Tuesday, May 9, 2006

At what point does free speech become hate speech.

What if you were to go to your local Kiwanis or Rotary to hear your Congressional Representative speak on the issues of the day and he or she took the podium after dinner and began to explain how much better off our nation would be if all African Americans (or Jews, or any other ethnic group) were gone.

Then he or she went on to explain what a day in American would be like without them.


"What would that day look like without any Blacks?
There would be no one to sell heroin, marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamines that plague the United States, reducing the U.S. supply of meth that day by 80%. The lives of 12 U.S. citizens would be saved who otherwise die a violent death at the hands of murderous Blacks each day. Another 13 Americans would survive who are otherwise killed each day by drunk driving Blacks. Our hospital emergency rooms would not be flooded with everything from gunshot wounds, to imported diseases to hangnails, giving American citizens the day off from standing in line behind Blacks. Eight American children would not suffer the horror as a victim of a sex crime."

and they would go on to "warn" the audience:

"They need to be stopped before it is too late…this scourge that threatens the very future of our nation … soon they'll be coming here to kill you, and you, and me, and my grandchildren."

Jaws agape, the audience would most likely at first be dumbfounded, and then as the words sunk in … appalled. Within seconds their silence would turn to hisses and boos until the Representatives handlers would quickly usher their charge out the back door, praying that the local press had failed to show up and discussing damage control in case they had.

But no amount of spin or damage control would save the Representatives career. After such a display of blatant racism and hate-speech they would be finished in public life forever …. and rightfully so.

Yet, were they to use the exact same language when discussing undocumented immigrants they would become the darlings of the anti-immigration movement. Such is the case with Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-CO) and Steve King (R-IA) to whom the above quotes can be attributed, albeit with the word Black changed to "illegal alien".


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From Rep.Steve King's May 5th "column" titled; "Biting the Hand That Feeds You" from his congressional website:


On May 1st, the activists who brought you thousands of Mexican flags flying in marches down the streets of our cities are now bringing you “Nothing Gringo Day”. With help from the Mexican government, Mexican unions, Mexican political groups, and through the Spanish language radio and newspapers, the call has gone out to make America experience a total boycott, both here and in Mexico. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you.

What would that May 1st look like without illegal immigration? There would be no one to smuggle across our southern border the heroin, marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamines that plague the United States, reducing the U.S. supply of meth that day by 80%. The lives of 12 U.S. citizens would be saved who otherwise die a violent death at the hands of murderous illegal aliens each day. Another 13 Americans would survive who are otherwise killed each day by uninsured drunk driving illegals. Our hospital emergency rooms would not be flooded with everything from gunshot wounds, to anchor babies, to imported diseases to hangnails, giving American citizens the day off from standing in line behind illegals. Eight American children would not suffer the horror as a victim of a sex crime.

Link

The quote about "killing you, me and my grandchildren" … that one comes from Tom Tancredo discussing the "immigrant invasion".


"They need to be found before it is too late, (they are) a scourge that threatens the very future of our nation (and) are entering the US to kill me, to kill you and our families"

Link, Link

How is it that most Americans when faced with this kind of hate speech can easily recognize it when it is directed at Blacks or Jews or any other of the myriad of ethnic, religious or racial groups that have traditionally been the victims of such bigotry, yet when this kind of vitriol is unleashed upon undocumented immigrants, many not only don't see the inherent racism in it, but in fact nod along in agreement. People who would find it abhorrent to classify any other entire race or ethnic group as a murderous scourge of drug dealers and child molesters whose only wish is to kill Americans, find nothing wrong with an elected representative using this language to describe 12 million people, hardworking men and women and their children.

The debate over immigration and immigration reform is complex, and there is plenty of room for many differing and diverse opinions. But what there is not room for is demagoguery, fear-mongering, race-baiting and hate. This is an important issue, and one all Americans must address, but the inflammatory rhetoric of Messrs. Tancredo and King do nothing to move the debate forward.

Unfortunately I fear that the tone set by these two men is quickly becoming the norm rather than the exception.

It is not a question of immigration or immigration reform. Not of policy, laws or procedures. Not of "illegal" or legal immigrants. It is not a question of "amnesty", "guest" workers or wall-building.

It is a question of language.

It is a question of hate-speech.

And why we as a nation allow it to enter our public discourse.


3 comments:

DuctapeFatwa said...

This is a wonderful article, Duke, and it reminds me of a thread on someone else's blog, catnip's, maybe? on the subject of how angry some become - and not just the mainstream - when comparisons are made between Germany a few decades ago and the US today.

I remember mentioning in a comment a quote by Winston Churchill, considered in the west to be a great hero, where he advocated the gassing of what he considered to be "backward" or "primitive" peoples, I don't remember which adjective he used, maybe both.

Anyway, my point was that the difference between Churchill and Hitler is that they disagreed on which groups should be gassed.

Today, as you point out, it would be unthinkable for any public figure to say such things about most groups, even groups which again, a few decades ago, it was quite acceptable to speak of in such a way.

Today, in the US, one hears in allegedly "polite" society, things said about Muslims that should the same person say the same things, for example, about Jews, that individual would find that the doors of that allegedly polite society were immediately and permanently closed to him.

Lately, it has become acceptable to say even worse things about the sons and daughters of the indigenous people of the Americas.

We are honored to welcome our indigenous brothers and sisters to the back of the bus. The kebabs are delicious today, have some! It's like carne asada, you'll love it!

As a free speech extremist, I personally draw the line at open calls to genocide, and I stress that this is my personal line, someone else's may lie elsewhere, and since it is my personal line, I do not have to explain it or defend it with the same vigor as if I were advocating it as public policy, beyond lumping it with the already prohibited "inciting violence" provision of existing laws that constitute exceptions to the First Amendment, and even this is rather flimsy, since the US Constitution has been re-positioned into a historical as opposed to legal or policy-determining document.

Even so, yes, I would defend the right of these individuals to utter the statements you quote. No one should be forced to keep his ignorance and stupidity secret.

At the same time, I am not insensible to the implications of the acceptability of such remarks, I am quite aware of of what it means in terms of danger to the enemy du jour, and in many ways, the even larger danger to the larger society. (insert favorite Martin Niemoller snippet here).

But it is not the words themselves that are the danger. That danger is the wish to say them, the hatred behind them, which cannot be legislated away. Thought crime? That is reserved for Muslims who are accused of wishing to kill Americans. :)

So, no, I would not remove the bell from the neck of the cat.

Now I will do something really annoying. I will anticipate what you will say. You will say, ah, but, should we not consider that hearing such speech will encourage the listeners to say such things also? Will it not at best, give shape and form to incipient thoughtlets that had begun, of late, to romp around their heads, and at worst, whip up the hatred into a foam even fluffier and more "robust?"

And I can do nothing but acknowledge that yes, yes, and yes. I would, however, much prefer to see all that happen in the public square than hidden from view behind drawn curtains. I would much prefer to hear it shouted over loudspeakers than furtively whispered.

Even though I know all too well what it means, of what it is a harbinger.

For that very reason I wish it to be protected speech that may be shouted in the public square, on loudspeakers.

Because I am old, and I might not hear the whisper...

ayoosilver said...

Duke,

I hope that they should put effort now in voter registration, awareness, and education. So that by the time Nov. comes even if we were not able to vote them out we could marginalize thes folks. By defeating their cohorts. Otherwise, they have the power to push forth a harsh immigration bill. At the same time the immigrant community should reply back with truth agains these exonophobe.

hugo said...

Trancedo has the right to express himself with hate speech, and we have the right to shame him and his followers for expressing these views.