Sunday, November 9, 2008

On Hate Speech, Common Comments, and Limbaugh Folks Standing on My Last Nerve

Also see "Limbaugh admits inflame, entertain is key to success."

You don't believe Rush Limbaugh engages in hate speech? Please listen to Limbaugh's "blacks in a 30 year plot" railing, if you can stand it.
Updated 10/19/09: Limbaugh supporters ignoring history of racist remarks.

Really, I did not want to discuss race, divisiveness, and hate speech for a while, but this morning while reading comments at BlogHer on the post "Winter for Conservatism?" my aggravation red alert sirens went off. Someone wrote that Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter don't use hate speech. WTF!

I know that people comment from the heart and personal experience and don't necessarily research information before they share opinions. I also allow that sometimes people commenting don't realize they speak from a lack of knowledge on certain subjects, but the comment section bugged me nonetheless because, for one, a reader cited the vitriol against George W. Bush over the last eight years as though Bush is a victim of oppression or something, and at the least, as though there is no difference between being incensed at the architect of bad public policy and using hate speech against groups of people.

Certainly we anticipate criticism of President-elect Barack Obama, but if he makes avoidable mistakes, and he will make mistakes at some point, we will not be genuine patriots if we stay mum. The vitriol aimed at him, and there will be more vitriol, may be colored by the hue of his skin, but intelligent people should know the difference between racially-tinged lambasting and honest reporting or critique.

As a middle-aged, African-American woman who's not only read the history of racism in this country but also experienced it, as the descendant of slaves who were not allowed to speak their minds for two hundred years and who once free risked being lynched, shot, jailed, or beaten for speaking against people who spoke vitriol against them for more than 100 years after emancipation, I am not weeping over someone calling George W. Bush an idiot or Ann Coulter a hate monger. Maybe I'm not to that place spiritually yet when I see all sins as equal. I hope I am with the rest of Americans, however, at a place to be reasonable enough to work with others.

In responding as I did, I know I've left myself open to some other person misguided about the matter of political correctness to drop by and chastise me for the force of my expression, but I am tired of speaking in dulcet tones to keep folks from feeling guilty about indulging incendiary language and pretending they don't know the difference between satire, a joke in good taste, a warranted objection, and fighting words. That goes for the people who are overly sensitive about racial, sexist, agist, religiously-intolerant offenses as well. Use some common sense sometimes.

Anyway, I read the comments on a bad day, and so, to say I was a little annoyed is understatement. Consequently, I ended up writing an entire essay in response, but here I preface my commentary with the words of Maya Angelou, who seems to be more spiritual than I, that Americans will rise.

Rush Limbaugh? I Know a Rabid Dog When I See One.

I'm a woman of reasonable intelligence, and so, I know a rabid dog when I see one. Not only is Rush Limbaugh an ignoramus of exceptional magnitude, he is a psychopathic liar who uses the airwaves consistently to foment division and lay the foundation for violence. I have no remorse about saying that because I condemn him based on his actions and words, the content of his character, not his ethnicity, gender, or even his waistline. Furthermore, I believe he has the right to free speech just as I do, but I also believe that if we don't speak against Limbaugh's type of rhetoric, we're doomed.

I'm critical of Rush Limbaugh for the same reasons some people are critical of Louis Farrakhan for his anti-Jewish rhetoric. But unlike people that I suspect Sarah Palin identified as living in "real America" who can't see what's wrong with Limbaugh's rhetoric because they believe he speaks for them and wants to protect them from us "other" people in the not real America, I can recognize when Farrakhan's gone astray in his rhetoric despite us both being black people and his belief that he promotes our elevation. I can see and not listen anymore.

You don't believe Rush Limbaugh engages in hate speech? Please listen to Limbaugh's "blacks in a 30 year plot" railing, if you can stand it. I believe that if you don't recognize his railings as hate speech in that instance it's probably because you believe what he's saying.

Ann Coulter is known for making statements similar to Limbaugh's, but she does it smiling and batting her eyes lashes. For instance, she told white people in one of her columns that the reason they can't get a mortgage loan is banks are giving their mortgage loans to minorities, which is not true. Both Rush and Ann types push the us vs. them paradigm for race relations.

Why is there concern about this type of propaganda? We are concerned because we know history and see where racist or xenophobic rhetoric can lead. Please read my comment at this link on Mata's post about Kristallnacht.

If I had to define hate speech, I would say it's speech that blames one group for the misfortune of another group through the use of misinformation, fact twisting, misdirection, deflection, and blatant lies. This definition does not include the informed and reasonable examination of crimes against a people or oppression of a people based on historical fact and reliable data. For instance, when we condemn Nazi Germany, we are expressing a loathing for the actions of a people who supported Hitler's ideas, but our opinions are based on fact and the Nazi's well-documented inhumane treatment of other humans, including genocide. If from that examination we draw the conclusion that we despise Nazis, then is that damnable hate or is it righteous indignation?

However, to look at the crime rate, for instance, and notice that young black teens are arrested at disproportionate rates and draw the conclusion that getting rid of black babies will reduce crime, and then to broadcast that belief and message is spreading hate speech.

If you notice that standardized test scores went down at a local school after the school population shifted to majority Mexican, and then to extrapolate from that observation that Mexicans must be stupid, not as smart as whites, and so are destroying the school system, and then to broadcast that belief to people to get them to feel the same way and draw the conclusion that the city and citizens should get those Mexicans out of our schools and also not give them jobs or rent apartments to them because they are bad for the community is hate speech.

To throw out such information as "our schools have deteriorated because we've integrated," while stopping short of saying "so move the others out of our schools or move ourselves away from the others" but knowing that's the conclusion people will draw is also hate speech, the most cunning kind. People who frame racist arguments and then watch others take that rhetoric to the next level should stop pretending they don't know what they've said and stop blaming their listeners for acting alone when they take hatred to the streets.

To decide that male pedophiles often molest boys and then to jump to the conclusion that male pedophiles must also be gay and so conclude all gay men are also pedophiles and later to broadcast that information because you're afraid for you children's safety around anyone gay and so want all of society to ostracize gay people, keep them from working in schools, having families of their own, etc., is hate speech.

To see that most Ku Klux Klan members are white people and to suspect that your boss is a Klansman or a Klansmen sympathizer and that's why you never got your promotion and then to conclude all white people are against all black people and to broadcast that all white people, therefore, want to oppress people who are not white and so all nonwhite people need to take action against all white people is hate speech . It's still hate speech even after you find out your boss really does wear a white sheet and hood on Friday nights and nobody at your job will listen to your grievance. Stop saying all white people are racist devils, and take your jackass boss and the do-nothing company to court.

What do these examples have in common? In each example someone is drawing erroneous conclusions based on their narrow perception of the world and faulty logic about the root causes behind specific or general woes and so have developed a bias against a group. In addition, they have moved beyond their private thoughts to infecting others with their bigotry and fears. Rush Limbaugh and people like Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin do this frequently and so we ask ourselves what motivates their vilifying of other groups?. They haven't been harmed by the groups they demonize. They can't even make reasonable accusations the groups they oppose are oppressing another group or violating their civil rights. So, what causes them to use language that may incite violence and stir hatred of "the other"?

And if we criticize their rhetoric using historical fact and reliable data are we using hate speech against them?

Defining condemnation of Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter's type of rhetoric as simply more hate speech is the failure to parse language accurately and analyze history objectively. Start saying it's the same thing and eventually you will find yourself declaring that people who despise the Ku Klux Klan or Hitler are no different from the Ku Klux Klan and Hitler themselves because both offenders and defenders despise somebody. Huh?

Do we give up our right to say we recognize harmful speech within context of historical records and factual evidence? No, some actions and language are worthy of condemnation. Our intelligence helps us make distinctions.

I said I know a rabid dog when I see one, but we're talking about humans here, and so I must say that I'd never want to see the rabid dog/rabid human analogy moved to action because rabid dogs get put down. I wish Limbaugh and people who think like him long lives in hopes that they will one day have a change of heart and use their influence to promote tolerance and harmony with understanding. However, if he and people who think like him wish to complain about what I've said, I have this response: People who revel in inciting animosity with a pack of lies should not whine when anger turns on them.

Besides, the more Rush Limbaugh paints African-Americans and other people who don't look and think like him as the angriest people on the planet who have no reason to protest, the more we know that he is one of the angriest men in the world, forever foaming at the mouth.


amral22 said...

Thank you, wow, great post.

Anonymous said...

That was brilliant.