Don’t Be a Hater!

The lawyer-in-training is coming out (heh, no pun intended) in me today. In law school, professors hammer into us the fact that “words matter.” A lot of time and effort is spent poring over words and their meanings; often disputes will turn upon a word that you and I think has a fairly settled definition. Over on there is a post about the fact that a GLBT guild is planning a “pride parade” in a couple of weeks. At the end of it is a little note that got under my skin, though. it says “NOTE: All hateful comments will get deleted and repeat offenders will be banned.” I know that the post made there is a bit of a charged subject and riles emotions on both sides of the issue. It’s the irony that while celebrating one group’s freedom of expression, they immediately turn around and warn that “hateful” speech will not be tolerated. But what exactly is the definition of the word “hateful?”

More after the break.

Before I go on, let me be perfectly clear. I have no problem with the event. I am all for freedom of expression, on both sides of the issue. But I think the term “hateful” gets bandied about far too casually, and not nearly equally across the board. If someone disagrees with an event, the nature of a guild, or even the posting of an article and makes their disagreement known, is that hateful? If someone has religious beliefs about the practices of another group, is that hateful? If someone calls another ignorant and a “Bible basher,” is that hateful? In my experience, the answers would be “Maybe, Yes, and No.” In truth, I think the answer is more likely “No, Maybe, and Maybe.” Whether or not it’s hateful depends on the way that the message is delivered and to whom it is delivered.

According to one of the editors of the site, hateful is “[a]nything that we feel is done in poor taste and is outsides the bounds of what a normal person would consider normal and respectful discourse on the given subject.” This definition perfectly illustrates my point about how varying definitions will wildly alter the results and perceptions of someone. I wouldn’t necessarily think that something posted that was disrespectful or in bad taste was hateful, but that’s the definition given by the editor of the site. Using words like ignorant, bigoted, and calling someone a “Bible-basher” to describe dissenters is pretty clearly disrespectful, though. That seems to meet the definition of “hateful” speech to me.

Beyond just that post, though, it seems to me that we’ve reserved the word “hateful” for those that disagree with “progressive” viewpoints for “backward” reasons. If you oppose homosexual marriage from a religious perspective, you’re hateful, backward, ignorant, and clinging to outmoded moral ideals. But is it not hateful to call someone backward, ignorant and malign something that is extremely important to that person? I don’t hear the word used in that context nearly as often.

Put it another way: Take out all GLBT references in the post and insert Christian references and themes. Instead of naked dueling, it’s Holy Pally duels. In my humble opinion, there would be a very strong backlash against the group trying to flaunt or force their Christianity upon others. Am I wrong about that? I really don’t think I am. In fact, I think there would be lots of stronger words flung against that sort of an “event.”

I don’t really have any conclusions. I realize that it’s a charged subject and that it’s very hard for BOTH sides to handle with any kind of respect and reason. I just thought it was interesting to point out inconsistency in the treatment and implementation of the definition of a word.

Speaking of definitions, I will leave you with a definition for another word that I think can easily describe either side of the argument:

bigoted (adjective): obstinately convinced of the superiority or correctness of one’s own opinions and prejudiced against those who hold different opinions.

17 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I always find it funny that those who cry for “tolerance” most often are extraordinarily intolerant of those who don’t agree with them. They do their cause a disservice, and tend to show it for the lie that it is; they don’t want tolerance, they want domination (or maybe just attention).

  2. The problem with this issue is that there are two sides to the equation. There’s the intention of the person making a statement (or holding an event), and the effect on the person hearing the statement (or walking near the event).

    If I say, “Pope, your mother is a whore,” I’m probably trying to get a rise out of you. On my side, that statement is hateful. For many people, that statement would be offensive; many people love their mothers and don’t want them insulted. But, perhaps your mother is a prostitute and you accept it, so you see that more as a statement of fact.

    Now, take gay pride and Christianity. When someone says, “I’m gay and I’m proud of the fact,” it’s rarely intended to be hurtful. Yes, sometimes people like to tweak the noses of others, but with the very real problem of violence against homosexuals, it’s not an opportunity that many can take. The core message is often, “I’m different, please accept me.” When someone takes offense at a declaration of sexual orientation, it’s often because they have problems with the concept of homosexuality; the problems are often religious training and beliefs or conflicting feelings they are grappling with.

    When someone says, “I’m a Christian and proud of it!” this takes on a slightly different meaning. Christianity is special in most western countries, unlike homosexuality. Often Christians advertise their beliefs as a way to encourage others to adopt those beliefs. (Note how declarations of one’s homosexulity turn into accusations of “recruiting”, especially toward children?) So, the core message could be interpreted as, “It would be better if you were like me.” Notice a contrast to the gay pride message? So, yes, the same people who want acceptance for being gay might be the same ones who don’t appreciate Christians, but that’s because the message is different, and how it affects the person hearing the message.

    Let’s take this thought experiment a step further. What if it were Muslims who wanted to hold events in the game. Given the history of anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S. the past several years, think that event would go without a hitch? I suspect that the harassment the Muslims would get would be worse than anything the Christians could possibly get. Muslims have the double-whammy of being a religion and a minority in this culture.

    Some things to think about.

  3. Proofreading is hard.

    “Christianity is not special in most western countries, unlike homosexuality.”

    Deleted the bold word when I was editing. Admins, feel free to edit my post above and delete this one if you wish.

  4. Why would anyone care if someone decided to hold a Christian rally inside WoW? Don’t some churches already do that? As long as they weren’t going around in game chanting “Death to gays! Death to Muslims!” I would think it would be fine.

    Conversely, if a gay rally goes around chanting “Death to christians! Death to republicans!” in game I would also hope that the admins would have the sense to put a stop to it.

  5. @Brian: You’re talking about interpretations of each statement… By themselves, they’re just statements. “I’m a homosexual” is neither a request for acceptance nor a recruiting statement… It’s a declaration. Same with “I’m a Christian.” How you interpret them is up to you, and will be completely different from how someone else interprets them.

    I think you miss the point of my post a bit, Brian. I’m not so much talking about interpretations of a statement, but consistent application of the definition of a word. “Hateful” as defined by’s editor. Either they are really concerned with curbing “hateful” comments on their site, or they’re concerned with curbing the expression of one side’s dissent. The nature of the group being advertised… What matters is a consistent application of an objectively-defined term.

    Like that’s ever going to happen. 😛

    @Yeebo: Again, I’m not talking about a group actually holding a rally. I’m talking about the responses to a post about the group holding that rally, and the application of the term “hateful.”

  6. I think the key to their definition is “outsides the bounds of what a normal person would consider normal and respectful discourse on the given subject.” There’s nothing in that definition that says it’s OK to call someone a Jesus Crispy or a Bible Basher.

    To me I don’t see any clear evidence that they are applying a double standard. I honestly believe that in our culture a pro gay thread is pretty likely to attract hate speech. A thread saying that you are planning to hold a gay pride parade in a game that has a lot of younger players even more so. You might as well plan to have one at a middle school.

    A pro christian thread? Not so much. Certainly it’s not such a hot button issue that you’d need to reiterate your warning about hate speech at the beginning of the thread.

  7. OK, digging through that thread I see “Aww, look at the Bible-Basher” has remained untouched by mods. That’s obviously intended to be inflammatory. That was several pages in and I didn’t see it at first.

    I would have modded that personally, but I’m a crazy rabid liberal 😉

  8. Pope wrote:
    “I’m a homosexual” is neither a request for acceptance nor a recruiting statement… It’s a declaration. Same with “I’m a Christian.”

    But, why make either statement at all, especially in public? The person making the statement has a purpose, otherwise they wouldn’t feel compelled to state the fact. I might like Diet Mountain Dew, but I don’t feel compelled to advertise the fact or hold a rally on WoW about it. Most homosexuals know that advertising their sexual preference can lead to serious trouble, but many feel it is important for others to know just how many homosexuals are out there, and that they’re not aberrations. Many Christians, on the other hand, are taught to spread their beliefs, so it’s not a simple declaration in that case, either.

    I’m talking about interpretations of statements because this is an important part of the discussion here. Let me give you an example I’ve had to deal with: In Meridian 59 some people took to using the letters “bjbp” on global chat. Harmless, right? Well, these letter came about from discussion of this item (NSFW!). Some people were offended by the item, and others were using the initials to tweak others. I eventually issued warnings to the people because I believed the people broadcasting were intending to harass the others. The intent and interpretation was important in this case.

    In our Rules of Play description, we say the following about harassment:

    Harassment is one of those “we know it when we see it” things. It is largely based on intent, and not just on the actual words said. Therefore, one person using a certain phrase may not be punished while another person using the same phrase in a different circumstance could find themselves talking to an NDS employee about the inappropriateness of their behavior.

    What matters is a consistent application of an objectively-defined term.

    Hate is an emotion, and emotions are not objectively-defined. They depend on context, intent, and interpretation. Is me saying mean things about your mother hateful? In general, yes, but not if I used the sentence as an example as I did above. Or, perhaps I did mean it as a subtle jab at you, but I tried to dress it up as an example to get you to leave it in my comment. Which do you believe is the case? (You could get it removed if you thought I was honestly trying to insult you or your mother.) You just can’t objectively say if something is hateful or not; it really depends on many other factors.

    Often you have to make a judgement call, and that judgement call is probably going to upset someone. From a business point of view, how do you piss off the least number of people? In the cause of a discussion board like, what keeps people willing to come back to read and participate? Someone posting “God Hates Fags” isn’t going to help that at all, and therefore it needs to be removed from the administrator’s point of view.

    Yes, it’d be wonderful if we could judge these things objectively without emotions running rampant. That’s just not the case, unfortunately. Truly free speech is an idea, but that ideal runs into a lot of problems in practical application.

    Some more thoughts.

  9. You’re still missing my point, Brian. I was given a definition of what “hateful” meant for that thread. The definition given was a fairly broad one, but also fairly easily applicable. Anything a normal person would consider outside the realm of normal and respectful discourse on the subject. Whether or not that definition is actually a true and right definition of the term, that’s the definition that was given in this situation.

    So… is calling someone a homo, fag, or telling them that they’ll burn in hell for eternity because God hates fags outside the bounds of normal and respectful discourse on a subject? Absolutely.

    On the other hand, is calling someone ignorant, bigoted, backwards, or a Bible-basher outside the bounds of normal and respectful discourse on a subject? Absolutely.

    Even-handedness in application of a standard isn’t difficult. I just did it completely independent of my own personal feelings on this topic. Whether or not you agree with the definition of “hateful” that was given by the Editor is another story entirely. At that point, I fully agree with you that it’s a judgment call. I am simply dealing with the definition that they gave me and what I perceive to be its inconsistent application.

  10. Discrimination of any kind seems to follow this pattern. There’s a parallel to this in racism. How many times has the MSM (main stream media) used the phrase “reverse racism”? Racism means “hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.” There’s no direction specified in that. How can it be reversed?

    Hatred, bigotry, racism, all of it works both ways. It’s just that consensus seems to be that some are okay, but others are not.

    On a side note, I wonder if anyone would be hated for having a heterosexual pride parade…

  11. It definitely can be a difficult discussion as it involves passionate viewpoints.

    In the direct spirit of the article itself Pope discusses the parameters of the moderation – before discussion even ensues. This in itself is difficult with the WoW insider declaration on “hateful comments” (as P illustrates) before a comment is made. Yeebo brings up an interesting point that “Bible-Basher” remained uncensored – change that to, say “Pillow Biter” which would have undoubtedly been moderated out and I believe that is his point. Both statements would offend the people they were attributed to (and as a disclaimer, my use of the phrase was for illustration not for offence.)

    While I appreciate the core of that argument it is difficult to discuss without the entire context – which is where I think Psychochild was chiming in.

    Christianity and Sexuality are hot-button topics. Openly declaring your beliefs (be it of sexual, religious, or political nature) – well, why? Pope used the example of “I love Mountain Dew” (which I know wasn’t the core or strength of his argument but it does give me the opportunity to bring up my next point).

    Christianity, much like loving mountain dew, is a choice. Somewhere along the line you decide that is what you are going to believe in and you make that adult decision. Your sexual preference – I believe – is not. It is the way you are born – or at the very least the preference you learn in your life that is natural for you.

    Much like you can’t choose the color of your skin, or what income bracket you are born into, or what country you are from – it would be a hard argument to prove that for the typical person you choose your sexual orientation.

    On top of that lack of choice – add in being persecuted, or provided the lack of human rights for a state of being that you had no choice over. Eventually if you have accepted who you truly are and are tired of being treated negatively for that you might decide to stand up and be proud of what you are – and to share that with the world in whatever means – or medium – you choose to. Whether it is to raise awareness so others do not have to go through the same difficult things you did, or just a self acceptance measure – regardless of acceptance of others – that is fine too. Hell, this has been going on for a long time with our society – you could include Women’s rights along the same lines of racial or sexual orientation. When did they finally get the chance to vote? Were they less human before that? What took us so long?

    This leads me into z’s comment on whether or not anyone would be hated for having a heterosexual pride parade. Heterosexuality (in itself, aside from race/sex/religion) is accepted already. People have never been hurt or discriminated against for being hetero. So yes, I believe people would be “hated” for flaunting their already societal accepted “norm” not because it isn’t any less right than being homosexual, but because a parade of such nature would be ‘flaunting’ the norm acceptance into the faces of those who have to fight for basic acceptance.

    That doesn’t mean that ‘hate’ would be right, just like it isn’t right be racist towards whites, or be against Christians.

    If I had a million dollars, I wouldn’t waste my time or energy flaunting it in front of homeless people. At the same time it wouldn’t be fair for them to hate me for having that money – but I would understand if they would.

    Back to the article at hand – The author of the WoW insider article shouldn’t have made that declaration. First, that is just asking for trouble on the anonymous interwebs (oh – they don’t want me to write “hateful” comments? Where is the line? Lets see what it takes to get past it!) but secondly – and most importantly – it is a form of censorship – the same principle that would have disallowed people to openly talk about their sexual orientation in the first place.

    As a mod in that forum I wouldn’t have written the warning. I would have, however, used my best judgement to ensure any ‘hateful’ comments were quashed immediately – fairly on both sides.

  12. Chris F. wrote:
    Pope used the example of “I love Mountain Dew” (which I know wasn’t the core or strength of his argument but it does give me the opportunity to bring up my next point).

    Actually, that was my example. Pope is innocent!

    @Pope, I wasn’t really (purposely) ignoring or missing your point; I understood it, but thought there was another level of understanding required here. I was already writing a lot, but perhaps I should have written a bit more to be clearer like Chris did.

    Interesting topics, though! I haven’t felt the need to post long responses like the ones I have on here the last few days in a long while.

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