Bokhari: The Left Has Embraced Hate Speech — but Won’t Admit It

The image, from photographer Tyler Shields, ignited a firestorm of controversy when it was first published online by TMZ in May. (Tyler Shields/TMZ)
Tyler Shields

There is a word to describe speech that welcomes the death of “old conservative white men,” gleefully mimics the murder of a President, and cheers the shooting of Republicans. It’s a word invented by the left: hate speech.

“Let them f***ing die” was the response of Johnny Eric Williams, a professor at Trinity College, to the Congressional baseball shooting earlier this month. Attacking “white/cisgender/heterosexuals,” the professor wrote that  “the time is now to confront these inhuman a*sholes and end this now.”

Meanwhile, on social media, New Jersey Democratic strategist James Devine created the hashtag “#HuntRepublicanCongressmen,” stating that we are “in a war with selfish, foolish & narcissistic rich people” and that it shouldn’t be a “shock” if “things turn violent.” He has yet to retract his statements or apologize.

This followed a month in which a comedian posed with a mockup of the severed head of Donald Trump, a New York theater staged a play featuring the assassination of a Trump-like Julius Ceasar, and a writer for Bill Nye Saves The World said she was fine with “old ass conservative white men” dying if it sparked a debate on gun control.

By even the narrowest definition of the word, this is hate speech. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which provides one of the earliest official definitions of hate speech, describes it as “any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.”

This is a strict definition, of course: by radical leftist standards, even moderates like Bill Maher are guilty of hate speech. Branding Maher’s mix of secular liberal commentary and politically incorrect humor as hate speech, despite never coming close to the violent rhetoric of the left, makes the left’s double standard even more breathtaking.

Leftist hate speech, along with incidents of actual violence, has spiked after the election. Just two weeks after Trump’s victory, a man attempted to push a bystander onto subway train tracks in Harlem, yelling “I hate white people.” Earlier in the month, a man in Chicago was beaten viciously for wearing a Trump hat. Anti-Trump violence has escalated ever since.

But this did not start with Trump’s election. Leftist hate speech has been endemic for some time, particularly on social media and on college campuses. As early as 2014, slogans like #KillAllMen and #KillAllWhiteMen were in common usage amongst leftist activists, both on social media platforms and in the real world.

In a rare moment of consistency, a British student activist even found herself under investigation for hate speech in 2015 after using one of the hashtags (she was, of course, loudly defended by leftists who are normally the fiercest advocates of “hate speech” laws).

Leftist hate speech doesn’t just come from angry student activists who occasionally go too far, though. It is actively encouraged by those in positions of authority, most notably college professors. Not a month goes by without news of some new outrageous statement from an academic.

In addition to the Trinity College professor mentioned earlier, this summer has seen a professor at the University of Hawaii call on colleges to “stop hiring white cis men,”  as well as the revelation that a Texas A&M professor applauded and encouraged the deaths of white people in 2012.

Those responsible for these statements are unlikely to acknowledge that their words constitute hate speech, or even simple racism. According to left-wing dogma, minorities cannot be racist.

Nor can they expect much scrutiny from established “hate speech watchdogs” like the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). They seem more interested in waging fruitless smear campaigns against Breitbart and Steve Bannon and branding Muslim reformists like Maajid Nawaz and Ayaan Hirsi Ali “anti-Muslim extremists.”

These double standards have occasional consequences. The F.B.I. publicly disassociated itself from the SPLC in 2014, while charity index GuideStar recently abandoned its decision to use SPLC data to categorize charities after it erroneously labelled a number of conservative charities “hate groups.”

As we move down to more trivial standards of offensive speech, such as harassment, leftist double standards can still be found. At a recent panel of YouTubers, feminist activist Anita Sarkeesian flipped out at one of her critics, YouTuber Sargon of Akkad, calling him a “garbage human being” as he sat in the audience.

No reasonable person would consider a mild insult like “garbage human being” to merit any punishment other than a slap on the wrist, much less constitute “harassment.”

But Anita Sarkeesian would: in 2015, she was invited to address the United Nations on online harassment. There, she said (with a straight face) that mildly antagonizing comments like “you suck” and “you’re a liar” constituted harassment. Sarkeesian has now, very publicly, broken her own stringent speech codes.

As always, officialdom turned a blind eye. Feminists like Sarkeesian have, with great success, pushed relentlessly for strict rules against harassment to be written into the codes of conduct for tech conferences like VidCon. According to their website, VidCon prohibits “any behavior that is illegal, unsafe, disruptive, discriminatory or causes excessive discomfort to our attendees or guests.” Sarkeesian’s behaviour surely violated a plain reading of their code, yet the conference has done nothing.

Everywhere we look, speech codes are being exposed for what they are: a politically motivated sham, created to appease the left, and ignored at the left’s convenience. Nevertheless, some on the right now seek to use the left’s own rhetoric against them, with a mixed reception.

Saul Alinsky, the godfather of left-wing activism, urged radicals to make their enemies “live up to their own book of rules.” This appears to be the strategy behind some of the right’s recent efforts against left-wing hate speech, which culminated in a “Rally for Peace” in Washington D.C this weekend, featuring Jack Posobiec, Mike Cernovich, and a number of other prominent right-wingers denouncing hate speech.

If the goal is to destroy the left’s credibility on the hate speech issue, they may be successful. Following the election, the left unsuccessfully sought to use the label “fake news” to discredit the alternative media. They quickly discovered the extent of their miscalculation as the label was turned on them, further damaging their already-dire reputation. Today, the label “fake news” is more closely associated with CNN than any alternative outlet.

It’s possible that the right might achieve the same rebranding trick with hate speech, turning it into a label that the public associates with the left rather than the right. With the left’s hatred escalating, there’s plenty of opportunity to do so.

There are pitfalls with this approach, however. The advantage of “fake news” was that it was a new label, that emerged directly after the election. The left and right fought for ownership of the concept, and the right won.

Hate speech, on the other hand, is an issue that has been owned by the left for decades. When a right-winger uses it as a political weapon, they end up looking like a leftist.

The second, more dangerous pitfall, is that it grants credibility to the very language codes of the left. Not every right-wing activist will see a crusade against hate speech as merely a clever strategy to expose double standards; some will actually start believing in it. Some of the rhetoric on the right about the left “normalizing violence” with Shakespeare plays sounds earnest — and remarkably similar to the arguments found at Everyday Feminism.

Some of the attendees of the Rally for Peace also seemed pretty earnest in their demands for censorship.

If the right abandoning its commitment to free speech sounds too bizarre, consider that as recently as 2015, the right was seen as the guardians of free trade and free markets. Two years later, they gave us a president who killed the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The winds can change quickly.

It’s possible that by using the left’s weapons against them, the right may force their opponents to rediscover the value of free speech, and distance themselves from their own language codes.

It’s also possible that the left will simply refuse to admit they’ve done anything wrong, and continue to engage in hate speech while trying to get their opponents banned from college campuses for the same offence.

The latter is probably more likely, but it doesn’t change the facts. No matter how the right chooses to respond, the left cannot escape the reality that they, not their opponents, are now the primary purveyors of hate speech in mainstream American culture.

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