Is hate speech really 'free' if it destroys the reputations of others and their ability to communicate clearly? Is it free if it threatens lives? I've been told libel and defamation are 'free speech' and that I'm wrong to complain about getting my reputation ruined. I've been told I 'deserved' it because I complained...therefore I'm against free speech. This was the meme they used to keep the hate going.
I'm now known as an 'anti-Semitic' cartoonist thanks to Internet trolls even though I've clearly stated I'm against racism and anti-Semitism. Even a Fox news affiliate said live on air that I was an 'anti-Semitic cartoonist' simply because that's what they heard over and over via hate speech delivered by countless Internet trolls.
I also drew a custom cartoon for an organization whose ideals I support. They were delighted with the cartoon and they were going to use it for their promotional materials. Then later....no. They changed their minds. Why? Because even though they knew I was heavily trolled, they decided they didn't want to be associated with a cartoonist who is thought to be 'anti-Semitic.' It would be a distraction from what they were trying to do. There! My cartoon goes unseen and my free speech has been shut down because of hate speech. That's why I may give up drawing cartoons altogether...what's the point in extending the joke and further ruining my own reputation? In essence, I've been shut up and I've also lost business due to hate speech.
The young man in question is an obvious Internet troll, which is now a sport or a game among many. He probably doesn't hate jews...he was doing it for the 'lulz.' He was doing it because he can. He is being charged with 'hate speech' under Montana law. I'm surprised Montana had such a law and I expect his case to be tossed out of court. What he was posting was completely reprehensible--he calls for the murder of people based on their religion and some find that hilarious. I don't. And if he had been using my face and name to do it (as trolls were doing with regularity) I would have loved to see him brought to justice in my state because that is libel and it would be far easier to try the case in state court.
As it is, he's free to express his hate. It's legal in America. The problem is, too many are now doing it 'anonymously' and they're able to escape any responsibility or accountability. If they said these things out on a street corner, they'd be ignored or countered and humiliated by reason.
Here's the problem with 'anonymous' hate speech: It encourages abuse and more hatred. The constant repetition of death and hate callouses minds and even starts to make such death threats acceptable. They're not acceptable. Hate speech should be considered 'legal,' but it's not 'free' when it cries for the death of human beings based on their race or religion. When someone is killed as the result of hate speech, their free speech is gone forever. What I'd like to see is responsible speech on the Internet. Do you love Hitler and hate jews? Then go ahead and write that, but PUT YOUR OWN NAME ON IT. Very few will do that. So instead of jail time for this young man, instead let's make him accountable for what he is saying and make sure people know HE is the one behind it. Right now a lot of these young people enjoy online anonymity and they've lost their sense of decency because of it. They have no shame. It's anything goes and they push the envelope because they think free speech is also absolute free speech.
Absolute free speech. Sounds great, huh? If allowed, however, be prepared to accept child porn--kids who are abused and scarred for life. Be prepared to accept anonymous trolls who torment grieving parents whose kid has just died. Be prepared to accept online snuff films. Be prepared for people posting grisly auto wreck scenes featuring horrific photos of someone's dead loved one. (That has happened). Be prepared to accept someone calling for YOUR death and torment you and your family because you happen to be a targeted race, religion or have a different sexual preference. Be prepared to have your online reputation completely ruined by libel. Be prepared to have your business attacked. Be prepared for people changing your work and your words and into hate. (Happened to me--they've even edited podcast interviews so that I sound like a Nazi). This kind of hate speech has spread to social media--Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and so forth. The anonymous trolls do not own these sites, but the abuse there is increasing daily and sites such as Facebook have a bad track record of enforcing their own stated community standards.
America has long since tolerated hate speech as the price for free speech and the haters were easily ignored. But now, due to the internet, the unheard and the powerless have access to a giant megaphone that is used to make their repeated and very loud cries for murder. Again, they will usually NOT attach their own names to their hate, nor will they pony up their own dime to pay for their own website as a means to spew hate still further. Instead they use free social media and when hate is repeated constantly, impressionable minds start to believe it. (Think of Nazi Germany).
Removing hate speech from social media is not violating free speech. In fact, it's a way of PROTECTING the real free speech of REAL people. If we don't police this ourselves, look for big government to step in and shut down all free speech on the internet. They will use the out of control hate speech as one of their excuses. --Ben Garrison
Quinn Norton is a marvelously talented writer who penned this response to David Blumenstein's cartoon. If only I could write half as well...she uses the word 'dopplegänger,' which is extremely appropriate. It reminds me of a 'Twilight Zone' episode in which a woman is haunted by a dopplegänger who looks just like her, but has mischievous and even malevolent intent. David has done a lot to help me finally tame my dopplegänger.