Social Question

josie's avatar

Is it "Hate Speech" if somebody says, "I hate you!"?

Asked by josie (28782points) January 22nd, 2011

Would fewer people be accused of hate speech if they simply said “I just hate the president”, or if they said “I just hate illegal immigrants” or something equally childlike and direct?

If I said “I simply hate the Toronto Maple Leafs” would I get in trouble in Canada?

If this IS hate speech, then it is actually different than what is currently called hate speech in the news etc. So which is the “real” hate speech?

And if it is not hate speech, what is it?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

20 Answers

iamthemob's avatar

Well – if you’re talking about hate speech outside the legal context…some of it mabe. Hate speech, though, is generally limited to that speech that is meant to disparage members because of an intrinsic category or characteristic, and not because of any actual behavior on their part (necessarily). But really, that just seems like you hating stuff and people. Hating individuals isn’t hate speech.

In the law, it really depends on what country your in. In the U.S., there are no specific laws against hate speech. It must qualify as obscenity, defamation and incitement to riot to be “illegal.” In other countries, speech that is meant or seems that it is meant to disparage a particular category of people because of an intrinsic or fundamental characteristic may be regulated in certain circumstances.

Austinlad's avatar

In the U.S., not necessarily. It might just be the verbal expression of frustration or disagreement, like we’ve all done talking about a boss or annoying relative. However, best not said to a member of the Secret Service… or one’s boss.

Mikewlf337's avatar

No it is not. Everybody says “I hate you” to somebody every now and then throughout their lives. If it is not a speech of hatred to groups of people of an certain ethnic group, religious group, sexual orientation, etc. Then it is not a hate speech. there is however are difference between hatred and disapproval.

Response moderated (Writing Standards)
marinelife's avatar

No, it is not hate speech unless it is directed at a certain group based on race, color, or creed, or sexual orientation.

iamthemob's avatar

I feel like it’s actually best to say that hate speech advocates that one knows all they need to about the basic value of a person and the agendas of that person when they know the race, color, or creed etc….and it’s bad.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

There is no such thing as “hate speech”,IMO.
It is a politically correct term coined by the Thought Police.
An as individual,you have the right to hate anything you want.You also have the right to be wrong.
The Thought Police’s effort to stop you from having the right to be wrong,so as to not allow for political dissent.
What ever happened to the idea of diversity?

iamthemob's avatar


I 100% disagree with you. There is absolutely such a thing as “hate speech.” Hate speech is, essentially, the rhetorical mechanism through which racism, sexism, etc. is spread.

Now, the “Thought Police” you mention will often wield the term “hate speech” as part of their politically correct arsenal of rhetoric, indeed. But it’s just like “terrorism” – it is a term that is used incorrectly as a weapon much more frequently than it is used correctly against those actually using hate speech.

I think that this is because, to a significant degree, that to most people real, solid hate speech is pretty obvious (except often to the person using it, ironically).

Indeed, you have the right to hate anything you want. But, when you start to advocate turning against people with a general quality based on lies that that quality makes them a person who does x, y, and z against you, that’s hate speech, and the other side has the right to tell you, and tell you why.

Racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. are not properly part of “political dissent.” When people use the term in the political arena either (1) something has already gone very, very wrong or (2) they are using it to distract from the fact that their argument is probably weak – or they’re panicking – or desperate (for good or bad reasons).

Diversity is alive and well. Unfortunately, hate speech is a very real part of the diversity in the marketplace of ideas.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

@iamthemob -“Speech”, in any context is simply that.
Whether you or anyone else wishes to call it “rhetorical” is entirely subjective. We have never heard the terms “Love Speech, Envy Speech, Empathy Speech, Jealousy Speech,etc,used in the political arena, yet these are all subjective as well and could be claimed to be “rhetorical mechanisms” for the spread of any thought or socially unacceptable “ism” you wish to name.
To LABEL something “hate speech” is a purely subjective exercise whose purpose is to deny associative reason and afford definitive elasticity.
It is truly the “rhetorical mechanism” designed to diminish or enhance one premise over another without reasoned evaluation.
To label someone’s speech as “Hate Speech” does not make it’s content any more or less valid.
Just as labeling someone’s murder as a “Hate Crime” doesn’t make them any more or less dead.
It’s still just speech and they’re still just dead.
The first is an attempt to deny reason and the second is an attempt to deny humanity.
Your premise of an individual who “advocates turning against people with a general quality ” (i.e. a group) and that group having “the right” (as you put it) to anything is false. No group has “the right” to anything. Individuals within that group have “the right”, to action which requires no sanction, but never the group. This is the fundamental concept of a “right”!
Individuals have the right to “advocate against” any group they wish because groups only exist conceptually. It is only the initiation of force used against the individuals within the group that is actionable.
Finally, the concepts you cite of “racism, sexism and homophobia” should be (as you put it) “properly part of political dissent” (unfortunately) because they exist and should on every occasion be afforded their proper access to the light of reason so as to expose these concepts, and conversely our need for groups, as tribalistic ignorance and mysticism.

iamthemob's avatar


Regardless of whether speech is speech, or expression just expression, there are times that have been legally recognized where the spread of information, in a particular manner, is harmful in and of itself or produced harm that the speaker should have reasonably anticipated. This is why we have defamatory speech and incitement limits to First Amendment rights. One isn’t allowed an unfettered ability to say anything they want anywhere without, at times, being subject not only to social penalties but potentially civil or criminal ones as well.

The problem with hate speech, and the reason why it deserves to be delineated particularly, is that it is the kind of information that preys on people, in many ways. Nazi anti-Jewish propaganda, I would say, is reasonably defined as “hate speech” generally. Fred Phelps and the WBC crew are current practitioners of hate speech. The KKK was. When we don’t focus on it and say it deserves to be recognized as inherently wrong, then we run the risk of actual, realistic harm coming from the messages spread by it.

I don’t know why you believe that it is used solely in the offensive manner. It has a very real defensive value. Yes, it’s totally used that way…to suppress an idea that you think is dangerous. But there are ideas that are dangerous.

And you’re working backwards, I believe, when it comes to the labeling issue. When dealing with hate speech…it is the content of the speech that earns the label. Anyone using it to further an agenda should be called out as vigorously as those against whom the label is properly used. Please note that I’ve already agreed with you that when used against someone when it’s undeserved, it’s because the person cannot resort to reason and therefore is resorting to the worst kind of name-calling.

Now, hate crimes are a completely different matter. Whether or not something is deemed a hate crime is a recognition of an additional harm the crime did above and beyond when it is normally committed. I believe this is a valid purpose, as it is one that is repeatedly recognized in various legal contexts (indeed, it’s arguably the basis of the entire criminal justice system – greater harm warrants harsher state reaction) – but that’s another thread.

I’m confused about what you think I said about groups having any “rights”....but you probably read “side” as “group.” By side, I meant the person hearing the message of hate, and responding “that’s hate speech.” That’s their right, and whether or not it’s a correct assessment doesn’t matter. Whether or not anyone should listen to them, however, requires that we figure out if it really is.

When you say groups only exist conceptually…well, in reality you’re right. And I agree that anyone has the right to advocate against them. But practically, there are groups that have been historically oppressed, profoundly so, and therefore those categories (race, gender, sexuality, religion, ethnicity, nationality, etc….) that we look to in hate speech. The fact that, really, the divisions are more conceptual than clear doesn’t stop someone from trying to get people to blame the Muslims for x, or the Gays for Y, or the Poor for Z. And when I see that happen, I’ll call it hate speech if I think it qualifies. And as we both seem to agree…that’s as much my right as it is for them to blame whoever.

I think you’ve also sort of reversed what I said about proper topics for political discourse. I stated that at no point should ideas within political discourse be based on racist or sexist or homophobic ideas, etc. Re-reading it, that wasn’t really clear – but I was saying that calling out a politician or leader or someone for resorting to “hate speech” may be important if they actually are trying to foster political dissent against people because they are Muslims, Gays, Poor, etc. – so I think we’re again on the same page, that these things do exist, and that we do need to make sure that we call them out – and defining ideas, comments, speech based on them as “hate speech” may be what we have to do to call them out properly.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

’@iamthemob -Don’t you worry about “the people”. I’m sure “the people” can and would rather look out for and discern for themselves “what kind of information” is or is not going to “prey on them”! You give people far too little credit in their ability to decide what is or is not harmful to them.

I decide what is dangerous for me to hear, not some Elitist.

You wish to also censor Ideas/concepts by labeling them as “hate speech” purely as a prophylactic measure? Who decides what “hate speech” is “generally”(as you elastically put it)? The well intended? The media,? Do we take a vote,? Should we appoint a special blue ribbon panel of experts? Whose elastic definitions about “hate speech” are we going to use after the current crop of thought police are gone from power?

No one person nor any group of Elitists can decide for the individual what thoughts are best for them to think. Throughout history, hundreds of millions of people have been slaughtered because some Elitists decided that some ideas were “too dangerous” for “the people” to consider.

Ideas don’t kill people….people do.

We live in a free society and part of the nature of living in a free society is having access to and discussing freely “ideas that are too dangerous”. I find some individual’s willingness to limit speech and label “ideas as dangerous” far more frightening than anything some Neo-“Nazi” or WBC crew are currently practitioning.

This is how we get to the insanity of labeling free speech and by imposing unconstitutional legislation like “the Fairness Doctrine” upon the American citizen. This type of legislation is what leads to the control of information that gives rise of the evils you cited like “Nazi KKK” and “WBC”.

Any rational person realizes the evils of an “Elite Thought Police” or even far more dangerous, institutionalized group think. I’m grateful that I live in a nation whose founders saw fit to protect the right of the individuals access to information no matter what its premise or origin. Your examples of prohibited speech are Red-Herrings and not pertinent to the issue at hand.

Calling someones opinions “hate speech” doesn’t make them any more vile.
And calling something a “hate crime” doesn’t make the action any more unlawful. This flies in the face of the three Justinian principles which define our code of “Equal Protection under the Law”.

No, some are not more equal than others and conversely the content of a man’s heart does not lessen the crime.

iamthemob's avatar

I feel like your concern is with hate speech legislation.

There’s no such thing in the U.S. And if they tried to do it, I’d be right there with ya fighting against it.

But this isn’t a legislative or regulatory term. It’s a term, and it has meaning. Because it’s not about the law, therefore, it’s a part of free speech.

There are a few threads about the hate speech prosecutions in Europe – you’ll see there my arguments on how ridiculous I find them to be.

So, all we’re talking about is a free market of ideas. And in that market, you can say what you want…but the purpose of it is to discard the bad ideas…and hate speech is all about bad ideas.

I would never, ever want to legislate it away. That just pushes it underground. I like my hate loud, crazy and out in the open – where it’s stupidity is apparent.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

As I stated from the beginning, I reject it’s assumed meaning and usage. Speech must be rejected on merit and not on some pre-conceived, elastically defined collective notion of hate. Just because some term has entered into the vernacular doesn’t mean it has validity.

The “Fairness Doctrine” is not about hate crime legislation it is about free speech in the arena of Ideas and how it is defined.Scary stuff.

iamthemob's avatar


You seem to be completely confounding the definitions of hate crime and hate speech.

Are you really arguing “that’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it” in your bold language?

Hate speech is simply saying that what someone else said is a particular brand of heinous. It’s a form of propaganda at times (which is also a useful term that is misused).

Hate speech is a particular type of speech that must be rejected on merit.

YARNLADY's avatar

No, the use of the word hate does not determine hate speech under the law. It is only hate of a specific group that would be called hate speech under the law.

Mikewlf337's avatar

@lucillelucillelucille You have many good points. Any legislation that tries to eliminate “hate speech” is nothing more than a tool to limit free speech.

iamthemob's avatar

In the U.S., in the end the question is “If it is hate speech, so what?” There is no legal effect in declaring it such.

Kraigmo's avatar

Hate speech really has hate behind it.

josie's avatar

I am never real sure about the ethics of commenting on my own question.
But, @lucillelucillelucille always gets my attention.
People say all sorts of stuff that may or may not be factually correct, or with which others may agree or disagree.
@lucillelucillelucille‘s “thought police” want to put a special label on speech that they do not like, or worse, that challenges their political agenda. While It may not be illegal in the US, the label “hate speech” is currently being misused in the same fashion that the label “racist” is being misused. It is too often a clear attempt to marginalize or intimidate someone who has a differing point of view. Those of us who do not intimidate easily really do not give a shit about the label. But many people do not know exactly how to defend themselves when they are called “racist” for disagreeing with a black president, who for being accused of “hate speech” when they frankly express their dislike for someone’s attitude, manners, customs etc.
Furthermore, it seems to may be selectively applied. The world press is full of stories of Europeans being prosecuted for incitement agains Muslims. In some cases, like that of Elisabeth Sabaditsch -Wolff, the accused merely read passages from the Koran, and reported objectively on the subjugation of women in some Muslim countries or communities. It is tough to find analagous stories in the European press where their hate speech laws are applied towards Muslims.
Anyway, there does not really have to be a law. People at best are ridiculed, and at worst lose their jobs and reputations every day in the US for making statements that offend what @lucillelucillelucille calls the Thought Police.
But back to the original question. Is it hate speech if I say something like ” I hate people who hunt whales”? The word hate is there. But I rarely see the word “hate” in examples of “hate speech”

iamthemob's avatar

I absolutely despise the free speech legislative approach in Europe. I totally hate speech their hate speech laws. ;-)

Legislating something like hate speech is just untenable. One should pretty much know that if they say something harm will result in order to be held responsible for speech alone or expression alone. The further that the moment of speech and the actual harm caused by it being spoken are separated from each other, the more likely judgment about whether something qualifies as “harmful” will be subject to the discretion and vagaries of whoever is in power at the time. Totally dangerous.

But in the U.S., hate speech is being used to try to silence arguments that one side finds undermines their agenda – if so…so what? That doesn’t say anything about the idea of hate speech so much as show us that we have to be careful when we listen to talking points, vigorous rhetoric, and opinion – magnates and do some research on our own. For every person trying to use “hate speech” and “racist” in a suppressive manner, you’re going to have people on the other side screaming “UnAmerican” “Unpatriotic” and “terrorist.”

Ironically, in bringing up “hate speech” as something of particular concern, we produce the same dangerous effect we’re concerned “hate speech” will cause – we’re not looking at the content of the argument – but instead of ignoring the content of the labeled speech, we’d be inclined to ignore the content of the person labeling the hate speech. But why should it warrant any more concern than any other rhetorical ploy in politics. Everyone is a “terrorist” from some of the most radical right-wing pundits. Or maybe it’s “socialist.” In any case, all we can try to do is recognize that if someone is boiling down a very big issue quickly with any of these terms, then their criticism is really, really suspect.

Answer this question




to answer.
Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther