I’ve seen a lot of dead bodies. To the best of my knowledge, none of them ended up that way because they read some hate speech on the internet and immediately died of a word attack in their brains.
Can you imagine if humans had that kind of power? If you could just send a tweet and harm your enemies?
Well, actually, you don’t have to imagine it. Take a glance at this story in the New York Times about Journalist Kurt Eichenwald. It details the time a Trump supporter sent him a tweet featuring a GIF with a strobe effect to intentionally trigger an epileptic seizure.
It’s horrifying to know that a human being would so casually attempt to cause potentially fatal harm to another human just because they don’t like the way that person does their job. But that’s what hate is. Hatred, by definition, cannot manifest positively.
Sure words can’t directly harm you, nobody’s ever been stabbed to death by a pejorative. But they can inspire, rally, and trigger people into harming those they disagree with.
In fact, I challenge anyone to come up with a single example of historical conflict in which words were not involved. The Romans didn’t silently sneak up on Europe and conquer it. The people who built the United States of America didn’t quietly disagree with England and depart for reasons unknown. It all started with words.
Nobody ever shot up a school, beat up a stranger just because they look different, or arrested a specific race of people at demonstrably higher rates for the same offenses, without first being exposed to hate speech. Nobody is born a bigot.
See here’s the part that the bigots truly, truly don’t want others to understand: hate speech isn’t meant to make the rhetoric’s target feel bad, it’s meant to embolden the speaker and to signal virtue to those with like minds. Hate speech is a recruitment tool.
Bigots, today, believe they are the real victims in the world. They’re selfish, scared cowards who are angry that times have changed and they have to share the resources they’ve amassed at the expense of others.
Even worse, bigotry is systematically being deplatformed as the world shifts from a product-based economy (where whoever owns the most factories dominates) to an advertisement-based one (where three out of the five richest companies in the world earn a significant amount of their profits through selling ads).
Factories don’t care about bigotry. That’s because they’re buildings. But advertisers do, because associating their clients with bigotry is tantamount to saying their clients endorse bigotry.
This has resulted in a really stupid paradigm where bigots have somehow co-opted the idea of “free speech” by demanding that privately-owned platforms host them under penalty of government interference. It’s really stupid.
Imagine opening up a bedding store in your hometown and being sued by a random KKK chapter because you won’t host their meetings in your sheet section.
But bigots don’t tend to feel the same way about compelling bakers to make cakes they don’t agree with as they do about compelling social media to host hate speech.
Somehow, though, the bigot still thinks they’re the victim. In the bigot’s mind, the minority can say whatever they want with no fear of reprisal. The bigot cannot fathom why they aren’t given the same supposed respect. None of this is true, of course. But bigotry and claims of victimhood are inextricable, everything the bigot does wrong is someone else’s fault.
This false equivalency lies at the crux of the bigot’s self-imposed ignorance and stupidity. They can’t defend their bigoted views (because they’re scared of the repercussions), so they turn everything into a semantics/rights debate in order to avoid exposing themselves explicitly.
It’s getting harder to be a bigot everyday
In most US states, sentencing is harsher for criminals who commit a crime that’s labeled as a “hate crime.” The reason for this is simple: the commission of a hate crime is, in itself, evidence that the perpetrator is likely to commit the same crime again.
If you can be triggered into committing a crime by the mere existence of someone from a minority group, it stands to follow that you’re a danger to any society wherein that minority group is legally entitled to participate.
This is also why you can’t yell “fire” in a crowded movie theater as a “joke” or a “prank.” Panic kills.
Or why it would be illegal for a famous game streamer to encourage watchers to SWAT one of their rivals.
As far as we know, Charles Manson didn’t actually murder anyone. And, historically speaking, there’s no record of Adolf Hitler ever actually killing anyone — his WWI citations were for his duties as a “runner” — with the sole exception of himself. Yet their words mattered. Both men were radicalized at a young age by hate speech. Both men then used that speech to radicalize others who then killed on their behalf.
In both cases, we also see that bigots MUST radicalize others. It’s imperative to their survival that they compartmentalize the entire world into fellow bigots and everyone else. There are no bystanders in the bigot’s mind.
In fact, the bigot’s entire frame of reference involves viewing the entire world through an “us” or “them” filter.
If a bigot says something, no matter what they say, to them it’s a matter of free speech. If you criticize that bigot, they’ll say you’ve infringed on their free speech. If they criticize your criticism, they’re expressing free speech. And if you criticize them back, you’ve infringed on their rights again. It’s all very stupid and very much the core of the entire “free speech” movement.
Free speech isn’t a social construct
The simple fact of the matter is that the “right to free speech” specifically pertains to the freedom from government interference for legal speech. That means you can’t be arrested (in countries that have enshrined the right to citizens’ free speech) for saying something like, for example, “homosexuality is evil.”
You might lose your job, get banned from social media, and become a social pariah, but you won’t be arrested so long as you have the right to free speech.
When bigots claim that their right to free speech is being infringed upon by “the wokes,” they’re probably lying. Unless they’ve been arrested or detained by a government agent, they’re full of shit. Freedom of speech is freedom from government tyranny, not social judgment.
Being called a bigot and ostracized by the public for your disgusting views is to “having your right to free speech infringed” what being politely asked to be quiet while people are studying in a public library is to “being a victim of police brutality.”
In other words: free speech doesn’t care about your feelings. If everyone hates you because you said something disgusting, then that’s them exercising their free speech. Nobody’s rights have been infringed on until someone gets arrested or detained by a government agent. Full stop.
It’s gobsmacking that millions of supposedly educated people around the globe are intellectually incapable of understanding that.
There exists no public domain where “absolute free speech” is socially acceptable. If you find yourself at an illegal underground cage fighting arena where everyone is doing heroin and riding endangered elephants, I assure you that there are limits to the speech your fellow miscreants will tolerate.
Aside from the social implications, there are also hundreds of laws regulating speech. You can’t walk into a courtroom and interrupt the proceedings with “words” without expecting to get arrested. You can’t go on American Idol and sing the words to the unedited version of “Me so Horny” by the 2 Live Crew without expecting to be kicked off the show. You can’t walk up to a cop and shout “I’m not touching you, I’m not touching you, I’m not touching you” without expecting there to be a problem if you don’t stop when asked.
On social media, you agree to a terms of service. Just like some folks tell their racist relatives that they can come to a family holiday dinner as long as they behave themselves and don’t talk about sensitive subjects, social media sites make you agree to certain speech restrictions before you’re allowed entry. In both cases, you might get banned for breaking your word.
If you believe there’s some sort of social imperative for other people to give you the inalienable right to unfettered free speech, go ahead and test that theory by visiting a big city and shouting bigotry at everyone you meet.
I’m willing to wager that if a Twitter employee insulted Elon Musk to his face, that employee would be fired on the spot. So much for free speech, right?
Nowhere is “free speech” an ideal meant to encompass hate speech except in the bigot’s mind.
And that’s exactly why they can’t defend their actual speech. They can’t explain why hate speech should be acceptable because there is no explanation.
The only way for the bigot to make bigotry acceptable is to convince everyone else that “all speech” should be free. That is, of course, except for the speech they don’t like. It’s all very stupid.
If words truly didn’t matter, then bigots wouldn’t care what we say about them. And if free speech is so important that even public hate speech is worth defending, then bigots should cheer me on when I use my free speech to interact with their employers and advertisers.
But they don’t. Because words matter. They’re terrified that I’m going to convince other people to hate bigots as much as I do. They understand the paradox of tolerance and it terrifies them.
Of course words matter. If words didn’t matter, the bible wouldn’t be able to influence anyone. If words didn’t matter then contracts, paychecks, and historical documents would be meaningless.
If words don’t matter, then neither does “will you marry me,” “I love you,” and “I’m so proud of you.”
What a stupid world that would be.
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