Andres Aullet


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Why is freedom of speech so vastly different in the USA compared to the rest of the world? What does that mean in today's global culture?

Well, i may be exaggerating when i say "so vastly different", but it is my inalienable right to lie and exaggerate if that helps to get my point across.

Or is it?

Is there a limit to the amount of insults or lies i can utter in order to get a point across? or worse off, not even to get a point across, but simply to provoke a reaction on certain audience?

One of the main differences between the way freedom of speech is understood in the USA and elsewhere, is the concept of "hate speech".

Seems to me that in the USA, all the responsibility is passed to the listener, to remain rational in the face of lies and provocations, and never indulge in the most minimal reaction (other than use hate speech back).

Being a parent, I can say with certainty that not everybody can control their irrational impulses equally. Teenagers, in particular, are prone to act first and think later. And this has been known and exploited for centuries.

Can someone honestly claim innocence when making a speech that is capable of provoking this kind of out of control reaction in someone? Isn't that one of the things that could get you accused of treason, for example, when your speech incites people to rebel against your own government?

Now, to the second part of my question. Jurisdiction. If i say something that may be protected by free-speech in the USA, but which may not be protected as such in a different country (due to their differing definition of "hate speech", for example), under whose jurisdiction does this speech fall? Can someone honestly claim that they innocently released a comment on the internet for "domestic consumption only", and that they are not responsible of its international repercussions?

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    Sep 17 2012: First, great topic. And, I hope it is still "so vastly different"... but, the topic you bring up, "bullying", has actually threatened exactly that, in numerous states, and very few people are aware of it.

    A friend of mine, an elementary school teacher told me this story. One of his favorite students, was walking a mile, very slowly... A kid who had picked on him in class came running up behind him, and threw a rock at him. He responded, by throwing a fist in his face... There was a fight. My friend said "I was so disappointed in this kid. He's really smart, and the other kid is just a trouble maker... Why did he fight back?"...

    My friend is a liberal... I responded "Gosh darn right he fought back, good for him...". My friend was shocked "He's been suspended, he's in serious trouble." Suddenly, I was the one shocked... This is socialism. "Both boys are at fault, because they both escalated the situation, they name called, etc... We don't tolerate bullying"

    My response is of course "What the heck are you talking about "you don't tolerate bullying"... You've institutionalized it. You rewarded the psychopath who threw a rock, by bringing down the intelligent student. This is exactly how bullies want the school to run". "No we teach our children never to be violent". "NO! You teach them to let people throw rocks at them, and it's disturbing"... Not a fun conversation to have with a friend.

    Words will never hurt. The kid who throws the rock is wrong... and if they throw a rock at your son or daughter, I don't care what they said... Tell them to punch that kid in the face : )
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      Sep 17 2012: David, i do not fully agree with you, but your comment made me laugh... I will reply more fully as soon as i can!

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      Sep 18 2012: In the USA you can not be charged if you Falsely yell "Fire" in a theater and cause a stampede, even though most U.S. citizens believe it is against the law.

      Freedom of speech, is such a fragile concept that it wouldn't take much to derail the idea. I guess that is why so many Americans will tolerate such things as movies that demean their religion, way of life, etc. without jumping up and down in the streets, burning other countries flags (well, maybe their bible by a few people), and committing acts of violence. Sometimes people just need to get some things off their chest and freedom of speech helps to accomplish this without turning into a fist fight. During the Occupy Wall Street protest, people were charge with other crimes but no one was charged with yelling obscenities, or declarations of change or ideas of revolution. They were charged with trespassing, mostly.

      Every since the Supreme court ruled speech had to incite "imminent lawless action, it has been legal to falsely shout "fire!" in a crowded theater.

      To allow intolerant speech needs at least one element, a tolerant listener.
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      Sep 18 2012: Two boys fight on the playground ... In the teachers lounge there are three views. 1) Teachers with no boys say that they need punished and suspended .. not tolerant. 2) Teachers with boys .. Looks like Jimmy has a black eye and Johnny hurt his hand. They will be alright tomarrow. 3) The administrator. Hope I don't get sued. Better kick them both out of school for a week. Don't care who is right or wrong. Zero tolerance.

      Joey is a bully ... pickes on the wrong guy ... gets his butt whipped. Teacher sees it. Joey gets detention and a butt whippin ... loses face .... maybe will stop the crap.

      Some one disses you or gets physical with you at school and you do not respond ... paint a target on your forehead ... and kiss your lunch money good-by.

      David is leaps and bounds ahead of you guys in playground philosophy.

      Davids teacher friend was wrong to report it in a manner that got the second kid thrown out. He saw what happened and still blamed the victim for defending himself. Victims have rights. The teacher stated that the kid was a trouble maker and threw his "favorite" into the same category as a fighter trouble maker. Poor decision making.

      Next time a mugger attacks you in the alley with a knife please don't defend yourself or the teacher will be disappointed in you also.

      All the best. Bob.
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        Sep 18 2012: Hello Robert,

        The conversation gets interesting, and regardless of some superficial differences, seems that we all share many points of view regarding kids and bullying. I stand by my comment that i think anti-bullying policies are a good thing, but I agree with David, I think the way they are implemented in most schools is a disaster.

        In fact, David has a very good point regarding teaching our kids not to let the bully get away. I have two kids and I have had that exact conversation with them. I grew up and survived in Mexico City where even today the rules of the street are the ones to follow between kids. So no, I do not advocate for kids to passively accept what comes their way unless it gets physical.

        But nobody has picked on one of the main points of my question: hate speech. Everybody makes the unquestioned assumption that violence is only physical, and that hate speech cannot be put in the same category as physical violence.

        There is where I disagree. There are plenty of examples where people does not require physical violence to be pushed beyond their limits, and their reactions often carry fatal consequences. And it's all to easy to dismiss it as a case of someone who just went nuts. Period.

        As a society, we should take more responsibility and we should try to learn from those cases.

        Someone said wisely: "we tend to blame society for such psychopaths, but how easily we forget that WE ARE society"

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          Sep 18 2012: I actually agree with you here. There is a verbal grey area, when someone is in your face directly attacking your family, faith, country, ethnicity... etc.

          There's a part of me, that almost thinks it's okay for a jewish person to punch someone in the face for having a swastika tattoo on his neck... but, that's what it comes down to... almost. I choose to live in a country where people are allowed to be insanely batshit crazy... because most of us don't choose the path of neck nazi... Most of us choose the path of self respect, family, and community, without it being forced on anyone.

          We do not choose this path because it is easy... but, because... it is hard.
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          Sep 18 2012: I'm not without my experience in hate speech Andres. I suspect that many of us understand this very hateful manner of hurting other peoples feelings. I remember as a boy, getting on the bus with my grandmother in downtown Jacksonville, Florida. The blacks were sitting in the back and the buss was full. We had to sit very close to the back. My grandmother made remarks continually about the smell coming from the back of the bus. This was pretty soon picked up by the other passengers in the front and the conversation of undiluted hate speech began and lasted until we got off at our bus stop. I can only imagine how those people felt, their pain, their suffering at being belittled and associated with an odor that more in the mind than in the physical surroundings.

          I saw the race wars when I was a child, heard the talk at home around the dinner table, heard the unending slur of insults. I grew up with that.

          It is amazing that I am not and never was a part of that attitude. There has to be an explanation why some are so easily given to that kind of speech while others just don't get it, don't see the connection to race, intellect, deformity, sexual association or religious affiliation.

          Perhaps there is a TED video that might explain it to us?
        • Sep 18 2012: David: "There is a verbal grey area, when someone is in your face directly attacking your family, faith, country, ethnicity... etc."

          I disagree, I do not think we are wise enough to define grey areas in law. I do think that sometimes throwing a punch is well worth a day or two in jail, if you can keep the violence within limits. There was a time in this country when a few punches would end it. Now a punch might be answered with a gun.

          Part of the problem we are seeing today is the break down of very old social contracts. In school, the old rule was, apply common sense and good judgment, and the parents will try to see your point of view. Now the rule is avoid law suits; parents are bat-shit crazy.

          Perhaps we should start teaching those old social contracts in school, starting day one.
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      Sep 18 2012: This discussion right here is why we need more male teachers!
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        Sep 18 2012: Hi Lynda,

        Indeed we need more male teachers. But I think that a big part of this problem would be solved if we parents actually took the task of instilling in our kids some respect for others.

        It is difficult to go against the primal instinct of "grouping", distrusting the "others" and believing that "our group" is always right and always good. Seems to me like most kids learn from a very young age the same unwritten lesson: "we are better than them", "distrust others", "if someone is not with us, then that someone is against us"

        Most hate speech stems from this lesson drilled over and over during the early years of every child's life.

        Tolerance not only means ignoring when someone is calling us names, tolerance also means refraining (and teaching our kids to refrain) from calling names ourselves
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          Sep 18 2012: I really really hate it when people blame the parents. In my neighborhood parents mostly work sometimes two jobs to put food on the table. Kids come home from school to an empty house, a parent comes home from job 1, throws some food together, starts the kid with some homework and runs out the door to job 2.

          If parents could make a living wage they could establish the behavior earlier instead of being at work all the time. If parents could raise their children in a vacuum for the first 5 years of their lives. But most piece together an elaborate system of daycare between family members, high school kids and daycare.

          And we wonder where kids learn 'distrust.'
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          Sep 18 2012: Linda, these kids carry ak47's these days. If you have access to the stats your realize the potential for today's students to become murderous.

          Kids with guns is not something I ever experienced when I was in school. There is something fundamentally different today, Perhaps it has more application with what Andres is proposing "hate speech" rather than kids in school, picking one one another. Something experienced everyday in other parts of the world, where kids as young as twelve can be recruited into a violent revolution, given ak47's and instructions on how to use them. Our children see these kids on TV and realize that kids their age can have adult like potential at an early age and associate the idea of "Guns" with adulthood like behavior.

          Where does the hate come from that would enable a couple of students to massacre fellow students and teachers?

          When hate speech turns into violence of this sort, something is seriously wrong. To imply that we should augment this symptom by hitting the bully back only gives rise to the possibility that the bully will bring a gun to school.

          There needs to some "smart", adult minded, solutions, adults with an eye on the potentiality of the situation to reach deadly heights.

          Conservative minded, rural suggestions like, "well just hit him back Johnny", "we just need to drop a bomb on them, Nuke the place and start over, put them all on a slow boat to Africa, are typical of those who don't understand the potentialities associated with students reactions to the world they live in today. Hate speech has gotten out of control.

          When it comes to talking about teachers and school officials who just don't get it, you and David are offering solutions that demonstrate you are those types of people.

          I wouldn't be so foolish to point to David's post as evidence of a solution. In my opinion, it reveals a rural minded approach to a serious problem.
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          Sep 18 2012: When I was growing up, guns were not uncommon at our schools. And that was before there were metal detectors. Lots of gang activity and riots where I come from.

          And I will happily live in that world before I live in some vanilla, politically correct, suburban hell.

          Where I live now, everyone has a gun. Usually a collection and for the serious guys a nice assortment of ARs. So there is access for all kids in this area is ridiculous. So the problem with kids shooting up schools has nothing to do with access to guns and guns in school is nothing new.

          What IS different is that we are telling kids that it is wrong to hate. That it is wrong to be angry and we are not helping them process any of it. Everyone understands how it feels when hormones kick in at puberty. Anger is a part of it and we have to help kids with it. Not just tell them not to feel it or get expelled.

          So what are we telling kids to do.
          1. Do not stand up for yourself against your oppressor. It is far better to let someone else handle your problem because you are powerless and can't do it. You are a victim.
          2. Tell someone in power. Only they can fix things for you. Because at the root of it all you are powerless. You are a victim.
          3. Telling will very likely result in no effect. Because the person in power has to believe you and disbelieve your oppressor for any effect to happen. Therefore, you are not only a powerless victim, but your oppressor now has more power than he did before.
          4. If you are able to convince someone in power of your victim status and there is a disciplinary effect, that effect will naturally end and your oppressor will be back and will be pissed.

          Are you freaking kidding me????

          Are you familiar with the concept of internalize oppression and links to violence?

          I have always said we would not need to empower people if we never took away their power in the first place.
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          Sep 18 2012: :) Did I hit button? I'm sorry. I didn't realize you were so acclimated to this social structure. I apologize. But, your reaction does typify the type of people I'm referring too.

          You have a whole list of things you think support your ideals but they only lead to more violence in schools. So now we have, not only the bullies being violent but we have the victims being violent which doubles the amount of violence and has the potential to make bullies out of victims.

          I never said there was an easy answer Robert.

          I only implied that your solution would only make the problem worse.

          Perhaps making Judo a part of the school curriculum from middle school throughout high school might work better towards conditioning our children to find their place in the peer group and give them the tools they need to protect themselves so they won't need guns.

          My wife did an outstanding job of raising a boy, on her own; and turning him into a great man.
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        Sep 18 2012: Yes, it would give the football players someone more viable to pick on and beat up, knowing we couldn't hit them back. ;)
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          Sep 18 2012: Ah Mr. Moonstroller. Leveraging power has little to do with physical strength:)

          Men get this. They understand bullies more than women do. Just look at David's post! They understand that sometime a punch in the mouth resolves a lot at the age of 12. I do too as I threw several myself so I do not mean to over generalize. A decent punch can become the equalizer that allows bully and victim to become friends.

          I had some business at my kids middle school. I was very impressed by the principle who had two rather large boys by the scuff of their neck, one in each hand, holding them high on to tippy toes. They walked by me and someone asked if everything was OK. The principle said it was fine that one boy ran his head into the other boys fist. I watched through the office window as he escorted them into his office on their tiptoes and seated them. He then got down to their eye level, had a serious discussion. Allowed each boy to present their rather heated side of the story keeping the discussion from getting out of hand. He talked to them at some length having the students resolve the issue. At the end of the discussion, there where handshakes all the way around. That school had a zero policy too.

          I had to admire the way he modeled conflict resolution and showed the students what it meant to act like a man. He did not assign bully or victim. He gave them real world skills.

          Women can teach young men many things but they cannot teach them how to act like a man.
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          Sep 18 2012: Yes... It would be much better, if we made our children all easy targets, and lambs to the slaughter...

          How dare I teach my child to defend itself against the sociopaths and psychopaths being raised in this world? It would be much better if I teach them to just roll over, and play dead, or do what the psychopaths tell them. That works great in the real world

          I must be some kind of hideous barbaric brute to expect that good men stand up against evil.

          My friends child should have just continued to "rat" to the teacher "He hit me"... Then the teacher can say "Is that true?"... And, the bully can say "No, and he was picking on me".... So my friend can say "his word against yours, stop wasting my time... Quit horsing around"

          That will make the child incredibly popular, and safe.
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          Sep 19 2012: In regards to the whole, rural minded, conservative, Republican attack...

          I grew up in New York, and lived my entire life in Los Angeles. I never had a taste for politics, and absolutely hated living under the tyranny of George Bush... Then, a charismatic, young African American democrat, came along saying things that actually made sense. He said he would veto the patriot act, close guantanamo bay, stop torturing people, and warrantlessly wiretapping US citizens. He would stop closing medical marijuana clinics, and creat a public, not for profit health insurance option for United States citizens...

          If that wasn't enough, he threw the haymaker "I'll go line by line through the federal budget doing my absolute best to eliminate wasteful spending" and "I will not accept money from Political Action Commitees...

          I lived in California. This man couldn't lose California... So I moved to Nevada, a much more conservative swing state, and volunteered full time for the campaign without pay, for six weeks. I registered people to vote, organized events, held parties organized around getting donations....

          What did I get? Someone who hasn't spoken about the patriot act or warrantless wiretaps, in years. Someone who still uses superpacs, and proposed no legislation to eliminate them. Someone who caved on the public option instantly, and someone who put us 5 trillion dollars in debt...

          I am not a Republican... The Republican Party, stole my rights as a US citizen. They added 10 trillion dollars to my generations debt burden... but "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss."

          I won't get fooled again.
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        Sep 18 2012: Hello Linda,

        My comment was not meant to blame parents alone. I am a full time working parent myself, and I know that many factors contribute to a kids education (well beyond their school). But parents have a role. Kids react to the world in the same way they see adults around them react and rarely do they take those cues from their peer kids.

        I am with you in that parents should be able to spend more time with their kids during theirs first years to help establish this behavior, but even if the parents received help and were able to spend 5 years of their lives entirely with their offspring, a kid whose parents laugh at other people's misfortunes, will grow up laughing at other people's misfortunes themselves.

        To me, it is a complex issue that has many inputs: media, parents, friend's parents, religious leaders, political leaders, the education system. It is a problem in our culture when we fail to reduce in our kids not only their distrust in other people, but that sense of superiority that comes from feeling we belong to a group.

        You don't have to take my word for it. Take a random sample of speeches/comments from politicians, from religious leaders, from mainstream media, and tell me what do they have to say about people in a group different from our own (outsiders). I think that this is where kids learn distrust
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        Sep 18 2012: Linda,

        I don't think anybody here is proposing a vanilla politically correct suburban hell. I must say, however, that the USA in general tries to be much more "politically correct" than other countries. I don't want to start here the fight on whether this is a "leftist" government tendency or if it is the public in general. (By the way what is considered "leftist" here in the USA is quite extreme right in most of the rest of the world)

        I do not think that asking the government to set ground rules when individuals fail to agree in the most basic principles means to give total control to government. The all or nothing, black and white mentality does not apply.

        The government nowadays sticks its nose in many areas of individual life that it certainly shouldn't, but something similar goes for the church.

        Getting angry is not good or bad per se, I see it simply a reaction of our brain towards certain stimuli. And i think it is embedded in our DNA, so no amount of culture will ever make a person lose its ability to feel angry.

        But hate is a different story. Hate involves a conscious decision to focus our anger and fears towards somebody, and I do not see this as positive. Once we teach a kid that it is ok to direct their anger (by hating) towards another individual, we can expect that it will make it easier for this kid to see this individual as inferior, and not worth of the same rights.


        I have never seen a study of bullying where the families of bullies are studied, their cultural values, their traditions. It would be a good starting point

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          Sep 18 2012: I actually agree with you about hate. But kids need to be taught about avoiding hate and how to handle angry. That violence should be avoided but it is an alternative only as a last resort. after resolution and diplomacy have failed.

          "I have never seen a study of bullying where the families of bullies are studied, their cultural values, their traditions"

          There are many but this one is a nice integrative review and you can pick any of the articles and look them up. However, more work needs to be done.

          Part of the conclusion states ":A social–ecological approach dictates that responses to bullies need to rely less on the traditional punitive approach, and more on targeting the patterns of behavior of both bullies and their victims, with attention to the noninvolved bystanders of the schools as well as the classroom–school climate and other influences such as family, community, and society."

          If you look it up in google scholar, it will link to a pdf. But I am not going to violate any copyright.
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        Sep 18 2012: Got it Linda... many thanks for pointing it out... seems like a great resource (most likely i'll spend quite some time digging through it!)

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      Sep 18 2012: Ok, I have some more time, let me pick on some of your first comments above... You say that words don't hurt, and I must disagree with that statement.

      If you are familiar with the work of Ramachandran, pain appears to be a brain construct that allows a creature to live in a way that does not threaten the physical body. Yes, pain seems to be primarily in the brain.

      It has also been found that the same brain circuits that are activated in the brain when we experience physical pain, are activated when we experience rejection from a group of humans.

      And beyond that, the pain of rejection by itself can translate into elevated levels of stress, and stress translates in lower immune system, and a host of other very physical reactions. It is not rare to see a vicious circle of isolation to stress to sickness and more isolation down to more stress, more sickness...

      It would be very easy to dismiss that thought, thinking that surely WE are way above that. That WE do not let stress dictate our lives and WE are always in control of what we think. Hmmm, well, I am not so sure about that.

      You say that the kid who throws the rock is wrong, but you say absolutely nothing about the kid who insults the other kid. And that is exactly one of my main points in this discussion: I want to learn how does culture get so polarized (and so black and white) to allow a full free pass to a kid uttering hate speech, and the minute some other kid reacts by slapping him in the face, the same culture comes down t lynch him

      Would you agree that it is very likely that without the insult there would probably not be a slapping? How do we fix this problem at its root and not at the end point?

      Thanks for bringing some interesting points to this discussion!

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        Sep 18 2012: You misunderstood the point of my story... The kid who threw the rock, was also the kid who was insulting the other child. The kid who threw the rock, was a known bully, with no intent to graduate. When questioned about the incident however, of course the bully said "Well, he made fun of me too".

        I should actually add some details to this story. First, sometimes children will throw pebbles at childrens shoes while they are running, to annoy them... This was not a pebble, it was a stone... To the head. The bully ran up behind the productive child, threw a rock at his head, and then laughed at him. The only human male response to that situation, that should ever be accepted, is a punch to that kids face. That bully, should be the only one punished, if anyone is punished.

        My point is that I have emotional sympathy for this whole liberal, grey area, emotions are important, words hurt, hippy daisy bs... but I have no legal sympathy, and no institutional sympathy for it. The problem with words, is that you can't prove them... you can see a mark from a rock. A kid can say another kid called him names... and it can be a bold faced lie. There is no proof, it's all hearsay, and bs.

        If someone throws a rock, that is an event, of violence, that is the escalation from talking to physical force... People can see this, and there can be evidence. That is where institutions are meant to step in with physical force, detention, suspension, etc.
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          Sep 18 2012: Ah, sorry for the confusion David. Seems to me then that you are painting a very black and white scenario... the ones that the legal system has less trouble handling. Well obviously if a kid throwing the rock is also the kid who was insulting, it makes it quite easy to take sides.

          Not so easy if the kid who insults the other on a daily basis suddenly gets a slap in the face, i guess.

          Funny that the gray area is liberal, i certainly have not been singing kumbaya lately, I promise... does that mean that the black and white is conservative? :-)

          One of the main points of my question is to highlight how limited is the legal system when it comes to dealing with gray areas, as you point out.

          My contention is that when it comes to gray areas, people (even members of a jury) resort back to their emotions (this feels "right", that feels "wrong") and loses a lot of their critical rational skills.

          Evidence, fact and truth are very malleable concepts when spoken in a courtroom.

          And whether words hurt or they merely force some immature brains to boil easier than others, words can have predictable consequences.
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        Sep 18 2012: I'm kind of joking and poking fun when I call this a liberal issue... because, in reality, politicians aren't taking sides on this issue... but, in general, the more liberal my friends are, the more they think both children should be punished, the more conservative they are, the more they think the bully should be punished. In reality, as Linda suggested, it's a bit more of a masculine feminine issue, but that correlates well with liberal/conservative.

        Part of this, is a free speech issue, "even if the other kid was insulting the bully, you punish the kid who throws the first punch, or in this case stone..."

        Part of it, is an old school stoic masculinity issue. "Young boys need to learn to control their emotions. They will be overrun by them if they are not careful... We must teach them clear rules, which they can obey. Clear lines they cannot cross... and allow them to push up against those boundaries with all their might, in order to get out the vicious and desctructive energy often burning deep within them. A boy truly becomes a man, when you can endure the slings and arrows of insult, without resorting to violence."

        Part of it is the old hunter, samurai, king of the mountain. "Once someone crosses that line. Once their emotions, lead them to violence.... You must be better trained at violence than they are. You must be able to defend yourself and protect your family, at all times, at any cost, when faced with real villains.

        These may be antiquated feelings, un necessary in modern society... But, I think all men understand and are familiar with these concepts, on a primal, unconscious level.

        Also, the bullying issue, in regards to "punish both of them", leans a little communal... It's "we're all in this together, no one can be violent"... It's a little anti military... Do we want our kids to grow up cowards? Some would say yes, I don't think that will make us safer, quite the opposite.

        "I'm prone to isolation over sympathy for devils" Aesop Rock
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    Sep 17 2012: Not everything is allowed by the 1st Amendment. There are restrictions which are based on people's reactions to words. The Supreme Court has ruled that speech that involves incitement; false statements; obscenity; child pornography; threats; and speech belonging to others are not guaranteed by the First Amendment. Commercial advertising is not fully guaranteed 1st Amendment protection. I count six exceptions. Insults are not on the list. Annoying words are not listed. American citizens are free to publically communicate any idea within the boundary of the six exceptions. God Bless America!
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      Sep 17 2012: Hi Edward... thanks for your answer... it is illuminating and it sends me back to doing some more homework, now to learn more about these six exceptions, that i find quite agreeable to begin with.

      Specially interesting i find your point about commercial advertisement not fully guaranteed 1st amendment protection

      Can you think of any reason why we should NOT teach our children respect for others as strongly as we teach them about freedom of speech?
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        Sep 17 2012: Because, the restriction of freedom of speech, involves escalating, from hate speech to violence.

        The hidden cost of "respect", is violence. In a society, where it is legal to call someone a Nazi... but not legal to punch someone in the face for calling you a Nazi... When the police get involved, they apply violence, to violent force. In a country where calling someone a Nazi is illegal... The police apply physical force, in reaction to simple noise.

        Why is this important? Well, especially in a country with freedom of religion, this is essential, because there are numerous religions, which regard the use of force, or violence, as the single greatest sin a human being can indulge in. In order to have a country composed of every religion, it is important, that the government not be capable of being seen as truly evil.

        Also, I would suggest it turns masculinity into a struggle for financial and social power, rather than physical strength. Freedom of speech encourages non violence... at great cost, and detriment to society at times. Andrew Sullivan said something akin to "Freedom of speech doesn't protect ideas everyone is comfortable with... Freedom of speech is the right for the Irish parade to not allow gay people, AND my right to protest outside of it... Not one or the other"
      • Sep 17 2012: "Can you think of any reason why we should NOT teach our children respect for others as strongly as we teach them about freedom of speech?"

        No. I was taught that respect for others comes first. The reason that is not reflected in our laws is to provide for freedom of public debate. It would be impossible to come up with a good legal definition of what might be disrespectful; respect and disrespect are too subjective.
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        Sep 18 2012: If I take the liberty of reversing the question and ask, "Should we teach our children to never disrespect another person?" I say yes. My point here is that some folks live in such a way as to make it impossible to respect them. In such cases it is best to be quiet. There is a Christian principle which says we may have liberty to say, or do certain things, but it is not right to exercise that liberty at the expense of another's feelings or well being.
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          Sep 18 2012: I completely agree. I would only add that we can't force, other parents to teach their children to respect others. We do our best to lead by example, and as you suggest remain quiet, especially in America, where they have the right to raise their child, really well, or really poorly.
      • Sep 18 2012: "Can you think of any reason why we should NOT teach our children respect for others as strongly as we teach them about freedom of speech?"

        Yes certain healthy respect is good to teach given that person deserves one. Some people abuse respect or demand respect regardless of their actions. I think one needs to earn respect rather than expect respect because they have certain position in their family or society. That way leaders lead because of their skills and characters rather than because of respect?

        I also think that freedom of speech should not be limited if it is in conflict with respect. We need to be able to criticize any idea and believe system in order to have healthy and just society that can continue to evolve its laws.
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    Sep 18 2012: Freedom should not be taken as liberty to do anything or everything that one wants to do; neither should it be taken as the liberty to say anything just because one wants to be heard.

    Any wise person would know that words are powerful. You dont go around running your mouth like a a broken water tap because you've got freedom of speech.

    Dreams, lives, potentials, relationships, homes and nations have been destroyed because of inconsiderate and careless words.

    We should be careful with our expressions of freedom. For there is no difference between a suicide bomber and someone who pulls down good things with ill words.
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      Sep 18 2012: Hello Feyisayo, thanks for your comment.

      You have picked upon one of the points i am interested in... the fact that words are powerful and that we should make precious use of our freedom to use them

      I do not agree, however, when you say there is no difference between a suicide bomber and someone who pulls down good things with ill words. I think there is a difference. It is a difference of levels, and I would like to understand more how is it that some humans navigate and jump between these levels

      I do not buy into the idea that some people is evil and would do evil, and some other people is good and they would always respond only within the "socially accepted" (namely legal) framework. For example, as the Milgram experiments showed 50 years ago, Almost anybody is capable of great "evil" when they follow authority. No, i don't buy into the "we are good and they are bad" mentality

      I would like to understand much more beyond that, down to the subconscious processes that allow some to control their reactions, and down to the culture that gives free pass to kids that grow up uttering hate words towards others

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    Gail .

    • +2
    Sep 18 2012: I think that your question conflates thinking and emoting - which are two very different processes.

    Hate speech is meant to instill fear in others. That fear may spill out as anger, but it may also take many other forms.

    Speech (in my reality) has a very different purpose than in yours. I know that I cannot communicate my ideas to you fully using speech. It's just not physically possible. Unless you and I have a common experience AND we define our words PRECISELY the same, you can only grasp portions of what I am trying to say.

    So what is the purpose of speech? The only thing left is that our speech is spoken for our own benefits. What do our words say about us? This is why it is important not to conflate emotion and thought.

    If I know that your words are spoken for your own benefit, then I won't take them personally. I will watch you speak AT me while speaking TO yourself. In this way I learn about how you view yourself. It makes little difference what you speak about. (I'm not talking about how to solve a math problem type speech)

    Hate speakers elevate themselves in their own minds, but it is an artificial elevation. It has no basis in fact.

    You ARE responsible for your emotional reactions to the words of others. No one else holds this responsibility.

    I think that religions are promoting the unhealthy conflation. Faith (belief in the absence of rational evidence) is their standard.

    If I create a badly made movie about your holy figure, and you get upset - that is not because "I" MADE you upset. It's because you allowed yourself to become upset by my callousness. That's YOUR choice.

    As for me, if I pay attention, I can see that I am artificially inflating my own ego, and knowing that egos are terrifying monsters, I can choose to develop the self-esteem that is necessary to control my own destiny,

    I know this may seem off-topic, but I think that it goes to the core of the question
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      Sep 18 2012: Hi TED Lover,

      Thank you for your comment. I agree with some of it. Certainly, I am responsible for my reactions, and I have learned to ignore provocation and try to read and hear beyond the words to grasp whatever minimum amount of meaning.

      The conversation has bounced between the indisputable responsibility of adults to control their emotions, and their reactions to hate speech, to the case of kids being bullied in school. And one more time, as it is very common, seems like this is a dichotomy. Nobody wants to talk about the gray area in between, as if the transition from kids to adults was done in one single step and things should be absolute once you are 21 or so.

      Luckily, or unluckily, depending on the point of view, the world is not black and white. Few things are black and white, and rather than shy away from the vast gray areas in between and run to either extreme, I have decided to embrace this not-so-welll-defined, profoundly-ambiguous areas of the world around me. And I have discovered that whether we want it or not, most of us live in those gray areas, even without realizing it.

      Here is where I don't fully agree with you. I do not see a dichotomy of reason and emotion. I don't think we take our emotion clothes off when we write or speak words. Humans evolved, as you said, to read much more than word in a face to face conversation. And even in a conversation like this, we cannot avoid but search for the emotions and meaning behind the words.

      As some other comments below indicate, many people realize that speech is powerful. If that was not the case, advertising would not work, and country leaders would have a hard time rallying people behind them

      So these two things are what i would like to explore more, the power of speech in influencing others, and that gray area of the transition from kid to adult, where people is most susceptible to act upon the words they receive

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        Gail .

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        Sep 20 2012: In response to your post, I am going to say something that you will find unbelievable; but, I have found that this is true from first hand experience. I have talked with others who have learned the same thing about themselves, and I have read of others. Here it goes.

        Peace is a POWER. It is one of the powers that all humans can choose to use. But it must be chosen be be utilized.

        I have faced down imminent death with the power of peace and have avoided imminent rape using the same technique. The technique is simple. Become absolutely, totally, perfectly, (100%)at peace within yourself and the attacker (bully) WILL back away. Not a word need be spoken.

        I am not a Christian, but I do understand why Jesus said things like, "Turn the other cheek", "fear not", "resist not evil", "LOVE your enemy", etc. A Christian might say that if you become totally (100%) loving, but then, I have never met a Christian who believes that Jesus actually meant what he said. When you fear a bully, you empower him/her and weaken yourself. Bullies feed off fear. So, if you take away ALL of the fear, there is nothing left for the bully to feed on.

        I have also discovered that strong emotions are nothing more than indicators that I am carrying an invalid belief in my belief system. If I am upset, and I listen to my own words, I can trace them back to the belief - however real it may seem at the moment - and if I explore it through peace, I can find and then change the belief to one that eliminates the fear (which is at the core of all emotions, save peace (or unadulterated love, if you prefer that word).

        Advertisers toy with your emotions, just as rioting fundamentalist Muslim terrorists do. They use the same technique. But you CAN choose to have even intense conversations from a purely unemotional place, and when I do that, I learn (from my words) far more quickly. You can create your own advertisements that direct you into a more fulfilling direction.
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          Sep 20 2012: Indeed there is again a lot of truth in your words TED Lover, I like the way you say "you can create your own advertisements that direct you into a more fulfilling direction"

          Yes the things we chose to focus our attention on have a direct impact on who we become as a person.

          And yes loosing fear from a bully goes long ways to change the bully's behavior towards others.

          But in my view, we are an animal that lives about 80 to 90 years in a wonderful and delicate balance, between the rational self that help us focus our attention, and the irrational in us that has a baggage from times when humans did not even exist.

          Because we are constrained by the limits of where evolution has brought us (the size and shape and capacity to reconnect of our brains is amazing, but not infinite), I think that we all need to learn to live within this dance. The more we understand it, the more we can direct our own lives.

          I like your concept of internal peace, and i have a similar concept, which is called minimal stress. I find myself at peace with who i am.

          But I cannot say I was at peace like this when i was growing up. There were at least two good decades of experimentation that helped me get there. And specially during the first decade, we humans are very vulnerable to the environment around us. This peace is something hard to teach to a little kid.

          And equally hard is to teach them about that delicate balance between the conscious self and the irrational in us. I have spent more than 10 years trying to teach this to my kids and (i will keep trying for at least another 10) as a way to help them be more in control of their own lives

          Now, talking about how advertisers toy with people's emotions, i would like to extend your statement, saying that every fundamentalist religious leader does this too. I don't think muslim leaders have a copyright on this (the fear of god was preached centuries before the muslim religion was born, for example)

          thank you for such great insights!
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        Gail .

        • +1
        Sep 21 2012: I have to say that I have VIVID memories of being an infant, lying in my crib playing (in my mind) with the colors of the baubles strung across it. I remember learning that I couldn't get out of my high chair. I remember my first steps - how my body was bent forward with my hands behind me, and I tried to get my feet to hurry up and catch up with my head. I also remember figuring out that I should slow down the head rather than move my feet faster. I remember the first time I ran, and was so delighted because I thought that I could run as fast as the wind (and I was surprised when my father caught up with me)

        I also remember the day when I was told that my grandfather died. I knew what they meant, but that was when I understood that they didn't know what I meant. I tried to explain to them that Grandpa wasn't DEAD dead. Yes, I said, he is dead, but he isn't DEAD, dead. I knew that with great certainty because I could check in with him, and the greater me was not disturbed. (I now think of it as the greater me, but a 4 year old doesn't articulate such concepts.

        Then at 4.5, I started kindergarten and Sunday school. I was told that I was wrong. That the great wisdom that I was an essential part of was childish thought. (In Sunday school, I learned that it was the devil and I might go to hell). It was a TERRIFYING time where I was required to let go of the comfort that sustained me, and "grow up".

        When, in my 30s, I discovered what I know, I began to return to that which was so certain to me as a young child. I suspect that if we were not a culture that insists that life works in a way that life doesn't really work, that bullying would go away.

        Check out this link for how some inner city schools eliminated bullying. Watch the videos.
  • Sep 17 2012: I am really not trying to make light of this topic, I think it is important, but in the USA it comes down to,

    Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me.

    "in the USA, all the responsibility is passed to the listener, to remain rational in the face of lies and provocations,"

    Yes, that is our policy. That is what is expected of responsible citizens. With great freedom comes great responsibility. Frankly, when people react to words with violent actions, I think they are embarrassing themselves. In the USA this is considered the reaction of poorly trained children.

    Part of the reason that the USA has developed this cultural value is that it leads to a population that is less easy to manipulate.
  • Sep 20 2012: Censuring speech was something that oppressive governments did that prevented men from speaking the whole truth without fear of consequence. Europe was this type of place when the US started. Our forefathers wanted to be different and felt that the consequences of untruth an opinion, while not commonly shared in many instances, was still better to hear and interpret than to wind up most of Europe. The freedom to say these things would have also been a draw for the religiously oppressed.
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      Sep 20 2012: Hi again Robert,

      Yes oppressive governments use censorship of speech as one of their tools to keep people under control. But it is not their monopoly. The world does not divide into oppressive governments and liberating governments.

      It is all too easy to look back to the USA founding fathers and adjudicate to them all the qualities that we have lost in the present. I don't think they were even remotely thinking about a society like present day USA when they lived, and certainly they were not thinking about every single person living in the colonies when they were thinking and writing about all those freedoms and liberties. Women and slaves were not in that group, for example.

      I admire a lot of the things that they did and wrote, there was certainly a lot of wisdom in their ranks. But there was also a lot of greed and power struggles. Just like anywhere else. I just think we can take the good without having to keep the bad.

      Using the good things that were established 236 years ago does not mean they are absolute truths. They can be improved, and they can be adapted and be made more relevant to who we are today.

      Freedom of speech is a good thing, but many people, for example, do not agree with the way Wikileaks helps whistle-blowers expose secrets. They happily support the idea that the government should be able to restrict freedom of speech if it "considers" that it goes "against national security"

      So this double standard tells me that people indeed think there are instances where freedom of speech is not black and white.

      For me, hate speech is in this gray area, just like wikileaks is for many others

  • Sep 17 2012: "Whether the legal system has caught up to the fact that we are animals that react in some predictable ways, and that it is false to think of humans as always rational and always in control, our understanding of psychology and human behavior should illuminate and guide what our future legal system should aspire to be."

    You have an extremely more positive and optimistic view of the behavioral sciences than I do, especially with regards to what you consider "predictable." I do not think there is any adult on this planet that thinks that humans are always rational and in control. The legal systems of England and the USA were developed with the concept of personal responsibility to provide individual freedom under a system of law. This is not unrealistic with respect to human nature or human behavior, it is a choice. It is not an ideal system, but it does work to an amazingly good degree.

    Perhaps one day the behavioral sciences will be advanced enough to improve on this basic concept. IMO, that day is far, far in the future. Right now, I think it is a good system that is suitable to the culture of the people living here. If you have a better way of providing freedom under the law, I would be very interested.
  • Sep 17 2012: "One of the main differences between the way freedom of speech is understood in the USA and elsewhere, is the concept of "hate speech"."

    It's not so different in some other countries: many countries that officially have laws against hate speech barely reinforce them anymore, Germany is the big exception for historical reasons. A Dutch court dismissed all charges of hate speech that Geert Wilders was accused, after a lawyer had found a legal trick to begin the trial even though the public prosecutor had refused to prosecute Wilders, signaling the justice system's unwillingness to enforce hate speech laws.

    "Seems to me that in the USA, all the responsibility is passed to the listener, to remain rational in the face of lies and provocations, and never indulge in the most minimal reaction (other than use hate speech back)."

    The allowed "most minimal" reaction include suing for slander, boycotting, and using hate speech back, that should be enough.

    "Can someone honestly claim that they innocently released a comment on the internet for "domestic consumption only", and that they are not responsible of its international repercussions?"

    They don't have to justify that: people in other countries don't have to watch youtube, or even allow it. You can't be held to all the laws in the world at once because many are contradictory, irrational and most of all you never got the chance to petition or vote for or against most of them. If Egypt wants Americans to comply to its laws even when those Americans are in America then Egypt should allow Americans to vote in Egyptian elections.
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      Sep 17 2012: Hi John,

      Thanks for your response.

      Regarding your first assertion, I beg to disagree with you. Frederick Schauer has researched and written extensively about free speech (and hate speech) and after digging for some time in his papers, I did not get the impression that "many countries that have laws against hate speech barely reinforce them". But i won't take his word, or yours... please send me some reference material and i'll be glad to take a closer look

      What should I tell a kid who is bullied in school? "man up"? "sue your classmates for slander"? "start a boycott"? Is that enough? Most schools in this country have taken a different stand against bullying, and that goes beyond that "most minimal". As part of a civilized society I consider part of the responsibility of the stronger to defend the weaker, and the anti-bullying policies in most schools are a good example of this.

      Seems like in your last sentence you are saying that we should be allowed to say anything here in the USA, however irresponsible or denigrating about people in other countries, and it would be their responsibility to censor internet content in order to protect them from hearing/watching it? Way to go! follow the Chinese/Syrian/Egyptian model i guess?

      There are two behaviors that are inherent to human nature that i find relevant here. One is the conviction that we know more about others than they know about themselves. The second is that the exact same action appears less intense when we do it to others than when it is done on us. I think these two asymmetries combine in a bad way when we think about hate speech and how others should be allowed to respond to it.

      Whether the legal system has caught up to the fact that we are animals that react in some predictable ways, and that it is false to think of humans as always rational and always in control, our understanding of psychology and human behavior should illuminate and guide what our future legal system should aspire to be

      • Sep 17 2012: "Regarding your first assertion, I beg to disagree with you."

        "What should I tell a kid who is bullied in school?"

        1) a kid is a person, not a group of people, persons have rights, groups do not, so this cannot be compared to "offending" people of a certain religion, 2) a school is an organization that can enforce its own rules, it is legally allowed to take action against bullies that bully on its grounds and it is allowed to deny entry to bullies who bully outside of the school. Kinda like I have the right to walk on a public road but you are not legally obliged to let me into your own house. The kid that gets bullied does not have the right to shoot his bully, unless ithe bully starts threatening his physical safety.

        "Seems like in your last sentence you are saying that we should be allowed to say anything here in the USA, however irresponsible or denigrating about people in other countries, and it would be their responsibility to censor internet content in order to protect them from hearing/watching it?"

        Yup, just like we have to turn away when they call us immoral infidels that deserve to burn in hell. It's that little piece of enlightenment that separates the civilized from the uncivilized. You should google "heckler's veto" to see how awful the alternative to free speech (the most irrational and angry people in the world silencing everyone else) is.


        What you see as "drawing a line" I see as silencing and in a way that's the best argument there is for freedom of speech: see I could claim I'm offended by everything you say. Every religion is offensive to every other religion, and they all spread lies and hatespeech (eternal hellfire and such), so religious groups benefit from freedom of speech more than anyone else, for them to want to curtail it is the highest form of arrogance. That's just besides the fact that you'd run into paradoxes (two opposing statements could be banned without freedom of speech).
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          Sep 18 2012: Thanks John, I will google up the "hecklers' veto", however it seems to me, in the way you suggest it, that you see the issue of free speech in black and white. I am not for silencing others, and i hope i have not conveyed that impression. I just happen to draw the line on what is acceptable to say to others with the intention of causing distress or prompting a reaction differently than the US legal system.

          In my view, there are many more things that distinguish the civilized from the uncivilized. Restraining from using hate speech towards others ranks in my list as high as not reacting with violence when we are the object of hate speech. Recognizing the false assumption than our group is better than "the others" ranks even higher.

      • Sep 18 2012: Hi Andres,

        I have a few comments:

        "What should I tell a kid who is bullied in school? "

        Kids and school are special circumstances because kids are still learning how to communicate and understand the adult world. I think John is referring to adults.

        "Seems like in your last sentence you are saying that we should be allowed to say anything here in the USA, however irresponsible or denigrating about people in other countries, and it would be their responsibility to censor internet content... "

        I think people that hear something they don't like and is offending to them are making the free choice of being offended or feeling certain way. We cannot restrict freedom of speech in that regard. Similarly you will not stop criticizing communism even if I tell you that I feel offended and denigrated?

        I also question the assumption that you are making here that all people in Muslim countries do not want to have the same freedom of speech and want to be part of this critisism. Why extremists or even majority should dictate what everyone will do or not do?

        Here is a good article on the recent events from a woman that lived in many Muslim countries and stands for women's rights and freedom of speech anywhere:

  • Sep 24 2012: well freedom of speech anywhere should just be speeking your real thoughts not anyone elses. being able to say what u feel without being scared you're going to be descriminated. i put out my freedom of speech even if one day someone tells me its not legal haha. ok i think one day its going to come to a point when people have to go against the laws. or else we r just going to be like robots only doing what they think is right
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    Sep 18 2012: David you are being a bit extravagant, inflaming a conversation that demands a reasonable disposition and calm attitude.

    Even without any emotive sensations in this blog, it is apparent your attitude is sharply distorted towards a more physical solution. Which, as I stated to Robert, will only increase the violence.

    Right. Wrong. It's all finger pointing.
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        Sep 18 2012: Getting back on topic:

        I think that hate speech is both a tool of Retoric and an expression of inner disposition towards a person's place in the overall peer group. Sometimes if reflects their actual experience with the object of their hatred.

        Kenneth Burke was a rhetorical theorist, philosopher, and poet ~Wikepedia.
        In his writings, he illustrates the use of Hate speech as a Rhetorical tool in the hands of people like the Nazi's in the years preceding and during WWII. Using this rhetoric, Hitler managed to instill hatred and disdain for the Jewish population throughout Europe.

        We see this same rhetoric being used today in some Scandinavian countries, and in France, to justify some of their laws being enacted to control their Muslim communities. We see the same efforts being applied in the United States, sometimes subtly, sometimes quite outlandishly, by popular conservative mouthpieces like Rush Limbaugh.

        These people claim to represent the national mindset and serve to hammer a wedge in between the social structures of nations, creating discontent between neighbors. It is also used extensively by the Muslim, political organizations, to create the same effect within their countries.

        Kenneth Burk is considered, by most graduate instructors, to be required reading in those courses where the undergraduate is seeking a masters degree in a Communications field.
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      Sep 18 2012: See... This is the misunderstanding. I am against violence. I think people who respond to name calling with violence, can objectively be proven wrong, and punished.

      I do however think that the natural reaction to being physically assaulted, is to defend yourself... Not run, or cry. I think the only way to overcome violent psychopaths, is self defense. Apparently you think violent psychopaths respond well to discipline.... Or there is no such thing as a 12 year old violent psychopath... Both are verifiably inaccurate.
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        Sep 19 2012: Just trying to make a point David. The words we use can be inflammatory at times.
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          Sep 19 2012: I apologize for being a prick here. I'm just not the person you accuse me of being here. I'm much more liberal and progressive than you give me credit for, I just vehemently disagree with you on this issue.
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        Sep 19 2012: David... I am as against violence as you are. Even more, since i dare to call some of the hate speech violence too.

        "Name calling" seems less strong than "hate speech" to me for some reason, so we need to agree on which one we are talking about here. Responding with a punch in the face to someone who called me "dumbo ears" only once would be clearly wrong... that would be just "name calling" to me. But I think we know that "hate speech" goes well beyond this "name calling"

        You resort back to the assumption that responding with violence is a rational decision. I do not agree that it is always a rational decision... I am trying to go beyond that to see if something can be done even before physical violence becomes an option. Yes, I know that only a subset of this chain of events can be "legally" "proven" "right" or "wrong".

        In science, one tries to look at all the elements that produce certain outcome. And then analyzes what happens when each of those elements varies.

        I guess my point here is that a little bit more use of the scientific method would do wonders to bring some old policies up to date. Yes, even the very entrenched concept of "free speech"... Not to replace them, just to make them more relevant to who we are as humans today
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          Sep 19 2012: In the institution of government... By refering to "hate speech" as violence... You create a false equivalency, and apply violent force to hate speech.

          If an institution of government is to apply violent force, and imprisonment, to "hate speech" the total amount of violence being imposed on citizens in this country would increase. We already incarcerate more people than any first world country.

          In the school system, the institution will always punish hate speech, and "dumbo ears", when it catches them... However, fights will still break out amongst adolescent males... When they break out... I think the person who threw the first punch, is the one who should be punished for assault, and that should be a distinct and different offense than "dumbo ears", or even hate speech. Especially in children, we should have some sympathy for the fact that all "hate speech", starts with dumb parents. The child often doesn't even associate the insults with history, or culture or race, they're just repeating an insult of their parents.

          I'd be more insulted by the expression "five head" than cracker. I've got a bit of a five head, that's mean... I never owned people, nor wanted to, so the cracker insult doesn't bother me at all. Who gets to decide, what words are acceptable to use to offend what people? I say, no one... I say... Don't throw stones.
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          Sep 19 2012: I think it's clear that some are born into a climate of hate and fear and they become disillusioned and no longer search for peaceful means to solve problems that surround them. They want to strike out.

          You can't change these people, sometimes. They always react the same way with no self-initiative to change. They create the hate speech because it's a form of catharsis for them and in return they become slaves to their vocabulary.
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        Sep 19 2012: I don't think that by saying hate speech is a form of violence I create an equivalence between the two, David.

        And even though i know that the monopoly in the use of violence is a function of the government, this does not mean that this function should be assumed natural and be unquestioned.

        You keep putting the emphasis towards the end of the chain: how to punish and how to make sure in this country the legal system punishes a violent action and draw a clear distinction between that and hate speech.

        I keep trying to drag you back to the causes, but I am not sure if you follow my argument (yes i am convoluted most of the time), or maybe you realize where i am going and are not interested in exploring more of that side of the equation.

        Yes, you are giving me an argument in defense of the current US legal system: if a fight breaks between adolescents, punish the first who is caught, charge him with assault. Period. End of the investigation. I guess that is all the legal system would do in this case.

        But i am trying to see beyond that. I know that whatever culture we (and the media, and the school system) feed our kids will make a difference in the way they treat others and in the way they react to what they hear from others as they grow up. I think that if changing what our kids learn has the potential of making the difference between a verbal discussion and a deadly rampage at school, then we should try to do something about it earlier rather than later.

        Or you don't think that there are people in this country (and in the world in general) that can be easily pushed beyond their breaking point? (and by the way, have you read about the Milgram experiment?)
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          Sep 19 2012: "Yes, you are giving me an argument in defense of the current US legal system: if a fight breaks between adolescents, punish the first who is caught, charge him with assault. Period. End of the investigation. I guess that is all the legal system would do in this case"

          No, I am saying this changed in the school system, and it has even changed in the legal system at times, re housbreakers, breaking their legs while trespassing suing the owners... There was no debate, and it's very dangerous to live in a society that punishes both the victim of bullying, and the agressor. In the US, we currently punish both, and call that "anti bullying" policy. I suggest that is pro bullying policy. The bully does not care about institutional consequences, the productive child does, so the institution actually forces the child to tolerate bullying.

          On, the deeper questions however, I was not avoiding you... I took it pretty head on with my comment about apex male predator species, samurai, and hunters. I actually think all young men, start out a bit crazy, a bit violent, and a bit self destructive, and it is up to society to create an environment which can encourage and train them to be otherwise. I think we are pack animals, and we fight for dominance, naturally, especially in our youth.

          I think the best way to train us out of that, is the old way. "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me"... I believe the nature of masculinity, is conflict, and self destruction, and we must constantly learn to control ourselves. We weren't built to be surrounded by a million people, this is why men are so drugged in their youth in todays culture.

          I wish we could do more to institutionally to discourage hate speech... but I think individuals, and families, need to go through this journey on their own. In guiding them through this journey, while protecting them from actual violence, I think we make them less likely to stay hateful.
  • Sep 18 2012: Andres Aullet: 'Recognizing the false assumption than our group is better than "the others" ranks even higher.'

    This seems to be the basis of your title question, why you chose to frame it as a difference between the USA and the rest of the world.

    Generally, I judge people by their actions. As a matter of principle, I do not believe that "our group" is better than "the other." I do believe that some ideas are better than others, and I believe that the quality of an idea can be demonstrated by its consequences.

    In the USA, we have a culture that includes freedom of speech and responsibility. Is this culture demonstrably better than other cultures? Freedom of speech means putting up with movies that denigrate others' most cherished beliefs, allows horrific pornography to flourish and has many other negative aspects. It also means that I can publish a video on the internet denouncing the current elected officials and demanding that all citizens must vote against them. How to judge? Let the people judge. Of the world's population, how many would come to live in the USA if they could? How many to Iran?

    Certainly we can improve this culture, and we are trying. The recent efforts to curtail bullying among school children is an excellent example. We try, we observe the consequences, we make adjustments. Even our founding fathers realized that democratic government is an ongoing experiment.

    The differences between the USA and the rest of the world are not based on false assumptions. They are based in the Constitution. Some people in the USA are very proud of the USA and tend to be very vocal. I see both the positive and the negative aspects of our culture, and I do not share this pride, and I am not very vocal. One of the biggest differences between the USA and the rest of the world is that we have a means to continuously improve our government, even the Constitution itself.
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      Sep 18 2012: Hi Barry,

      Of course my question came to mind within framework of the current events in Libya. Which i do not justify at all.

      I know, at least from my experience, that some people are easier to "tease" into violence than others. Extremist religious in this case show us a clear example. And since many times it is teenagers or very young males who carry out these acts, it made me think that there is a big component of immaturity that is routinely exploited to incite these individuals into violence. That is why I started wondering about how our education to kids can counter that particular immaturity.

      I framed the the title question in that form, because I got curious about the benefits and consequences of free speech around the world, and found the work of Frederick Schauer, one of his papers ("The exceptional First Ammendment, 2005) describes the unique model that the USA has decided to follow when protecting free speech. It was there where i learned about the different way in which the USA defines and applies this right, in particular to it's unique treatment of hate speech, when compared with other countries.

      Now you are absolutely right. I have done some reading on the tricks that our minds tend to play on us, and one of them is this asymmetry in the way we see our groups vs. the outsiders. I happen to live in the USA now, but I can assure you that it is a universal phenomenon (and very human). I do not mean any disrespect towards a particular group with my statement.

      But one must be aware of this asymmetry when evaluating actions of outsiders. It is all too easy to think, for example, that our vocal people is not as bad as the vocal people of other countries. Or that we are a little bit more "right" than them. They will see exactly the inverse.

      I can tell you that when I moved to work in the USA, it was certainly not the freedom of speech what weighted in my decision, but the lack of similar economic options in Mexico (my country of origin)

  • Sep 18 2012: Andres Aullet: "the culture that gives free pass to kids that grow up uttering hate words towards others"

    Have you ever had your mouth washed out with soap? I got that treatment just once, after saying something that my mother considered unacceptable, and I determined immediately that it would never happen again. I learned a valuable lesson.

    I can assure you that the culture that nourished me and my children does not give a free pass to hate speech.

    The grey area between infancy and adulthood is where the learning must take place. In our culture this is a very vast very grey area because parents are free to raise their children in any way they choose, provided they do not cause physical harm to the children.

    I support free speech for adults. I believe that people of all ages should show respect to people we do not know until that person gives cause for disrespect. Hate speech is wrong and we should all teach that to all children. Not all parents teach this, or teach it well enough. Some people never learn this lesson no matter how well it is taught.

    Hate speech is qualitatively different from violence. Even hate speech does not justify violence. We must teach children to react to words with words, not violence; first because violence is a more egregious wrong, and second because reacting to hate speech makes you vulnerable to manipulation. This is actually just one part of teaching children to maintain self control under almost all circumstances, and especially when being provoked, whether with words or actions.

    We must teach children that there are specific circumstances that permit the release of strong emotions, but usually they must be controlled.

    As I said in my first post, with great freedom comes great responsibility. It takes a culture to teach this responsibility, from infancy to adult and beyond. Largely, the culture in the USA is successful in teaching this responsibility. We could do better.
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      Sep 18 2012: Hi again Barry,

      Thank you for your comment! you brought a smile to my face...

      I thought that the practice of mouth washing with soap was outdated. It was standard practice in the Scouts group that I was lucky to be part of when growing up.

      I see a lot of similarities here, and please forgive me if sometimes my words sound like generalizations. Of course not all the culture around me gives a free pass to hate speech.

      But more and more often, I am alarmed when I see parents come to schools and confront teachers quite disrespectfully in front of their kids, many times without really having a valid reason to do so. On one occasion I heard a parent justifying his actions with the fact that teachers are wrong and just trying to "tell us how to educate our own kids". Yeah, that, I think, opens the door for kids to feel empowered to show disrespect to others. Kids learn from our actions, not our words.

      Regarding manipulation, although it is probably a component of it, I don't think that reacting to hate speech with violence is the main thing that makes you vulnerable. Blind obedience to authorities is a more likely cause. And a reinforced fear of the unfamiliar is another.

      I have many libertarian friends. And while i share with them the ideal of personal responsibility, I don't think it is realistic to demand unrestrained freedom for all individuals. Not when we live in a society as diverse as this. The idea of minimal government and of maximum liberties is indeed appealing, but works best in a highly homogeneous society, and i am not sure if we'll ever get there

      The freedom and responsibility that you mention in your last paragraph are a little vague. are you referring only to freedom of speech?

      Is freedom to denigrate others with hate speech really necessary to freedom of speech itself? What would be the difficulty in agreeing on a definition of hate speech in this context?

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        Sep 18 2012: "The idea of minimal government and of maximum liberties is indeed appealing, but works best in a highly homogeneous society, and i am not sure if we'll ever get there"

        Ahh... Here is one of our fundamental disagreements... I believe that minimal government, and miximum liberty is essential, specifically because we are not, and never will be a homogeneous group. We are a nation of immigrants... and eccentrics.

        I think America, is the only country, where you can sue your doctor, for giving you a blood transfusion, that saved your life... Provided you're a Christian Scientist, and you had Identification regarding that, on your person. They don't believe in transfusions.

        Jehova's Witnesses... Aren't allowed to vote, either because they don't believe in state institutions, or because they are meant to witness, not interfere... something... So, compulsory voting... Violates their freedom of religion.

        Personally, I think making me pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan directly violate my freedom of religion, and right to pursue happiness... but that's another issue. The point here, is that social constructs, and institutional political correctness are dangerous here not because we are not homogenous... but, because we never will be, I hope.
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          Sep 19 2012: Let me clarify and let's see if we still disagree as much. When I say homogeneous society, I refer to values and culture, not to class or economic level. I don't mean homogeneous as in "communism", god forbid!, even though McCarthy and Hoover have been long gone, their spirit rages on

          I do not mean homogeneous as in "everybody should dress the same clothes, drive the same vehicle and and be paid $400 a week regardless of whether they work or not" (some people actually think that is an accurate description of communism). No, when I say homogeneous I mean a group that shares the same set of moral and cultural values. The USA is far from homogeneous in this sense, and that is what makes it so difficult to maximize individual liberties while at the same time minimizing government intervention.

          People from Mexico, for example, tends to enjoy long and noisy parties and they hug and kiss each other a lot more than people from the USA. Many would be (and have been) accused of sexual harassment because of that very fact. So what happens? well, the government steps in and makes laws to make a lot of this indiscriminate hugging and kissing a punishable offense. These laws, of course, limit the liberties of a certain group of people in hopes to grant peaceful social interactions. And most of us are law abiding and stop the hugging and kissing.

          But culture dies hard, just put a bunch of us mexicans in a party and you'll see how much of the culture remains alive.

          I am an example that this is a nation of immigrants and eccentrics. Hey, nothing wrong with that :)

          For decades there has been a tension in this country. People in general think that the government should direct less of their lives (I am all for this) At the same time they expect other citizens to automatically behave in the same way they do (not so much for this)

          Culture assimilation is limited, and it does not happen overnight. In the interim, it is a function of the government to mediate these interactions
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          Sep 19 2012: Andres;
          "All i am saying is that only in a society that has homogeneous moral and cultural values, you can have both minimum government and maximize individual liberties."

          If we get to that point I'm done. I'm moving. You can't get more vanilla and politically correct than that.

          The fact that you WANT cultural assimilation freaks me out. Like that is some appropriate goal. That is so wrong I can barely wrap my brain around it.

          I originally come from a multicultural city. Cultural variety was treasured and caused conflict. That is why it is so important to help kids deal with hate. Cultural values should be preserved and cherished and shared. People should honor their family history and celebrate their heritage. Honor those who came before them and lived and died so they can live whatever life has in store. And they should learn to honor the culture and heritage of the other people in the same way with the same respect. Not hide in Vanilla-ville USA

          And I learned first hand about prejudice and hate. I also learned how to deal with it and how not to perpetuate it. To perpetuate or create homogeneous culture and values to remove prejudice and hate is not appropriate. Ever.

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        Sep 19 2012: "The idea of minimal government and of maximum liberties is indeed appealing, but works best in a highly homogeneous society, and i am not sure if we'll ever get there"

        What happened to:

        "I don't think anybody here is proposing a vanilla politically correct suburban hell."

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          Sep 19 2012: Hi Linda,

          yes my words sound quite twisted here. But i an mot advocating for an homogeneous society... nor i desire one.

          All i am saying is that only in a society that has homogeneous moral and cultural values, you can have both minimum government and maximize individual liberties.

          I replied to a similar comment from David above

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        Sep 19 2012: I understand where you're coming from better now... but... I think I see our real disagreement. ID, vs. CA... Try to stop a hispanic family from being loud as hell all night in Los Angeles... Good luck, lol. Maybe in Beverly Hills... but having lived in New York, and California my whole life, I can tell you, the huge metropolitan cities, here, think that the person who calls the police, is the "jerk who ruins the block"... And, I love it. That is a matter of personal taste though.

        The extreme diversity in Los Angeles, and New York, may just be a bit more unruly, than you're used to... but public displays of affection... You ever been to San Fran?
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          Sep 19 2012: LOL... I lived for a few months in Cambridge, MA... just a few blocks from Harvard Sq. And at the time, my kids were 2 and 4. Yeah, there was a lot of "explaining" to them regarding behavior in the street!

          cheers David. great discussion