The “policing” of free hate speech

This article popped up in my Facebook feed yesterday because a friend shared it. Before you click the link, be forewarned it may be highly triggering due to the transphobic language. Yes, it’s bad enough to put it in bold, red letters. The summary alone includes quotes which are so offensive that even someone ignorant of trans* issues would recognize them as hateful. I’m not joking. Unless you have an extremely strong constitution, I recommend against listening to the broadcast, which is linked in the article. The extracted quotes are bad enough.

Rochester Radio Hosts Mock Transgender People in Disturbing, Offensive Segment

It speaks for itself. There’s no need for me to say anything about how horrible those comments were. Besides, anyone local to me who has ever heard Kimberly and Beck knows that they are Grade-A Jerks. That is what they do; they’re paid to be awful. I think this one is particularly bad, given the fact that they were responding to trans-friendly local legislation. It’s also frustrating given that I live in a city that, while conservative in some ways, is better than average regarding LGBTQ issues (though there’s always room for growth, of course). But I’m not writing today to call for their heads on a platter, or even their permanent firing.

When I posted this, the responses were interesting. (Side note: Anyone who thinks people under 21 aren’t articulate, intelligent people able to hold their own in a debate does not know my friends.) Naturally, one of the things that got invoked was “free speech.” Dear God, why is that the first thing that’s trotted out in response to assholes spouting off? I mean, I would think that the first response to the article might possibly be, oh, I dunno, “Wow. It sure is crappy that trans* people have to put up with hearing that shit on the radio. Maybe I’ll go check and see if my friend/family member/stranger I interact with on the Internet  is okay and didn’t have a massive anxiety attack triggered by that.”

Besides the obvious lack of compassion, the other thing I don’t understand is why anyone would bother trotting out “free speech” in the first place. My commentary on the article when I posted it to Facebook:

This carries a very heavy TW for incredibly offensive transphobic language and commentary. Read at your own risk. Also? SCREW THEM. I already don’t listen to them (they’re God-awful and annoying as it is). But this makes it a billion times worse. And now I’m telling everyone else to not listen to them.

I never once demanded they be fired or disallowed from broadcasting. I said I didn’t like them, and I said I was going to discourage other people from listening to them. They are entirely free to spout all the garbage they like, and the rest of us have the choice to change the station. Which is exactly what I suggested doing!

Aside from the fact that I never threatened their right to free speech in any way, why are they the ones given that card to play? Do I not have just as much right to the same free speech? Just as they are (technically) free to share their disgusting views with anyone fool enough to listen, I’m also free to tell the world they are ass-hats. I posted on my own Facebook page that I don’t like them. I’m posting it on my own blog. Why? Because they spewed trash and I didn’t like it, and I’m allowed to say so. It’s not a zero-sum game. My freedom to discourage people from tuning in does not curtail their right to broadcast their nonsense.

Even if I were demanding they be fired or sending out a petition for such action, guess what? Still my free speech. Yep. Just because I say it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen, and I’m absolutely allowed to say I think they should be dumped. And let’s not get into the fact that “free speech” is not the same as “consequence-free speech.” If  you violate the terms of your employment with your words, then you still get the ax, regardless of whether you had the “right” to say it in a Constitutional sense. (Also, please go educate yourselves on what is, in fact, meant by Constitutional freedom of speech.)

Whenever the “free speech!” argument comes out, I’d like to remind you all that it isn’t just bigoted radio DJs or Westboro Baptist protestors or Michele Bachmann who have the right to say whatever they want. Those of us who don’t like what they are offering also have the right to say so, loudly and often. We have the right to call them on their hate and encourage other people to stop listening to their shows, attending their churches, or voting for them.

Next time someone points to “free speech” as some kind of argument (for what, I’m not exactly sure), point out to them that you, too, have the same right.

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One thought on “The “policing” of free hate speech

  1. Brava, Amy! Free speech, or any other privilege intended for all citizens ought not be pre-empted by ANY single group. Any attempt to do so has bullying involved – it’s an attempt to silence any and all dissension, with a quest for power at its root.

    I reserve the right to think and speak as I will. Even if I don’t agree with the manner in which someone else expressed theirs…

    And, no, I didn’t listen to it, or even read it. There are many better ways to spend my time than giving hate speech spewers my attention – like read your thoughtful and well-written posts! =D

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