The Landscape of Hate
By Gail Jarvis
August 28, 2002
A new book: Law, Media and Culture: The Landscape of Hate is the
collaboration of Janis Judson and Donna Bertazzoni, professors at Hood
College, in Frederick, Maryland. This is yet another academic assault on
"hate speech," that nebulous conduct that collegiate types see under every
rock and around every corner. However, the magnitude of this insidious
behavior seems to have escaped the attention of those of us who reside
outside the walls of academia.
A promotional blurb about the book states: "We are living in an era in which
hate has become a national value. This book takes a fresh look at how the
Internet has become a major tool to communicate hate, and how the
development of attitudes toward hate are shaped by gender." In addition to
the Internet, the book points the finger at Rap music, radio and television
programs, and, of course, the Ku Klux Klan.
Most of us have heard about hate speech complaints from minorities on
college campuses. But these authors inform us that there is also "anti-gay
hate speech" which is hurtful to gays and lesbians. In addition, they tell
us about the latest target of hate speech: pro-abortion activists. To me it
seems a little disingenuous to call opposition to abortion "hate speech."
And, if we scrutinize examples of so-called hate speech, we find that it is
often the expression of opinions contrary to a specific agenda a particular
group is pursuing. However, the term "incorrect opinions" wouldn't generate
a lot of support from the public so the harsher description "hate speech" is
Here are two examples of hate speech cited by Ms. Judson and Ms. Bertazzoni.
President Bush is accused of hate speech for "praising the Southern Baptist
Convention." This allegation is justified by the fact that a former SBC
president made disparaging remarks about Mohammed, the founder of Islam.
Also, he claimed that many of America's problems could be attributed to
religious pluralism. Although some might consider these remarks to be
ill-considered, it is quite a stretch to call them hate speech.
The second of their examples of hate speech is "condemning affirmative
action." I wonder if they know that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the
case of a woman who was denied admission to the University of Michigan even
though she had higher grades and test scores than some minority applicants
who got in. If the court rules against Michigan's use of affirmative action
to determine admissions, will Judson and Bertazzoni call the Supreme Court's
ruling hate speech?
I honestly believe that the majority of Americans oppose preferential
treatment based on race, gender or ethnic affiliation. This opposition is
based on equity not hate. Apparently the Hood College professors are
predisposed to view all objections to affirmative action as motivated by
hate and we assume this is what they are telling their students.
The authors claim that hate speech happens when "you try to impose your
moral code on other people and begin to see those other people who don't fit
that mold as somehow wrong." But this is exactly what their book is
attempting to do, and by using its subjective criteria for determining hate,
we could find hate everywhere.
But, contrary to what the book claims, true hate speech is far from being
epidemic. Also, those on the receiving end of offensive comments are not
nearly as intimidated as the authors imply. In fact, the opposite seems to
be the case. Articles in campus newspapers show that recipients of
derogatory remarks aggressively respond to all charges. We even read reports
where entire issues of campus newspapers are ripped from racks and burned
simply for airing opinions a particular group doesn't like.
When asked how they felt about the message conveyed by Rap music, female
students at Hood College informed the professors; "we don't listen to the
lyrics, we just listen to the beat." As to the assertion that the Internet
is being used to communicate hate, it should be noted that it is strewn with
websites sponsored by minorities, gays and lesbians, pro-abortion activists
and other so-called victim groups. These sites powerfully and effectively
push the group's agenda as well as rebut criticisms.
But college professors have learned that, to advance their careers, their
curriculum vitae should contain one or more scholarly books they have
authored. So literally hundreds of books are pouring forth from academia.
However, literary endeavors addressing subjects such as chemistry or physics
are not usually intended for public consumption. But works that address
contemporary social problems, like the new book from Judson and Bertazzoni,
often receive extensive media attention and might influence public debate.
This book is one of a surfeit of works on hate speech and their cumulative
impact might persuade the government that the phenomenon is widespread and
causing harm. Consequently, it may decide to enact laws to prevent it. If
you think this is farfetched you should know that some European countries
already have laws criminalizing hate speech. In Sweden, a pastor could face
up to two years in jail if, in a sermon, he refers to homosexuality as
sinful or against biblical teachings. Norway recently imprisoned a man
convicted of violating that nation's ban on Internet hate speech. He was
accused of posting comments on a website that were interpreted as racist.
Finally, it should alarm us that the Council of Europe is already in the
process of adopting stringent regulations to outlaw hate speech on the
Internet. The Council's "Convention on Cybercrime" proposes, not only to
close websites but to impose criminal charges on those posting to websites
or sending email containing hate speech. The draft proposal contains this
language: "The purpose of the protocol is to make it a crime to distribute,
make available, or produce racist or xenophobic material via the Internet
(including) any written, any image or any other representation of thoughts
or theories, which advocates, promotes, incites (or is likely to incite)
acts of violence, hatred or discrimination against any individual or group
of individuals, based on race, color, national or ethnic origin."
Soon the Council of Europe will petition European countries as well as the
United States, Japan, Canada and South Africa to implement the final version
of it's Internet hate speech ordinance. The Council of Europe has 43 members
and the last time I checked, 32 nations had signed off on the proposal.
This shortsighted ordinance is not compatible with freedom of speech and
would go a long way toward silencing dissent because the determination of
what constitutes hate speech would be made by bureaucrats with political
agendas; agendas probably very similar to the ones being pursued by Ms.
Judson and Ms. Bertazzoni.
Gail Jarvis, a CPA living in Beaufort, SC, is an advocate of
the voluntary union of states enumerated by the founders.