Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Posts Tagged ‘political correctness

Poe-litically correct mad-houses

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I have long marveled at the absurd excesses, extreme irrationality, and virtual insatiability of large parts of the PC crowd, e.g. among Swedish feminists or in U.S. colleges.* The problems in higher education are especially depressing, because colleges and universities are supposed to be about truth, knowledge, rationality, freedom of speech and opinion, intellectual development …—an example for all of society. Starting in the 1960s and heading downward ever since, they have been slowly turning into the opposite of this—a center for pseudo- and anti-intellectuals, those pushing ideological agendas over truth, those trying to indoctrinate the younger generation instead of teaching it how to think critically, those wanting to silence their opponents by any means, …** In some cases, the transformation is more-or-less complete by now.

*See a number of older posts, or sites like www.mindingthecampus.org and www.thefire.org, for examples and deeper discussions. Also note an excursion at the end. If you think that I engage in rhetorical exaggeration, please read even a handful of articles on such topics from other parties first—you will find that I do not. (Notwithstanding that the mentioned sources do not necessarily give a complete overall image of the college situation, as they focus on particular types of abuse and rarely have a reason to mention positives.)

**In all fairness, the faculty is, at least outside social sciences, the place where the sensible people are still most likely to be found. Students and administrators often appear to be the larger problem; and the three reinforce each other’s behavior. To boot, the destructive tendencies do not necessarily reflect majority opinions in any group—maybe they do, maybe it is more a matter of who cries the loudest wins. (And can these people cry!)

The point has come where I often even doubt whether mere ignorance, stupidity, intellectual dishonesty, hypocrisy, a “the end justifies the means” mentality, whatnot, are enough to explain the situation—or whether at least some of the involved people might actually suffer from severe mental problems.

As I contemplated* grabbing an online copy of “Alice in Wonderland” to explore the topic of insanity by transforming it into a portrayal of U.S. colleges, I stumbled upon something usable as is, with only a minor switch of mental perspective: Poe’s The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether. In brief, it tells the story of a (as it transpires) less-than-bright young man, who visits a “mad-house” in the hopes of educating himself on a new (fictional) system of treatment—“soothing”. Soothing takes an extremely tolerant approach to the behavior and self-/world-perception of the patients—to the point that someone who believes himself a chicken is treated like a chicken.**

*I might or might not. This will depend on how much time I have available, how long it is, and how well the overall story can be made to fit. (I have not read it since a teenager, leaving me a little vague on these details.)

**In all fairness, unlike e.g. U.S. colleges, this is partly with the intent of making the patient return to a more conventional perception, e.g. in that someone being given only corn to eat might realize that he is not entirely a chicken after all.

Our unnamed protagonist finds himself in the company of the superintendent, Monsieur Maillard, and a young woman. After the departure of the latter, he expresses some curiosity as to whether she was one of the patients, but is reassured that she was a niece of Monsieur Maillard’s. He receives some information about the system, the history of the mad-house, and whatnot—but is also told that the soothing system has been replaced by one largely of Monsieur Maillard’s invention, with influence by Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether.

The protagonist is not yet allowed to see any patients, but is invited to dinner “[…]where a very numerous company were assembled — twenty-five or thirty in all. They were, apparently, people of rank—certainly of high breeding[…]”. As dinner progresses, various stories of patients are told and absurd events occur that have some very clear implications to a rational reader, but, sadly, not to the protagonist. This includes the young lady from before attempting to undress in front of the rest of the party…

Monsieur Maillard eventually tells a story of when the soothing system misfired, strongly contributing to its abolition, and the patients took over the mad-house, showing rather less consideration to their former keepers than had been shown in the other direction: “The keepers and kept were soon made to exchange places. Not that exactly either — for the madmen had been free, but the keepers were shut up in cells forthwith, and treated, I am sorry to say, in a very cavalier manner.”

Further said about the how the leader of the revolution kept the new state of affairs secret: “He admitted no visitors at all — with the exception, one day, of a very stupid-looking young gentleman of whom he had no reason to be afraid. He let him in to see the place — just by way of variety, — to have a little fun with him.”

Shortly thereafter, in the timeline of the dinner, the “lunatics”/keepers stage a break-out*, take back control, and reveal further parts of the story, including that they had been tarred-and-feathered and locked up for more than a month.

*This, regrettably, has not (yet?) happened in the real world.

The story concludes with the protagonist’s lament “[…] that, although I have searched every library in Europe for the works of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether, I have, up to the present day, utterly failed in my endeavors at procuring an edition.”; however, I am certain that things have changed since Poe’s days and that any modern college library will contain these or many similar works…

Excursion on insatiability:
A particular absurdity is that the less* actual reason for a complaint is present, the greater the complaints are. This includes, e.g. accusations of racism, intolerance, hate speech, … The reason appears to be that the goal-post are continually moved to more and more extreme positions, even after an absurd state has been reached. Consider e.g. Swedish feminists who, as arguably the most privileged and advantaged major group in the world, still complain about oppression, discrimination, and whatnot; or the U.S. idiocy of micro-aggressions, which can make any interaction between a White straight man and someone not a White straight man into a grave offense; or objections to hoop ear-rings worn by the “wrong” people; or fits being thrown over the casting of a “binary”** person in a “non-binary” film role.

*From the point of view of the Leftists/PC crowd/SJWs/… Other parties can have quite a lot to complain about, including racism, intolerance, hate speech, … by these groups.

**I.e. someone who identifies as purely man or purely woman and does so in concordance with biological sex. (I am uncertain whether heterosexuality is also required.)

Excursion on other works of literature:
Much of what goes on is disturbingly similar to some works by e.g. George Orwell, Franz Kafka, Anthony Burgess, and Ayn Rand. The extreme attempts at thought-control and extermination of even the slightest hint of dissent, as well as the ever sinking threshold for thoughtcrime and sexcrime, might leave the impression* that “Big Brother” has been taken as a deliberate role model. (A separate text on this might follow.) The quasi-Orwellian slogan “Ignorance is Enlightenment” also catches many of the problems…

*More likely, it is a natural development paralleling the problems that inspired Orwell—at the hands of those ignorant of his works. Litmus test: When you hear “Big Brother”, do you think surveillance or thought-control?

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Written by michaeleriksson

August 10, 2018 at 4:51 am

A call for more (!) discrimination

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The word “discrimination” and its variations (e.g. “to discriminate”) is hopelessly abused and misunderstood in today’s world. Indeed, while properly referring to something (potentially) highly beneficial and much needed, it has come to be a mere short for longer phrases like “sexual discrimination” and “racial discrimination”.* Worse, even these uses are often highly misleading.** Worse yet, the word has increasingly even lost the connection with these special cases, degenerating into a mere ad hominem credibility killer or a blanket term for any unpopular behavior related (or perceived as related) to e.g. race.***

*Note that it is “sexual” and “racial”—not “sexist” and “racist”. The latter two involve ascribing an intention and mentality to someone else, beyond (in almost all cases) what can possibly be known—and is sometimes manifestly false. Further, their focus on the intent rather than the criteria would often make them unsuitable even in the rare cases where the use could otherwise be justified.

**E.g because a discrimination on a contextually rational and reasonable criterion (e.g. GPA for college admissions) indirectly results in differences in group outcome, which are then incorrectly ascribed to e.g. “racial discrimination”. The latter, however, requires that race was the direct criterion for discrimination.

***Including e.g. having non-PC opinions about some group or expressing that opinion, neither of which can in any meaningful sense be considered discrimination—even in cases where the opinion or expression is worthy of disapproval. This including even the (already fundamentally flawed) concept of micro-aggressions.

What then is discrimination? Roughly speaking: The ability to recognize the differences between whatever individuals/objects/phenomena/… are being considered, to recognize the expected effects of decisions involving them, and to act accordingly. Indeed, if I were to restrict the meaning further, it is the “act” part that I would remove…* (Also see a below excursion on the Wiktionary definitions.)

*E.g. in that I would not necessarily consider someone discriminating who flipped a coin and then hired exclusively men or exclusively women based on the outcome—apart from the greater group impact, this is not much different from the entirely undiscriminating hiring by a coin flip per candidate. I might possibly even exclude e.g. the feminist stereotype of a White Old Man who deliberately hires only men because of the perceived inferiority of women: This is, at best, poor discrimination on one level and a proof of a lack of discrimination on another. C.f. below. (While at the same time being a feminist’s prime example of “discrimination” in the distorted sense.)

For instance, deciding to hire or not to hire someone as a physician based on education and whether a license to practice medicine is present, is discrimination. So is requiring a lawyer to have passed a bar exam in order to perform certain tasks. So is requiring a fire fighter to pass certain physical tests. So is using easier tests for women* than for men. So is using health-related criteria to choose between food stuffs. So is buying one horse over another based on quality of teeth or one car over another based on less rust damage. Etc. Even being able to tell the difference between different types of discrimination based on justification and effects could be seen as discrimination!

*This is, specifically, sexual discrimination, which shows that even such special cases can have the blessing of the PC crowd. It also provides an example of why it is wrong to equate “sexual” and “sexist”, because, no matter how misguided this discrimination is, it is unlikely to be rooted in more than a greater wish for equality of outcome. To boot, it is an example of poor discrimination through focus on the wrong criteria or having the wrong priorities. (Is equality of outcome when hiring really more important than the lives of fire victims?!?)

Why do we need it?

Discrimination is very closely related to the ability to make good decisions (arguably, any decision short of flipping a coin)—and the better someone is at discriminating, the better the outcomes tend to be. Note that this is by no means restricted to such obvious cases as hiring decisions based on education. It also involves e.g. seeing small-but-critical differences in cases where an argument, analogy, or whatnot does or does not apply; or being able to tell what criteria are actually relevant to understanding the matter/making the decision at hand.*

*Consider e.g. parts of the discussion in the text that prompted this one; for instance, where to draw the line between speech and action, or the difference between the IOC’s sponsor bans and bans on kneeling football players. Or consider why my statements there about employer’s rights do not, or only partially, extend to colleges: Without a lack of understanding, someone might see the situations as analogous, based e.g. on “it’s their building” or “it’s their organization”. Using other factors, the situation changes radically, e.g. in that the employer pays the employee while the college is paid by the student; that co-workers who do not get along can threaten company profits, while this is only rarely the case with students who do not get along; and that a larger part of the “college experience” overlaps with the students personal life than is, m.m., the case for an employee—especially within the U.S. campus system. (For instance, what characteristic of a college would give it greater rights to restrict free speech in a dorm than a regular landlord in an apartment building? A lecture hall, possibly—a dorm, no.)

Indeed, very many of today’s societal problems and poor political decisions go back, at least partially, to a failure to discriminate resp. to discriminate based on appropriate criteria.

Consider e.g. the common tendency to consider everything relating to “nuclear” or “radioactive” to be automatically evil (or the greater evil): Nuclear power is “evil”, yet fossil energies do far more damage to the world. The nuclear bombings of Japan were “evil”, yet their conventional counter-part killed more people. Radioactive sterilization of food is “evil”, yet science considers it safe—much unlike food poisoning… What if discrimination was not done by name or underlying technology, but rather based on the effects, risks, opportunities?

Consider the (ignorant or deliberate) failure to discriminate between e.g. anti-Islamists and anti-Muslims or immigration critics and xenophobes, treating them the same and severely hindering a civilized public debate.

Consider the failure to discriminate between school children by ability and the enforcing of a “one size fits all” system that barely even fits the average*, and leaves the weakest and strongest as misfits—and which tries to force everyone to at a minimum go through high school (or its local equivalent). (Germany still does a reasonable job, but chances are that this will not last; Sweden was an absolute horror already when I went to school; and the U.S. is a lot worse than it should and could be.)

*Or worse, is so centered on the weakest that school turns into a problem even for the average… Indeed, some claim that e.g. the U.S. “No Child Left Behind Act” has done more harm than good for this very reason.

Consider the failure to discriminate between politicians based on their expected long-term effect on society, rather than the short-term effect on one-self.

Consider the failure to discriminate between mere effort and actual result, especially with regard to political decisions. (Especially in the light of the many politicians who do not merely appear to fail at own discrimination, but actually try to fool the voters through showing that “something is being done”—even should that something be both ineffective and inefficient.)

Consider the failure to discriminate between those who can think for themselves (and rationally, critically, whatnot) and those who can not when it comes to e.g. regulations, the right to vote, self-determination, …

Consider the failure to discriminate between use and abuse, e.g. of alcohol or various performance enhancing drugs. (Or between performance enhancing drugs that are more and less dangerous…)

Consider the undue discrimination between sex crimes (or sexcrimes…) and regular crimes, especially regarding restrictions on due process or reversal of reasonable expectations. (Whether sex is involved is not a valid criterion, seeing that e.g. due process is undermined as soon as any crime is exempt from it.)

Consider the undue discrimination between Israelis and Palestinians by many Westerners, where the one is held to a “Western” standard of behavior and the other is not. (Nationality is not relevant to this aspect of the conflict.)

A particularly interesting example is the classification of people not yet 18 as “children”*, which effectively puts e.g. those aged 3, 10, and 17 on the same level—an often absurd lack of discrimination, considering the enormous differences (be they physical, mental, in terms of experience or world-view, …) between people of these respective ages. Nowhere is this absurdity larger than in that the “child” turns into an “adult” merely through the arrival of a certain date, while being virtually identically the same as the day before—and this accompanied with blanket rights and obligations, with no other test of suitability. Note how this applies equally to someone well-adjusted, intelligent, and precocious as it does to someone who is intellectually over-challenged even by high school and who prefers to lead a life of petty crimes and drug abuse. (To boot, this rapid change of status is highly likely to make the “children” less prepared for adulthood, worsening the situation further.)

*The size of the problem can vary from country to country, however. In e.g. the U.S. there is a fair chance that a word like “minor” will be used, especially in more formal contexts, which at least reduces the mental misassociations; in Sweden, “barn” (“child”) dominates in virtually all contexts, including (at least newer) laws.

However, there are many other problems relating to the grouping of “children” with children, especially concerning undifferentiated societal and political debates around behavior from and towards these “children”. This in particular in the area of sex, where it is not just common to use terms like “pedophile”* and “child-porn” for the entire age-range, but where I have actually repeatedly seen the claim that those sexually attracted to someone even just shy of 18 would be perverts**—despite the age limit being largely arbitrary***, despite that many are at or close to their life-time peak in attractiveness at that age, despite that most of that age are fully sexually mature, and despite that people have married and had children at considerably lower ages for large stretches of human history.

*This word strictly speaking refers to someone interested in pre-pubescent children, making it an abuse of language not covered by the (disputable) justification that can be given to “child-porn” through the wide definition of “child”. Even if the use was semantically sound, however, the extremely different implications would remain, when children and “children” at various ages are considered.

**Presumably, because the classification of someone younger as a “child” has become so ingrained with some weak thinkers that they actually see 18 as a magic limit transcending mere laws, mere biological development, mere maturity (or lack there of), and leaving those aged 17 with more in common with those aged 8 than those aged 18.

***Indeed, the “age of consent” is strictly speaking separate from the “age of maturity”, with e.g. Sweden (15) and Germany (14 or 16, depending on circumstances) having a considerably lower age of consent while keeping the age of maturity at 18.

Not all discrimination, depending on exact meaning implied, is good, but this is usually due to a lack of discrimination. Consider e.g. making a hiring decision between a Jewish high-school drop-out and a Black Ph.D. holder: With only that information present, the hiring decision can be based on either the educational aspect, the race/ethnicity aspect, or a random choice.* If we go by the educational or race aspect, there is discrimination towards the candidates. However, if the race aspect is used, then this is a sign that there has been too little or incorrect discrimination towards the hiring criteria—otherwise the unsuitability of the race aspect as a criterion would have been recognized. This, in turn, is the reason why racial discrimination is almost always wrong: It discriminates by an unsound criterion. We can also clearly see why “discrimination” must not be reduced to the meanings implied by “racial [and whatnot] discrimination”—indeed, someone truly discriminating (adjective) would not have been discriminating (verb) based on race in the above example.

*Or a combination thereof, which I will ignore: Including the combinations has no further illustrative value.

Excursion on proxy criteria:
Making decisions virtually always involves some degree of proxy criteria, because it is impossible to judge e.g. how well an applicant for a job fairs on the true criteria. For instance, the true criterion might amount to “Who gives us the best value for our money?”. This, however, is impossible to know in advance, and the prospective employer resorts to proxy criteria like prior experience, references, education, … that are likely to give a decent, if far from perfect, idea of what to expect. (Indeed, even these criteria are arguably proxies-for-proxies like intelligence, industriousness, conscientiousness, …—and, obviously, the ability to discriminate!)

Unfortunately, sometimes proxies are used that are less likely to give valuable information (e.g. impression from an interview) and/or are “a proxy too far” (e.g. race). To look at the latter, a potential U.S. employer might (correctly) observe that Jews currently tend to have higher grades than Blacks and tend to advance higher in the educational system, and conclude that the Jew is the better choice. However, seeing that this is a group characteristic, it would be much better to look at the actual individual data, removing a spurious proxy: Which of the two candidates does have the better grades and the more advanced education—not who might be expected to do so based on population statistics.

As an aside, one of my main beefs with increasing the number of college graduates (even at the cost of lowering academic standards to let the unsuitable graduate) is that the main role of a diploma was to serve as a proxy for e.g. intelligence and diligence, and that this proxy function is increasingly destroyed. Similarly, the greater infantilization of college students removes the proxy effect for ability to work and think for oneself.

Excursion on discrimination and double standards:
Interestingly, discrimination otherwise rejected, usually relating to the passage of time, is sometimes arbitrarily considered perfectly acceptable and normal. A good example is the age of maturity and variations of “age of X” (cf. above)—a certain age is used as an extremely poor and arbitrary proxy for a set of personal characteristics.

In other cases, such discrimination might have a sufficient contextual justification that it is tolerated or even considered positive. For instance, even a well qualified locker-room attendant of the wrong sex might not be acceptable to the visitors of a public bath, and the bath might then use sex as a hiring criterion. Not allowing men to compete in e.g. the WTA or WNBA can be necessary to give women a reasonable chance at sports success (and excluding women from the ATP or the NBA would then be fair from a symmetry point of view). Etc.

Then there is affirmative action…

Excursion on how to discriminate better:
A few general tips on how to discriminate better: Question whether a criterion is actually relevant, in it self, or is just as proxy, proxy-for-a-proxy, proxy-for-a-proxy-for-a-proxy, …; and try to find a more immediate criterion. Question the effectiveness of criteria (even immediate ones). Do not just look at what two things have in common (e.g. building ownership, cf. above) but what makes them different (e.g. being paid or paying). Try to understand the why and the details of something and question whether your current assumptions on the issue are actually correct—why is X done this way*, why is Y a criterion, why is Z treated differently, … Try to look at issues with reason and impartiality, not emotion or personal sympathy/antipathy; especially, when the issues are personal, involve loved ones or archenemies, concern “pet peeves”, or otherwise are likely to cause a biased reaction.

*The results can be surprising. There is a famous anecdote about a member of the younger generation who wanted to find out why the family recipe for a pot-roast (?) called for cutting off part of it in a certain manner. Many questions later, someone a few generations older, and the origin of the tradition, revealed the truth: She had always done so in order to … make the pot-roast fit into her too small pan. Everyone else did so in the erroneous belief that there was some more significant purpose behind it—even when their pans were larger.

Excursion on when not to discriminate (at all):
There might be instances where potential discrimination, even when based on superficially reasonable grounds, is better not done.

For instance, topics like free speech, especially in a U.S. campus setting, especially with an eye on PC/Leftist/whatnot censorship, feature heavily in my current thoughts and readings. Here we can see an interesting application of discrimination: Some PC/Leftist/whatnot groups selectively (try to) disallow free speech when opinions contrary to theirs are concerned. Now, if someone is convinced that he is right, is that not a reasonable type of discrimination (from his point of view)?

If the goal is to push one’s own opinion through at all cost, then, yes, it is.

Is that enough justification? Only to those who are not just dead certain and lacking in respect for others, but who also are very short-sighted:

Firstly, as I often note, there is always a chance that even those convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt are wrong. (Indeed, those dead certain often turn out to be dead wrong, while those who turn out to be right often were open to doubts.) What if someone silences the opposition, forces public policy to follow a particular scheme without debate, indoctrinates future generations in a one-sided manner, …—and then turns out to be wrong? What if the wrongness is only discovered with a great delay, or not at all, due to the free-speech restrictions? Better then to allow other opinions to be uttered.

Secondly, if the power situation changes, those once censoring can suddenly find themselves censored—especially, when they have themselves established censorship as the state of normality. Better then to have a societal standard that those in power do not censor those out of power.

Thirdly, there is a dangerous overlap between the Niemöller issue and the fellow-traveler fallacy: What if the fellow travelers who jointly condemn their common enemies today, condemn each other tomorrow? (Similarly, it is not at all uncommon for a previously respected member of e.g. the feminist community to be immediately cast out upon saying something “heretic”.) Better then to speak up in defense of the censored now, before it is too late.

Fourthly, exposure to other opinions, dialectic, eclecticism, synthesis, … can all be beneficial for the individual—and almost a necessity when we look at e.g. society as a whole, science, philosophy, … Better then to not forego these benefits.

Fifthly, and possibly most importantly, censorship is not just an infringement of rights against the censored speaker—it is also an infringement of rights against the listeners. If we were (I do not!) to consider the act against the speaker justified (e.g. because he is “evil”, “racist”, “sexist”, or just plainly “wrong”); by what reasoning can this be extended to the listeners? Short of “it’s for their own good” (or, just possibly, “it’s for the greater good”), I can see nothing. We would then rob others of their right to form their own opinions, to expose themselves to new ideas, whatnot, in the name of “their own good”—truly abhorrent. Better then to allow everyone the right to choose freely, both in terms of whom to listen to and what to do with what is heard.

Excursion on failure to discriminate in terminology:
As with the child vs. “child” issue above, there are many problems with (lack of) discrimination that can arise through use of inappropriate words or inconsistent use of words. A very good example is the deliberate abuse of the word “rape” to imply a very loosely and widely defined group of acts, in order to ensure that “statistics” show a great prevalence, combined with a (stated or implied) more stringent use when these “statistics” are presented as an argument for e.g. policy change. Since there is too little discrimination between rape and “rape”, these statistics are grossly misleading. Other examples include not discriminating between the words* “racial” and “racist”, “[anabolic] steroid” and “PED”, “convicted” and “guilty”, …

*Or the concepts: I am uncertain to what degree the common abuse of “racist” for “racial” is based on ignorance of language or genuine confusion about the corresponding concepts. (Or intellectually dishonest rhetoric by those who do know the difference…) Similar remarks can apply elsewhere.

(In a bigger picture, similar problems include e.g. euphemistic self-labeling, as with e.g. “pro-life” and “pro-choice”; derogatory enemy-labeling, e.g. “moonbat” and “wingnut”; and emotionally manipulative labels on others, e.g. the absurd rhetorical misnomer “dreamer” for some illegal aliens. Such cases are usually at most indirectly related to discrimination, however.)

Excursion on Wikipedia and Wiktionary:
Wikipedia, often corrupted by PC editors [1], predictably focuses solely on the misleading special-case meanings in the allegedly main Wikipedia article on discrimination, leaving appropriate use only to alleged special cases… A particular perversity is a separate article on Discrimination in bar exam, which largely ignores the deliberate discriminatory attempt to filter out those unsuited for the bar and focuses on alleged discrimination of Blacks and other ethnicities. Not only does this article obviously fall into the trap of seeing a difference in outcome (on the exam) as proof of differences in opportunity; it also fails to consider that Whites are typically filtered more strongly before* they encounter the bar exam, e.g. through admittance criteria to college often being tougher.**

*Implying that the exam results of e.g. Blacks and Whites are not comparable. As an illustration: Take two parallel school-classes and the task to find all students taller than 6′. The one teacher just sends all the students directly to the official measurement, the other grabs a ruler and only sends those appearing to be taller than 5′ 10”. Of course, a greater proportion of the already filtered students will exceed the 6′ filtering… However, this is proof neither that the members of their class would be taller (in general), nor that the test would favor their class over the other.

**Incidentally, a type of racial discrimination gone wrong: By weakening criteria like SAT success in favor of race, the standard of the student body is lowered without necessarily helping those it intends to help. (According to some, e.g. [2] and [3], with very different perspectives and with a long time between them.) To boot, this type of discrimination appears to hit another minority group, the East-Asians, quite hard. (They do better on the objective criteria than Whites; hence, they, not Whites, are the greater victims.)

Worse, one of its main sources (and the one source that I checked) is an opinion piece from a magazine (i.e. a source acceptable for a blog, but not for an encyclopedia), which is cited in a misleading manner:* Skimming through the opinion piece, the main theses appear to be (a) that the bar exam protects the “insiders” from competition by “outsiders” by ensuring a high entry barrier**, (b) that this strikes the poor*** unduly, and (c) that the bar exam should be abolished.

*Poor use of sources is another thing I criticized in [1].

**This is Economics 101. The only debatable point is whether the advantages offset the disadvantages for society as a whole.

***Indeed, references to minorities appear to merely consider them a special case of the “poor”, quite unlike the Wikipedia article. To boot, from context and time, I suspect that the “minorities” might have been e.g. the Irish rather than the Blacks or the Hispanics…

Wiktionary does a far better job. To quote and briefly discuss the given meanings:

  1. Discernment, the act of discriminating, discerning, distinguishing, noting or perceiving differences between things, with intent to understand rightly and make correct decisions.

    Rightfully placed at the beginning: This is the core meaning, the reason why discrimination is a good thing and something to strive for, and what we should strive to preserve when we use the word.

  2. The act of recognizing the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in situations and choosing good.

    Mostly a subset of the above meaning, with reservations for the exact meaning of “good”. (But I note that even a moral “good” could be seen as included above.)

  3. The setting apart of a person or group of people in a negative way, as in being discriminated against.

    Here we have something that could be interpreted in the abused sense; however, it too could be seen as a subset of the first item, with some reservation for the formulation “negative way”. Note that e.g. failing to hire someone without a license to practice medicine for a job as a practicing physician would be a good example of the meaning (and would be well within the first item).

  4. (sometimes discrimination against) Distinct treatment of an individual or group to their disadvantage; treatment or consideration based on class or category rather than individual merit; partiality; prejudice; bigotry.

    sexual or racial discrimination

    Only here do we have the abused meaning—and here we see the central flaw: The example provided (“sexual or racial discrimination”) only carries the given meaning (in as far as exceeding the previous item) when combined with a qualifier; dropping such qualifiers leads to the abuse. “Sexual discrimination”, “racial discrimination”, etc., carry such meanings—just “discrimination” does not. This makes it vital never to drop these qualifiers.

    Similarly, not all ships are space ships or steam ships, the existence of the terms “space ship” and “steam ship” notwithstanding; not all forest are rain forests; sea lions are not lions at all and sea monkeys are not even vertebrates; …

    Note that some of the listed meanings only apply when viewed in the overall context of the entire sentence. Bigotry, e.g., can be a cause of discrimination by an irrelevant criterion; however, “sexual discrimination”, etc., is not it self bigotry. Prejudice* can contain sexual discrimination but is in turn a much wider concept.

    *“Prejudice” is also often misunderstood in a potentially harmful manner: A prejudice is not defined by being incorrect—but by being made in advance and without knowing all the relevant facts. For example, it is prejudice to hear that someone plays in the NBA and assume, without further investigation, that he is tall—more often than not (in this case), it is also true.

  5. The quality of being discriminating, acute discernment, specifically in a learning situation; as to show great discrimination in the choice of means.

    Here we return to a broadly correct use, compatible with the first item, but in a different grammatical role (for want of a better formulation).

    I admit to having some doubts as to whether the implied grammatical role makes sense. Can the quality of being discriminating be referred to as “discrimination”? (As opposed to e.g. “showing discrimination”.) Vice versa for the second half.

  6. That which discriminates; mark of distinction, a characteristic.

    The same, but without reservations for grammatical role.

Written by michaeleriksson

August 9, 2018 at 2:08 am

Hate speech III: Analysis of alleged Tea-Party examples

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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).

Remarks:

  • 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 one comment

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.

Remarks:

  • 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 2 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

Some problems with Wikipedia

with 2 comments

Preamble:
On several occasions, I have started a text on problems with Wikipedia. With too many items to discuss, I have always lost interest before I was even half-done. To finally get something published on the matter, I have taken my last attempt (from May 2017), struck out a few keywords-that-should-have-been-expanded-upon, and polished it a little (including a few links to more recent posts); I acknowledge that more specific examples would be helpful, but, with the intervening time, the old examples are long gone. The result is the rest of this text.

I have long been a great fan, avid reader, and sometime editor of Wikipedia. For at least some part of its history, I have considered Wikipedia worth more than the rest of the Web* together. The more painful it has been for me to see the gradual degeneration of Wikipedia, the loss of the encyclopedic ideal, and the takeover by politically and ideologically motivated editors in many subject areas. Below I will discuss some of the current problems, many of which could be explained by a drift** in authorship from people of over-average intelligence, from an academic background, and/or with more technical interests to members of the broader masses.

*Here it pays to make the distinction between Web and Internet. Email, e.g., is part of the latter but not the former.

**A similar drift explains many of the things that have changed for the worse on the Internet, in the Open-Source community, and similar, over time. Indeed, the people who dominated the Internet when I first encountered it (1994) form a very small minority by now. Also see a post expanding on these thoughts.

  1. A great proliferation of “popular culture”* sections that bring little or no value, but waste space and the editors energy. Why on Earth does every nit-wit who has just heard topic X briefly referenced on “Family Guy” or “The Simpsons” feel the need to add this to the Wikipedia article on X?!?

    *The section heading is almost always a variation of, or contains, “popular culture”. The contents are not always compatible with this and I use this phrase without implying that it is well chosen.

    Discussion of films and books referencing X can have a valid place, but this requires some degree of significance of the work, that the presence of X in the work is considerable, and that it actually brings some added value. In rare cases, there might be reason to include some mention to show that X has had an influence on popular culture, but it is then almost always better to just state that it had an influence, rather than to attempt to list every single TV episode that made a fleeting reference. For an article on Mozart, e.g., the movie “Amadeus” is highly relevant; his (hypothetical) appearance on an episode of “Family Guy” is not; that a character on some-TV-show-or-other liked his music is utterly irrelevant and unencyclopedic.

  2. A decrease in the quality of language. This includes a drop in register and increasing deviations from encyclopedic language in favor of journalistic language; and a number of more detailed issues. (See excursion at the end.)
  3. A PC/feminist/whatnot influence, which includes spurious or irrelevant references to social constructs; uncritical support of “equality of outcome” as something positive, or an implicit assumption that any difference in outcome is caused by a lack of “equality of opportunity”; every second article having a section of feminism’s role for the topic, the feminist take on an topic, whatnot*; categorical and unscientific denial that races exist, even in articles where the claim has no obvious purpose or relevance; …

    *Notably, the relevance of specifically feminism is in most cases so low that another dozen movements and whatnots would have an equal right to be included—but rarely are. A particular idiocy is “feminist film analysis”, which does not even appear to be an honest attempt at applying a certain perspective and methodology on film analysis, instead giving every impression of just trying to extend the pseudo-science of “gender studies” to a new area.

  4. The common application of “feminist” to persons who lived before the term was invented and who e.g. have written on women’s issues, from a woman’s perspective, or using “strong women”; have been involved with some part of the women’s rights movement or expressed opinions in that direction; or even just have been successful women. Some of these might have identified with feminism; others would not have. Associating them with this poison of the mind in such a blanket manner is insulting, stupid, and/or intellectually dishonest (depending on the motivations). Giving feminism pseudo-credibility by claiming that historical persons were feminists is just atrocious.

    To put it down plain and simply: Someone who likes strong women is NOT automatically a feminist. Someone who wants men and women to be equal in rights and responsibilities is NOT automatically a feminist—indeed, more likely than not, a random feminist will not believe in true equality. Someone who thinks that women should have the right to vote is NOT automatically a feminist. Etc. To claim any or all of this is the equivalent of saying that anyone who wants to improve living conditions for the poor is a socialist or that all communists are revolutionaries.

    See also a recent post covering similar ground.

  5. Undue reliance on and abuse of the principle of citability:

    One of the core principles of Wikipedia, and originally a very good thing, is that Wikipedia should only reflect what can be supported by reputable sources—not personal conviction, rumors, speculation, or even (possibly faulty) synthesis of facts by the editors. This, in theory, should keep the articles low* in bias, speculation, pseudo-science, mere personal opinion, …

    *A complete absence is likely unreachable.

    With time, this principle has turned out to be very vulnerable to both abuse and incompetence, and it fails whole-sale in areas where pseudo- or proto-sciences (and other fields of “expertise”) are dominated by true believers, ideology, and similar. Gender studies is the paramount, but, unfortunately, not only example. Because there is no equivalent of astronomy, the “astrologers” are the only ones citable and the articles are, by analogy, filled with astrology instead of astronomy.

    Even in areas where there is no such dominating streak of “astrology”, problems are quit common, notably that individual editors refuse to reconsider a claim which is based on a single, often low quality, source; fail to realize that the opinion of the source is not sufficiently supported that it can be viewed as fact; or similar. The use of sources that either do not satisfy Wikipedia’s criteria for good sources or does-but-should-not (e.g. news-paper articles) is abundant. Changes in what main-stream science consider correct are not necessarily reflected and it is not uncommon that scientists with no or minor expertise in a subject area are used as authorities (most of the, absurdly many, references to Stephen J. Gould are unwarranted for this reason—to the point that a blanket ban on using his name might be a good idea).

    This well-intentioned principle can in the end be what kills Wikipedia, and I see it as a near necessity that Wikipedia (a) is more explicit on the difference between fact and opinion*, (b) forces a higher degree of plausibility checking and culling of sources**, e.g. by excluding news papers and other journalistic reporting for material that cannot be considered “current events”. With regard to (a), I also note that a good encyclopedia considers the risk that what is considered fact today can turn out to be wrong tomorrow, e.g. because a better scientific theory appears or because a higher court over-turns a conviction***.

    *Consider e.g. the difference between “The sun is a black hole[1].”, “According to Meyer[1], the sun is a black hole”, “Meyer[1] represents the minority view that the sun is a black hole; main stream science considers it a star[2][3][4]”.

    **However, great care must be taken. It is very easy for such checks to degenerate into “agrees with me, OK; does not agree with me, not OK”. Criteria could include strength of source; whether the claims are logically consistent; whether a claim is actually supported by the source it self or just taken over from another source (note how “facts” are sometimes uncritically propagated in feminist propaganda with no-one knowing when and where the claim originated, cf. the Woozle effect); whether the claim is actually present in the source; to what degree the claim represents personal opinion/speculation by the editor, respectively has a support in the scientific community. (Where “support” need not imply even a majority opinion, but should go beyond rare fringe views.)

    ***Generally, I urge everyone, not just Wikipedia editors, to prefer formulations like “murder convict” over “convicted murderer”, unless the level of evidence goes considerably beyond even “reasonable doubt”.

    This becomes particularly problematic when a given article has one or several self-appointed “owners” and these have a strong opinion. The result is typically that controversy* is not discussed in the article, often hidden behind a flawed consensus among the editors** of the article, and attempts to introduce alternate view-points often result in these being deleted and another several references being tacked on to the view point pushed by the self-appointed owners. (This can result in single statements having between half and a whole dozen references—without the reader having any greater certainty about the correctness of the claim.)

    *This is a scenario to be contrasted with the anti-evolutionary mantra “teach the controversy”: For evolution, there is no controversy within science, only in e.g. U.S. politics and popular opinion. The cases I discuss are often quite the reverse, with an existing disagreement between scientists or even branches of science, whereas the alleged consensus is often political, ideological, “popular”, whatnot. Worse, the latter type of consensus is sometimes allowed to trump a contradictory scientific consensus… Unfortunately, I kept no specific examples when writing the original version of this text; however, a typical generic example (not necessarily present on Wikipedia) of such a reversal is I.Q., where main-stream politicians and “enlightened” citizens “know” that I.Q. only measures how well someone can do an I.Q. test and that I.Q. tests are flawed, evil, and “culturally biased” to begin with—something entirely at odds with what science says on the topic.

    **As opposed to the “consensus among scientists”.

  6. Increased use of animations instead of individual images to illustrate processes. Individual images are usually the superior choice for illustration, seeing that the users can jump back-and-forth as they please and can take their time or not. In addition, animations are highly destructive when trying to enjoy other parts of the page—like trying to read a book when someone waves a hand in front of the page once every second or so. With (at least) earlier browser/computers and some forms of animation (notably Flash) this also meant a considerable performance drain, especially for users of tabbed browsing. (I regularly have dozens of tabs open for days or weeks.) Unsurprisingly, to compensate, many users prefer to disable animations entirely, and these then have the problem that the animations are reduced to a single individual image with little or no value.
  7. There are a number of issues on the technical side, including search terms being replaced by something entirely different when Wikipedia presumes to know better than the user what he should search for, use of page transitions (evil, should never have been invented), and highly intrusive* requests for donations when JavaScript is activated**.

    *I have no objection against a valuable “pro bono” service asking for donations from its users; however, when it does so in a manner that dominates the page and comes close to an optical slap in the face, well, that is something very different. If nothing else, this type of behavior likely makes people less likely to donate…

    **This was true around the time I made notes for the first version of this text. I have not verified whether it still is. (I rarely allow JavaScript, in general; and doing so where anyone can add content, including malicious JavaScript code, would be quite dangerous.)

In addition, there are a few problems present that have been with Wikipedia from the beginning (and which I therefore do not discuss above), including a very poor or non-existent coordination between different language versions and that very many U.S. editors fail to understand that en.wikipedia.org is the English language Wikipedia—not the U.S. national Wikipedia. The least of the problems that arise from this is the constant abuse of “American” to mean “U.S.” (with variations). Others include writing from a purely U.S. perspective on an issue (including ignoring legal differences between different countries), not mentioning that a particular claim pertains only to the U.S. (including such bloopers like mentioning “the Department of Justice”, in a generic context, without specifying that the U.S. Department of Justice is intended), giving strictly U.S. pronunciations for English words commonly used in the rest of the English speaking world, etc. On a few rare occasions, I have actually seen articles use formulations like “this country” in manner that implies that both editor and reader are in the U.S.

Articles on movies and books tend to be of a particularly low quality, including being filled with personal speculation* about motives, events, and implications. An ever recurring special case is to claim that a character died, lay dying, fell to his death, or similar, even when the work described leaves the eventual outcome unstated. In many or most cases, death is indeed the most plausible interpretation, but drawing such conclusions is not the role of an encyclopedia—especially since they are quite often incorrect: Fiction is full of characters who appear to die only to come back at an (in)opportune moment.

*Barring explicit claims by the creators of the work, any interpretation is speculative. This is one area where even a reference to a credible source does not alter the irrelevance of the interpretation to an encyclopedia. (Still, personal speculation by the article’s editors is worse.) In fact, even when the creators do make a claim or have a very clear intention, some caution can be needed, as can be seen e.g. by the “death” of Sherlock Holmes—protests by readers famously forced Arthur Conan Doyle to revive him…

Excursion on language and related issues:
With the great number of editors, each with their own weak spots, it is impossible to give an even remotely complete list. However, the following are disturbingly common:

  1. An incessant use of constructs like “being X, he Y-ed”*. Hypothetical examples include “Born in Swaziland, he studied to be a surgeon.” and “A natural red-head, he was sued for malpractice.”, typically with a similar low degree of connection between the two parts of the statement. In the rare cases where a strong connection is present, they are more acceptable, e.g. “Going blind, he was forced to give up surgery.”; however, even then other formulations are usually preferable.

    *I am unaware of an actual name for this type of construct.

    As for the reason for these ugly formulations, I would speculate that we, by now, simply have editors following a hype or trying to use “cool” way of writing, without considering factors like coherence and understandability. Part of the earlier cases could have come from either (unfortunate?) moves of insertions* or the spurious removal of words** in a misguided attempt to shorten the text***.

    *E.g. turning “X, an experienced surgeon, was skilled in anatomy.” into “An experienced surgeon, X was skilled in anatomy.”, which to some degree misses the point of an insertion, and which would be better solved by the original from the next footnote. Note that the variation “X, as an experienced surgeon, was skilled in anatomy.” is also an acceptable starting point, and might be preferable for having a greater internal connection—and would lead to exactly the original of the next footnote. (The greater internal connection can be seen by comparing e.g. “X, a young Frenchman, was skilled in anatomy.” with “X, as a young Frenchman, was skilled in anatomy.”: The latter implies a connection which simply is not warranted, while the former combines the same statements without implying a connection.)

    **E.g. turning “As an experienced surgeon, X was skilled in anatomy.” into “An experienced surgeon, X was skilled in anatomy.”, which makes the the sentence harder to understand and increases the risk of any additional error distorting the meaning.

    ***An older text on my own lack of brevity contains some words on “The Elements of Style” and its corresponding recommendation.

  2. Annoying and (depending on the intentions of the editor) possibly offensive use of “their” and “they” to indicate the third-person singular, even in cases when it introduces ambiguity. Cf. another recent text.
  3. Endless repetitions of “then [s]he”, “[s]he also”, and similar in biographic articles, e.g. to list various movies in which someone acted. (Many biographic articles give the impression that the editor is a high-school dropout.)
  4. Insisting on putting things in prose that would be better handled by a list or a table. (Overlapping with the previous item: A formal list* would have eliminated the awkward formulations.) Annoyingly, there is even a tag that suggests that this-or-that would be better off as prose, which is usually applied to perfectly legitimate lists and tables, while there is no corresponding tag for prose that should be moved to a list or table. (Or there is one that is never used…)

    *E.g. what is created by the UL or OL HTML-tags. Note that I do not necessarily suggest the type of use that I often resort to on WordPress. (My use is partially driven by not wanting to use regular headings/Hx-tags within WordPress, where the effects are not under my control; however, in other contexts, headings are often the better alternative.)

  5. Insertion of a colon (“:”) where it does not belong, e.g. “Examples of names include: Jack, Jill, and Spot”, where “include” implies that no colon should be present, the correct version being “Examples of names include Jack, Jill, and Spot”. Similarly, there should be no colon after words like “are”. In contrast, “Examples of names: Jack, Jill, Spot” would use the colon correctly.
  6. Use of “may” as a replacement for “can” and “might”, apparently under the assumption that it is “fancier”. There is a difference in meaning between the three: “may” implies a permission, “can” an ability, and “might” a possibility.* They should not be used in each others stead unless the difference in meaning is sufficiently small in the given context.**

    *For instance, someone who “can come to visit” has the ability to do so, himself being the limiting factor; someone who “may come to visit” has been allowed to do so, the host (usually) being the limiting factor; someone who “might come to visit” is still waiting to make a final decision.

    **But I admit to not always doing so perfectly myself. I was particularly prone to replace “might” with “may” when I was younger. However, note that I am not complaining about the odd error here and there—some Wikipedia articles appear to use “may” as the sole word for all three functions.

Written by michaeleriksson

June 22, 2018 at 9:36 pm

Yet another firing based on opinion

with 3 comments

Browsing the pages of SVT teletext, I encountered a very disturbing entry*, dealing with events at Kalmar HC, a lower-level Swedish ice-hockey team:

*The source does not provide permanent content; however, I have saved a copy locally, should anyone require the full Swedish text.

Its trainer, one Duane Smith, has been fired for expressing private opinions on Twitter, with no immediate relation to the team or his work.

It is claimed that he made at least ten relevant statements*. Two** quotes are given, “Nigeria är världens aidshuvudstad” (“Nigeria is the aids capital of the world”) and “Fuck Islam” (no translation needed).

*“inlägg”: This is vague term that could mean different things in different contexts. I chose “statements” as a similarly vague English term. In context, “tweets” is probably what is meant.

**Note that if some of the other quotes were, in some sense, worse, it is reasonable to assume that they would have been used instead. Most likely, these two statements were those considered the most convincing. (While, cf. below, not being convincing at all…)

In the body of the text, it is claimed that he has expressed xenophobe opinions (“uttryckt främlingsfientliga åsikter”); the heading speaks of racist statements (“rasistiska inlägg”).

Looking at the two given statements, it is clear that neither can be considered racist or xenophobe in it self. Further, that even ascribing a racist or xenophobe motivation is pure speculation*. (The same applies to the alleged violation of KHC’s values. Cf. below.)

*With reservation for information not present in the entry. However, if such information was present, it would be inexcusable to not present it correspondingly, instead giving two quotes that do not support the claims. It is possible that Duane Smith is racist, but it is up to the “prosecution” to prove it.

The first claim comes close to being factually true*, does not (alone) contain any type of value statement, and could, depending on context, be seen as a factual observation or even something supportive of e.g. Nigeria**. Would there have been much outrage if he had said “The U.S. is the crime capital of the world”? Highly unlikely, even though this claim is further from the truth.

*According to Wikipedia “Nigeria has the second-largest number of people living with HIV.”, making the claim off-by-one if we count absolute numbers. Going by relative numbers, there are those who do much worse, including South-Africa, which is also the number one in absolute numbers; however, the rate is still disastrous by e.g. Swedish standards. (I give him the benefit of the doubt, and assume that “capital” is used just to follow the template phrase. However, even if he actually believed that Nigeria is a city, rather than a country, that only makes him weak at African geography—not racist.)

**Say, “Nigeria is the AIDS capital of the world. Please donate to help give the sick modern medicine.” or something implying that “AIDS capital” means “AIDS research capital”. (Which is not to say that this is what Duane Smith actually intended. The point is rather that condemning someone for this statement, without additional support, and without being explicit about context, is incompetent, intellectually dishonest, or both.)

The second expresses a negative opinion about a religion—and a religion which has members of a great number of nationalities and ethnicities, including white-as-snow Swedes. Note carefully that the claim is not even “Fuck Muslims”—it is “Fuck Islam”. To boot, this opinion is one that is shared by very many otherwise considered sensible (although most would be less blunt), be it because they dislike Islam specifically or religion in general. Here too, the context could be quite relevant.* Would there have been much outrage had he said “Fuck Christianity”? Highly unlikely (at least in Sweden).

*Compare e.g. “I just heard about the latest ISIS attack. Fuck Islam.” with “I just saw another woman with a burka. Fuck Islam.”, and note how very different these two words come over. (Notwithstanding that even the first could be seen as unfair or ignorant, seeing that ISIS is just one part of Islam, just like Nazi-Germany was just one part of Europe.)

To boot, we have to consider that Twitter, by its nature, is not a medium for eloquence and deep thought—but for soundbites and spur-of-the-moment statements. What is said on Twitter should be viewed less seriously than what is written in e.g. an article, for the simple reason that it need not reflect deeper opinions. (And for reasons like the lack of context, cf. above; or the greater relative impact of typos, “auto correction”, an accidental misformulation, …) A recent “Family Guy” episode, “The D in Apartment 23”, contains a brilliant illustration with disturbing parallels to what happened here. Some claims, e.g. “Kill all Jews.” would be out of the question even on Twitter; others, e.g. “Fuck Islam.” is within the realms of what a perfectly reasonable (but careless) person could “tweet” in the wrong circumstances—or a perfectly none-careless person when he assumes that the reader knows the context. (Cf. the above footnote.)

Further, even if Duane Smith, for the sake of argument, is a racist (xenophobe, whatnot), that is in and by itself not a legitimate reason to fire him: Actions are what counts—not opinions. A world in which opinions alone lead to such consequences is a tyranny and a dystopia, where diversity of opinion will be severely diminished, where faulty decisions will be made because they happen to be more orthodox, where even science will be hindered, where personal freedoms are unfairly reduced, … Unfortunately, this is the world towards we are increasingly heading, and even now all this, including restrictions on science, is happening—the question is merely one of degree and whether we will be able to turn this disastrous trend in time. Such firings are the more unfortunate, even offensive, considering the very large number of incompetent, negligent, and/or lazy people who are allowed to keep their jobs despite legitimate reasons to get rid of them.

His firing might have been legitimate, had it been shown that these opinions hindered him in his work. No such argument was raised, however, with the claimed reason “These opinions conflict with KHC’s values on the equal worth of all humans” (“Dessa uppfattningar står i strid med KHC:s värderingar om alla människors lika värde”). As can be seen, this was purely a matter of Duane Smith’s allegedly* having the wrong opinions. A firing might also have been legitimate, had he claimed to speak for KHC; however, no indication is made that this was the case.

*As can be seen from the above discussion, even this has not been demonstrated.

Did Duane Smith do something wrong? Yes! He appears to have apologized and not taken a fight, thereby giving the forces of intolerance and political correctness yet another easy victory, making repetitions of such scenarios even more likely, moving us even closer to dystopia.

Please, if you are ever in such a situation, in particular should you be a politician, executive, celebrity, …, have the guts to do the right thing! Take a stand for freedom of speech! Stand by your opinions! Do not just cave and apologize! (And if a PR specialist advises you to the contrary, fire him…) If sufficiently many stand up against scenarios like these, they will cease.

Clarifying note:
In the analysis of the text, it is often unclear who is to blame for what. For instance, is the grossly incorrect use of “racism” stemming from KHC or from the incompetent and PC obsessed “journalists” from SVT? Were there actual damning information that SVT left out through poor judgment? Etc. In the big picture, this does not really matter, because the overall, societal problem remains the same and of roughly the same scope. For this reason, I have chosen not to dwell deeper into the details of the issue to clarify blame, to check whether other sources might have more damming information, whatnot. However, I do advice the reader to be aware that it is not a given where, in this case, the societal problem has manifested how and who is to be criticized in detail for what.

Excursion on the PC crowd vs. Muslims:
The treatment of Islam and Muslims in PC circles is quite inconsistent: In situations like the above, anyone who says anything negative is a racist and should be fired. In other circumstances, Muslims are evil sexist bastards and … should be fired. I note specifically several cases of Muslim men refusing to shake hands with women for religious or decency reasons—despite Muslim women often having the same attitude of not wanting to shake hands with men. Indeed, this is the type of cultural difference that should be tolerated—but in PC circles imaginary misogynism appears to trump real cultural intolerance. (And misandrism is mysteriously considered non-existent…) This attitude to handshakes is not comparable to the attitude against pork, but appears to be more comparable to a Christian man not feeling up women during introductions—a matter of respect, not contempt.

Excursion on organizations and values:
It is questionable whether organizations should be allowed to profess or require values in the first place (unless, like a political party, values are a central aspect). Take KHC: It has players, it has volunteers, it has paying members, …* What if the board or whatnot suddenly decides that it has a certain set of values? What if a player/volunteer/whatnot has different values? What if, as is often the case, someone has spent decades actively supporting the club with his time and money, this someone is member of party X, and the new values are incompatible with those of X? Etc. What if the board today has different personal preferences than the board five years ago, and in another five years the new board has yet another view? Worse: Chances are that there is not even a decision on values, a list of values, or anyway to verify compliance in advance. More likely than not, these “values” were made up ad hoc to sound good in front of the press or to conform with societal expectations, like the stereotypical answer of “World peace!” from a beauty-pageant contestant.

*Assuming that it follows typical patterns in sport. I have not verified this.

Written by michaeleriksson

June 1, 2018 at 4:06 am