A Foray into Political Correctness, Hate Speech, Freedom of Expression

As the election season heats up, rhetoric heats up and clashes are bound to occur. Clashes can be good as they cause sparks of brilliance – or it can succumb to the forces of entropy and degenerate into profiling and stereotyping. That need not be the case. Strawmen arguments and red herrings will abound – and if you speak your truth too clearly, you can be accused of hateful speech. So, I thought it will be a good topic for introspection and discovery.

What is this thing called hate speech? What has this got to do with political correctness, dissent and freedom of expression.

What is Hate Speech?

Wikipedia defines hate speech as:

speech perceived to disparage a person or group of people based on their social or ethnic group,[1] such as race, gender, age, ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, language ability, ideology, social class, occupation, appearance (height, weight, skin color, etc.), mental capacity, and any other distinction that might be considered by some as a liability. The term covers written as well as oral communication and some forms of behaviors in a public setting. It is also sometimes called antilocution and is the first point on Allport’s scale which measures prejudice in a society.

In many countries, deliberate use of hate speech is a criminal offence prohibited under incitement to hatred legislation.

Critics have claimed that the term “Hate Speech” is a modern example of Newspeak, used to silence critics of social policies that have been poorly implemented in a rush to appear politically correct.

What is to disparage?

Wikitionary defines disparage as:

  1. To match unequally; to degrade or dishonor.
  2. To dishonor by a comparison with what is inferior; to lower in rank or estimation by actions or words; to speak slightingly of; to depreciate; to undervalue.
  3. To ridicule, mock, discredit.

What are the basis for social or ethnic groupings?

As prevously defined, the groupings are:

  1. race,
  2. gender
  3. age
  4. ethnicity
  5. nationality
  6. religion
  7. sexual orientation
  8. gender identity
  9. disability
  10. language ability
  11. ideology
  12. social class
  13. occupation
  14. appearance (height, weight, skin color, etc.)
  15. mental capacity,
  16. and any other distinction that might be considered by some as a liability

Provide (an) example(s) of hate speech

Based on the above definitions, hate speech consists of the following elements:

  • A – disparaging remark – idiot, moron, stupid,ignorant, traitor
  • B – person or group of persons you, me (I), sila
  • C – based on grouping (refer to items 1-16) – pinoy, muslim, promdi,

Combining ABC, are at least 9 arrangements which can be considered hate speech, I will try to come up with four:

  • ABC – ignorant, sila, dahil promdi
  • CAB – pinoys kasi, kaya pasaway sila
  • ACB – stupid promdi, that’s you
  • BCA – promdi sila kaya ignorant

From here, you can quickly expand to.

  • He does not know how to fall in line because he is Filipino.
  • He is stupid because he is Noynoyista.
  • He is arrogant because he is pro-Gordon.
  • He is evil because he is pro-Villar.
  • He is ignorant because he is pro-Erap.
  • He is a loony because he is for de los Reyes.
  • He is a neocon/pro-American therefore he is evil/sellout/etc.

So on and so forth.

When is it not hate speech? Include examples

Do not quote me on this  – but I’d rather let the world’s most litiguous country, the US, to discuss it –

In 1942, the Supreme Court sustained the conviction of a Jehovah’s witness who addressed a police officer as a “God dammed racketeer” and “a damned facist” (Chaplinksy v. New Hampshire).  The Court’s opinion in the case stated that there was a category of face-to-face epithets, or “fighting words,” that was wholly outside of the protection of the First Amendment: those words “which by their very utterance inflict injury” and which “are no essential part of any exposition of ideas.”

In 1988, the Supreme Court considered a jury award of damages against Hustler Magazine for publishing a malicious and untrue story about Rev. Jerry Falwell.  The piece, labeled in small print “a parody,” stated that Falwell’s first sexual encounter was with his mother while drunk in an outhouse.  A Virginia jury concluded that the Hustler piece constituted “intentional infliction of emotional distress” and awarded $150,000 to Falwell.  The Supreme Court unanimously reversed the award, saying that it saw no principled basis for distinguishing the Hustler article from hard-hitting political cartoons and other speech clearly worthy of First Amendment protection.  The Court distinguished the sort of character assassination practiced by Hustler from the face-to-face insult threatening an immediate breach of the peace that was in issue in Chaplinsky.

American Booksellers involved a First Amendment challenge to an Indianapolis civil rights ordinance that made it a crime to distribute materials that depicted women as “sexual objects for domination, conquest, or use.”  The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals invalidated the ordinance calling it “thought control.”  The Court ruled that the First Amendment gives government no power to establish “approved views” of various subgroups of the population.

R. A. V. considered a challenge to a St. Paul ordinance punishing the placement of certain symbols that were “likely to arouse anger, alarm, or resentment on the basis of race, religion, or gender.”  Robert Victoria, a teenager, had been convicted of violating the ordinance after having been found to have burned a cross on the yard of a black family. The Court, in an an opinion by Justice Scalia, reversed R. A. V.’s conviction on the ground that the ordinance unconstitutionally criminalized some hurtful expression (specifically that aimed at racial and religious minorites) and not other hurtful expression (that aimed at other unprotected groups) based on the political preferences of legislators.  Scalia makes clear that “fighting words” is not, as Chaplinsky had suggested, a category of speech that is wholly outside of First Amendment protection.

A year after R. A. V., the Supreme Court unanimously upheld, in Wisconsin v. Mitchell, a statute that imposed stiffer sentences for racially-motivated assaults than for other types of assaults.  The Court reasoned that the statute did not violate the First Amendment because it was aimed primarily at regulating conduct, not speech.

In Virginia v Black (2003), the Court divided on the question of whether a state could prohibit cross burning carried out with the intent to intimidate.  A majority of the Court concluded that, because cross-burning has a history as a “particularly virulent form of intimidation,” Virginia could prohibit that form of expression while not prohibiting other types of intimidating expression.  Thus, the majority found the cross-burning statute to fall within one of R. A. V.’s exceptions to the general rule that content-based prohibitions on speech violate the First Amendment.  Nonetheless, the Court reversed the Virginia cross-burner’s conviction because of a jury instruction that might produce convictions of cross-burners whose motivation was ideological–and not an attempt to arouse fear.  Justice Thomas dissented, arguing that cross-burning is conduct, not expression, and therefore its suppression does not raise serious First Amendment issues.

From these instances, the ignorant layman that I am would conclude that if I say the following – I am creatively expressing my disagreement with certain behaviors that restrict our progress as a nation. 

  • Einstein once described insanity as doing the same things and expecting the same results. A lot of Pinoys keep on doing the same things and expect different results, that’s insanity. We cannot keep on using winnability as a criteria and expect different results, that’s insanity – Noynoy’s supporters are insane because they behaved insanely in using the same criteria – winnability. Is that hateful? Did I disparage a group of people or did I disparage a behavior? I assert I disagreed with a behavior, and not a group of people, and expressed my disagreement towards such behavior – using winnability as a criteria.
  • We complain about government being corrupt. And yet, we elect candidates who are corrupt. Then we go back to the streets and rally that the government is full of crooks. Ahem ahem – didn’t we ALL vote for these folks with the a priori knowledge that they were crooks but happened to be the lesser evil– because the candidate was our SOB – easily accessible through the councilor, kagawad, etcetera and who can provide a basketball court?

Shall we just cast a blind eye about this and speak Newspeak?

Newspeak and Political Correctness

For those not familiar with 1984:

Newspeak is a fictional language in George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. The term was also used to discuss Soviet phraseology. [1] In the novel by Orwell, it is described as being “the only language in the world whose vocabulary gets smaller every year”. Orwell included an essay about it in the form of an appendix[2] in which the basic principles of the language are explained. Newspeak is closely based on English but has a greatly reduced and simplified vocabulary and grammar. This suits the totalitarian regime of the Party, whose aim is to make any alternative thinking—”thoughtcrime”, or “crimethink” in the newest edition of Newspeak—impossible by removing any words or possible constructs which describe the ideas of freedom, rebellion and so on. One character, Syme, says admiringly of the shrinking volume of the new dictionary: “It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.”

Another child of the 80s is Political Correctness – Philip Atkinson provides an interesting read. Wikipedia describes Political Correctness as

Political correctness (adjectivally, politically correct; both forms commonly abbreviated to PC) is a term denoting language, ideas, policies, and behavior seen as seeking to minimize social and institutional offense in occupational, gender, racial, cultural, sexual orientation, handicap, and age-related contexts.

In current usage, the terms are almost exclusively pejorative, connoting “intolerant” and “intolerance” [1][2] whilst the usage politically incorrect, denotes an implicitly positive self-description.

Haven’t you bothered to ask which is better to ask a person up front or to talk a person behind their back – tsismis, gossip, intrigue. Worse, to put a plaster on someone’s mouth so he can’t speak – then chain you to a chair – and you just do the listening – that’s what it feels to be moderated. It’s funny that people who talk so much about upholding human rights and all whatever rights – are the very first ones to trample it.  It’s an Orwellian after all.

Dissent, Censorship and Freedom of Expression

Dissent plays a critical role in refreshing and renewing society.  A study was done by Cornell University on how initial minority views come to prevail. The study considered “how” they exercise influence in terms of the choreography of their verbal and nonverbal persuasive styles. For the past two decades however, focus was on the value of dissent for cognition and decision making. In general, the study found that dissent stimulates thought that is broader, that takes in more information and that, on balance, leads to better decisions and more creative solutions. A related line of research has investigated the devil’s advocate technique. In general, no role playing technique stimulates divergent thinking as does authentic dissent.

It seems to me that dissent is a taboo in Philippine society because it is considered an affront to the collective knowledge of the community, no matter if the collective knowledge is severely flawed. Much has also been said about dissent.

Archibald Macleish: The dissenter is every human being at those moments of his life when he resigns momentarily from the herd and thinks for himself.

Barbara Ehrenreich: No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots.

David Ogilvy: Talent … is most likely to be found among non-conformists, dissenters, and rebels.

Edward R. Murrow: We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. When the loyal opposition dies, I think the soul of America dies with it.

Eleanor Holmes Norton: The only way to make sure people you agree with can speak is to support the rights of people you don’t agree with.

Eric Hoffer: The beginning of thought is in disagreement — not only with others but also with ourselves.

Evelyn Beatrice Hall: I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. (paraphrasing Voltaire)

Florynce Kennedy: You’ve got to rattle your cage door. You’ve got to let them know that you’re in there, and that you want out. Make noise. Cause trouble. You may not win right away, but you’ll sure have a lot more fun.

George Orwell: In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.

Harry S Truman: Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.

J. William Fulbright: In a democracy, dissent is an act of faith.

James Luther Adams: Nothing is complete and thus nothing is exempt from criticism.

John F. Kennedy: Without debate, without criticism, no administration and no country can succeed — and no republic can survive

John L. Lewis: We live in a country where we’re supposed to have freedom of the press and religious freedom, but I think to some degree, there’s a sense of fear in America today, that if you say the wrong thing, what some people will consider what is wrong, if you step out of line, if you dissent, whether you be an entertainer, that somehow and some way this government or the forces to be will come down on you.

Martin Luther King, Jr.: Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.

Mohandas K. Gandhi: Non-cooperation is a measure of discipline and sacrifice, and it demands respect for the opposite views.

Thomas Jefferson: The people cannot be all, and always well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive.

Vaclav Havel: You do not become a “dissident” just because you decide one day to take up this most unusual career. You are thrown into it by your personal sense of responsibility, combined with a complex set of external circumstances. You are cast out of the existing structures and placed in a position of conflict with them. It begins as an attempt to do your work well, and ends with being branded an enemy of society.

William O. Douglas: Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us.

One bright guy commented – they allow people of all sorts to comment on AP – kahit kanto boy – anything to get hits .  AP has never been about “hits” – AP is and remains a voice in the wilderness – a voice that many attempt to silence because they can’t handle the truth. -We have much work to do as a nation and the earlier we snap out of our collective delusion and get down to brass tacks the better it is for us. Our first task is strengthen ourselves by shedding off our weaknesses so we can focus on harnessing our core strengths and focus on the tasks of nation building.  One thing I learned as an athlete – no pain, no gain, no guts, no glory – there are no short cuts, you want six-pack abs – you have to work out.

But beyond that is AP is an advocate of free speech, respects dissent, respect that everyone’s voice should be heard – yes, you, including the kanto boy – your voice my friend, deserves to be heard, not just the educated journalist who speaks better English than you – magpatuo-tuo gani ba.  Why? because – the truth sets us free. Why should we discriminate/censor/moderate against someone just because they don’t use the “prescribed language”, I guess I must have dozed off when Philippines turned Orwellian and introduced Newspeak, better yet, Philippines may have actually tutored George Orwell!  How about that?.

But I digress, what I meant to say is that free speech comes from a long tradition, from one that was blazed and is still being made by seekers of the truth. Through the centuries, they speak to us – what if they were censored/banned/moderated in their time – then we wouldn’t have come across such lines as:

We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavoring to stifle is a false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still.  ~John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859

The fact is that censorship always defeats its own purpose, for it creates, in the end, the kind of society that is incapable of exercising real discretion.  ~Henry Steele Commager

The only valid censorship of ideas is the right of people not to listen.  ~Tommy Smothers

Censorship reflects society’s lack of confidence in itself.  It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime.  ~Potter Stewart

We have a natural right to make use of our pens as of our tongue, at our peril, risk and hazard.  ~Voltaire, Dictionnaire Philosophique, 1764

Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too.  ~Voltaire

I am thankful for all the complaining I hear about our government because it means we have freedom of speech.  ~Nancie J. Carmody

The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it.  If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth:  if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error. ~John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859

Books won’t stay banned.  They won’t burn.  Ideas won’t go to jail.  In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost.  The only weapon against bad ideas is better ideas. ~Alfred Whitney Griswold, New York Times, 24 February 1959

Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.  ~Abbott Joseph Liebling, “Do You Belong in Journalism?” New Yorker, 4 May 1960

A free press can be good or bad, but, most certainly, without freedom a press will never be anything but bad.  ~Albert Camus

Nature knows no indecencies; man invents them.  ~Mark Twain, Notebook, 1935

What progress we are making.  In the Middle Ages they would have burned me.  Now they are content with burning my books.  ~Sigmund Freud, 1933

Wherever they burn books they will also, in the end, burn human beings.  ~Heinrich Heine, Almansor, 1823

Every burned book enlightens the world.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Obscenity is not a quality inherent in a book or picture, but is solely and exclusively a contribution of the reading mind, and hence cannot be defined in terms of the qualities of a book or picture.  ~Theodore Schroeder

And one really bright guy wants Antipinoy.com to stop blogging because it is hateful and makes Pinoys look bad? There is a big chasm that separates the person performing the asinine behavior (i.e. following an unlawful order of a superior officer) and the person expressing disagreement with the idiotic behavior. If there is no behavior, there is nothing to describe. Capicce?

If expressing disapproval of asinine behavior is hateful it makes me wonder what this country really loves – corruption, mediocrity, poverty escapist fare. Oh by golly, brace ourselves for harder times – apparently, we, Pinoy’s can’t have enough of misery – living the telenovela life is bliss, Ondoy be damned.

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9 comments

  1. UP n grad · ·

    bongV: I am glad you used the two words — “respect dissent”.

    “Respect difference”. “Respect dissent”. FilipinoVoices, quezon-dot-PH, antiPinoy,
    thePOC, inquirer dotNet …. (practically all blog sites say) “respect difference”.

    Respect dissent — different story. Some blogsites implement the Mainland China tactics
    for handling dissent, especially boisterous argumentative dissent.

    The response is not just moderation (where you blot-out words or phrases).
    The response is “disappearance”.

    Different folks, different strokes.
    Different blogsites… different blogsites.

  2. UP N Grad,

    You are welcome.

  3. UP n grad · ·

    Disappearance versus moderation. Disappearance versus redaction.

    Redaction is different from disappearance. Disappearance is disappearance — no trace
    is left behind that a thought (an extremely angry dissenting thought) had been expressed.

    Kumbaya life is sweet Kool-Aid..

    It is a bad habit to get in the habit of disappearances, this is my thinking.
    Jonas Burgos may be a pro-Jamby or maybe not, no one can find out.
    Jonas Burgos has disappeared.

  4. The disrespect for freedom of expression has an implied air of arrogance – that your opinion is not good enough – an opinion is as good as any other opinon. Whether it is factually correct, is another matter.

    It is just a short step from silencing words to killing a person – our collective journey to a culture of impunity begins with the disrespect for dissent and freedom of speech. And we dare call ourselves democratic??? WTF?

  5. Hsing Tao · ·

    Antipinoy.com lang ang may tiwala sa mga mababasa. Antipinoy.com lang ang lahat ng mambabasa libre magsulat at walang balat sibuyas at lalambot lambot. AP lang ang prankahan at hindi kikimi-kimi. AP lang ang website na walang paliguy-liguy at maraming kiyaw-kiyaw at pa-icky icky. Kaya AP ang mas gusto ko. Good job BongV and all the AP people. Authors, commenters and lurkers na sumusuporta. I will drink one glass of siyoktong sa tagumpay ng AP. Cheers!!!

  6. FreeSince09 · ·

    AS a fan of 1984 and Animal Farm I find this one of the smartest and perhaps most important article in months. It is not that the Philippines does not allow free speech – in the same way Church and State are separate perhaps. It’s just that these discourses are far below the radar of the public.

  7. UP n grad · ·

    So do you think a magsasaka could have said this?!
    Mga hayop kayo! Putang-ina ninyo, mga hudas kayo! Kayo ay dapat
    ibitay at igarote. Mga hayop kayo!!!! Matagal na kaming naghihintay,
    hindi pa ninyo ibalik sa amin ang aming lupa! Mga putang-ina ninyo,
    Mamatay na sana kayo at ang inyong angkan. Putang-ina ninyo!
    Ibalik ninyo ang lupa namin!

    This respects the difference, this respects the dissent. :
    **** kayo! **** ninyo, mga ****! *** *** *****!
    **** *** Matagal na kaming naghihintay, hindi pa ninyo ibalik
    sa amin ang aming lupa! Mga **** ***** ninyo.
    **** ******* Ibalik ninyo ang lupa namin!!

    Do you want to accept the habit of silencing the dissent and the yelling?

    It is a bad habit to accept the silencing of dissent and yelling.
    How can you hear the voices when you silence the voices?

  8. FreeSince09 · ·

    Until the farmer just bashes the usurper’s head with a bolo. Problem solved.

  9. In the case of HLI, the usurper left the farmer not only to hang and dry, but to die as well.

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