Some people are big fans of invoking ‘the line’ – “free speech is all well and good, but you have to do something when it crosses the line.” So where’s the line? Some of my friends think that the line is here, where free speech can be used to promote racism. Some think it’s here, when it’s used to promote hate. I have consistently said that those are not the line, for reasons that many people don’t agree with. We define racism and hate very poorly, and until someone can show me that criminalizing certain kinds of speech actually decreases hate (instead of just making people feel better), I’m not at all comfortable doing anything more than labeling it and speaking out against it.
There absolutely is a line, however. There is a line when it stops being speech, and starts being violence. There is a difference between criticizing ideas and attacking individuals based on group membership. There is a difference between speaking out against the actions of an individual who is harming someone and encouraging people to harm that individual. Once you are using speech to enact punishment on someone who is different from you, you’ve stepped outside the realm of free speech an into the realm of inciting violence.
Uganda provides us with an excellent illustration of this:
Several people have been attacked in Uganda after a local newspaper published their names and photos, saying they were homosexual, an activist has told the BBC. Frank Mugisha said one woman was almost killed after her neighbours started throwing stones at her house. He said most of those whose names appeared in Uganda’s Rolling Stone paper had been harassed.
Rolling Stone is not criticizing these people for decisions they’ve made. They are not making a political point, or exposing some kind of hypocrisy in elected leaders. They are dangling fresh meat in front of a rabid mob, made ravenous for the blood of gay people by a culture of hatred and persecution.
The excuses that the editor used to attempt to justify the publication are so flimsy as to be offensive:
Giles Muhame, editor of the two-month-old Rolling Stone paper, denied that he had been inciting violence by publishing the names next to a headline which read “Hang them”. He said he was urging the authorities to investigate and prosecute people “recruiting children to homosexuality”, before executing anyone found guilty. He also said he was acting in the public interest, saying Ugandans did not know to what extent homsexuality was “ravaging the moral fabric of our nation”, and he vowed to continue to publish the names and photographs of gay Ugandans.
This is one of the outcomes of the lie that gay people choose to be gay. If the abundance of psychological literature, the narrative of gay people, and simple logic (when did you choose to be straight?) wasn’t enough to put that ridiculous claim to the lie, Uganda is proof that people don’t choose. Why on Earth would anyone choose to be gay in a country where being gay is justification for assault, public exposure, and state-sponsored execution? Anti-gay bigots love to trumpet the “recruitment” canard, trying to make themselves out to be the victims of unjust ideological encroachment (can you say privilege? I knew you could…). Once again, this is confusing the attempt to reduce active hatred and systematic oppression with some kind of “homosexualist agenda” that will make kids gay. This is quite literally a life or death issue for gay people, particularly in Uganda. Nobody is going to be killed or targeted for violence because they don’t like gay people – and I swear right here and right now that if that happens I will be among the first to protest that. The vice, however, is not versa.
I can’t think of anything else to write. This newspaper disgusts me. That whole country disgusts me right now.
Here’s a picture of an otter:
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