Are you unknowingly supporting hate speech?

hate speech

By Mark W. Schaefer

Are we surrounded by so much hate speech that we are immune to it? Do we even recognize hate speech when we see it any more? Why do we glorify hate as cool and entertaining?

Here’s the Twitter post that made me wonder about this  …
hate speech

I posted this to Facebook suggesting that this commentary crossed a line. Forget about politics, religion, race or any demographic group. Comparing any person to a date rapist is hate speech. This isn’t funny — it’s a thinly-veiled excuse to be mean, an excuse to be a bully.

If I was the person who sent out this tweet I would be vilified, and rightly so. If I explained that I posted it in jest, I doubt anybody would believe me. It’s not much of a jest. Yet just because somebody is designated as a “comedian,” hate speech is OK? This is the same guy who publicly declared Republicans as “retarded Nazis.”

Folks, I’m not a fan of the Republican Party circus, but it’s not OK to call any person or class of people retarded Nazis, no matter who you are. That is a person who should be fired, not celebrated.

Another view of hate speech

For balance, I wanted to present an opposing view by my friend Billy Mitchell, a wise and caring man who runs MLT Creative in Atlanta:

“I’ll offer up an alternative observation. Bill Maher is a comedian. He’s been offending people with “Politically Incorrect” comedy since before he hosted a show with that name. I don’t agree with everything he says and sometimes his humor offends me. But it’s his job to be provocative, entertaining and very political. Social media is simply another outlet for him. No one is forced to watch his show or follow his social media posts. He is an entertainer. And to a large extent, so is Donald Trump. I agree with you that families of politicians should be off limits unless, as adults, they choose to step into the public arena of politics.”

Billy’s comment was one of many I received on my Facebook post, and several others defended Maher and his right to be vile. After all, raw and provocative comedy is an American tradition.

But I could not stop thinking about this language in the context of the exploding level of hate and bullying in the world. I actually lost sleep over it.

I am so tired of hate. I am exhausted by hate. Why should anybody accept hate in any form, from any person, let alone amplify it?

Having celebrity status apparently makes it OK to demonize a person, a political party, a group of people, a race, a religion. But it’s still hate.

Can’t we expect something better than this?

I appreciate Billy Mitchell’s wise point but here’s the difference, I think. I love comedy and I know how the greatest comedians have pushed the boundaries of language and taste. But in the past, they pushed the boundaries in a club, on a recording, maybe in a magazine interview.

But social media, and especially Twitter, is built for viral. Did you notice how many times this ugly Bill Maher post had been re-tweeted?

4,513 times.

Thousands and thousands of people forwarded this ugly message to their audiences, under the cover of “comedy,” from a “comedian.” The hate speech spread and spread and spread. The hate speech has celebrity validation so we get a free pass because we didn’t say it ourselves.

Hate has become fun. Hate has become cool. Hate has gone viral.

That disturbs me.

The death penalty for hate

In a controversial move, Twitter banned for life Milo Yiannopoulos, a conservative troll known as @nero, due to his unrelenting attacks on various individuals on Twitter. His account had been suspended twice previously, and he overdid it this time with racist remarks directed at Leslie Jones of the Ghostbusters movie, including a claim that she was “the source of AIDS.”

Public outcry at this level of hate finally got the attention of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey who imposed the Twitter death penalty.

Facebook has a policy for banning content that glorifies violence and hate speech but I have yet to see any high-profile individual banned. Certainly it’s a slippery slope for any social platform advocating openness.

But you and I can control what we do with our own social media presence.

Think. Process. Respond.

I am in no position to make a dent in Bill Maher’s TV ratings or Milo’s rantings.  All I can really do is take a stand in my little corner of the world.

We have to start somewhere and some place. My wish is for every person reading this post:

  1. Think before sharing hate speech, even if it comes from somebody in a place of power. Read the words and think about them before sharing them.
  2. Be kind to everyone, even if you don’t understand. Attack problems, not people.
  3. Don’t become numb to hate. Stop it. Call it out. Take the blinders off. Do not accept hate speech or bullying from anybody. Make your social circle a hate-free zone.

Our world is filled with so much hate that it makes my heart hurt. There is more than enough hate to go around without any of us amplifying it or glorifying it as entertainment. Are you with me on this?

SXSW 2016 3Mark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant. The Marketing Companion podcastis among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.


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