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On HATE Speech And Freedom Of Speech

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Take Action Against The Imus HATE Speech


This form will submit your comments through the CBS Radio advertising department, the ONLY department there with an internet input function, but perhaps the best target anyway, with the message "Fire Imus permanently." Let them know contacting all their advertisers is next.

For the truly outraged you might want to also personally call

Dana McClintock
Senior Vice President, CBS Communications Group
(212) 975-1077

There have been a rash of incidents lately getting national attention, involving people like Ann Coulter, Michael Richards, and now Don Imus. And what makes them especially notable is 1) the fact that people are finally starting to call out those who traffic in hate speech, 2) the amount of discussion the most recent incident has triggered, and 3) the persistence of talk as to what should be done about it.

By hate speech we take it to mean derogatory language based on race, sex or sexual preference, religion, nationality or age, all the things that would be a violation of LAW if they were the basis for job or housing discrimination. It is not a requirement of this definition that the speech be directed at a person OF that particular race, sex or sexual preference, religion, nationality or age. Indeed, in Coulter's case it was done completely gratuitously, but no less hatefully.

The defenses we have heard about these incidents have primarily been that they were jokes, as if there were some safe harbor for hate speech in humor. And some have further argued that some people in a particular group use words of hate in reference to their own, so supposedly that makes it OK for usage of those words outside that group in the same or worse ways.

It is self evident that we cannot ban hatred itself. There will always be people who in their minds will tar the totality of a particular group in some hateful way. And in some borderline cases with some words there might be some question of intent or usage. But the question now squarely before the public is how do we respond to the use of such language in our media discourse when it is patently offensive, and how is that to be reconciled with free speech?

The answer to that is almost as self evident. We who object to hate speech have our OWN free speech to call for the dismissal those who abuse their free speech to spew words of hate, and in particular those who have been given the privilege of media prominence, only to use that opportunity to broadcast words of hate far and wide.

In the last 24 hours sponsors of Don Imus have been dropping like flies, MSNBC has canceled his simulcast, he has been otherwise suspended for two weeks, and we say this should just be the beginning. It would be one thing if this were an isolated instance, but apparently Imus has a history of this type derogatory behavior and supporting others on his show who embrace it. Perhaps it is time that someone be made an example of, and perhaps Imus deserves it as much as anyone.

If enough of us were to pressure CBS Radio to pull the show entirely and permanently, that would send a message to all the other offenders that they are on the thinnest of possible ice from this moment forward. Let them find whatever rock they want to crawl under as their new media home, but if they expect mainstream advertisers to support them or major media outlets to carry them, let them expect constant public pressure to have them fired. And if someone actually thinks it's appropriate or funny to denigrate their own social category, let them know they run the same risk.


Is this too severe of a reaction? To answer that question one need only look at what the NRA did to Jim Zumbo, a life long hunter, outdoors man and gun advocate, for suggesting that assault rifles might not be appropriate hunting weapons. He could not have apologized more desperately or profusely, and they still RUINED him relentlessly, and for no reason other than a spiteful political agenda. How much more should we demand accountability for the GOOD reason of cleansing our media of indefensible hate speech.

We have no problem with any manner of political speech, based on the issues and positions that people take on them. But we have had entirely too much of people being attacked for political purposes by means of utterly irrelevant hate speech. This INCLUDES as its ultimately most monstrous manifestation the dehumanization of people in entire foreign countries as a prelude to military assaults, as a way to arouse enough hatred to commit such crimes against humanity. Do we really have to give you historical examples? Perhaps attacking hate speech is one of the most powerful tactics we can employ to keep hate speech from becoming hate action.

If we were simply to forgive and forget, as some have suggested, the Coulters, and Savages, and Becks and Limbaughs of the world will just continue to believe they are impervious. Let them instead know that they are marked and on borrowed time if they think they will be tolerated anymore by an aroused public who will no longer hold their own tongues when confronted with hate language.
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