inappropriate.

    *But note that even this right is increasingly under challenge.

    **Excepting those very rare cases when the man is actually relevant to the issue. Either the arguments for and against are sufficiently clear, and there is no reason to attack the man; or they are not, and then it is the more important that we focus on the issue, not the man.

(And, yes, there is some overlap between these items and opinions that I have expressed in more generic contexts, including free speech, intellectual honesty, and “scientific mindedness”. And, yes, like with COVID-19, we might well have a situation where the attempted counter-measures do more damage than the original problem.)

Indeed, many appear so sure of the truth of a matter, the benefits/dangers of a certain behavior, whatnot, that they are willing to exaggerate or outright lie, slander and libel, use intellectually dishonest arguments, etc., just to ensure that others land at the “right” opinion. (Cf. e.g. portions of [4], as with the attempts to trick children into believing that “snus” comes from chamber pots, to ensure that they stay away from it.)

This is, obviously, quite incompatible with the ideals of a good journalist—someone who realizes that it is his job to report so that others can form their own opinions, not to just shove his opinion down their throats. (Cf. [5], which also covers some of the same ground as the current text.) If anything, a journalist should expose and criticize common misperceptions and -conceptions—not perpetuate them.

Worse, I cannot suppress the suspicion that at least some journalists abuse the “fake news” formula to discredit non-journalists, so that they can save their own industry—at a time when the quality of journalism, news-papers, etc., is at a disastrous low. I do note that the term “fake news” first became wide-spread in Germany (but not internationally) in the wake of the reverse accusation of “Lügenpresse” (see [5] for an explanation).

As an aside, the sheer quantity of accusation along these lines (“fake news”, “hate speech”, “racism”, …) has grown so long and contained so many unjustified cases, that I consider the current press and a great portion of the current politicians/parties as “the boy who cried wolf” (and I am hardly alone in this, something which should give the accusers reason to reconsider their approach):

By now, I tend to view any and all accusations from certain groups with extreme skepticism, sometimes to the point of having a subconscious reaction* in the other direction, and I expect them to support their own claims and opinions with the more evidence before I believe them (but they hardly ever do). Moreover, in some cases, I must suspect that the reason for this type of accusation is the lack of own evidence, which then is a rational indication that the accuser is in the wrong.** Indeed, these constant cries of wolf have strongly contributed to my changed take on man-made global warming, from “definitely real” to “I do not know”—my previous belief was based on claims made by journalists and politicians, experience shows that I cannot trust their claims, and I have (to date) never done the leg work to actually form an independent opinion on the matter.

*E.g. in that claims like “X is Y!” subconsciously cause me to view “X is not Y” as more likely without looking at the evidence, or in that I have some degree of automatic sympathies for X.

**Not to be confused with the more automatic reaction of the previous footnote. A good example is “The Bell Curve”, where the vast majority of the criticism seems to be some variation of “It is racist!”, while very few bother to explain why it would be racist and many of the accusers simply have never read it or engaged with its content in any other non-trivial manner—they are merely repeating what they have been told to believe. Moreover, the ‘It is racist!” typically serves as a blanket condemnation, without any attempt to analyze any individual points of the book, some of which might have been true and/or thought-worthy, even had the book been racist. As an extreme example, the first German animal-rights laws were instituted by the (indisputably racist, genocidal, and otherwise problematic) Nazis. Should we, then, automatically conclude that animal rights is something negative? Should these laws have been automatically repealed after the fall of Nazi-Germany?


Written by michaeleriksson

April 8, 2020 at 10:23 pm

Hate speech III: Analysis of alleged Tea-Party examples

with 2 comments

Preamble: This is the third (and likely concluding) part in a series. For an understanding of the motivations, rough criteria, terminology, general take on the topic, etc., please read the first part (and, optionally, the second part).


  • The examples are taken from http://samuel-warde.com/2012/07/tea-party-hate-speech-10-shocking-examples/, original title “10 Shocking Examples Of Tea Party Hate-Speech”.
  • The numbering is preserved from the original. Some amount of change might have been made to formatting and typography. The contents themselves have been copy-and-pasted, and (barring accidental over-correction with the spell-checker) all language problems, bracketed comments, and whatnots were already present.
  • The quotes are given by an opponent and have often traveled over several instances, both of which imply that they might have been distorted before they arrived here. Below, I will silently take the quotes as correct, but I extend the warning that this is not necessarily the case.
  • There is minimal or no context, which makes the exact interpretation tricky. While I do repeatedly address context below, I am unlikely to have done so consistently at all points where it is needed, and the reader is encouraged to keep this problem in mind. (Note that the same sentence, even individual words, can have very different interpretations depending on context. Consider “One more step and you are dead!” said by a robber to a victim, by an explosives expert to someone standing in a minefield, and by one child to another.)
  • Through a copy-and-paste action into a text file, I overlooked that the HTML original contained a number of links to other sources (unlike the examples given in the second part). Unfortunately, I only discovered this when I had already prepared what I considered the to-be-published version of this text. Of these links, only six worked (link rot?). I have reviewed these six and added a corresponding addendum to the respective item below. (Not much changes.)

1. Tea Party leader Mark Williams mocks the NAACP.

“We Colored People have taken a vote and decided that we don’t cotton to that whole emancipation thing. Freedom means having to work for real, think for ourselves and take consequences along with the rewards. That is just far too much to ask of us Colored People, and we demand that it stop…

The tea party position to “end the bailouts” for example is just silly. Bailouts are just big money welfare, and isn’t that what we want all Coloreds to strive for? What kind of racist would want to end big money welfare? What they need to do is start handing the bailouts directly to us coloreds…

Perhaps the most racist point of all in the tea parties is their demand that government “stop raising our taxes.” That is outrageous! How will we Colored People ever get a wide screen TV in every room if non-coloreds get to keep what they earn? Totally racist! The tea party expects coloreds to be productive members of society?…

Mr. Lincoln, you were the greatest racist ever. We had a great gig. Three squares, room and board, all our decisions made by the massa in the house. Please repeal the 13th and 14th Amendments and let us get back to where we belong.”

Mocking the NAACP is hardly hate speech. The quote is an example of (admittedly crude) satire; not of hate speech. I would agree that this type of satire, especially the putting of words into the mouths of others, is inappropriate, childish, and better avoided, but that is about it—and putting words into the mouths of others is by no means a rare method in the PC and Leftist movements… Indeed, as will be seen, the collector of these examples does so again and again himself.

We might discuss to what degree the mockery does or does not reflect reality (after correcting for exaggeration). I do not feel well-informed enough to judge this, but my own impression of the modern NAACP is at best mixed, and much of the implied criticism does apply to at least some parts of the modern Black movements (whether specifically to the NAACP, I leave unstated). This includes a “complaint mentality” and a “someone else is to blame mentality”.

If the text had been mocking “We Colored People” directly, a stronger case could have been made—but the hostile collector, who knows more about the context, and who would have gained from switching to a more general target, still claims that it is aimed only at the NAACP.

The one iffy point is “Please repeal the 13th and 14th Amendments and let us get back to where we belong.”, especially the second half. Indeed, in the context of colored people in general, this could have been taken as a statement supporting slavery or racism; in the context of the NAACP, however, it merely is a case of taking satire too far.

Overall, not hate and not worthy of censorship. If it is worthy of condemnation then for being unfair argumentation—not for being hate speech.

2. Preceding President Obama’s speech before a group of leading Democrats, Tea Party protesters heckled members of Congress, subjecting them to racist and hate filled epithets as well as physical abuse.

“A staffer for Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) told reporters that Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) had been spat on by a protestor. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a hero of the civil rights movement, was called a ‘ni-er.’ And Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) was called a “faggot,” as protestors shouted at him with deliberately lisp-y screams.”

This is certainly not hate speech. It is worthy of condemnation, and the spitting, if it actually hit, might conceivably even be a legitimate cause for involvement of the law. However, we cannot just take any evil deed and refer to it as “hate speech”. The worst part, the spitting, is not speech at all, of any kind; and even the shouting of slurs are barely speech to begin with. It would be unreasonable to extend the definition of hate speech to include such; and if it were included, it would make any discussion of hate speech seriously muddled.

This even assuming that the events are given with sufficient truthfulness, considering that there are several steps of hearsay involved, at least one involving someone partial (the “staffer”). Credibility is lost by obvious speculation (“deliberately lisp-y screams”).*

*Note to non-U.S. readers: There appears to be a U.S. stereotype of a “gay lisp”, which I, frankly, had never heard of myself until a few weeks ago.

The introduction by the collector is at best misleading*: It speaks of “racist and hate filled epithets” and “physical abuse”—the core description cites two instances of slurs and one instance of spitting… The “hate filled” part is, obviously, further speculation.

*Considering that this repeats again and again, I have to assume that it is deliberate.

I note that this type of behavior is otherwise common among the Left, the PC crowd, and whatnot—and is then often lauded as e.g. showing civil courage… (Cf. e.g. various U.S. events on college campuses, or Swedish events around the much attacked SD party.) It appears to be less fun when the tables are turned…

Addendum based on https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/03/20/tea-party-protests-nier-f_n_507116.html:

There is no additional information truly significant for this analysis. There are additional statements made, but these speak in generalities, without specific examples.

It appears that “The man who spat on the Congressman was arrested, but the Congressman has chosen not to press charges.”.

3. Michelle Bachmann signs pledge that says that black children were better off during slavery.

“Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American President.”

The quote given has no aspect of hate or otherwise inappropriate speech—it merely points to one thing that a child in slavery might have had that a modern might not. (As a divorce child, I can personal vouch for the negatives involved even for a child who is White and leaving in Sweden, with its extensive social-security protections.)

Moreover, in my best interpretation (in the lack of context), the intent is to criticize modern U.S. society and how it has failed these children. Slavery appears to be introduced as a means of contrast because it was bad—not as something that should be rehabilitated.

The introduction is grossly misleading and intellectually dishonest, likely implying the reverse of what Bachmann actually intended. The claim “signs pledge” is particularly atrocious (unless some type of pledge actually was signed). This is far worse than the NAACP mockery above: That was obviously an at least hyperbolic and exaggerated version of what the NAACP might have claimed and done. Here, in contrast, the claim is obviously intended to be taken entirely at face value.

4. Sharron Angle calls for “2nd Amendment Remedies” telling the Reno Gazette-Journal that people are quietly stockingup on ammunition in case they need to resort to insurrection or “fight for liberty” as she put it.

“Angle: I feel that the Second Amendment is the right to keep and bear arms for our citizenry. This not for someone who’s in the military. This not for law enforcement. This is for us. And in fact when you read that Constitution and the founding fathers, they intended this to stop tyranny. This is for us when our government becomes tyrannical… Manders: If we needed it at any time in history, it might be right now. Angle: Well it’s to defend ourselves. And you know, I’m hoping that we’re not getting to Second Amendment remedies. I hope the vote will be the cure for the Harry Reid problems.”

Again not a sliver of hate or otherwise condemnation-worthy speech. To boot, the interpretation of the Second Amendment, which could have been a weakness, matches my own impression of standard interpretation. (In other countries, the situation might have been very different, but not in the U.S.) I note the explicit expression of hope that “Second Amendment remedies” will not be necessary.

Again the introduction is highly misleading: Nothing in the quote implies that Angle calls for action—she merely justifies the action she and others might have taken or prepared to take. I repeat the observation that she hopes that action will not be needed—which is close to the opposite of calling for such action.

5. Tea Party hate speech runs amok in Wisconsin over their senatorial recall elections.

“I will tell you ladies and gentlemen, I detest and despise everything the left stands for. How anybody can endorse and embrace an ideology that has killed a billion people in the last century is beyond me,” said Tea Party Nation CEO Judson Phillips.

The quote largely expresses a personal political opinion and does not go beyond anything countless Democrats have said about the Republicans or the Tea Party. There might be hate, but if he actually had hated, chances are that he would have said “I hate” rather than “I detest”.

There are some potentially problematic aspects, largely hinging on exactly what he means by “left”, including whether “everything the left stands for” can be seen as narrow-minded (likely, if the U.S. Democrats are given consideration; but need not be the case, if he has his eyes set on more extreme parts of the left), and whether ascribing the killing of a billion* people to a single ideology is justifiable (depending e.g. on whether the U.S. Democrats are included and put on a level with Soviet Communists**). Here more context would be needed. However, even with a worst-case assumption, there is nothing that would justify actions like censorship. I note that there is no hint of e.g. a call to action to harm members of the Left, to limit them in their rights, whatnot.***

*This number seems exaggerated and its use could be another point of criticism, depending on why this number was used: Was it a deliberate lie to mislead the audience? (Very bad.) Was it just a hyperbolic expression, possibly in the heat of the moment, based on the at least tens of millions that have been killed by various Communist and Socialist dictatorships? (Poor style.) Does he have some type of reasonable calculation that does indicate this number to be true, e.g after including premature deaths by factors like hunger or a weak health-care system? (Possibly OK.)

**I note that the Left rarely hesitates when it comes to associating various opponents with far extremer opponents, e.g. those calling for reduced immigration with Nazis. Even if he were grouping e.g. U.S. Democrats and Soviet Communists together, he would not have been the one to start the abuse. (Which is not to defend it—just to point out that many accusations are more appropriate when raised at parts of the Left than when raised by them.)

***All things that the members of the Left have often suggested regarding their opponents.

Again, the introduction is highly misleading: Even if we were to consider this hate speech, there is nothing that can be considered running amok, even in a highly metaphorical sense.

Addendum based on https://www.politico.com/blogs/david-catanese/2011/08/tea-party-nation-the-lefts-killed-a-billion-people-038167:

There is no real additional information concerning the above, especially no actual discussion of “billion”.

There are some other claims made of (out of context) statements by Tea-Party supporters, but none that would qualify for e.g. censorship.

6. U.S. Rep. Steve King attacks Obama because of his middle name, Hussein.

“…his middle name (Hussein) does matter,” King said. “It matters because they read a meaning into that in the rest of the world. That has a special meaning to them. They will be dancing in the streets because of his middle name. They will be dancing in the streets because of who his father was and because of his posture that says: Pull out of the Middle East and pull out of this conflict.”

Not a shred of hate, not of obvious factual error (barring hyperbole and metaphor), nothing to condemn.

Again, the introduction is misleading: King has in no way attacked Obama with this statement.

Addendum based on http://www.spencerdailyreporter.com/story/1316727.html:

This is a fairly lengthy article, and I have only skimmed most of it. The parts surrounding the above quote (read in more detail), however, appear to conform my thoughts: King does not object to (let alone “attack”) Obama, per se, but is concerned with the impression of his possible* election on the rest of the world—in particular, the Islam world. We might see some of his concerns as exaggerated (“[Islamists] will be dancing in the streets in greater numbers than they did on September 11 because they will declare victory in this War on Terror.”); however, being wrong is not a crime.

*The article is dated “Saturday, March 8, 2008”.

7. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas, member of the Tea Party Caucus), is a birther who equated homosexuality with all kinds of insane behavior — too horrible to write here — during a debate on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Followed by not one shred of evidence. Some type of video appears to be linked, but does not play. Recall the repeated exaggerated introductions of those items where a text is actually given.

The claim “too horrible to write here” is a particularly weak excuse: By giving the video (had it worked) his words would still be included in the page, except that the reader now has a ton of extra effort to get to the point… To boot, a sensitive reader would likely be better of reading a claim that hearing it.

I note that exactly this type of attack, where a strongly negative claim is made and left without proof, is a very severe problem with accusations of hate speech.

Addendum based on https://talkingpointsmemo.com/dc/debating-hate-crimes-gohmert-rambles-on-about-bestiality-sex-with-corpses-voting-for-a-black-man:

The contents are confusing and incoherent. The text is obviously partial (as is seen by e.g. “rambles on”, in lieu of a more neutral formulation).

My best estimate of events is that Gohmert spoke against a ` “wide open” definition of sexual orientation’ (possibly as a reaction against homosexuality) by pointing to e.g. “bestiality” as something that must (also) be considered acceptable if a laissez-faire attitude was taken. This, in and by it self, is not worthy of criticism. It does, in particular and unlike implied by the collector, not necessarily put those who engage in homosexual acts and acts of bestiality, respectively, on the same level. Generally, trying to find fault with something by pointing to extremes that could be justified by the same type of reasoning is a perfectly valid method.

It also points to a recurring actual problem of arbitrariness of sex vs. sexcrime: Not long ago homosexuality was widely considered a gross perversion and/or outlawed even in the Western world (elsewhere this is still the case). Some countries have bans on bestiality; others do not. Some have bans on prostitution; others do not. Some historical societies (including some ancient Greek) have allowed pederasty or other cases of child–adult sex. Some Churches ban masturbation or extra-marital sex; others do not. Etc.

Now, I do believe that homosexuality should be perfectly legal; however, we have two basic alternatives: Either we do not draw a line anywhere (except for requiring consent) or we must make an ultimately arbitrary choice of where to draw that line. Who is to say that homosexuality should be legal and bestiality* not? If in doubt, it will boil down to a matter of numbers… We certainly cannot argue e.g. that “bestiality is obviously revolting”, because many will say the same thing about homosexuality, and then homosexuality is forbidden again…

*Considering that there are plenty of instances of dogs being the sexual pursuers towards humans, the need for consent cannot be used to rule out bestiality in a blanket manner.

I note that there was nothing in that article that was “too horrible to write here”.

8. Sarah Palin’s PAC puts gun sights on Democrats.

“This is just the first salvo in a fight to elect people across the nation who will bring common sense to Washington. Please go to sarahpac.com and join me in the fight.”


This is not only a claim free from anything that can be criticized as e.g. hate speech—it is positively tame by the standards of U.S. election campaigns! (Or is the collector stupid enough to believe that Palin actually implied aggressive use of real guns?!?)

Again, the introduction is misleading. Whether just a little or enormously so depends on whether “gun sights” is intended to be understood metaphorically or literally. If metaphorically, there is not even an unfair accusation of Palin that is worthy of inclusion; if literally, the entire page is discredited—either the collector is deeply, deeply stupid or horrifyingly intellectually dishonest.

Addendum based on https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/03/24/sarah-palins-pac-puts-gun_n_511433.html:

Apparently, “Palin’s Facebook page now carries a map featuring 20 gun sights, one for each of the Democrats targeted this year by her political action committee SarahPAC.”, which makes the claims by the collector potentially less insane: If these gun sights were overlaid on a portrait of the respective target, I could see how this might cause offense. However, this is not stated, and the use of “map” could imply that the gun sights were aimed at the respective state. (If so, nothing changes.)

However, even if portraits were used, this is on the outside tasteless; and unless someone interpreted this as a wish to literally shot political opponents, claims of e.g. “hate speech” are overblown. (Even discounting the question whether this can count as “speech” to begin with.)

To boot, if these gun sights were the concern of the collector, why did he not quote the sentence about the Facebook page?!?!

9. At the state level, we have Alabama state senator Scott Beason referring to blacks as “aborigines,” while wearing a wire. Its recording was later played at a bingo-related trial in Montgomery.

I am surprised Beason was so carelessly dense as to allow himself to make disparaging remarks about blacks while he was wearing the undercover wire he so wanted to wear.

And it wasn’t just Beason making the comments. A group of Republicans were sitting around, making jokes about the customers and employees of gambling establishments. At one point, state Rep. Ben Lewis of Dothan said the people at Greenetrack are “y’all’s Indians.”

Beason responded: “They’re aborigines, but they’re not Indians.”

In another incident, after opening a speech by saying that “illegal immigration will destroy a community” he closed it by advising his listeners to “empty the clip, and do what has to be done”.

There is too much speculation, with no reasonable support in actual quotes, and too little context for a certain interpretation; however, going by the text it self, the most likely interpretation is that Lewis said something about a group of “native Americans” (not Blacks!) using the older word “Indian”, and Beason corrected him by, correctly-but-unusually, saying that they were “aborigines”. This interpretation is strengthened by Greenetrack appearing to be some form of casino, and casinos often being a matter for “Indian reservations”. If so, there is nothing remarkable at all in the words used. (Except for “aborigine”, while perfectly correct, being an unusual word in the U.S.)

Even had they, however, been talking about Black people, this would merely have amounted to ignorance of terminology, which might be a reason to doubt competence levels—but not to ascribe e.g. hate speech.

The later claim that “illegal immigration will destroy a community”, points to a real potential problem with (large scale) illegal immigration. Had the claim been “could” instead of “will”, there would have been no reason to object; even the “will” falls within the realm of typical-for-a-politician exaggerations and over-generalizations, that are just as, or even more, common on the Left.

The one point that could be problematic is the concluding “empty the clip, and do what has to be done”. However, here the full context would be needed for interpretation, including whether he was metaphorical or literal, spoke of a legal or an illegal act, spoke of a gun clip (potentially: shot them down) or a money clip (potentially: give me money to build a wall), …

(This is an excellent example of why it is so important to have a reasonably large context—especially with people like the collector of this alleged “hate”, who seems very keen on distorting the actual events/statements/whatnot to unfairly attack or discredit his opponents.)

I stress that there is a major difference between legal and illegal immigration, as well as between the respective resistance to them.

Addendum based on http://blog.al.com/jkennedy/2011/06/joey_kennedy_scott_beason_hurt.html:

This is an amateur blog post, apparently with no journalistic or other aspirations. The contents have little more than what is given above, which appears to have been a direct quote. There is no new information, but plenty of derisive and insulting statements. The one interesting take-away is that the above language and likely errors of interpretation belong that blog post—not the collector.

10. Hate Filled Racist & Anti Semitic Signs

Again followed by nothing, except a non-playing video….

I note, however, that certain groups love to use phrases like “hate filled” that amount to speculation about the inner state of other people, and that can usually neither be proved or disproved… To boot they are, in this case, misapplied grammatically—a sign, unlike its maker or carrier, cannot be filled with hate (be racist, be Anti-Semitic, whatnot).

Summary: In all, there is just one example (item 2) that actually comes across as so bad as to warrant intervention—and that example is still not hate speech. Most of the rest are nonsense or rely on additional, unproved and often unstated, assumptions, to even be relevant. This in a text that promises “10 Shocking Examples Of Tea Party Hate-Speech”…

If these examples are taken as a basis, hate speech is not much of an issue. Certainly, the common claim that the “Right” would be the source of most hate speech would fall flat on its back, because the Left and the PC crowd (feminists in particular) do worse quite often.*

*Unfortunately, I have probably never treated this topic in detail, usually being more interested in faulty or intellectually dishonest argumentation and censorship. However, [5] provides an example of feminist “debating” where I was involved myself—as might some similar or related texts. At least two texts briefly mention death wishes towards opponents: [6], [7]. Some texts, including [8], discuss other problems, including physical misbehavior, that the collector might have (mis-)defined as hate speech.

I also note that the page contains the claim “Yet, if one takes a look at some of their statements over the years – one is reminded of the admonition to beware of pointing a finger at someone because 4 are pointing back at yourself.”, to which I feel forced to answer: One should sometimes take one’s own advice.

Written by michaeleriksson

July 21, 2018 at 12:40 pm

Hate speech II: Analysis of alleged Israeli examples

with 3 comments

Preamble: This is the second part in a series. For an understanding of the motivations, rough criteria, terminology, general take on the topic, etc., please read the first part.


  • The examples are taken from http://realnews247.com/examples_of_hate_speech.htm, original title “EXAMPLES OF HATE SPEECH”.
  • The numbering is preserved from the original. Some amount of change might have been made to formatting and typography. The contents themselves have been copy-and-pasted, and (barring accidental over-correction with the spell-checker) all language problems, bracketed comments, and whatnots were already present.
  • The quotes are given by an opponent and have often traveled over several instances, both of which imply that they might have been distorted before they arrived here. Below, I will silently take the quotes as correct, but I extend the warning that this is not necessarily the case.
  • There is minimal or no context, which makes the exact interpretation tricky. While I do repeatedly address context below, I am unlikely to have done so consistently at all points where it is needed, and the reader is encouraged to keep this problem in mind. (Note that the same sentence, even individual words, can have very different interpretations depending on context. Consider “One more step and you are dead!” said by a robber to a victim, by an explosives expert to someone standing in a minefield, and by one child to another.)
  • Many of these examples likely originated in Hebrew (or another non-English language). Throughout, it is important to keep in mind that the translation into English might have changed something for the worse. Similarly, there might be issues of idiom that give a false impression, which is also to keep in mind. (Consider e.g. several animal comparisons below, which might or might not give a different impression to a Jew or someone from Israel. By analogy, the English (and Biblical) expression “pearls before swine” indicates, usually derogatorily, an inability to appreciate something—but it does not otherwise compare someone to a swine.)

1. “There is a huge gap between us (Jews) and our enemies -not just in ability but in morality, culture, sanctity of life, and conscience. They are our neighbors here, but it seems as if at a distance of a few hundred meters away, there are people who do not belong to our continent, to our world, but actually belong to a different galaxy.” Israeli president Moshe Katsav. The Jerusalem Post, May 10, 2001

There is no sign of hate.* Assuming factual correctness, there is nothing worthy of disapproval (short of diplomacy).

*See an excursion on hate in the first part for why I do not discuss e.g. contempt, which seems quite likely to be present in this case. (However, even claiming contempt amounts to speculation.)

The factual correctness, in turn, could very well be acceptable, e.g. when looking at some neighboring Arab countries. Certainly, groups like Hamas have done nothing to remove credibility from the claim. (Reservations have to be made for exactly who is included in “our enemies”, however.) That there is a considerable difference in many aspects of morality, culture, etc. is hard to dispute. There is room to dispute which version is the better, but the quote does not make any explicit claim in this regard— and I suspect that an overwhelming majority of the Western population would prefer the Jewish versions.

Ability is a more controversial topic. However, absent more detailed information about what the speaker means by “ability”, it is hard to fault the claim: There are a number of meanings and interpretations in which a huge gap in ability is (or is very likely to be) present, as can be seen e.g. by the respective number of outstanding scientists, average I.Q., economic progress, success at warfare, and similar. (There is still room to discuss why there is a difference in ability and, e.g., whether it will disappear over time. However, the quote does not make any claim in this area and cannot be faulted.)

The statements are potentially vulnerable to an accusation of over-generalization. However, since the quote speaks of groups and not individuals, this is not very dire; and even statements normally considered harmless can fall short of the ideal in this regard, and do not necessarily reflect the level of insight or the intended message of the speaker. (For most of the remainder, I will not explicitly go into this sub-topic, leaving a corresponding reservation implicit.)

(Unfortunately, I suspect that some irrational readers will go through something approximating “he claims that there are differences between groups of people; ergo, he is a racist; ergo, he is wrong, evil, and should be banned from speaking”.)

2. “The Palestinians are like crocodiles, the more you give them meat, they want more”…. Ehud Barak, Prime Minister of Israel at the time – August 28, 2000. Reported in the Jerusalem Post August 30, 2000

If by “Palestinians” e.g. some organization or official counter-part is intended (Hamas, PLO, …), and if the analogy with crocodiles refers specifically to the meat as a metaphor for a hunger for Israeli compromises and retreats, then the claim could be entirely beyond reproach.

If not, it could conceivably have a hate component and it could conceivably be unfair; however, nowhere near to such a degree that e.g. censorship is warranted.

3. ” [The Palestinians are] beasts walking on two legs.” Menahim Begin, speech to the Knesset, quoted in Amnon Kapeliouk, “Begin and the Beasts”. New Statesman, 25 June 1982.

Likely a genuine case of speech worthy of disapproval, but not to the point of allowing censorship. Hate is not obvious.

Even here, however, reservations have to be made, especially if this is a translation. For instance, within the English language, the claim “humans [in general] are beasts walking on two legs” could be a mere biological or philosophical observation.

4. “The Palestinians” would be crushed like grasshoppers … heads smashed against the boulders and walls.” ” Isreali Prime Minister (at the time) in a speech to Jewish settlers New York Times April 1, 1988

Unfortunately, this quote lacks too much context to be interpretable; however, it sounds more like a statement of own strength or a re-assurance for someone who fears a Palestinian attack—should the Palestinians attack, they would be crushed, etc. In this case, it is hard to see something that is even remotely hateful, worthy of censorship, or similar.

5. “When we have settled the land, all the Arabs will be able to do about it will be to scurry around like drugged cockroaches in a bottle.” Raphael Eitan, Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defence Forces, New York Times, 14 April 1983.

Apart from an undiplomatic formulation, the claim it self is harmless. The gist appears to be that once settlement has taken place, the Arabs would be helpless to change the situation, which might quite possibly have been true or believed to be true by the speaker. More worthy of discussion would be whether the mentioned settlements* were justifiable, however, that has no effect on the evaluation of the quote.

*If the type of settlement outside of Israel proper is meant, which causes so much controversy today, the answer could conceivably be “no”.

Note that the Arabs are not claimed to be cockroaches, or generally likened to them; what takes place is a comparison of situation and ability to act in that situation.

6. “How can we return the occupied territories? There is nobody to return them to.” Golda Meir, March 8, 1969.

I have doubts as to whether this claim is factually true; however, there is nothing that could reasonably be considered e.g. hateful or worthy of disapproval in it. (And my doubts could be faulty: Golda Meir would have been in a far better position to judge the matter than I am.)

7. “There was no such thing as Palestinians, they never existed.” Golda Maier Israeli Prime Minister June 15, 1969

The word “Palestinian” has a confused history and has historically even been used to refer to Jews. The modern meaning appears to have been introduced (unilaterally by the PLO) through the Palestinian National Charter as late as 1968. The quote is dated in 1969, which implies both that the quote can be seen as (at the time) correct and that there might have been very strong legitimate controversy around the term “Palestinian”.

Apart from factual correctness there is nothing that can reasonably be attacked.

8. “The thesis that the danger of genocide was hanging over us in June 1967 and that Israel was fighting for its physical existence is only bluff, which was born and developed after the war.” Israeli General Matityahu Peled, Ha’aretz, 19 March 1972.

Not only is this statement perfectly harmless (unless untrue)—it actually puts Israel in a negative light, implying e.g. that it had engaged in historical revisionism.

9. David Ben Gurion (the first Israeli Prime Minister): “If I were an Arab leader, I would never sign an agreement with Israel. It is normal; we have taken their country. It is true God promised it to us, but how could that interest them? Our God is not theirs. There has been Anti – Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault ? They see but one thing: we have come and we have stolen their country. Why would they accept that?” Quoted by Nahum Goldmann in Le Paraddoxe Juif (The Jewish Paradox), pp121.

Again, nothing that could be even remotely considered hate or worthy of condemnation. On the contrary, it shows and asks for understanding for the Arab position!

9a. Ben Gurion also warned in 1948 : “We must do everything to insure they ( the Palestinians) never do return.” Assuring his fellow Zionists that Palestinians will never come back to their homes. “The old will die and the young will forget.”

The underlying policy of preventing return might* be criticized; however, the statement it self appears harmless and cannot be hate speech. The part “The old will die”, notably, is merely a statement of consequence of the policy: The older people, who would be more interested than the younger in returning to their homes, will eventually die (naturally, of old age, whatnot), and will then cease to be a source of protest. There is no implication that they e.g. should be lined up and shot.

*In the heated situation, such measures might have been a (real or perceived) political necessity. More information would be needed to judge this.

10. “We have to kill all the Palestinians unless they are resigned to live here as slaves.” Chairman Heilbrun of the Committee for the Re-election of General Shlomo Lahat, the mayor of Tel Aviv, October 1983.

Finally, something that not only truly is worthy of condemnation, but which might* even be worthy of legal restrictions. Even here, however, a hate component is speculative—a willingness or even wish to kill someone is not necessarily rooted in hate; ditto other evil deeds.**

*Note that I (here and elsewhere) speak of the statement, not the implied actions. Should these actions be realized, we land in a very different discussion.

**But, in all fairness, the presence or absence of hate is quite secondary with such an extreme statement.

(With reservations for the lack of context.)

11. “Every time we do something you tell me America will do this and will do that . . . I want to tell you something very clear: Don’t worry about American pressure on Israel. We, the Jewish people, control America, and the Americans know it.” – Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, October 3, 2001, to Shimon Peres, as reported on Kol Yisrael radio. (Certainly the FBI’s cover-up of the Israeli spy ring/phone tap scandal suggests that Mr. Sharon may not have been joking.

Cannot by any stretch be seen as hate speech or otherwise worthy of disapproval (except in as far as it could be damaging to Israeli–U.S. relations or be factually untrue). If there is anything derogatory about it at all, it is also directed towards the U.S.—not the Arabs or Palestinians.

12. “We declare openly that the Arabs have no right to settle on even one centimeter of Eretz Israel… Force is all they do or ever will understand. We shall use the ultimate force until the Palestinians come crawling to us on all fours.” Rafael Eitan, Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces – Gad Becker, Yediot Ahronot 13 April 1983, New York Times 14 April 1983.

In these three sentences, we have: Firstly, a statement of opinion that many others will disagree with, but which is within the realm of freedom of opinion and not open to any other objection than disagreement. Secondly, a derogatory generalization; which, however, is made understandable if we look at the history of Israel up to that point; and which is neither hate nor worthy of censorship. Thirdly, something which, depending on context and intention, might be a harmless statement about self-defense, a promise of mindless aggression, or anything in between. Lacking the context, a conclusive evaluation is not possible.

13. “We must do everything to ensure they [the Palestinian refugees] never do return” David Ben-Gurion, in his diary, 18 July 1948, quoted in Michael Bar Zohar’s Ben-Gurion: the Armed Prophet, Prentice-Hall, 1967, p. 157.

This seems to be a variation of one of the statements in 9a (or the same statement outright).

15. “We should prepare to go over to the offensive. Our aim is to smash Lebanon, Trans-Jordan, and Syria. The weak point is Lebanon, for the Moslem regime is artificial and easy for us to undermine. We shall establish a Christian state there, and then we will smash the Arab Legion, eliminate Trans-Jordan; Syria will fall to us. We then bomb and move on and take Port Said, Alexandria and Sinai.” David Ben-Gurion, May 1948, to the General Staff. From Ben-Gurion, A Biography, by Michael Ben-Zohar, Delacorte, New York 1978.

This is a description of a military strategy—not hate or something worthy of condemnation. Note the year and the then situation, as well as the implication of the first sentence: Israel had hitherto been on the defensive—and was indeed fighting a war of self-defense. (See also an excursion on war in the first part.)

16. “We must use terror, assassination, intimidation, land confiscation, and the cutting of all social services to rid the Galilee of its Arab population.” Israel Koenig, “The Koenig Memorandum”

A second instance of true awfulness, both in terms of the stated end and the means to that end; possibly, even something relevant for the law. It is not a given, however, that an element of actual hate is present—it could equally well be what is seen as pragmatic necessity.

17. “Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you because geography books no longer exist. Not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either. Nahlal arose in the place of Mahlul; Kibbutz Gvat in the place of Jibta; Kibbutz Sarid in the place of Huneifis; and Kefar Yehushua in the place of Tal al-Shuman. There is not a single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population.” Moshe Dayan, address to the Technion, Haifa, reported in Haaretz, April 4, 1969.

Again nothing, barring factual correctness, even remotely problematic. It might describe an existing problematic situation, but that cannot be considered hate speech. Indeed, if anything, the statement puts the Israelis in a negative light.

18. “We walked outside, Ben-Gurion accompanying us. Allon repeated his question, What is to be done with the Palestinian population?’ Ben-Gurion waved his hand in a gesture which said ‘Drive them out!'” Yitzhak Rabin, leaked censored version of Rabin memoirs, published in the New York Times, 23 October 1979.

Far too little context to make a judgment. The result could be anything from something harmless to something in great violation of human rights. However, there is no indication of hate and, barring additional information, no obvious reason to e.g. censor it.

19. Rabin’s description of the conquest of Lydda, after the completion of Plan Dalet. “We shall reduce the Arab population to a community of woodcutters and waiters” Uri Lubrani, PM Ben-Gurion’s special adviser on Arab Affairs, 1960. From “The Arabs in Israel” by Sabri Jiryas.

For starters, I am seriously confused as to who is supposed to have made this claim. Rabin? Lubrani? Similarly, it is unclear how many hands it has been through.

There is no obvious sign of hate. There might (more likely) or might not (less likely) be something worthy of condemnation—depending on the context.

20. “There are some who believe that the non-Jewish population, even in a high percentage, within our borders will be more effectively under our surveillance; and there are some who believe the contrary, i.e., that it is easier to carry out surveillance over the activities of a neighbor than over those of a tenant. [I] tend to support the latter view and have an additional argument:…the need to sustain the character of the state which will henceforth be Jewish…with a non-Jewish minority limited to 15 percent. I had already reached this fundamental position as early as 1940 [and] it is entered in my diary.” Joseph Weitz, head of the Jewish Agency’s Colonization Department. From Israel: an Apartheid State by Uri Davis, p.5.

The first half of the quote is just an abstract discussion of opinions of what situations have what consequences, with no sign of hate, no actions that could in anyway be criticized, no disputable issues.*

*Objections might be raised against surveillance; however, the quote does not say that surveillance is something good—it merely discusses ease and effectiveness. I also do not think that the despicable “Big Brother” meaning was intended, but rather e.g. the keeping of an eye on enemy leaders and enemy organizations. To boot, surveillance might have been or been seen as a pragmatic necessity at the time. (It is not obvious when the claim was made; however, from the mention of 1940 with regard to the same speaker, it seems reasonable to assume that it fell within a time when there was a constant war threat or actual war.)

The second half remains free from hate and actions, but could conceivably be disputed due to the “15 percent”: Is such a restriction justifiable?* However, there is nothing that could require e.g. censorship.

*Answering this question would require more context: For instance, if reaching this target involved forcefully evicting Palestinians already legally present, it does not look good. On the other hand, if this is achieved by encouraging Jewish immigration and discouraging non-Jewish immigration, it might be perfectly fine. (Note that the Jewish immigration to Israel was very large for long stretches of time, making the latter possibility far more plausible than in most other countries.)

21. “Everybody has to move, run and grab as many hilltops as they can to enlarge the settlements because everything we take now will stay ours… Everything we don’t grab will go to them.” Ariel Sharon, Israeli Foreign Minister, addressing a meeting of militants from the extreme right-wing Tsomet Party, Agence France Presse, November 15, 1998.

Merely a statement of tactics or of cause and consequence. From appearances, the grabbing refers to areas not occupied by others with no true harm done to anyone. The ethics of settlements (if outside Israel) can, again, be disputed; however, not to such a degree that e.g. censorship is warranted or hate can be diagnosed.

22. “It is the duty of Israeli leaders to explain to public opinion, clearly and courageously, a certain number of facts that are forgotten with time. The first of these is that there is no Zionism,colonialization or Jewish State without the eviction of the Arabs and the expropriation of their lands.” Yoram Bar Porath, Yediot Aahronot, of 14 July 1972.

This seems like a mere statement of fact, even an admitting of certain evils that were necessary to create Israel—possibly even, depending on context, a call for compassion and understanding towards mistreated Arabs. There is no hate and (likely) nothing to disapprove of.

I am not a fan of eviction and expropriation, except in the extreme circumstances; however, they likely were necessary to implement the internationally agreed plans, and criticism should then be directed towards these plans. (I do not yet have an opinion on whether the situation behind the plans was such as to be “extreme circumstances”.)

23. “Spirit the penniless population across the frontier by denying it employment… Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly.” Theodore Herzl, founder of the World Zionist Organization, speaking of the Arabs of Palestine,Complete Diaries, June 12, 1895 entry.

The actions implied are problematic, especially since Herzl (presumably) wrote with an eye at the future. This is a strong candidate for condemnation, but not censorship. There is no sign of hate.

(However, in fairness to Herzl it should be added that he wrote in a time when e.g. waging war to gain land, colonizing less developed countries, whatnot, was still widely considered acceptable. A use as e.g. anti-Israel rhetoric, which might be the intention of the collector, would be highly misleading through this alone. The more so, as the statement pre-dates Israel by more than fifty years…)

24. “One million Arabs are not worth a Jewish fingernail.” – Rabbi Yaacov Perrin, Feb. 27, 1994 [Source: N.Y. Times, Feb. 28, 1994, p. 1]

A rare case where the label “hate” actually is plausible—or it might just be “contempt”. It is worthy of condemnation for being ridiculously out of line with reality;* however, not of censorship.

*I assume that the claim was not followed by e.g. “So feel free to kill them.”, because if it had been, it would be astonishing if the collector had not included that part.

Summary: While there are instances that involve hate, they are few. Ditto those worthy of legal action or censorship. More are perfectly harmless. The collector draws on one of the most controversial and extended conflicts in modern time, and while he has taken the trouble to draw examples from a very wide time-frame (the oldest example is from 1895!), he still had to resort to the inclusion of nonsensical cases… (Also note the remarks at the beginning of the text and the excursion on war in the first part, which could put yet another light on these cases.) The bar of entry is surprisingly low;* and even the average level is not high enough to indicate that the supposed hate-speech epidemic would need severe counter-measures.

*Compare the motivation given in the first part.

Excursion on the worst examples:
It might be tempting to point at the worst examples to motivate counter-measures. However, in order to get that proportion, even among these examples, high enough to justify the current demands, we would need to turn most “could-be-bad-depending-on-context” cases into “bad” cases. Moreover, the proportion of similarly bad cases among those currently accused of being hate speech on the Internet is likely to be considerably lower: Firstly, the character of the Israeli situation and the Israel–Arab conflicts imply that the likelihood of extremer statements is considerably increased (cf. various remarks). Secondly, there is good reason to assume that the above list was cherry-picked for the greatest possible effect, exaggerating the proportion even compared to other alleged Israeli hate speech from the same time periods. Thirdly, many of the examples are decades or more old, making predictions generally hard to perform; and, with a more PC climate, likely to err on the side of over-estimation. (Unsurprisingly, this is supported by the examples looked upon in the third part.)

Written by michaeleriksson

July 21, 2018 at 12:38 pm

Hate speech I: Introduction and general discussion

with 5 comments

Preamble: This started with the intention of writing one post, analyzing alleged examples of hate speech. However, with a continual wish for some additional point of explanation here-and-there, the text (and time consumption…) eventually grew out of hand, while the general/introductory part moved far beyond the original intentions. Correspondingly, the overall text was eventually broken into three parts, dealing with respectively the more general matter (here), the “Israeli” examples, and the “Tea-Party” examples. I have also tried to put the breaks on the general part, in order to diminish further growth; and I have not reworked it to the degree that might have been beneficial for a stand-alone document. Note that the belated division can have caused some undiscovered complications with optimal placement of text, internal references, or similar.

Even before the recent obsession with “Internet hate”, “hate speech”, whatnot, I had seen many, many cases of accusations of hate, sexism, racism, and various other “isms” that were entirely unfounded (and a small minority that were not)—often leaving the impression of deliberate attempts to artificially discredit opponents. (See also a number of older texts, including the more general discussions in e.g. [1], [2], [3].) Correspondingly, I have been skeptical to this obsession from the start; especially, since there has been no reason to expect a so fast and drastic change in the behavior of the alleged haters, and since a gradual intensification of the misbehavior of the accusers seems more likely a priori—in particular, as they have seen success after success when applying this type of attack in the past.

This skepticism has been increased by alleged instances normally being reported entirely without examples*—and by the few examples that do occur often being highly unconvincing (as in [4]).

*I.e. X claims that Y has engaged in hate speech, used “hate filled” expressions, made sexist/racist/whatnot statements—but does not provide one sliver of proof. We are apparently supposed to just take X’s claim as truth, which is an absolute absurdity in light of the many historical abuses. I am usually moved to the opposite conclusion: X has not provided evidence—because there is no convincing evidence to provide.

I decided to do a brief Internet search to find some more explicit examples of alleged “hate speech”, in order to indirectly probe the potential scope of the problem and whether drastic counter-measures like censorship or legal persecution might be legitimate (outside of rare exceptional cases). I soon found two* pages containing a total of 34** alleged cases, relating to Israel/Jews/Zionists resp. the “Tea Party”. These examples (discussed below) stem from collectors that are clearly hostile to these groups and who have had the opportunity to hand-pick the worst of the worst (in the former case, going back as far as 1895). In other words, it can be reasonably assumed that the examples fall solidly and unmistakably within what the collectors consider hate speech—not being border-line cases, mere filler to puff out a list of more serious utterances, or something that they would be afraid to include as “evidence” in e.g. a news paper.

*The restriction to two sources is a methodological weakness, and my conclusions would be stronger with a wider variety. However, (a) there are limits to even my time, (b) both sources have an approach very similar to what I have seen in the past, which lessens my concern. The “Israeli” source actually includes more valid examples than I am used to seeing.

**With some reservations for the exact division of cases. Consider the complication around 9, 9a, and 13 among the “Israeli” examples, and possible other deviations from a sensible division.

Correspondingly, these examples give an opportunity to find an upper* estimate of the bar for what passes** as hate speech.

*The real bar could conceivable be considerably lower.

**Note that the purpose is not to discuss whether hate speech and whatnot exists—denying the existence would be ridiculous in the light of e.g. ISIS. The point is rather to check the claims of the scope and the severity for plausibility by investigating the bar for inclusion: A too low bar makes the claims implausible, because it becomes clear that the size of the problem (or “problem”) is massively artificially increased. (This is also the reason why the older “Israeli” examples remain relevant: They are not recent utterances, but they are utterances that have recently been classified as hate speech by someone.)

As it turns out (cf. the more detailed analyses), few cases are bad enough to warrant counter-measures other than factual arguments—and few actually can be considered hate (see an excursion on the relevance of actual hate below).* The “Israeli” source contains some cases with more substance than the “Tea-Party” source; however, this should be seen in light of the very long time span, the intensity of the conflict (also see an excursion on war below), and similar factors—not to mention some far worse statements from Israel’s enemies… To boot, even the “Israeli” source contains a considerable proportion of nonsensical examples. Even going by the “Israeli” standard of inclusion, the claims around hate speech and Internet hate seem overblown; going by the “Tea-Party” standard of inclusion, they most definitely are.

*Which is not automatically to say that the other claims are perfectly fine to make—just that they are not so bad that there is reason to e.g. demand censorship. They can still be rude, narrow-minded, counterproductive, cold-hearted, whatnot. (However, a large proportion of them actually are perfectly fine.)

I originally intended to make an analysis according to a set of more elaborate criteria; however, I found this to be extremely hard due to the great room left to interpretation in many of the examples, as well as the great diversity of examples. Instead, I opted for a freer discussion, often informally using two dimensions: Firstly, is the message (with a high degree of likelihood; not just the possibility) an expression of hate (yes/no). Secondly, irrespective of the presence or absence of hate, what counter-measures might be reasonable (none/mere disapproval* or condemnation/censorship**/legal intervention***). In addition, discussions of factual correctness can take place, seeing that statements that contain a considerable**** factual error can have an undue effect, and that there is at least some risk that the error is a deliberate distortion. (However, note that such errors can also merely be a sign of ignorance.) In reverse, I will never accept the classification of a factually correct statement as e.g. “hate speech”—no matter how inconvenient it might be for e.g. the PC movement.

*In terms of e.g. how (un-)diplomatically something is conveyed, what methods of “agitation” or similar might be used, whether suggestions made are ethically hard to defend, etc. A disapproval in terms of e.g. “I have a different opinion; ergo, I disapprove” is not intended—otherwise more-or-less any debate could be considered a steady stream of hate speech from both parties.

**With some reservations for context. Here my focus is on public forums and comparable situations (including TV debates, blog entries and comments, comments on articles in online news-papers, and similar), provided that there is some pertinence to the statement. Censorship might still be warranted due to a lack of topic connection (even for harmless utterances, e.g. repeated comments concerning cars on a blog post about butterflies); and there might be some rare combination of forum and utterance where exceptional rules can apply (e.g. discussions of BDSM on a forum for pre-teens; however, not based on e.g. “some reader might be offended” or “we do no tolerate dissent”, which will defeat the purpose of a public forum). Governmental forums in a Rechtsstaat must be as forgiving as possible; strictly private forums, intended for a small and closed circle, and not even readable by others, could be allowed stricter and/or more arbitrary rules.

***Note that this should not be seen as a claim about the actual laws in any given country—it is a statement of what laws could legitimately be present in a Rechtsstaat: Could the laws be such that this statement is illegal with an eye at a reasonable protection of free speech? (Note that I do not automatically say that it should be illegal: It is better to err on the side of too much free speech than the reverse.) In particular, I make no comparison with the actual laws in Germany and Sweden, who both have unduly strong restrictions on free speech.

****For instance, claiming that 80% of all convicts are X, when the true number is 20%, is almost certain to distort the implications heavily. On the other hand, claiming 30% will in many contexts leave the big-picture implications the same, and is far easier to forgive. (But deliberate distortions of numbers are not acceptable, even when minor.)

I very deliberately do not use criteria like “is rude”, “is tasteless”, or “could offend someone”: All would reduce free speech far too much, are far too subjective, and at least the third commits the indefensible error of only looking at the result* of an utterance and ignoring the importance of the intent. To boot, such criteria could all too easily be deliberately abused to silence dissent, e.g. through feigning offense.

*If only the experience of the listener is important, there is basically no utterance that can be safely made, as is proved by the extremely thin skin, “triggerability”, and even deliberate search for offense that is common in some PC circles (notably in U.S. colleges).

I also do not (or only very rarely) consider issues of disagreement with overreaching goals, priorities of society, and similar. For instance, having the opinion that Israel has or does not have the right to exist, must be beyond legal and moral reproach—as is the case with all or almost all sheer opinions.* By extension, suggesting means to ensure the wanted outcome that are in proportion to the circumstances** must also be beyond reproach. Condemning someone because of disagreements with such goals and whatnots must be reserved for exceptional cases (e.g. the goal to exterminate all Jews); condemnation of the means must be reserved for those not in proportion to the circumstances. In particular, the accusation of “hate speech” must never become a means to conveniently silence dissent from some PC (or other) opinion just for being dissent.

*But considering someone an idiot for having the wrong opinion for a poor reason remains legitimate.

**Exactly what this entails is too large a question for this text, involving e.g. protection of rights of others, what hostile measures from others require counter-action, and similar. (To boot, there is some room to discuss whether a mere suggestion can be condemnable, or only the implementation of that suggestion; however, I will ignore that for now.) A few reasonably obvious examples concerning the wish to have an apple, however: Buying an apple is OK. Hitting a robber trying to steal an apple (that one already has) is OK. Hitting an innocent bystander in order to take his apple is not OK.

Excursion on the relevance of hate:
Whether actual hate is present, or merely e.g. loathing or contempt, can make a quite large difference in the implications: Hate can easily lead to active intervention against someone, even murder and terrorism, while e.g. loathing only very rarely does. (And when it does, usually to a far lesser degree of extremity.) To boot, hate says more about the hater than loathing does about the loather.

Claiming “hate” also makes highly speculative assumptions about the motivations and the inner state of the speaker, something dubious in it self; and implying that someone who e.g. verbally “attacks” (cf. below) automatically feels hate is unconscionable.

Correspondingly, it is very dubious to use formulations like “hate speech” where hate is not obviously present. A statement might very well still be worthy of condemnation and counter-measures, but if there is no actual hate, the use of “hate speech” distorts the situation in an intellectually dishonest (or incompetent) manner. In these cases, other names should be used.*

*Exactly which depends on the individual case, and I will not even try to create a guide. However, some possibilities include “derogatory speech”, “agitating speech”, and “hostile speech”. (Following the same naming schema. It might well be better to ignore the schema in favor of simpler and more common constructs, e.g. “agitation”.)

Nevertheless, exactly such uses seem to be programmatic in Leftist and PC propaganda. I also looked at some attempts to define the phrase “hate speech”, and found an inclusion of the word “hate”, or another implication of hate, in these definitions to be far from universal… For instance, at the time of writing, the first sentence of the Wikipedia article on hate speech reads “Hate speech is speech that attacks a person or group on the basis of attributes such as race, religion, ethnic origin, national origin, gender, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity.”, which does not necessitate even loathing, let alone hate. Indeed, “attacks” it is so vague that even perfectly legitimate expressions of opinion, or even very harmless derogatory statements, could be considered hate speech by some interpreters.*

*This points to another common problem, namely the use of a very wide definition to establish the scope of something—and another definition (or impression of a definition) to establish consequences. A good example is some treatments of rape in feminist propaganda. If we, for instance and for the sake of argument, consider “white men can’t jump” to be hate speech and use such examples to establish a very wide occurrence of hate speech, we cannot then require drastic measures against hate speech. Such measures would simply be entirely out of proportion in the vast majority of cases, often even punishing something that does not deserve any punishment.

More generally, a metaphoric, extended, or, in some sense, convenient use of words in situations like these is not defensible, due to the risk that false impressions are created. Consider similarly the feminist nonsense expression “rape culture”, which calls forth all the associations of rape—yet has virtually nothing to do with it… (As an aside, if PC application of the phrase “hate speech” would be applied fairly to everyone, feminist claims of a “rape culture” certainly would qualify as hate speech—as might “hate speech”, it self…)

Excursion on good and bad faith:
I note that many of the investigated examples require some involvement of bad faith, either on behalf of the collectors or in their preconceptions of those quoted*. Some of the quotes are so obviously not worthy of criticism that no reasonable and objective third-party would have considered them problematic; others require a choice of interpretation that varies between the implausible and just-one-of-several-possible; others yet point to poor research**, likely in the conviction that no research was needed (because “X is evil”).

*As in “X is evil; ergo, he spoke maliciously/with hate; ergo, he must have meant Y and not Z.”, while someone who does not have the same preconceptions might more easily chose Z over X.

**Consider e.g. the 7th “Israeli” item, where it is conceivable that the collector simply jumped to the conclusion that Meir engaged in historical revisionism, “ethnicity denial”, or considered the Palestinians such scum that they were not worthy of consideration—but where even brief research would have given a very, very different interpretation.

In my analyses, I have tended towards an assumption of good faith, possibly more so than I normally do. This for two reasons: Firstly, I generally recommend the application of Hanlon’s Razor. Secondly, I see it as important to apply in dubio pro reo when investigating these types of condemnations—in the presence of several reasonable interpretations of a statement, only one of them has to be acquitting in order to acquit. This especially since the quotes have been taken out of context* by the accusers, that the accusers had the opportunity to include more context*, that it is up to the accuser to prove guilt, and that the accused have no opportunity to defend themselves. (In the specific case of Leftist and PC debaters, I have seen distortion of opponents’ statements and opinions on countless occasions over several decades and in several countries—often in manner that is obviously deliberate. The “Tea-Party” examples, cf. the third part, contain a number of such distortions.)

*As I proof-read the other parts, I see that I have, there, used “context” in different meanings, e.g. textual context, historical context, context of speech. All of these are to some degree vulnerable to these complications; however, the degree varies. In the case of textual context the vulnerability and the risk of (deliberate or accidental) distortion are usually the largest; and textual context was my original intention when writing the above. However, when leaving out another type of context distorts the implications and reasonable interpretations of a quote, the same applies.

Excursion on war (and similar conditions):
Many of the “Israeli” examples stem from a time of great and violent conflict, possibly outright war, and often (mostly?) with the Israelis as the attacked party. In these cases, an additional “benefit of the doubt” must be given, compared to the analyses in their current state: In a hard fight, actions might be necessary that would otherwise be condemnable, and to consider speaking of such necessary evils to be hate speech is absurd. Notably, if the actions go beyond what is justifiable even in hard fight, the actions should be criticized without wasting time on the words.

Written by michaeleriksson

July 21, 2018 at 12:36 pm

Disturbing German news

with 2 comments

Today, I stumbled upon two German news stories that were both highly disturbing, overlapping with some of my writings, and showing how easy it is for the any of us to fall victim to forces that we might naively believe ourselves protected from*.

*E.g. because “the innocent have nothing to fear”, “things like that only happen to others”, …

Firstly, some poor sod has been assaulted in his own apartment, because of a TV program on pedophilia*, through which some people misidentified him as a pedophile** from the program, and took it upon themselves to beat him up so badly that he almost died***…

*According to the article and/or the TV program: There is a fair chance that the label is, for the umpteenth time, abused to include interest in post-pubescent “children” younger than 18, which is in a different realm than pedophilia—sexual attraction to pre-pubescent children.

**From the sparse information given, it is not clear whether he was identified as someone who actually had abused children (or “children”), or as someone who merely felt a sexual attraction towards them. Both are conceivable, considering how many appear to consider it impossible for a pedophile to not control himself; but the latter would make his attackers the more monstrous.

***Whether the attackers deliberate tried to kill him, whether his death was not intended, but at least considered acceptable, or whether an intended lesser attack “just” got out of hand, is not stated. However, if, as it appears, seven to ten people physically assault someone, it is almost a given that “lethal force” applies, irrespective of intent.

There are at least three important points to consider:

  1. That self-proclaimed “good” people who commit evil deeds are worse than the “evil” people who do not—these “good guys” are the true evil, the true monsters. I note that even if the victim had been a child-abuser, chances are that his crimes had not warranted his death; and unless the abuses had been unusually bad, his attackers proved themselves to be worse monsters. Here the victim was innocent…
  2. That it is extremely important to get the facts straight before taking drastic actions. Indeed, one of the reasons why the justice systems in “civilized” countries put emphasis on “due process”, “reasonable doubt”, etc., while strongly limiting self-justice, is exactly to try to prevent such scenarios. Regrettably, innocent people are still regularly convicted—and if a professional justice system can fail, how can a mob of TV viewers presume to take action?
  3. That there is tremendous danger in an attitude of “he is evil; he must not live”, “he has the wrong opinion; he must not speak”, “he does not support our cause; he must not vote”, …

Depending on unknown-to-me details of the case, other points might need making. For instance, if a “passive” pedophile has been grouped with child-abusers, this exemplifies both the danger of seeing opinion/being/character/whatnot and assuming action, or treating them as equal to action, and of believing that what applies to the group applies to each individual member of the group*.

*Interestingly, the politically correct are among the groups most likely to commit this error—despite being among those who complain the loudest of it in others…

Secondly, various apartments have been searched and computers confiscated based on suspicion of “hate postings”. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find examples or quotes of these alleged hate postings, implying that I cannot judge whether these specific instances could have been considered illegal* (as might be the case with “kill all X”), offensive-to-a-reasonable-reader-but-legal, or just everything-not-pc-is-hate-speech**. Irrespective of this, this situation is troubling on several counts, including that confiscating computers is an extreme and improductive measure*** and that going to such lengths based on, as it appears, mere suspicion of guilt jeopardizes the Rechtsstaat. (And is a dubious prioritization of police resources…)

*Note that the German law is unusually strict, especially when anything even hints at support of the old Nazi-regime or its ideas. (This sometimes to a point that the ethical justifiability of the laws seems dubious, and including absurdities like computer games being censored for using Swastikas in depictions of Nazi enemies…)

**During the years that I actually bothered debating on blogs, I saw a great many examples of this. Other examples regularly reach me through the current news, as with [1]. The situation is so bad, that I am not willing to attribute this to sheer incompetence or the inability to see the flawed perspective and the hypocrisy, nor to forgive this by applying Hanlon’s Razor—no, problems on this scale can hardly occur without malice and intellectual dishonesty, by a deliberate use of unfair accusations as a means to an end.

***I note e.g. disproportionately negative effects on the victims of the confiscation; the uselessness of any found evidence through the ease with which digital evidence can be planted; and the uselessness of a search on the computer of a “big fish”, who will have the means to protect himself through use of encryption and similar technologies. See also e.g. [2].

The “chilling effect” of such actions is also disturbing: How do we know that what we say will not be deemed hate speech or illegal speech by someone in a position to cause trouble? What if the police overreacts as mindlessly as in [3]? What if our own words are judged by such absurd criteria as in [1]? How do we know that factual statements, reasonable opinion, attempts at serious debate will not cause the police to knock on our own doors? The simple truth is that we can only hope, and if this trend is carried on, the borders of even de facto illegal “hate speech” will continually be pushed into a more and more unreasonable territory*.

*Based on the comparatively small size of the police action, there is a fair chance that it was directed at outrageous cases—this time around. If no protests follow, this is likely to change… Obviously, what is called “hate speech” (or “racism”, “sexism”, whatnot) in PC circles are very often far from being so, even now.

More generally, I would seriously question whether even the vilest* expression of opinion (per se; without e.g. a call for action) should ever be treated thus. It would be better to restrict measures to expression that also imply an action or a call for action (e.g. “Go kill an X today!”**, but not “All X deserve to die!”***).

*When it comes to anything but the vilest expression, measures like police intervention are unacceptable, anti-democratic, and a violation of the Rechtsstaat. Consider e.g. the relative triviality of the case discussed in [1] and the disproportionate reaction (admittedly by non-police).

**Again, this type of statement is sometimes heard from extremists within the Leftist or PC spheres. Cf. e.g. my discussion of the Charlottesville events.

***Statements that are not uncommon among Leftist and PC extremists.

As an aside, I found the claim disturbing that hate speech would come predominantly from the “extreme Right”*: Not only have I so far seen far more hate from Leftist and PC extremists (especially feminists) than from the “extreme Right”, which makes me doubt the neutrality of this action and suspect a double standard**, but I also suspect the common tendency to consider anyone with e.g. nationalist, anti-immigration, or whatnot opinions to be “extreme Right”, even when other opinions would point to Left, thereby skewing the estimations of the (non-extreme) Left and “Right” among the broad masses.

*Starting with the renewed observation that this is a misnomer, unlike “extreme Left”: The extreme Left consists of people with extreme versions of Leftist opinions or who are willing to use extreme methods to reach Leftist goals; the “extreme Right” does not have the same role relative the “Right” in general. (To which must be added that the “Right” is far more heterogeneous than the Left, and that while the label “Left” can make sense, the label “Right” hardly ever does, except as an opposition to “Left”.)

**I note both that a double standard concerning opinions and behaviors is extremely common among e.g. PC, and Leftist groups, with the most intolerant people often being the ones that complain the most of intolerance in others, the most sexist those who complain the most of sexism in others, etc.; and that there is a considerable skew in German law between the extreme Left and the “extreme Right”. For instance, a few years ago I read a news-paper article on crimes committed by these groups. The main claim was that crimes were more common on the “extreme Right”; however, it was clear from the presented statistics that this was only true due to a legal asymmetry, e.g. in that German law forbids carrying swastikas but is silent on the hammer-and-sickle. When we looked only at non-asymmetrical crimes (e.g. assault, break-ins, …), the numbers were approximately the same.

Written by michaeleriksson

June 16, 2018 at 7:42 am