Shouting back at hate speech is a moral obligation

Shouting back at hate speech is a moral obligation August 12, 2013

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee proves yet again that the 1980s buzz-phrase “politically correct” still exists only as a disingenuous qualifier to preface an expression of palpable bigotry. It’s just a slightly broader way of saying, “I’m not a racist, but …”

After warning his radio audience last Monday that he was about to say something not “politically correct,” Huckabee said:

“Can someone explain to me why it is that we tiptoe around a religion that promotes the most murderous mayhem on the planet in their so-called ‘holiest days,'” Huckabee said. “You know, if you’ve kept up with the Middle East, you know that the most likely time to have an uprising of rock throwing and rioting comes on the day of prayer on Friday. So the Muslims will go to the mosque, and they will have their day of prayer, and they come out of there like uncorked animals — throwing rocks and burning cars.”

Animals.” Huckabee’s word — a word that is literally dehumanizing. Mike Huckabee doesn’t want you to think he’s a bigot. He just wants you to know that he sees himself as superior to more than a billion people whom he regards as sub-human. Huckabee thinks it would be unfair for you to twist that into making him out to be a bigot.

A better Arkansan, William Lindsey, responds to Huckabee’s remarks:

That’s what hate speech is. It’s an attempt to hook onto visceral, unexamined prejudices that lurk inside the minds of many people in a particular society, as they deal with and think about a particular group of people.

It’s an attempt to hook onto those visceral, unexamined prejudices by telling adroit, carefully massaged lies that appear to present accurate information about a whole group of human beings, by isolating the behavior of some members of that group and focusing on it as if that behavior is typical of every member of the group.

… The ultimate goal of this kind of adroit lying is, of course, to dehumanize the targeted group, and to make that targeted group susceptible to abuse and violence. Selecting a minority group out for obsessive hostile focus, lying about it, and suggesting that it should be defined according to the behavior of some of its least admirable members: this is, in and of itself, already a form of violence.

This is related to the point John Shore made last month in a post titled “Anti-gay Christianity claims another life“:

Bullies bully because they feel empowered to do so. And why do bullies in America feel particularly empowered to victimize gay people?

If you’re wondering about the answer to that question, you’re only pretending to. Because you know why. We all do. American bullies feel empowered to freely hound, denigrate, and beat-up LGBT people because they live in a country historically and culturally defined by, and everywhere infused with, Christianity. And the ubiquitous “traditional values” brand of Christianity … has long and very actively taught that being gay is a reprehensible moral abomination, an offense against God so foul that divine justice demands that in the afterlife gay people be punished by spending eternity having the living flesh burned off their bones.

Every American bully who victimizes gay people does so confident, at one level or another, that he or she is furthering the cause of God — just like the pastor up the street, or the pastor on the radio, or the pastor on TV, or the pastor at the head of any of the infinite number of Christian “ministries” that trades in the hectoring of gay people.

This is why it’s important to shout back at the pastor up the street, or at the pastor on the radio — even if that pastor is also a former governor. If their voices go unchallenged — unanswered, unquestioned, unmocked — then we allow them to empower bullies and to make marginal minorities “susceptible to abuse and violence.”

“Christ Driving the Money Changers from the Temple,” Victor Hammer (1942)

Their claim to have some kind of moral authority does not derive from the strength of their arguments. Their arguments are flimsy, fragile falsehoods. Nor does their claim to authority derive from their strength of character. Their character is reprehensible.

They wield moral authority because they assert it — because they claim it by divine right like the kings of old. But just like with those kings, divine right isn’t the true source of their authority. That authority comes from the voluntary consent of others — from our willingness to bow and submit without question.

That consent can be withdrawn. It is our right, it is our duty, to withdraw it. And thereby, also, to withdraw from the bullies their misplaced confidence that they are furthering the cause of God.

This is why I’m not concerned with or convinced by the perpetual fretting of the Tone Police and the Very Nice People who worry about “negativity” and who urge us to approach every disagreement with sweetness and light and the spirit of gentle Jesus meek and mild. It’s OK to disagree, they say, but not to rock the boat. Look at Mike Huckabee, they say, see how sweetly he smiles? See how cheerfully avuncular he seems (even while dismissing a sixth of the world as “animals”)? See how gentle and gentlemanly he seems (even when he’s comparing being gay to necrophilia or equating environmentalists with pornographers)? Why can’t we be more like that instead of always harping on criticism and negativity?

But there’s nothing nice, sweet, meek, gentle or polite about allowing moral impostors to bless violence and to sanction bigotry. Failing to condemn the hate speech of Huckabee and other bigots has nothing to do with kindness. The kindest thing one can do in response to such speech is to respond as aggressively as you can — to refute, rebut, reject and ridicule it with whatever microphone you can find. Anything less than that just serves to reinforce the lie that these folks represent some recognizable, decent, legitimate form of morality.

They do not. To allow them to continue their charade would be unjust. It would also, therefore, be unkind — to them as well as to their ever-growing roster of victims.


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  • nursecathy123cat

    I meant exactly what I said.

  • Here’s my health insurance: No co-pays, I can see any doctor I want, and I never have to worry about bankruptcy.

    All for the low, low, price of like 5 bucks out of my income tax, plus whatever I spend in sales taxes, when I do the math.

    It’s a bargain, all things considered.

  • nursecathy123cat

    HPV vaccine is a great idea.
    And I’m too tired for moral outrage these days. If that is what you are reading here, you may be the source.

  • nursecathy123cat

    That’s a bargain. What type of insurance is it? Wish we all had it.

  • Oh please, you’re all about the OMG ABORTION BAAAAAAAD.

    It’s written in the very post you made:

    “After reading more, it looks like the morning-after pill does not cause abortion of life most of the time. Tricky business.”

    There is no tricky business.

    There is only the fact that you apparently don’t like anything that has the whiff of OMGABORTION about it.

    But if you can rationalize to yourself that there is no ABORTIONPEARLCLUTCH then all is hunky-dory.

  • It’s called

    *whispers* British Columbia health insurance.

    owned and operated by

    wait for it

    The government of British Columbia

    which runs it as a single payer system.

  • Tommy Douglas, the first person in Canada to get into a position of political power who wanted to develop a single-payer insurance plan, used to be a preacher before he became a politician. X-D

  • And as I just said in IM, I consider single payer to be the most Christian method of health insurance possible, short of declaring money to no longer be a thing and to provide products and services for their own worth.

  • nursecathy123cat

    Sounds wonderful. One question. If your $5 plus sales tax gets you $200 worth of health care, who pays for the rest of it?
    Like I said before, single payer may be better than what we have now but I do wonder about all the Canadians crossing the border for procedures here that they can’t get there in a timely manner. And here, they pay cash for it.
    I suspect that if you are young and healthy, single payer works very well for you. Later on, not so much.

  • nursecathy123cat

    My, you ARE clever.
    Yes, I believe abortion is bad.

  • Sounds wonderful. One question. If your $5 plus sales tax gets you $200 worth of health care, who pays for the rest of it?

    From 65 fellow citizens who only need $2 plus sales tax worth of healthcare. That’s how insurance works.

    but I do wonder about all the Canadians crossing the border for
    procedures here that they can’t get there in a timely manner. And here,
    they pay cash for it.

    You wonder about that? Let me put your mind at rest: no one does that except for the canadian ultra-rich.

    The reports of it are a myth made up by conservative politicians to undermine support for a sane form of healthcare.

  • The whole wait lists thing is vastly overblown by domestic right-wing politicians and their compatriots in the USA.

    Progressive income taxes partially fund the health care system, so the wealthy pay more in proportion to their income than I do.

    And were I to make that kind of money and pay taxes – fair’s fair.

  • Healthcare in Canada (and Britain, and Australia, and many other countries) is “free” and government-controlled in the same way that roads, police, schools, water purification, food inspection, and fire departments are “free” and government-controlled. And for much the same reasons — all these things are necessary for the public good, and it’s been demonstrated that private companies cannot be trusted to do them properly.

    If you have any arguments aside from those about what “drawbacks” single-payer has, I’d like to hear them.

  • I suspect that if you are young and healthy, single payer works very well for you. Later on, not so much.

    You’re wrong. My parents are American expatriates, and could move back to the U.S. if they wanted to (Canada does not force immigrants to renounce their previous citizenship). And they’ve had to have various medical procedures over the years. Like the vast majority of Canadians (according to Wikipedia), they are satisfied with our healthcare.

    Also, some parents and grandparents of friends of mine have had to have more serious medical procedures done, but not one of them has ever said, “Oh, if only I could cross the border for this!”

    For that matter, neither I nor my husband are as young or healthy as we used to be. But we’ve never had to choose between paying rent and seeing a doctor. I’ve been thanking my lucky stars that my folks moved up here before I was born.

  • Victor

    I must confess that I still have not read the comments here and my only excuse is that after having commented at and then after receiving Pan Patheos Digest, there were just too many stories to read and comment on so I decided to see what my old friend Fred Clark had to say concerning “Shouting back at Hate Speech Is a Moral Obligation”. He really is a great writer and until “Anti-gay Christianity claims another life“ even Victor, “I” mean……what the heck, I thought that he had turned a new leaf and that “IT” was all a mistake that he really had an agenda against anyone who truly won’t accept that SS marriage is ok for any human being and those who voice their opposition to “IT” are nothing more than full of hate and bigots and……..
    Sorry Victor! “IT” won’t happen again!
    Go Figure folks. :)

  • nursecathy123cat

    Sorry for the delay getting back to you. I was traveling back home and getting settled.
    One of the best (and I hope most balanced) views of the pros and cons of Canadian healthcare is at It seems to corroborate other sources. The main things that bother Canadians are: long waits for non-emergent procedures, tests and treatment; physicians’ earnings are limited, making it difficult for some to repay student loans, cover costs of doing business, and keep pace with the cost of living; and healthcare dollars are distributed by the government based on population. This means some rural citizens must travel long distances to get healthcare.
    So I hasten to add that American healthcare is not in great shape right now but we should be careful before leaping into something else. Whatever happens, I fear Obamacare is going to be a mess. We will just have to see it to believe it.