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To wonder if the legal concept of hate speech is a useful one?

(25 Posts)
crunchymint Wed 07-Feb-18 18:07:12

No I do not want people saying racist or disablist things. But I wonder if legally calling that hate speech, which attracts tougher legal responses, is actually useful?
I think it is useful to recognise that it is hate speech, so that concept is important. But should it be legally considered worse for example to shout abuse at someone that is racist, than shout abuse at someone about something else?

CrazyExIngenue Wed 07-Feb-18 18:21:45

Yes it is. You have to look at it from a legal standpoint.

Various crimes come with various penalties. Murder, depending on evidence of pre motivation comes with 20 years or less sentences, with parol after 1/4 the sentence on good behavior. If you tack on subsequent murders, that raises 20 to 40 or 80 or 100, etc. Even 100 years to a guy in his 20's means parol in his 40's,if he's been well behaved.

Adding hate crimes to the convictions adds more time to the sentence. Which means parole is harder to achieve.

Hate crime is generally only tacked on to the sentences against people who have already committed serious crimes and it's generally easily proveable due to their M.O.'s or prior evidence.

Noone gets convicted of a hate crime because they said nigger (sorry) once. They get convicted of hate crimes because they blew up a predominately African American church and had a pro-nazi Facebook group.

Babycham1979 Wed 07-Feb-18 18:23:08

I think it's a nonsense, and a dangerous concept that's all too often used to silence dissent. All 'hate crime' is equally questionable. If you kill me, it's murder. If you kill me - allegedly- because of certain characteristics of mine... it's somehow even more of a crime? An illogical nonsense, sorry.

Dapplegrey Wed 07-Feb-18 18:30:40

No one gets convicted of a hate crime because they said nigger (sorry) once.

Crazy - are the people who are filmed shouting racist abuse on buses and trains convicted of hate crime?
I just wondered as if filmed then there's evidence.

CrazyExIngenue Wed 07-Feb-18 18:41:26

Dapplegrey that would be evidence of a hate crime ONLY if they went on to commit crimes (assault, harrasment, fraud, murder, theft, etc) against people of the race they were protesting against. Otherwise they would not be charged for simply being there.

The leader of the rally may be a different story but you have to prove they are calling on others to commit criminal offences against that race/religion/gender/sexuality

CrazyExIngenue Wed 07-Feb-18 18:43:17

Sorry realized you were talking about random bigots on a bus. Highly unlikely they would be charged.

crunchymint Wed 07-Feb-18 19:00:58

Okay,so it is basically used for awful crimes to give them stiffer sentences?

AprilW Wed 07-Feb-18 19:01:58

If you kill me - allegedly- because of certain characteristics of mine... it's somehow even more of a crime?

There's usually no need for 'allegedly', since the perpetrator is usually very vocal about the reasons for their hate crime, and it's the culmination of a sustained pattern of hateful rhetoric inciting others to commit similar crimes (in the name of ethnic purity/white survival/whatever extreme dogma), plus harrassment, abuse, and intense interaction with a similarly extremist group. The danger with hate crimes is that they're not supposed to be isolated incidents: they're generally supposed to be the start of the glorious rebellion, and can inspire copycat incidents or turn their perpetrators into heroes/martyrs.

So that's why it's different. Nobody's trying to make other murders seem less of a crime in comparison. They're all crimes, but hate crimes threaten an escalation of similar hate crimes even when the perpetrator is jailed, so this must be accounted for.

I think having a specific category for hate speech is also useful, but there's obviously a concern that it can be misused to shut down debate. I think the actual legal definition is slightly hazy (?), but IMO it should be used to prosecute the deliberate and sustained harrassment, dehumanization and villification of a certain group. Many genocides relating to ethnic cleansing (the Holocaust, the Yugoslav Wars) were precipitated by the initial non-violent villification of one particular group, which created a culture of hatred, suspicion and scapegoating which enabled the transition into actual violence.

Justanotherlurker Wed 07-Feb-18 19:03:58

They get convicted of hate crimes because they blew up a predominately African American church and had a pro-nazi Facebook group.

Meh, it is being used loosely in some instances if you look about, here is one obvious one

metro.co.uk/2018/01/05/man-taught-dog-nazi-salutes-convicted-hate-crime-7207577/

Dapplegrey Wed 07-Feb-18 19:05:10

Crazy - yes, random bigots.
Sometimes there are videos of the incidents in the paper and I've wondered what happened to the perpetrators.

Dapplegrey Wed 07-Feb-18 19:05:38

Sorry, crazy, meant to also say thank you for answering my question.

crunchymint Wed 07-Feb-18 19:25:31

justanotherlurker Yes those are the kind of things I don't think should be illegal, even though I totally disagree with it.

Babycham1979 Wed 07-Feb-18 19:54:45

It only needs the recipient of said abuse to consider it say, racially-aggravated, for it to be classed as such. Statistically, this counts as a 'hate crime'.

As ever, some groups seem beyond reproach. I'd say much of what is preached in Catholic churches and Mosques would be classed as a hate crime if another group came out with it.

In fact, quite a lot of what I see on the MN Feminism boards at least border on hate speech. But then, political crimes will always have a hierarchy of victims and offenders. Which I why I think it's antithetical to logic and natural justice. It's basically thought crime.

AprilW Wed 07-Feb-18 19:58:45

'Man teaches dog to give Nazi salute, is convicted of hate crime', or similar, is a clickbaity sort of headline.

The actual case (still ongoing, AFAIK?) involves the guy saying 'gas the Jews' twenty-three times in a short Youtube video, which got more than three million views and 60,000 thumbs up.

The Scottish Council of Jewish Communities was 'bombarded with abusive comments' after the video went viral. In one day, they collected 163 pages of messages of support for the video, most of which were anti-semitic.

The case centres on one key dispute: the guy claims it was alternative, offbeat, edgy humour (featuring a cute pug he'd trained to respond to 'sieg heil' and 'gas the jews') and it was never intended to go viral (although he is an aspiring Youtube comedian) or seriously offend.

Prosecution say 'he is a highly intelligent and articulate individual; we are not dealing with some callow youth who is inexperienced with what is going on in the world. [...] the inclusion of the dog is an attempt to muddy the waters around him making, producing and posting the video.'

As in: it's just a laugh and not at all hateful to repeat 'gas the Jews' if there's a cute dog involved, or some other covering gimmick which turns hateful rhetoric into cheeky banter.

It'll be interesting to see how it comes out, although to a certain extent it hardly matters, since it'll now stick in people's minds as 'that poor bloke who got arrested for teaching his dog to raise a paw, political correctness gorn mad' etc etc.

crunchymint Wed 07-Feb-18 20:05:37

Ah thanks for explaining the context. Yes that is totally different.

Dapplegrey Wed 07-Feb-18 20:41:04

April I sincerely hope that someone teaching their dog to respond to 'gas the jews' is not regarded by anyone as political correctness gone mad!
I hope he is convicted and serves a sentence.
Equally appalling is that there were 60,000 thumbs up. I'm not doubting you, but is there any chance that could be a misprint (although 6000 or 600 - or any number at all - would be shocking enough)

Justanotherlurker Wed 07-Feb-18 20:46:21

As in: it's just a laugh and not at all hateful to repeat 'gas the Jews' if there's a cute dog involved, or some other covering gimmick which turns hateful rhetoric into cheeky banter.

And this is the epitome of why the "hate speech" laws are very loose and dangerous, had Frankie Boyle done it, people would still be offended but I highly doubt he would be facing jail time. Humour has always been subjective, and making poor taste jokes come with jail time is not fair nor right.

The guy started the video by saying the dog is evil, and as such he made it react to the most evil things he could think of.

Many Jewish comedians here in the UK and across the world have come out in support of him, so its not as clear cut as you are trying to paint.

Justanotherlurker Wed 07-Feb-18 20:54:30

I hope he is convicted and serves a sentence.

Seriously...

AprilW Wed 07-Feb-18 21:14:12

Dapplegrey, I got the 60,000 figure from The Daily Record (Scottish equivalent of the Mirror? not sure...), who said 'the court heard the video had attracted anti-Semitic comments online but that it had also received 60,000 “thumbs up” on YouTube and only 2000 “thumbs down”.

He's got more than 40k followers on Twitter ('Count Dankula') so it seems credible. There's a huge appreciative audience for a) alternative, 'non-PC', he-can't say-that-oh-wait-he-did boundary-pushing comedy, b) anti-semitic bullshit, c) b disguised as a, and d) who even fucking knows: random shite, dancing dogs, stuff you don't know if it's satirical, sincere or just pissed ramblings.

I have no idea which category this guy's stuff falls into, and I wonder how it'll be decided.

TheHungryDonkey Wed 07-Feb-18 21:28:24

Have you been on the receiving end of hate speech? If you haven’t, I can tell you it’s essential not useful.

Birdsgottafly Wed 07-Feb-18 21:42:29

So if we didn't have the law in place do you honestly think that certain sections of the Press and the likes of Nigel Farage/Katie Hopkins wouldn't spout views that mirror the propaganda that has been used for centuries to convince the population that it is Ok to treat certain people as lesser citizens?

There was the demonising of Black/Chinese people, Johnny Foreigner fear, then of course the Nazi propaganda which started about disabled people "life without life" and extended to Gay/Gypsy/Jewish people?

Here in the UK it was "the dirty thieving Irish".

I'm finding it unbelievable that someone who professes to not be Racist or Disabilitist and our age, could hold your views.

AprilW Wed 07-Feb-18 21:58:33

The guy started the video by saying the dog is evil, and as such he made it react to the most evil things he could think of. Many Jewish comedians here in the UK and across the world have come out in support of him, so its not as clear cut as you are trying to paint.

I'm not trying to paint anything as clear-cut.

As far as I can see, the prosecution see someone using comedy as an excuse/cover to voice their extreme views. And the defense says the comedy's the point, and the anti-semitism is just for effect.

I know David Baddiel has spoken in support of this (not sure about any other Jewish comedians?) and I've seen a clip of him discussing it with Ricky Gervais. The main point is that he feels, like you, that the guy's descriptive intro explicitly makes it clear this isn't anti-semitic, and he just wanted to make the dog say the most evil thing possible. Also, the dog is funny, and no topics are off-limit for jokes.

But clearly the prosecution disagree that prefacing something offensive with a statement distancing yourself from the content (it's just for effect, it's just a joke) is a watertight disclaimer, and that there's genuine malice, or whatever the legal definition is, in the deliberate use of that material. Whatever you claim your agenda/intention was can be factored into your defense, but it doesn't conclude the whole case.

One interesting thing about the Baddiel/Gervais clip is that Baddiel does a brief lead-up to revealing the cue phrase, and Ricky guesses it might be 'heil', but when Baddiel says it's 'gas the Jews', Gervais doesn't immediately laugh. He just sort of stops, then says 'oh... hold on', then 'right', but he doesn't start to show any amusement (Ricky Gervais, who laughs at every fucking thing) until Baddiel continues and makes it clear he's amused, that the whole thing is funny, etc. Then he kind of relaxes into it. It's just interesting to see the instinctive reaction to that phrase, even to Ricky Gervais, was.. what? A hesitancy as to whether you could laugh at it, or whether it was funny or awful? There aren't that many short phrases which have such power, even on comedians who'll say the most outrageous things.

crunchymint Wed 07-Feb-18 23:38:37

Hungry Yes I have, and worse than speech

Dapplegrey Thu 08-Feb-18 13:48:39

seriously

Okay, justanother I did overreact, I agree. However antisemitism seems to be creeping out of the woodwork in a number of places, including the Labour Party, and surely it's very cruel to joke about the Holocaust when there are still victims of it alive today.

sixteenapples Thu 08-Feb-18 18:53:27

If you beat and rape a woman, because she is a woman and you hate women, you will get a lesser sentence than if you beat and rape a transgender man because he is a transgender man. The second is a hate crime. (If I have understood this correctly)

If you beat up a white man and you are white and you don't like the look of him for whatever reason and you beat up a black man because he is black and you don't like the look of him you will get a lighter sentece for beating up the white man.

This to me is wrong and creates a hierarchy of victims. Women at the bottom. (Unless I have go this wrong - which I might have as I am no expert)

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