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ROSE NOLEN: Hate speech, free speech not synonymous terms

Tuesday, February 8, 2011 | 12:01 a.m. CST; updated 10:41 p.m. CST, Tuesday, February 8, 2011

As this Black History Month approached, I couldn't help but think of the passage of the Civil Rights Bill of 1964. I was thinking of how far we had all come and how far we still have to go.

It didn't take long after the election of a biracial president that cracks in our surface began to appear. Most Americans were ready for this event, and, whether they agreed with his politics or his political party, they seemed content that we had crossed the great divide.

But of course there are others who will never accept this turn of events. The world is full of people like that. There are people who never recover from child abuse, there are women who never recover from sexual abuse, and there are some who will never recover from a childhood spent absorbed in racism.

After some 50 years of desegregated schools, one would think that everyone had said every mean, vicious thing they could say about another person's skin color or cultural distinction. And at the very least it's hard to believe that people are still polluting the airwaves with that particular brand of garbage.

Some individuals think of hate speech as free speech. They believe that the founders wasted their time setting down the Bill of Rights just so generations of people could say nasty stuff about each other.

These hatemongers think of it as their right to say whatever they want about others. What effect this has on society does not seem to be a consideration. The fact that this speech is hurtful and harmful is not enough to keep people from using it.

Probably, if anybody went to court to try to put a stop to hate speech, they would have the fight of their life. They would undoubtedly be accused of trying to interfere with freedom of speech. For some reason, we can devise rules and regulations to govern our other rights, but we seem to see freedom of hate speech as sacred.

I think this is but one of the instances where we can understand the difficulty of trying to maintain a democracy with a failed education system. Many people who truly ought to know better seem to believe that people learn the difference between good and bad behavior through some weird process of osmosis. They behave as if children are born knowing right from wrong. Some parents are especially guilty of this. They think that children learn to behave properly by just living in the house with other people.

There is a lot of attention paid these days to the horrible bullying some students are subjected to in their schoolrooms. Not much attention is given to adult bullying. But some people are harassed on their jobs every day, by name-calling and improper comments about gender and race. Some people feel forced to put up with it because the job situation is so critical — they feel if they complain they may lose their jobs.

Some radio and television commentators consistently use the airwaves for hate speech. Their employers make no effort to put guidelines in place for the use of their stations. It is difficult to say how much this hateful speech contributes to the violence in our society. And certainly if children are permitted to hear these commentators, there would be no way to convince them that this is not acceptable behavior.

Unfortunately, the conduct of these spreaders of hate proves that even when behavior is regulated, some individuals will find a way to spread racism and intolerance. Not that they confine their nasty comments just to other Americans, they also like to entice terrorists by trying to humiliate people from other countries.

I realize that many Americans don't mind having to send out the men and women of our volunteer army to fight wars for them after they have antagonized members of other cultures. They feel confident that as long as they fly their flags higher and more often than the rest of us everyone will see them as patriots.

If we fail to fix our broken education system, I hate to think of how many future generations we are dumping into the gutter. Now that we have learned that in some parts of the country people are undertaking the effort to sanitize our history it may already be too late.

Time will tell.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at nolen@iland.net.


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Comments

Chip Leaver February 8, 2011 | 1:37 a.m.

Hate speech has evolved along with the demands for political correctness, but it's still hate speech, only in code, and though a lot of the rhetoric directed at our first biracial President is not directly stating, "you're black", the cry of "we want our country back" is very telling. They will deny that it is because he is black, but in a great many instances, when they are out of the earshot of the general public they will tell you that is exactly what it is.

For starters, who do you want your country back from? The duly elected President and other office holders? Why too would you suggest using your "second amendment solutions" to get your country back from the duly elected officials, when we still do have free elections?

Let's face it, there are a lot of whacky people out there with a lot of very strange thought patterns, and these talking heads that make huge fortunes out of stirring the pot of racism, hatred, fear and loathing, are a blight on this country. The only way to rid ourselves of them is to choose to be rid of them by writing to their sponsors, telling them of our plan to not purchase their products if they continue to support hate speech in this country, and switching the channel.

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley February 8, 2011 | 4:26 a.m.

Hate speech is unpopular speech. Unpopular speech is the speech that deserves THE MOST protections under our Constitution.....

Nobody every complains about or tries to "attack" popular speech that everybody likes and agrees with.....

A sensible government has always thought that the solution to ignorant people that say ignorant things is to IGNORE the ignorant people... A whole lot easier that letting Rose Nolen re-write the Constitution for us.....

Ricky Gurley.

(Report Comment)
Chris Cady February 8, 2011 | 9:48 a.m.

"Hate speech is unpopular speech."

I don't know, Glenn Beck is pretty popular.

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley February 8, 2011 | 9:55 a.m.

Well Chris, that is true..

But calling someone a Nazi is still unpopular, isn't it?

I mean there is a difference in popularity between someone calling you a Nazi and someone saying "I wish peace and prosperity upon the world"; isn't there Chris?

Ricky Gurley.

(Report Comment)
Jack Hamm February 8, 2011 | 10:02 a.m.

"I don't know, Glenn Beck is pretty popular."

Not as popular as he was. Beck's ratings dropped by 39% in 2010; 48% in the 25-48 age group. People are starting to wise up to the BS on Fox "News". You can only lie to people for so long before they stop listening to you. The only people still watching are the lunatics and idiots.

(Report Comment)
Chip Leaver February 8, 2011 | 10:08 a.m.

"Hate speech is unpopular speech. Unpopular speech is the speech that deserves THE MOST protections under our Constitution".....

Ricky, I believe you've said this before, and I do agree with you, but then I think about the Westborough Baptist Church out protesting at funerals, and I wonder, is there a line that we need to draw? If we didn't allow them to stand outside of funerals and shout that God hates fags, and thank God that this soldier or shooting victim is dead because it's God's way of showing us that we are in ruins as a country because we tolerate homosexuals, then we would be not only inhibiting their right to free speech, but their freedom of assembly, all in one fell swoop. lol

I agree, it is one slippery slope, and as for me, I would rather let the police turn their heads and have the community run these types out of town on a rail.
But all in all, if we go deciding who can be heard and who cannot, the old saying of give them an inch and they will take a mile would certainly take precedence and it wouldn't be long before it would be just about anything said in dissent of the popular way of thinking that would be declared to be off the table, or even worse, a criminal offense.

But I don't think that Rose was starting a movement to do such a thing. She was merely lamenting the hateful rhetoric that we hear so often, and using her right to free speech to write about it and express her feelings on it, just like the rest of us do every single day. Well some of us more than others.

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley February 8, 2011 | 10:09 a.m.

And it seems to me Jack, that this is the "Natural Solution" to "Hate Speech"........

No need to try to prohibit it, when people figure out that the person speaking is just speaking in a hateful manner simply for the sake of speaking in a hateful manner; they will stop listening.....

Ricky Gurley.

(Report Comment)
Jack Hamm February 8, 2011 | 10:19 a.m.

Could not agree more Rick. If people want to stop hate speech all they have to do is shun those who engage in it. Works everytime. This disconnect we are seeing now is that so many do not think what is being said is hate speech which is a greater problem. We must do a better job of educating ourselves. To many people are ignorant of basic facts and lack basic logic and reasoning skills and seem to be proud of it.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking February 8, 2011 | 1:16 p.m.

Chip Leaver wrote:

"then I think about the Westborough Baptist Church out protesting at funerals, and I wonder, is there a line that we need to draw?"

Well, that to me is more like yelling "Fire" in a crowded room. I would think few would object to prohibiting protest activities (of any sort) at funerals. This just addresses the venue, not the speech itself.

But, as an extreme example, if Westboro wants to syndicate a radio or TV show called "God hates America" and sell the idea to sponsors, than they should have the right to have it aired just like any other political or religious programming. Not that I think their listener base could possibly justify that (and I'd hate to see that happen, and can't imagine it doing so).

"I agree, it is one slippery slope,"

Yes it is, and below is why.

" and as for me, I would rather let the police turn their heads and have the community run these types out of town on a rail."

But here is where the police can't turn their heads. If we agree they (any person, really) should have the right to say what they want, then the police have to protect that person. What Rick said about unpopular speech is right - one does not have to agree with what I say, but the govermnment has to defend my right to say it. Anything else leads to censorship, or mob rule.

DK

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith February 8, 2011 | 2:01 p.m.

The problem is this: Once censorship begins, where does it end? Some one or some group will always come up with a reason to add to the list of people or things to be censored.

BTW if anyone who wants a copy of Mark Twain's "Huckleberry Finn," with ALL the "N" words present (as Mark Twain wrote it) you can order one on line from Dover Publications for less than $20.

For online ordering try www.doverpublications.com

Who knows, this edition may in time become a banned item! Wouldn't that be cool?

My other comment is that no one race or religious group has cornered the domestic market on "hate-speak," but that fact seems to be lost on some people. :)

(Report Comment)
Delcia Crockett February 8, 2011 | 2:04 p.m.

@Comment:

"Let's face it, there are a lot of whacky people out there with a lot of very strange thought patterns, and these talking heads that make huge fortunes out of stirring the pot of racism, hatred, fear and loathing, are a blight on this country. The only way to rid ourselves of them is to choose to be rid of them by writing to their sponsors, telling them of our plan to not purchase their products if they continue to support hate speech in this country, and switching the channel."

My response: Exactly. No support and not one listener. Echo in silence rebounding back upon the promoters of hatred - best answer to anyone who uses the Freedom of Speech amendment to harass or stalk others with hate and verbal abuse.

(Report Comment)
Ellie Funke February 8, 2011 | 2:11 p.m.

Chip Leaver - Let me blast a hole in your "only in code" theory. Herman Cain! Taking our country back from the elitist politicians, from those who fail to accept that if you don't/can't produce you don't increase wealth.

The real problem here is being able to identify and define 'hate speech'. I agree that not all speech should be allowed to pollute our air. I also believe we should not censor speech just because it doesn't agree with our plitical or religious belief.

(Report Comment)
Ellie Funke February 8, 2011 | 2:17 p.m.

I totally agree with Rose about our education system. We have got to teach history as it really happened not through the opinions of talking heads or with what is left after the sanitization from the easily offended.

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley February 8, 2011 | 4:35 p.m.

I am just wondering what "little monster" in people's houses is making people get up from their seats and turn their television stations to Glenn Beck and watch his show? That's what I want to know?

I don't have one of those "little monsters" in my house, thank goodness!

Ricky Gurley.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams February 8, 2011 | 6:07 p.m.

Yeah, I remember Hank Waters (in an editorial) bemoaning that students were listening to too much Rush Limbaugh.

Given that RL is only on during school hours, I couldn't figure out just when those precocious rugrats were sneaking out for a dose of RL instead of the proverbial smoke. Made a pretty funny image....but that's just me.

Now, if he'd complained about parents listening to too much RL, and that knowledge rubbing off on their rugrats, he'd have the beginnings of a point.

(Report Comment)

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