Thursday, January 12, 2006

Hate Speech?

One of my commenters recently accused another of "hate speech" and me of "providing a forum for hate speech." This got me thinking about what exactly deserves to be considered hate speech. I came up with some potential candidates, arranged in order of decreasing offensiveness (to me) that I call HS1 - HS4.

HS1 - Inciting or encouraging violence against racial, ethnic, or other groups. Threatening violence against them. Example kill the [insert target group]! If that's not hate speech, then nothing is. Probably even your neighborhood Nazi would concede this.

HS2 - Using insulting racial epithets. Blatantly discriminatory instructions, directions, or forms of address. Advocating such behavior. Example: Get out of my way [insert racial epithet].

Once again, this is pretty clear cut. Either HS1 or HS2 will likely get your comment deleted on my blog.

HS3 - Spreading defamatory and false stories about a group. Example: Red Staters are a bunch of ignorant hicks. The infamous "blood libel" fits somewhere between this category and the second. It has also been repeatedly used to incite mass murder.

I'm pretty offended by this stuff too, but its case is special because it gradates into:

HS4[NOT] - This category includes discussion of group traits, behaviors, or history that is objectionable to some group members but is true, plausible, or at least arguable.

This is the category that interests me, so let me give a longer example: I have a forty minute commute to and from work each day, most of which time is spent listening to NPR. I don't remember the context, but in a conversation at a party, a rabbi said to me that NPR's Middle East correspondent was an anti-semite. Well I've listened to this correspondent literally dozens of times, and I've never heard her say anything remotely anti-semitic. Moreover, she is Jewish and has a Jewish name. I said this to him and asked for an example. He backed off and admitted that he had just "heard" about her anti-semitism. I am pretty sure I have a good idea where he "heard" it. There are some in his congregation (and elsewhere) who consider any criticism (or fact) not in accordance with the extrem Likud - NeoCon line to be evidence of antisemitism - to which I say bullshit!

Any system where you can't openly discuss the important facts is a facist totalitarianism. I can't accept that this kind of discussion is "hate speech" in any useful sense.

I'm no fan of No Child Left Behind but it does have some useful features. One is that it forces school districts to report test scores assorted (among other things) by race or ethnicity. In my small, majority Hispanic, city the results are pretty clear cut - there are large gaps in test scores between different groups. If you don't start by recognizing that we are doing a crappy job of educating a large fraction of our population, there is no hope of remedy. Those who say we should just close our eyes and pretend it's not so are no friends to the disadvantaged students.

So if you want to come to my blog and accuse me (or a fellow commenter) of hate speech, I expect you to answer the question I asked the rabbi: "what was the offending speech and why was it offensive?" And if you don't like my definitions, be prepared to offer better ones.

UPDATE: The comments on this thread have taken us far from the original topic, and I want to discuss some things that have come up. TM has said:

Liberals tend to reframe the argument into a sneering, condescending tone
Whether or no, I think that misses the main point. Most liberals, I think, have a deep seated and well-motivated hatred of racism. We remember the evils that have been done and continue to be done in its name, and we remember the victims and how they suffered. We also remember how "scientific research" was repeatedly perverted in its service. If you remember that, you will understand why anybody who picks up its banners attracts a visceral hostility. Studying racial differences is not racist per se, but it inherits an awful lot of stinking baggage.

More attention has been focussed on a couple of other issues: consanguinity and it's associated social implications. The incidence of consanguinity in TM's data surprised me, but as far as I have been able to tell, the data is genuine. Arun has confirmed some aspects in part as well. It's pretty easy for me to believe that (a) it is associated with depressed function - such effects have been well documented in other species from roses to cattle, as well as in humans. (b) I find the association with tribal and clan structure credible. Wikipedia documents similar behaviors in European Royal families and the Rothchild banking dynasty - and the resulting genetic carnage. (c) I can imagine that it is associated with weaker National sentiments, though which is cause and which is effect is not easily parsed.

Nonetheless, attempting to blame our failure in Iraq on it seems absurd. It was just one more circumstance among a host that the Bushies foolishly and criminally failed to anticipate or plan for. The success of our occupations in Germany and Japan had many sources, but one of the greatest was the detailed and intensive planning that went into it. Roosevelt started planning for it months after Pearl Harbor. Moreover, the occupations were put in the hands of brilliant and learned men, who knew their tasks and the peoples well. By contrast, the hastily organized Iraqi occupation was turned over to corrupt cronies, ideologically correct children, and fools - I mean Paul Bremer and his Heritage Foundation kiddie corps.

I apologize to Lee for not attempting to deal more directly with Sailer, but I don't have moral energy to try to fathom him or what he represents.

TM - you have been reasonably polite and quite informative, but some of the associations you are perceived to bring are judged, rightly or not, very sinister.