Tuesday, August 2, 2011

"Bums in bushes, drinking liquor"...what is 'hate speech'?

“Cockroaches and scum”
  “Half-naked crack heads”
    “Damn ninjas in the dark”
      “Tweaks, junks, and drunks”
        “Hobo zombies” and “Stray Cats”

It sounds like a joke but it's the farthest thing from it! What have you posted on your local forum? Have you vented against the homeless? Devised ways to drive them from your community? Demanded they not be fed? It doesn’t matter when you wrote these regrettable remarks; search engines will bring them to the top. Would your post be an example of “hate speech”?

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) defines hate speech as “speech that advocates or encourages violent acts of crime or hate” and/or “speech that creates a climate of hate or prejudice, which may in turn foster the commission of hate crimes.” A website that uses hate speech is called a “hate site”.

A “hate crime” is a criminal offense committed against another person because of their race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability or association with any of these groups. Soon, homelessness will be added to that list in an unprecedented move for civil rights. According to the staff for Assemblymember Bonnie Lowenthal who authored AB 312 “the homeless bill” will become law on January 1st, with or without Governor Brown’s signature.

Back to what you should not have posted: when law enforcement investigates crime, part of that investigation includes gathering and recording information about the motivation behind the crime. This information is included in reports that are sent to prosecuting attorneys. Although currently protected by free speech, hate speech can be motivation. Think about what you wrote…

The National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) in Washington D.C. is compiling a study on hate crimes against the homeless and how and where and why they originate. When interviewed about our homeless population and their future here in LA County…the conversation naturally turned to the tide of resentment voiced on the local forum and the drive to run the homeless out of town. Even the objections to feeding them is listed as a form of hate according to their study titled Hate Crimes Against The Homeless, America’s Growing Tide of Violence.

Following that conversation I contacted Mike Wilken “Admin” of The Foothills Forum. On July 12 I wrote him “The forum is attracting a lot of outside interest right now and people should watch what they put in print” to which he quipped, “Vague references to ‘outside interest in the forum’? Come on, you can do better than that.”

 I tried again, writing “I have become very careful with the printed word and suggest others do too, you never know who’s printing your posts” to which Mike snipped, “Maybe I do!” Well maybe he doesn’t.

So maybe you’d like to rush back at this point to The Foothills Forum and reread that post you wrote and edit or delete it? I’m not saying you shouldn’t have your opinion, I'm saying that is not the place for it…

...Back so soon? What?! Ten people quoted your post in their replies… well it’s too late now and being screen shot, printed, noted, and cataloged. There are numerous studies being conducted where the highest numbers of hate crimes originate. Since California has the second highest incidence of such crimes in the nation I guess you stand a good chance of being quoted in a government study.

But you’re safe behind your avatar right? Nobody knows who you are, not really… Oh wait, didn’t somebody demand that everyone stop “hiding behind avatars”? Whoa! You are screwed. Not to mention the most important point of all: any weak minded individual with a personality disorder who reads your words and acts upon them (even if you “didn’t really mean it”) will credit you with the idea to harm another because you wrote about it in a forum…

Doesn’t that just make you feel safe at night, to know some “bums in bushes, drinking liquor” are in harm's way because of you? That thread alone received 2500 views and 85 posts. Somebody’s certainly motivated.


Jennifer said...

Mahatma Gandhi writes "Poverty is the worst form of violence.” Keep up the good work my friend!

Brock Ba'jer said...

Thankyou so much for your words of encouragement, Jennifer. I will be having a guest writer who will be writing of his experiences as a homeless man, I hope you check back to read his words...

Jennifer said...

I look forward to reading it.