Internet Musings: Hate Speech and Hate Crimes

Okay, folks… this is more than 2,000 words. I’m sorry! Crowfoot and I get really chatty, and this time around it was all so fascinating I couldn’t see any good places to cut! I’ve re-ordered a few comments and responses that got out of sync, and touched up our punctuation and spelling, but other than that… this is how Crowfoot and I talk on an average Friday lunch break.

Eloriane: I’m going to do a “people I was happier never having heard of” blogaround. With the sex therapist from Twisty, and Robert Anton Wilson. …Can you think of any other good ones off the top of your head?

Crowfoot: *thinks*

C: Nothing’s really coming to mind. I’ll poke about.

E: I grew up in Fred Phelps’ hometown.

E: He protested Cats! The play! Which I saw when I was twelve!

C: wha?

E: Because of The Gay!

C: *snort*

E: because… it’s a musical?

C: Oh dear.

E: He also protests soldiers’ funerals, but it was at Cats that I met him.

C: Ew, you met him?

E: God Hates Fags! That is his slogan.

E: Also, fag-enablers!

C: That is so disgusting and insane.

E: He is a seriously terrible man. And yeah, my parents sort of shuffled me past him. And his family.

E: I think it’s required of every high schooler in Kansas to write an essay about how he’s an asshole but we support his free speech.

E: And isn’t it nice that we have the freedom to say things even if people think we’re assholes for it!

C: I don’t know if I agree with that, but up here in ZOMGSOCIALISM Canada we have hate speech laws where one is NOT allowed to say whatever they want. There are limits. Phelps, for instance, crosses that line regularly.

E: yeah.

E: but, you know, we’re only Gays.

E: It’s not even a hate crime to kill us, why would it be hate speech to recommend killing us?

C: No doubt.

C: I think we need that [hate speech laws], as it understands that we do not live in a society where everyone is equal. Some people are shit on more than others, and to spread that kind of hate contributes to violence and oppression.

E: I agree with you– I just tend towards sarcasm.

E: To deal with the crippling despair. You know how it is.

C: Heh. Yeah.

C: God it makes me so mad and so sad.

C: Why aren’t women a part of who hate speech can be directed towards?

E: I THINK gender is a protected class, actually…?

E: Race is.

E: But not sexual orientation or gender identity.

C: hmm. maybe worth looking into. I seem to recall that in Canada hate speech can refer to gays and lesbians but not women. [true: source]

C: (race was first on the list, obviously – it was started to step anti-semitism, I think)

E: I mean, you’d basically have to have the murderer sign and notarize a letter saying “I KILLED THIS WOMAN BECAUSE SHE IS A WOMAN AND FOR NO OTHER REASON” for it to get prosecuted as a proper hate crime… just, say, rape isn’t enough of an expression of misogyny to be suspect.

C: I know! that’s just crazy

E: Oh, I’m thinking of hate CRIMES, not hate SPEECH

C: Does the US have hate speech legislation?

E: I was under the impression it didn’t?

C: I believe we have both, but I also suspect that being female is not mentioned in either category.

C: Although I think there’s something in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that prohibits discrimination against women… [source]

E: Here’s US hate CRIMES legislation: The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, enacted in 28 U.S.C. § 994 note Sec. 280003, requires the United States Sentencing Commission to increase the penalties for hate crimes committed on the basis of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation of any person. In 1995, the Sentencing Commission implemented these guidelines, which only apply to federal crimes. [source]

E: So orientation’s there; it’s just trans folk that can get murdered wantonly.

E: On the federal level.

C: Couldn’t one argue that transphobic killing falls under “gender”?

C: Everyone keeps mixing up gender and sex

E: I mean, I would. Especially as it says PERCEIVED gender.

C: Right!

C: One could argue that bigotry against gender includes bigotry against gender presentation. Though maybe that’s too vague. It really just should be in there.

E: If a person delivers a hate speech denigrating all Jews, or African-Americans, or gays, then this would not be considered a hate crime anywhere in the United States, because no criminal act has occurred. Hate speech itself is protected under the First Amendment. [source]

C: See, that I disagree with.

E: I’m actually surprised that we DON’T have any hate speech provisions

C: Particularly since the speech leads into the actions. One really can’t separate the two in a society with such clearly recorded oppression.

E: mmhmm.

C: Which is what I like about Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It recognizes the inequities and how treating everyone equally in a society where people are not already equal just ends up meaning that everything stays the same. Catherine McKinnon had some good things to say about it [Are Women Human?].

E: plus, why wait until somebody commits murder before telling them it’s not OK to treat (insert class here) that way?

C: exactly!!

C: Because Freedom of SpeechZOMG

C: We can say shit, but we still have to be responsible for that shit.

E: ALSO: It is important to realize that crimes motivated by a hatred of a person’s sexual orientation — whether the victim is a heterosexual, bisexual or homosexual — are already defined as hate crimes. However, federal laws only attach an extended sentence penalty to those hate crimes that are motivated by racism, sexism or xenophobia. Hate crimes based on gender, sexual orientation or disability do not result in extra sentences. [source]

C: *scratches head*

C: That… doesn’t make sense.

E: Also… sexism versus gender? Sexism has an extended sentence, but gender does not?

E: Oh, I bet sexism is for women, but “gender” is for gender-non-conforming folks (trans or not).

E: And it’s because originally those weren’t recognized as hate crimes at all, and we haven’t gotten them put all the way on the list yet.

E: So we track them as hate crimes, but we don’t punish them as hate crimes.

C: That’s so much stupid crap *sigh*

E: I KNEW orientation wasn’t a totally protected class… I was actually more confused earlier, when I though I was wrong and it WAS protected!

C: The whole thing is so… pathetic? I mean, why not just add to existing legislation concerning hate crimes? “Addendum: oh yeah, sexual orientation and transexuality.” Easy-peasy. Done.

C: But no, must do things in half measures. Blah!

E: It’s because a lot of ACTUAL POLITICIANS who are ACTUALLY ELECTED in MY OWN DAMN COUNTRY don’t really see a problem with killing people for being gay!

E: Or rather, they don’t get why extending more rights is “always good” (someone posted something to that at a Shakesville blogaround… can’t find it now, though.)

E: Is the state of the discourse that different in Canada?

C: I think politicians buy into the “equal rights for all” while still being bigots, if that makes sense. For example, since the early 70s multiculturalism has been an official stance by the federal government, so there’s a tendency to speak as “pro-different cultures” while still not Getting It, if that makes sense. Like, we still have terrible racism, but it’s directly more at First Nations people.

E: Mm, I can see that.

C: I don’t recall hearing a lot of “special rights” that much anymore. Definitely in the 80s and then less so in the 90s and the 00s. But the blind spots are still there.

C: Though we certainly do have our bigots who complain about “special rights” etc.

E: Oh man, “special rights!” is like the BATTLECRY of the Republicans. I hear it from my FRIENDS.

C: Gah!

C: Even Harper doesn’t use that terminology I don’t think? I think our conservatives keep their bigots on a shorter leash. Or at least cloak their bigotry better. At least in the mainstream discourse. There are of course Tory bloggers who are raving racists and homophobes and sexists. Unrepentant Hippy mocks them regularly, heh.

C: And now the leader of the Liberal party is a concervative in liberal clothing.

C: I miss Paul Martin! lol

E: Once again, I am longing to move to Canada…

C: I really do love it here, despite it’s problems and flaws. I mean, every country has them of course.

E: Where’s it’s not OK for people to say out loud that I should be killed!

C: Right! God.

C: I think, too, that I’ve isolated myself from the wingnuttier side of things, out of self-preservation.

C: However, having said that, I can watch our main Big Name evening news without wanting to gouge my eyes out (CBC’s the National with Peter Mansbridge). He even has a butch lesbian on his political panel! well, I don’t know for sure if she is but she looks the part? is that cheesy? lol

E: I can’t even stomach CNN, to say nothing of FOX.

C: Yeah.

E: I get that Canada isn’t some kind of fairyland utopia

E: But it kinda raises the bar, you know?

E: Like, no one’s ARGUING about whether I deserve to, say, see my (hypothetical) partner in the hospital in her last moments

C: Yeah, so true!

E: Did you hear? An American woman was recently refused entry by the hospital staff, and her wife died without her or her children. And people take the side of the hospital!

C: oh.

E: They DO NOT SEE the inexcusable cruelty!

C: Oh god.

C: I just don’t get it. That’s so horrible.

E: I mean, I am damn lucky that I enjoy expressing femme, because if I didn’t pass really well, my physical person could easily be in danger, here in Arkansas. Or in North Carolina.

E: Hate speech was painted on a big bench on campus last week (in NC).

E: It’s not the first time, either.

C: And yet American politicians and newscasters constantly say how America is the leader in Freedom.

E: Ohh yeah. Freedom of SPEECH, baby!

C: Ugh.

E: I have never, ever, EVER felt worse than the day I was riding the bus to the other end of campus, and we went past the spray-painted bridge, where student groups are allowed to paint advertisements, and the “be a FAC” (which is a freshman…something counselor) message had been changed to “don’t be a FAG.”

E: I felt like I was going to vomit.

E: Every day for the next week, while it stayed up there.

C: {{{{{hugs}}}}}

C: That’s so horrible. And scary.

E: Oh, it was ages ago

E: Now I mostly just wish that I had had the guts to change it myself. To fix it, I mean.

E: But, uh, apparently it wasn’t anything about ME, you know, not GAY PEOPLE. It’s a GENERAL insult.

C: Pfft oh how I hate that! “When I say ‘that’s so gay’ I don’t mean to insult you!” God the stupid. Whenever we hear that we should say “ok from now on, whenever I see something really pathetic and asinine I’ll say ‘that’s so [your name]’ but I won’t be talking about you!”

E: Oh man, I should do that!

C: I mean what kind of severe cognitive dissonance does one need to suffer from to say that using GroupName as an insult doesn’t actually insult members of that GroupName?? And then do it!

E: I do have a friend who continues to insist that with me.

C: When ever you’re around them. “man, that test was sooo Adam!” *sneer*

E: I TOTALLY will!

E: But, you see, the meaning of the word has CHANGED.

C: Jesus.

C: NO IT HASN’T gaaaaah.

C: How frustrating!!

E: Uh… do you need to, like, work, or something?

C: yeah, I dunno

E: haha

C: Don’t wannnnaaaaa *whine*

E: Do it!

E: And we can probably blog this conversation, lol

C: lol indeed!


[Crowfoot here] Who wants to work when one can chat with another lesbian feminist? w00t! Re-reading this, I do suspect that I have isolated myself from much of mainstream Canadian culture and politics. My response is therefore based on what I’m picking up from random tv, newspaper cover pages, the National (which I sort of watch, sometimes). It may also be a reflection of my living on the Left Coast as it’s sometimes called, as well as my strong instinct to avoid bigotry/retrofuckery wherever I am. However, I might also be cutting myself a bit short here. I have a tendency to pull back from speaking with authority unless I really feel that I’ve read up on a subject. So if any other Canadians are reading, by all means tell me about my little enclave of progressiveness that I’ve found myself living in! Or… agree?

I do think that our chat illustrates a very interesting question: at which point does freedom of speech interfere with freedom from harassment and oppression? Like I said in our chat, I agree with hate speech laws, and I’m glad Canada has them. Though I am mightily annoyed to discover that women are not “distinguishable group”! I think far too often too much is made of freedom of speech; it simply cannot be seen in a socio-political vacuum. We always need to remember who has the power, and who is doing what to whom.



One Response to Internet Musings: Hate Speech and Hate Crimes

  1. […] is Where the Bear Scat Lies In our last IM chat, Eloriane and I talked about living in Canada – she wanted to move and I loved living here. […]

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