Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Hate speech....

Before writing anything about hate speech, I wanted to mention that it has been such a pleasant morning here, reading March's Just Posts. Each month, it is like a gift in my browser window. The richness of thought, the passion and the neverending faith that everyday people can make a difference never fails to lift me up. Please do check them out.


Now, onto Don Imus. By now, everyone is probably aware of the statements he made about the Rutgers Women's Basketball Team.

At one time, I used to listen to Don Imus in the mornings. It was probably 15 years ago now and at the time he seemed outrageously funny. I would laugh until my belly hurt when he played parody songs like They Don't Make Jews Like Jesus Anymore. He would pillory every prominent public figure with his acidic tongue. It didn't matter which end of the political
spectrum one landed, Imus would still shred them.

After a while, I began to grow up and didn't find that kind of humor amusing any longer. It sounded like every other punk bully kid on the playground at any elementary school ~ probably anywhere in the world.

Cheap shots have become a form of entertainment on radio and TV over the past 10 years. I've noticed this proliferation of disgusting, demeaning speech which the speaker justifies with the statement, "I was only being funny. Lighten up." Cloaking this kind of talk under the guise of humor would ostensibly lessen its impact or water it down. It became a subtle way of making it socially acceptable to get a few laughs at someone else's expense.

I don't believe in hate speech legislation. I'll be very clear about that. However, I do believe there should be social consequences for talking that way. It starts with the individual. How many times have any of us cringed internally when someone talks about going to a car lot and "jewing" the salesman "down" or when someone makes a derogatory remark about "damn Mexicans". We want to say something. We don't like it ~ but in order to avoid confrontation, we don't say anything.

A long time ago, I set up certain rules for my own socializing. Everyone who knows me, knows I won't sit silently by when someone begins hate speaking. There are some iron-clad rules that everyone knows. Don't smoke in my livingroom. Don't drink alcohol or use drugs in my house. And definitely don't say the "n-word". If you do, you will be politely asked to leave.

As Audre Lorde once said, "your silence won't protect you."

Confronting this kind of speech can be difficult. It's hard to correct another adult. I've found a simple, "that kind of talk makes me really uncomfortable" will stop most. If they try to shame me into tolerating it ("aww. c'mon. Lighten up. I was only joking"), I will excuse myself.

Yes. They get mad at me. They may not associate with me any further.

What have I lost?

Not much.

As for Don Imus, Ann Coulter, Louis Farrakhan and other public hate speakers, it's fairly simple. Turn off the radio. Don't give them hours and hours of air time on Fox News or CNN, repeating the slurs over and over again. Ignore them. Pretend they don't exist. Don't buy their books. (It's utterly astounding to me that Ann Coulter's books have been best sellers. They contain some of the most vile invective I've ever read, outside of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion or The Turner Diaries!)

We need to take a stand on this. Quietly. By our actions.

At least that's my opinion.




Penny. said...

It's funny.

I was involved in a deeply psychologically twisted journey of a relationship with a narcissist, who used to constantly berate my sensativity with his whitewashing, "I was only being funny."

Apparently, he was hilarious.

Humor can be a good many things, but like anything, when it falls into the wrong hands, it can be a horrible many things.

caro said...

Amen. :)

Anonymous said...

I think to Imus, at least at the time he made his remarks, the Rutgers team was nothing more than images on a screen. He would have never had said such a thing to their faces. Television distances people from reality.

It bothers me that nobody- not Imus, not his producer, not the half dozen or so other on-air personalities around him- thought there was anything wrong with what he said. The apology came two days later, only after the complaints came pouring in.

And on an entirely different note, I have a postcard taped on the wall above my computer with a quote by Audre Lorde: "When I dare to be powerful- to use my strength in the service of my vision- then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid."

Pam said...

Another "Amen" here!

Thailand Gal said...

Penny, sometimes I suspect people do that because they know they'd get their lights punched out if they admitted to being serious.


Caro... your mouth to God's ear. :)


Thomas, of course it is being whitewashed and an apology (albeit belated) is supposed to be sufficient. It's easier than admitting Imus just has a lousy character.

Audre Lorde is one of my favorites.


Pam,.. and another "from your mouth to God's ear.." :)




meno said...

This kind of falls into the same category as women calling each other bee-yatches (or however you spell it) for for. I just don't find it funny or endearing or cute.

I listened to Tom Leycus (sp?) on the radio. Once. Dr. Laura. Once.
I don't find amusement in this sort of hate talk.
In short, RIGHT ON!

Thailand Gal said...

Meno, thanks. :) I've always found the concept of "taking words back" as rather odd. You can't unring a bell.



Suzy said...

Agree, all around. If it's not funny, it's not funny. What offends me most about these very public figures who do this is, I don't even necessarily believe they mean what they say. They do this entirely to shock people and drive up ratings.It's so cynical and mean-spirited.

More on this at thequakeragitator.blogspot.org.

Laurie said...

I agree with all you've written here, Chani. I wish I could be as polite as you are about it, but I'm not. I have lost "friends" because I vocalized my feelings on the subject, but as you say, what have I really lost?

Great post!

patches said...

By the time I get confrontational, it is usually a case of the straw that broke the camel's back. I do exercise voting with my feet frequently when confronted with these "uncomfortable" situations.

Forced apologies, aren't really apologies, they're simply acknowledgment of "Oops, you heard me say that."

Julie Pippert said...

Oh *teasing* masking hate speech. I am so not cool with that.

I try diplomacy but if that fails (in real life) I skip to "not cool and not around me" and if media, buh-bye.

Like Meredith. She and I are FINITO.

And talking heads like Rush and Imus? Nope.

flutter said...

You hit it, right on the head.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Chani, you expressed far more eloquently what I was also trying to say today.

I , too, am incapable of sitting silently while people make hateful slurs. In fact, I assume that they are making certain assumptions about me that they do not have the right to make, that I share their sick views. So I feel a need to set the record straight, even if it gets uncomfortable.

Nor do I feel the slightest guilt for ruining their party because in my view, they started it.

jen said...

it's not funny, it's not constructive, and it's not ok.

well said.

Penny. said...

"your mouth to God's ear".. I like that.

I'd really like God's mouth to my ear, though.. I'm listening, but sometimes I think I'm a bit hearing impaired.

I have to say that I really like this: As Audre Lorde once said, "your silence won't protect you."

KGMom said...

Well said, well said. And I am totally in agreement.
I too listened to Imus years ago, then wearied of him. I think he & his radio sidekicks have become more sophomoric with age, like frat boys who don't know when to quit.
As for hate talk in my presence, I don't allow it. If someone starts a joke that denigrates someone else, I say--don't tell me that joke.
I believe that if I stay silent where such talk is present, my silence gives assent.

The Atavist said...

There is a lot of pressure on these guys to be funny and/or controversial. That is what earns them their big bucks. This doesn't excuse this sort of behaviour, of course, but if yahoos stopped flocking to the radio shows of the latest shock jock or talking head, these things would be less common.

I have never been a big Imus fan but he is no worse than any number of others out there.

Lee said...

First, I just want to say that, to me, Ann Coulter is a horrible, vile human being. It freaks me out that our country supports her by buying her books and listening to her hate-babble.

As for Imus, he's handled the aftermath so poorly, he's really showed his extreme ignorance. Who goes to Al Sharpton to apologize for being a racist?! Who starts talking about all the little black kids he lets on his ranch to justify racist remarks? He's embarassing. Hopefully, the market will make him dissappear.

QT said...

AMEN Chani -well said.

Tabba said...

I appreciate hearing your side and I hope you don't mind me spouting off here....I agree that hate speech is just plain ugly and that the whole "I was only joking thing is a poor disguise for hate." (In fact, I've dealt with that statement within my own (inlaw) family & it is infuriating.
However, what I'm struggling with is the other side of the coin. If that were Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, or Bernie Mac saying the same exact words. It would not have this ripple effect. And maybe my logic is faulty. But if one of those had said the same things about the Rutgers girls, it's still a hateful thing to say & I would hope that we would hold them up to the same standards.
And that's the rub. Because I don't think we would.

Mad Hatter said...

I usually encounter it in the context of my husband's students. I pretty much always speak up b/c I really have nothing to lose.