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Advice To My Past Self From The Tardis

Advice to My Past Self From The Tardis
Sep 23 '12
"Maybe they’ll think a little about why they are embarrassed."

That’s me, quoted in today’s Lincoln Journal Star, in an article about the UNL Haters Tumblr blog that I wrote about last week.

If you’re interested, I have a lot of other things to say, both in my blog post and in the article, about the use of social networking sites to express racism, sexism, homophobia, and the like.

But one thing I didn’t anticipate is that the people who commented on the article immediately — and bizarrely — decried my attempts to limit speech.

One commenter writes:

The larger issue here is who decides what is hate speech? Seriously. who made Ari Kohen the official moral authority? Is is okay to hate Christians, anti-abortionists, overweight people, WalMart shoppers, Republicans, people who oppose illegal immigration, etc. or any comments, just because they are don’t fit the political beliefs of Prof. Kohen? We see these political moral extremes in Europe and the Muslim world, where any comment becomes a crime. Free speech is free speech, even if you don’t like it.

Another writes:

Only freedom of speech for the speech you support.

And finally:

Well! I see the thought police have taken a whole new step towards censorship! Remember when you went to college so that you could actually study for a degree?

I think I’m always going to be surprised that people don’t understand what freedom of speech actually means.

The students (and even one faculty member, it seems) who are featured on the UNL Haters Tumblr blog, and who I think should be embarrassed about being featured there, are nonetheless completely free to write or say whatever they’d like.

The government isn’t legislating their ability to post hateful things about Asians on Twitter because, as private citizens, they can say whatever inane things they want to say. That’s free speech right there.

But there’s no problem with a blog publicizing the things they’ve said, just as there’s no problem with me suggesting that I hope they’re embarrassed. You see, having the liberty to say anything you want doesn’t mean there won’t be any consequences at all when you say things that other people find offensive.

To use a pretty obvious example, I should probably think twice about calling my friend a smelly idiot whenever I see him because he probably won’t like that. Throwing up my hands and shouting “free speech!” probably isn’t going to do me a lot of good. I’m right: I can say whatever I want. But I’m also being a jerk and he’d be right if he chose to stop being my friend.

The same is true of the UNL Haters concept. You might not like it when someone points out that you’ve said something that demeans other people. But you said it. And freedom of speech doesn’t mean that the rest of us have to listen to your inane pronouncements with a smile on our faces.

We reserve the right to tell you that we disagree and maybe even that we don’t want to be friends with people who say the things you’ve said.

Can you still say whatever you want? Sure thing. Might there be some interpersonal consequences to saying whatever you want? You bet.

(via kohenari)

As a general rule, no likes to be called out for acting like an asshole. I’m no exception and sadly, I need to get called out a lot because I tend to make mistakes. A lot. (But guess what, you probably do too… we’re all human.) As I’ve said before, when bullies get called out for their behavior, their usual first step is to blame the victim. Sometimes, they’ll defend or otherwise minimize their behavior. A lot of times people who have lots of people get upset with them for saying crappy or stupid things get upset. I’ve noticed that, particularly in this country, people think the first amendment gives any douche the ability to say what he or she wants. Without getting into things like clear and present danger, ect, let’s say that, for the most part, this may be true. Of course, when you use your right to “free speech” to tell them what they are saying is douche-y or stupid, all of a sudden you’re the asshole. I’m quoting this from my FB page about the hating on the Chick-fil-A haters, which has a similar sentiment.

OK, this ChickFilA thing is driving me nuts… it’s not about free speech and it’s not about chicken. If you don’t agree with gay marriage don’t get one, don’t attend churches that would allow them… that’s fine and if you want to be on the wrong side of history (like all the people who claimed whites marrying non-whites was “unnatural” back in the fifty’s) that’s your business. HOWEVER when you donate over 5 MILLION dollars in order to ensure that other people don’t do something you don’t “agree with” or “support” (that realistically has literally NO effect on YOUR personal life) that IS hateful. That is imposing YOUR values, and YOUR beliefs onto people. Marriage equality isn’t about freedom of religion or freedom of speech it’s about civil rights. There are many, many rights associated with legal marriage that certain people in this country are systematically denied simply because of who they are. Did you know that in 29 states you can be fired for your sexual orientation? Everyone is allowed to believe what they want, but to hide behind “religious freedom” or “freedom of speech” in order to continue discrimination of a group that is already marginalized enough is despicable. And people are totally within their rights to voice their horror/anger/outrage at how you use your profits and boycott you because of it.

Bottom line, this is a great country and the first amendment is an incredible gift we should be grateful for everyday. Most gifts are a double-edged sword… freedom of speech means that regardless of whether people agree with you or disagree with you, they have a right to peacefully do so.
More to the point, you are allowed to say shitty things about people. People are also allowed to call you out for saying shitty things to people. A lot of times people who say mean things keep saying them because no one tells them not to. Racist jokes, rape jokes, bullying, sexual harassment all happen because they are allowed to happen by people who are scared to call someone out on their bullshit.
So I encourage you, when you see or hear someone say something mean, abusive or otherwise douche-y, don’t be afraid to tell them “dude, that’s kinda douche-y.” If they get offended that’s their problem, after all, they’re the one saying mean, abusive, douche-y things.
P.S. - Kohenari is something else you should be following!