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June 16, 2003 9:25 AM   Subscribe

The criminalisation of language?.
A judge rules that chanting "Paki" at a football match is a criminal offence. "Lord Justice Auld ruled...that the word 'Paki' was 'a slang expression which is racially offensive.'" Personally I come from a culture that finds it acceptable to say things like "I'm just going to the Paki shop, do you want anything?"[Pakistani owned corner shop] and "Anyone fancy a chinki?" [Chinese food.]I've used the terms and I think racism is silly; now I'm a racist criminal I guess.
posted by Blue Stone (179 comments total)

 
Language is always complicated. I used to live in Scotland, where Paki is used exactly in the way you say.. I don't think anyone who uses the word is a 'racist criminal' - but I do think people use the words, at a basic level, to reinforce stereotypes. When someone describes a corner store as a 'paki', what they're saying is - this is your role in my culture, and I accept you only on those terms. So, it defines someone as cheap labour, which is of course what most immigrants in the west are - and so, through language, immigrants are kept in their place.

If I was from Pakistan, I know I'd find that offensive.
posted by ascullion at 9:40 AM on June 16, 2003


I completely agree with the FPP, and am glad this story came out of the U.K. There have been many instances of this "thought police" or "language criminalisation" legal action in the U.S. Have not wanted to bring it up, for the reason that white nationalist and racist sites bring up those articles so often.

There has to be a way to divorce this issue from any racial context. I don't know how to explain it to a broad base of people myself, the way a politician would have to. It is extremely dangerous where this type of action could lead, though.

On the other hand... "Chinki?" That's horrible. It's not even an abbreviation of Chinese; it's an extension of chink. I would be offended if somebody said that. I would be even more offended if someone was put in jail for saying it, though.
posted by son_of_minya at 9:44 AM on June 16, 2003


Bush on Pakis
posted by goethean at 9:45 AM on June 16, 2003


Where I grew up, this word was always extremely offensive. I guess that our experiences differ.
posted by plep at 9:46 AM on June 16, 2003


You've got me with Paki. I've never really heard that outside of the shortened version of Pakistani but I would have to say "Chinki" ain't exactly a culturally-neutral term. It's kinda one letter away from a very racist term. Would you think a "niggy" or "jappY" store to be a fine thing to say? Or is there some double standard protecting blacks but not the Chinese? Pakistani?
posted by Henry Flower at 9:47 AM on June 16, 2003


"I've used the terms and I think racism is silly; now I'm a racist criminal I guess"

No, just ignorant.

The question isn't whether *you* find it offensive, the question is whether the person you're calling these cute names finds it offensive. If they do you might consider stopping.
posted by Outlawyr at 9:47 AM on June 16, 2003


As a football fan, I can tell you that the chant used isn't meant to be a compliment to the opposition. So I guess I'd agree it's racially offensive. Perhaps the best people to ask are the people it refers to. Would you call them a paki to their face?
posted by squealy at 9:47 AM on June 16, 2003


There has to be a way to divorce this issue from any racial context.

Not without making it something else entirely. That's the trouble with contexts; once you remove Thing A from its context, it quits being Thing A and starts being Thing B, usually because of its new context.
If you remove the issue from its context, where will you put it? The Land of No Context? (Which, if it existed, wouldn't that be a context itself?)

Unfortunately, none of us can "force" a word to change meaning. Even if every racist jerk quit using "Paki" today, 50 years from now, it would still have the power to wound and offend.
posted by eustacescrubb at 9:51 AM on June 16, 2003


In Boston, "I'm going to the packie" means "I'm going to the liquor store" (package store).
posted by rxrfrx at 9:51 AM on June 16, 2003


Paki, as a shortened, quick way fo saying Pakistani, I would have never thought was offensive. The chinki, though - well, now, that I know is a slur.

Funny thought just occured to me.. any 'shortening' of a country name to describe it's inhabitants seems to be a slur.. jap, spic, yank, paki, etc...

Maybe the only exceptions are kiwi and aussie.
posted by rich at 9:56 AM on June 16, 2003


In Massachusetts, we went to the packie all the time.

Some guy talks about it briefly on his blog (scroll to April 20).

On preview, thanks, rxrfrx.
posted by trharlan at 9:59 AM on June 16, 2003


The question isn't whether *you* find it offensive, the question is whether the person you're calling these cute names finds it offensive. If they do you might consider stopping.

Amen, brother.

Maybe the only exceptions are kiwi and aussie.

Interesting point. Maybe this is due to the fact that, for the most part, nobody has really talked broadly about kiwis and aussies in a "let's round em all up and put them in internment camps/ lynch them/ burn down their churches, mosques, synagogues" etc. Any word that describes a group of people can be usurped for negative purposes by those that wish to discriminate. Look at the root for calling people from Mexico mojos. They stole the Spanish word for wet ("mojado") and use it now to call them "wetbacks" in their own language.
posted by Ufez Jones at 10:04 AM on June 16, 2003


Dictionary.com definition. 'Offensive British slang', 'disparaging term'.
I grew up in the West Midlands and never knew the word to be used in anything other than an offensive context. (My Collins dictionary also defines the word as 'offensive').
posted by plep at 10:04 AM on June 16, 2003


Well, I don't think "Paki" has caught on in any way in the US, so I couldn't really say. I think anyone from india would be pretty offended to be called a "Paki" though, for obvious reasons.

Saying "Chinki" for chinese food does sound pretty bad to my ears, as we have a racial epitaph for chinese called "chink"
posted by delmoi at 10:05 AM on June 16, 2003


a racial epitaph

You mean like this?

Here Lie the Bodies of Several Million American Indians, Killed Because They Mistook Treaties with the United States for Actual Binding Treaties.
posted by eustacescrubb at 10:11 AM on June 16, 2003


possibly offensive = yes

cause for legislation = probably not

I'd consider it as "off-color" as using jap to reffer to someone japanese, but I don't think making the use of the word jap illegal would solve anything.

Does anyone know more about the 1991 Football (Offences) Act? Does this just cover the term is use at football games or it's use in general?
posted by Hackworth at 10:11 AM on June 16, 2003


My favorite (ha! I'm a dick!) example of this is how the word "gringo" gets turned on its head. Most Americans are not offended by the word. There are even restaurant chains and so forth named "Gringo." This belies the real contempt with which the word is often spoken in Latin America. Sort of a lexical Trojan Horse.

That being said, it is hard for me to argue with people choosing not to be offended. We humans seem to wear taking offense as some sort of badge of virtuous hyperawareness. What a waste of time.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 10:12 AM on June 16, 2003


Where I come from (N Yorkshire), "paki" and "chinki" were both considered offensive. At least if you had aspirations to the middle class.

But then I moved to Chile, where people do the "slitty eyes" thing when talking about Asians and no-one gives a damn. We had a Korean guy staying over one night, and when I mentioned this to my (Chilean) boss he said "Ah, don't tell me!". "What?" I replied. "He stinks, right?"...

So I'm starting to think you shouldn't make fun of Pakistanis or the Chinese, but it should be open season on bloody Chileans. Especially the owner of the dogs that chased my down the street today. She was following in her Mercedes, cooing at them, with her maid and gardener dashing around trying to grab hold of their collars.

Help. Culture shock victim requires emergency treatment.
posted by andrew cooke at 10:16 AM on June 16, 2003


On the gringo thing - it would feel lot worse if I was poor as most people here (ie the maids and gardeners, not the friggin Las Condes cuicos). When you become rich just by moving country it seems bad sport to complain about a little verbal abuse. And anyway, when it's used in a nasty way, it refers to "los Janquis".
posted by andrew cooke at 10:18 AM on June 16, 2003


Hackworth :- Football (Offences and Disorder) Act, 1999. Section 9 is the one which covers indecent and racialist chanting. (From the Stationery Office website).

The act only applies to soccer matches. Racist chanting is associated with soccer hooliganism and violence. In the context of the legislation, racist chanting is not just offensive but threatening as well.
posted by plep at 10:19 AM on June 16, 2003


Well, we Yanks still can't get away with using "Jap" as a noun or adjective contraction for "Japanese" due to WW II (and earlier) racism. I've gotten away with using "Viet" for "Vietnamese," possibly because nobody I know considers is perjorative.
posted by alumshubby at 10:21 AM on June 16, 2003


Obviously the offensiveness of "Paki" (or any term) varies by region and context. It's not really used in the US, so I can't judge. But there are two very different issues here.
1) Was the football chant offensive? I wasn't there, but the answer has to be "almost certainly." Many, many offensive things get said, hollered, chanted, and otherwise vociferated at football matches. Tsk, tsk.
2) Should it therefore be illegal? No, no, a thousand times no. This is one of those things that reminds me how glad I am to be an American (hard as that can be to remember these days). You should not be criminalized for speech, period. In most of the world you can be and people routinely are. The day they get rid of the First Amendment, I'm buying my ticket out of town.

On preview:
In the context of the legislation, racist chanting is not just offensive but threatening as well.
So? All sorts of things can be perceived as "threatening" (including, in one notorious US college case, comparing someone to a large vegetable). If you physically assault someone, you're a criminal. If you're just yelling at them, you're just a loudmouth.
posted by languagehat at 10:23 AM on June 16, 2003


I also grew up in the West Midlands, and I'd say "Paki" in British English usage is about equivalent to "Nigger" in American English. Chanting "You're just a town full of Pakis" is obviously racist behaviour. There's still too much of this at British football grounds, so I'm glad to see this fan fined. We (British fans, not me personally) managed to wean ourselves off the monkey chants for black players in the mid-80s. Hopefully this sort of chanting will be next to go.

Having said all that, fans will use any trick in the book to try and distract opposing players. I remember being at a match where whenever the (unusually tall) Kevin Francis had the ball, the crowd would shout "freak!" at him. I have no idea whether the fan is really racist, or just thought it was a "funny" thing to chant with the rest of the crowd.

I wonder if there's a case for prosecuting the Macc Lads while we're at it?
posted by salmacis at 10:24 AM on June 16, 2003


"Anyone fancy a chinki?" [Chinese food.]
Chinese-Americans I know have a stereotype of the British as incorrigible racists. Expressions like this are likely part of the problem. That British schoolchildren follow them around chanting "ching chong" is another.
Regarding the criminalization of language: there is entirely too few attempts at drawing a line at what is a reasonable level of this sort of thing. I am sympathetic to an ethnic group's desire not to be called certain things; that seems like a basic tenet of self-determination. I am significantly less sympathetic to the more general case. In either case, whether my sympathy extends to legal action is debatable.
posted by tingley at 10:24 AM on June 16, 2003


I'm not sure this is a problem here in the States. In general, I don't think Americans differentiate among Southeast Asians.
posted by ferociouskitty at 10:24 AM on June 16, 2003


Oh, by the way, while we're discussing offensive terms, what's the deal with the Vancouver Canucks? I thought you folks Up North didn't care to be called that.
posted by alumshubby at 10:25 AM on June 16, 2003


eustacescrubb: You make a good point. Unfortunately, it does not apply in this case. Removing this debate from a racist context only clarifies the issue, removing distraction and inflammatory nonsense. The issue -- I restate -- is whether using certain words should result in imprisonment, incarceration, denial of physical freedom...

This issue is unique among free speech cases because the words themselves are what is being prosecuted. People aren't prosecuted because they a) provoked a riot, b) promoted violence against minorities, etc...

There is one other good example. (Other than pointing to similar cases in other countries.) Remember all the stories about people being prosecuted for cursing in public? Same thing.

The issue must be removed from any "racialist" context, so that we can debate it for what it really is. Which is to say, defending the people who said these things is not to defend racism. Saying that people who are against these laws are racist is just a dirty debate tactic.
posted by son_of_minya at 10:26 AM on June 16, 2003


Languagehat - I think that we have to agree to differ on this one. :) I do believe that racist chanting is physically intimidating, and should be illegal. Stalking is also intimidating, and is illegal (even in the States) for exactly the same reason.

For further info, here's the original 1991 act which the 1999 act is an amendment of.
posted by plep at 10:27 AM on June 16, 2003


Many white southerers in the USA thought nothing of calling black people "niggers." "Hell, I ain't racist, that's just a word I use."

I find the terms "gringo", "blancito", and "Anglo" offensive, though I'm sure many can dismiss my concerns with similar "hell, thems just words we use."

Yeah. Words for simple, dismissive categorizations.
posted by Ayn Marx at 10:27 AM on June 16, 2003


A lot of angry loudmouths all shouting at you in unison is not that pleasant. Maybe you've not been there, languagehat? Remember you're criticising a country where there's no group ritual chanting in school each morning pledging allegiance to the homeland, where people are not put to death because they're the wrong colour, and where burning a flag is a silly action, not an illegal one.

The world, in other words, is complicated.
posted by andrew cooke at 10:28 AM on June 16, 2003


Should it therefore be illegal? No, no, a thousand times no. This is one of those things that reminds me how glad I am to be an American

languagehat: This isn't a cut and dried issue. We all agree that there are limits on free speech. (Freedom to shout "fire" in a crowded theatre, etc.) We just disagree on where those limits lie. Personally, I'm quite comfortable with outlawing racist speech that is designed to be offensive to a particular ethnic group. I don't see how any "Freedom of Expresion" in a constitution should trump the freedom not to be racially abused. Unless you're part of a racial minority (which I'm not either), you probably can't comprehend how hurtful it can be.

Is there anyone from an ethnic minority who want to wants to chip in here?
posted by salmacis at 10:29 AM on June 16, 2003


We (British fans, not me personally) managed to wean ourselves off the monkey chants for black players in the mid-80s.

So salmacis, when are you going to wean yourself off monkey chants? ;-)
posted by squealy at 10:32 AM on June 16, 2003


If someone said to me "I'm just going to the Paki shop, do you want anything?", I'd say "yeah, get me a couple gunniesses". This would lead to many minutes of confusion, and it'd eventually end up on some bad sitcom.

Seriously, I've never heard these terms before.

Funny thought just occured to me.. any 'shortening' of a country name to describe it's inhabitants seems to be a slur.. jap, spic, yank, paki, etc...

Does anyone consider 'yank' to be offensive? I'd have a hard time being offended if someone tried to call me a yank.

And if for some reason I did find it offensive, the last thing i'd do is try to legislate the guy out of his right to say it. Thats far more offensive. No speech should be illegal. (blah blah blah fire in a theater, no of course not). If you make a word illegal, all you've done is increased its power to offend.
posted by duckstab at 10:33 AM on June 16, 2003


There's plenty of dumbass rednecks down here in the South that would misunderstand "Yank" thinking you meant they were Yankees, which contextually is different 'round here.
posted by alumshubby at 10:36 AM on June 16, 2003


A "parts of speech" analysis of this would be fascinating. In this case, "Paki" as a contraction of Pakistani. One could even argue that, in writing, it should be "Pak'i".

A wit might instead chant "Pak-ee-stan-ee", which *would* be a proper usage depending on the inflection. In other words, saying the word "Pakeestanee", could be taken as a polite regional pronunciation of a word which elsewhere would be pronounced as "Pak-eh-stan-ee". But, if deliberately stretched out, "Pak-ee...stan-ee", it still holds a similar offensive value.

A good comparison would be the "-san" suffix to names in Japan, where if you delay with the "-san", it becomes an insult.

So, is it not just "what you say", but "how you say it"? In such a case, making *this* hate speech ruling rather ridiculous.
posted by kablam at 10:36 AM on June 16, 2003


Does anyone consider 'yank' to be offensive?

If I called someone a yank, I'd mean it in an offensive way. But you wouldn't care, because there's no reason for you to feel that your nationality makes you a target (well, not in a day to day way).

Pakis, Niggers, Fenians, japs, spics, don't have that luxury.
posted by ascullion at 10:39 AM on June 16, 2003


salmacis: I don't see how any "Freedom of Expresion" in a constitution should trump the freedom not to be racially abused. Unless you're part of a racial minority (which I'm not either), you probably can't comprehend how hurtful it can be.

But I don't see anywhere in the American Constitution that guarantees you or me or anyone else the right not to be offended. It does, however, guarantee me the right to speak as I please, so long as I do not put expose others to physical harm (hence, not yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theatre). It's hard to see how yelling "Paki!" or "Nigger!" in a crowded theatre is putting anyone at risk for physical harm (well, anyone other than myself, I suppose...).

I guess I'm just an absolutist when it comes to the First Amendment and to Free Speech in general. Unless you can demonstrate the certainty or at least the strong possibility of physical harm resulting from someone's Speech, I will resist any attempt to restrict that Speech. Anything else is a slippery slope there's really no turning back from...
posted by JollyWanker at 10:40 AM on June 16, 2003


Flag burning is not illegal in the United States. It's not going to be illegal any time soon. Most students in the US don't say the pledge of allegiance. I haven't since second grade.

And I'm pretty sure that any country has bias in their court system against lower class people with no connections, which is what amounts, in your eyes, to putting people to death for being the wrong color.
posted by dagnyscott at 10:40 AM on June 16, 2003


Will a spic do, salmacis?

Paki is offensive in the UK; there are no two ways about it. As offensive as wogs or darkies.

Racist speech is against the law - and quite rightly. The judge merely applied the law - and quite rightly. For the life of me, I can't see what the controversy is.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 10:41 AM on June 16, 2003


son_of_minya

The issue -- I restate -- is whether using certain words should result in imprisonment, incarceration, denial of physical freedom...

I disagree. The issue is whether using this specific word will lead to violence at soccer games.

The issue must be removed from any "racialist" context, so that we can debate it for what it really is.

I don't understand what you mean by this though. What is it, "really" except a word which is known to offend people? How can a word "really" be something other than what it means?

Saying that people who are against these laws are racist is just a dirty debate tactic.

Oh, is that all you mean? But that's not the same thing as divorcing the debate from its context. All you're really saying is that ad hominem tactics are faulty logic. And they are.

Jolly Wanker

It's hard to see how yelling "Paki!" or "Nigger!" in a crowded theatre is putting anyone at risk for physical harm

You're joking, right? I mean, it depends on which theatre you're in, but trust me: go stand up and yell the N-word at, oh, The Apollo, and see if anybody gets hurt. (I've a guess at who it might be...)
posted by eustacescrubb at 10:43 AM on June 16, 2003


Other countries attitudes towards racism can be pretty perplexing for Americans. When I was in India, one of my close relatives referred to a woman that had an East Asian appearance as being "chinky featured". It was pretty shocking for me and no one could understand why I was so taken aback. They honestly couldn't see what the big deal was.
posted by rks404 at 10:44 AM on June 16, 2003


It's hard to see how yelling "Paki!" or "Nigger!" in a crowded theatre is putting anyone at risk for physical harm

It puts people at risk of harm because it's an outright incitement to hatred. Simple.
posted by ascullion at 10:45 AM on June 16, 2003


If you think a southerner is a dumbass redneck because he doesn't like it when someone from another country calls him a Yank, is it ok to call anyone from India a Punjab?
posted by techgnollogic at 10:46 AM on June 16, 2003


Blergh. The word 'Paki' is racist and anyone in the UK who thinks otherwise must have been shut off from the rest of the country. Or be proud of being racist. It's one thing to use offensive words around people who you know & who would understand the context/humour/etc. but it is something totally different around strangers. And in the context of this court case I can't see how it is anything other than racist.

A few years ago at my club, Coventry City, we heard the same 'You're just a town full of Pakis' chant from the not-very-multi-cultural 'Toon Army' (Newcastle United fans) & a friend of mine (of Pakistani descent) wrote to the club to complain that no action had been taken by stewards despite the fact that racially abusive language is an offence at any football ground in the UK. He wasn't so much offended as worried about the atmosphere it creates in a ground for anyone who is non-white. Its good to see things have moved on slightly.

I don't think prosecuting people will necessarily stop them from being racist but it will prevent an atmosphere existing where racism is seen as acceptable and that is the important thing. Racism isn't good for freedom. For f***'s sake, its 2003 people.

[US context: Could anyone get away with chanting 'You're just a town full of niggers' at an NFL game involving, say, the Raiders?]
posted by i_cola at 10:50 AM on June 16, 2003


If I called someone a yank, I'd mean it in an offensive way. But you wouldn't care, because there's no reason for you to feel that your nationality makes you a target (well, not in a day to day way).

Pakis, Niggers, Fenians, japs, spics, don't have that luxury.


Point taken. But I might be offended if someone called me 'whitey', and there's probably other terms that i can't think of right now. I was mostly wondering if people consider 'yank' to be in the same class as 'jap', 'spic', and the new-to-me 'paki'.
posted by duckstab at 10:51 AM on June 16, 2003


It puts people at risk of harm because it's an outright incitement to hatred. Simple.

Exactly.

Other countries attitudes towards racism can be pretty perplexing for Americans.

That's ok, it works both ways also. :)
posted by plep at 10:52 AM on June 16, 2003


If you physically assault someone, you're a criminal. If you're just yelling at them, you're just a loudmouth.

And what if the yelling is a precursor to and impetus towards violence? Inciting a riot is illegal, and that's just yelling, too.
posted by Dreama at 10:52 AM on June 16, 2003


i_cola, they might if this is the opposing team. Or they might not. Either way, they'd peg the irony meter.
posted by alumshubby at 10:59 AM on June 16, 2003


"No, just ignorant.

The question isn't whether *you* find it offensive, the question is whether the person you're calling these cute names finds it offensive. If they do you might consider stopping.
" - Outlawyr

Ah, you've fallen into my trap Outlawyr. If find what you said, offensive to me. Please refrain from ever saying anything like it to me again, I know you will, since you've just said as much.

Anyone can find anything offfensive, but my question is, what right does that give them to censor my language? What right does that give me to censor yours? And what happens where there's simple disagreement?

In Australia, Pakistani cricket teams are called Pakis. It's not meant offensively, and doesn't seem to be taken offensively.

Supposing I decided (for reasons best known to myself) that Brit is derogatory? Or Pommie? Please censor your neural-linguistic database, dictionaries and thesauri (?)

And why single-out racial groups for protection from offence? What if someone's sensitive about their weight or lack of hair? Where is their protection from the court against terms like "Fattie, lard-arse, or baldie?"

I'm of the opinion that these things only offend (in the case of racial (or supposed racial) slurs) if the person so addressed, mistakenly buys into the rationale of the speaker, since there's nothing inherently lesser or inferior about being Pakistani, Asian, Black, Chinese etc.

Personally I'm for the way the gay community has dealt with this sort of thing. Appropriation of the pink triangle, "queer," "fag" etc.

Better than playing the po-faced "victim."

ps. Regarding "Chinky," I've never thought that Chinese people (or any other so-called race, was lesser than me. I've never heard the word "Chink" used in a derogatory way, so to me, "Having a Chinki" [as in "Having a Chinese meal,"] is just a series of nouns and vowels, denoting Chinese.

Should someone have the right to take my language from me, fine me or lock me up for using it? Should the law play any part in this sort of thing?
posted by Blue Stone at 10:59 AM on June 16, 2003


As another poor Coventry sod, I remember the "town full of Paki's" chant thrown at us in the west terrace. Definite incitement to violence. Matches frequently got very, very ugly. Of course, CCFC fans were throwing just as bad and worse besides back at them.

Ridding the game of this ridiculous shit can only be a good thing. I don't buy the freedom of speech argument on this at all.
posted by influx at 11:00 AM on June 16, 2003


salmacis:

I'm Japanese, but, like I said, I don't think outlawing the use of the word "jap" would do any good. It doesn't fix the problem that it is a symptom of.

As far as free speech, just because someone finds something offensive doesn't mean that it should be illegal. Enacting laws about what you are allowed to just say is pretty stiff, even is racist language is distasteful. Just image, though, the kind of doors that would open as far a legal precedence is concerned. How long before they extend laws on language to other means of speech and anyone thinks of as offensive?
posted by Hackworth at 11:01 AM on June 16, 2003


I am an ethnic minority (whitey in Japan). When a Japanese I do not know refers to me as gaijin or even gaijinsan to my face--which happens very often--my respect for that person plummets instantly to zero. I realize they do this out of ignorance but life is too short to educate idiots into treating you first as an individual rather than first as a representative of a group.

Gaijin (or gejin!) has been used in a threatening context only two or three times in ten years. It is an awful thing to do, but I don't think it should be illegal.

By the same token, I don't think calling someone a Paki at a football game should be illegal either.

I don't think calling a policeman a "fucking pig" to his face should be illegal either. But it is.

To get away with that, I'd obviously have to live in that land of free speech America.
posted by dydecker at 11:03 AM on June 16, 2003


[US context: Could anyone get away with chanting 'You're just a town full of niggers' at an NFL game involving, say, the Raiders?]

you could if it were washington

on preview: alumshubby beat me to it. boy this thread is fast.
posted by donth at 11:03 AM on June 16, 2003


If you think a southerner is a dumbass redneck

Don't know anyone who named their child that.
Folks have names;Teams have a name, use it properly even in insult. That way your only insulting your self and the one you are addressing not their community or origin which have nothing to do with the both of you.
posted by thomcatspike at 11:05 AM on June 16, 2003


If you physically assault someone, you're a criminal. If you're just yelling at them, you're just a loudmouth.

Threatening speech is illegal, though. If I were to call you at home repeatedly and threaten your life in a credible manner, I would certainly be a criminal.

The best analogy to this ruling in U.S. jurisprudence is the recent Supreme Court decision excluding cross burning from protected categories of speech. The justices ruled that the cultural context of cross burning includes in the act an implicit threat of violence. This makes cross burning threatening speech, which is not constitutionally protected. Similarly, racial epithets at football matches are part of the cultural context of violent hooliganism. Such language is therefore de facto threatening speech.

All those of you out there thanking your lucky stars that racist speech is still protected in the U.S.: keep up-to-date on your Supreme Court decisions!
posted by mr_roboto at 11:05 AM on June 16, 2003


Anyone can find anything offfensive, but my question is, what right does that give them to censor my language? What right does that give me to censor yours? And what happens where there's simple disagreement?

In this specific case, the right to make using a certin word illegal comes from the fact that use of the word leads to mob violence.

I've never thought that Chinese people (or any other so-called race, was lesser than me.

That's not clear from your statements here, Blue Stone. You seem to be elevating your "right" to say what you contend are merely words above the emotions and racial/ethnic identities of Chinese people. If "Chinki" is just some sounds, and means nothing, it should mean nothing to you to change your habit so as to make life a little less ugly for people to whom it does mean something.
posted by eustacescrubb at 11:13 AM on June 16, 2003


Dydecker the correct term of address for a policeman, who has caused you offence, is not "Fucking Pig," it is "Cunt Stubble."

"Thankyou, cunt stubble. Sorry to have bothered you cunt stubble. I won't do it again, cunt stubble."

I loved the thing I heard on a documentary recently about Jewish treatment in Nazi Germany. When they were forced to give the Nazi salute, they'd say tho themselves, as they extended their arm, "The shit in Germany is this high."
posted by Blue Stone at 11:14 AM on June 16, 2003


They stole the Spanish word for wet ("mojado") and use it now to call them "wetbacks" in their own language.

The "they" in this instance would be the Latino community and "mojado" is a derogatory term for the most recent immigrants and the silly novice mistakes they make. The term "coco" is used for someone who's similarly over-assimilated into "anglo" culture, for "brown on the outside, white on the inside" like a coconut (coco).

I find the terms "gringo", "blancito", and "Anglo" offensive, though I'm sure many can dismiss my concerns with similar "hell, thems just words we use."

Those are basically the nicer terms used to describe "white" folks, from least friendly to most. Anglo is just English, what else are Latinos supposed to use to differentiate, you speak English as a primary language, they speak Spanish, simple. Blanco or blancito is a color differentiation, simple, maybe a little less pleasant, but simple. Gringo is so co-opted by anglos that it no longer holds a negative connotation, besides most white folks have no idea it was ever meant to be bad, but I guess it is like "yank" to Americans, why would it be bad to be part of the richest and most powerful group (as long as you are in that group). Gringo's should really get nervous when the other terms come out, the ones most folks don't hear like "wado" for instance. You won't learn that term in school. By the way, nice use of a "southern accent" to accentuate the racist tone (thems just), most people do when they try and paint someone as racist or ignorant, thanks, I appreciate that.

The same reason yank doesn't seem derogatory for Americans is the same for "derogatory" terms for Brits, such a s Brit or Limey, they really seem silly, but I suppose it all depends on if you are the oppressor or the oppressed in the empire doesn't it?
posted by Pollomacho at 11:16 AM on June 16, 2003


Unless you can demonstrate the certainty or at least the strong possibility of physical harm resulting from someone's Speech, I will resist any attempt to restrict that Speech.

How about fraudulent or defamatory speech? The harm resulting from these types of speech is not physical, but it is certainly real. Most students of constitutional law would not consider these forms of speech to be protected.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:17 AM on June 16, 2003


eustacescrubb:

If you would read the FPP, my comment, and the comments of the majority of people in this thread, you would see clearly that the issue is not about preventing violence at football games. The issue -- as stated in the FPP -- THE CRIMINALISATION OF LANGUAGE.

Again, your comment demonstrates some reasoning ability, but you again miss the point. Logic will do you no good at all if you fail to apply common sense.

I disagree. The issue is whether using this specific word will lead to violence at soccer games.

If that's the issue -- for you -- so be it. That's not the issue I was commenting on, and it's not the topic of this thread. While it may be a valid sub-topic, it is not the sub-topic I was writing about.

The issue must be removed from any "racialist" context, so that we can debate it for what it really is.

I don't understand what you mean by this though. What is it, "really" except a word which is known to offend people? How can a word "really" be something other than what it means?

I'm not going to repeat your own words back to you to make a point.

Saying that people who are against these laws are racist is just a dirty debate tactic.

Oh, is that all you mean? But that's not the same thing as divorcing the debate from its context. All you're really saying is that ad hominem tactics are faulty logic. And they are.

Yes, they are. So is divorcing the debate from its context. These are both things you are guilty of.

From your most recent comment:

In this specific case, the right to make using a certin word illegal comes from the fact that use of the word leads to mob violence.

What word does not lead to mob violence at a British football game???
posted by son_of_minya at 11:18 AM on June 16, 2003


Canadian joke (adjust terms for local use):

Two families move from India to Canada. When they arrive, the fathers make each other a bet--in a year's time, whichever family has become more Canadian will win. A year later when they meet again, the first guy says, "My son's playing hockey, I had Tim Horton's for breakfast and I'm on my way to pick up a two-four for tonight. How about you, eh?" The second guy says, "Fuck you, Pakkie."
posted by mookieproof at 11:18 AM on June 16, 2003


Should the perp have perhaps instead been arrested for "Incitement" or "Disturbing the Peace"? I think this would have solved a lot of problems by taking the legal argument away from "use of a prohibited word" or "offensive to others", and moving it into the realm of "in this context, his actions were leading to incitement."

This would more fit the legal arguments of "yelling fire in a crowded theater."

In other words, shift the focus from the use of a "bad word", and whether or not some people present may have been offended by that word at that time, back to an unlawful activity which includes the use of a bad word.

This eliminates the repugnant "thought crime" concept, *and* the "how other people interpreted his words" nonsense, and becomes simply and properly, "the arresting officer determined that he was attempting to incite or disturb." This leaves any interpretations to the jury and judge as to *what* is inciteful and disruptive, in the context of the event.
posted by kablam at 11:30 AM on June 16, 2003


What i_cola said. Barnes suffered with all the banana throwing in the eighties, and now thank God I couldn't imagine anyone having to suffer that these days.

Black players don't get the abuse they used to, but it still happens. Sometimes I've stood up and told people not to chant abuse at them, and sometimes I'm ashamed to say I haven't (in truth it depends on the size and number of those doing it). It is supposed to be illeagal, but I've never seen the police do anything.

What I don't want to see is children at games believing that is an appropriate way to behave. Here at Oxford we used to get the National Front idiots down every so often chanting their "No surrender to the IRA" with a view to getting recruits, but thankfully they got no joy.

For all the platitudes about freedom of speech I'd like to see how people would feel if they were a pakistani at a match with 500 fans chanting "paki" at them. It going to make someone feel uncomfortable, it makes people believe this type of stereotyping is acceptable and it incites hatred against a race as opposed to an individual, and for that reason I'm glad it's illeagal.

And we had that Kevin Francis at the manor for a couple of years. My favourite comment was the time a five live commentator reffered to his running style as "Like scaffolding being blown over in the wind".
posted by ciderwoman at 11:30 AM on June 16, 2003


As far as I can see, any term that even insinuates some sort of slander or inferiority needs to be scrutinized. Language is supposed to be our means of communicating and also a way for us to perceive the world around us. Henceforth, if you look at any person of South Asian descent and refer to them as a "Paki", you've dehumanized that person and your perspective of him/her is reduced to whatever notion of power the dominant culture has.

Hell, you might say, "It's just words, doesn't really mean anything." Sure, the word probably didn't even mean anything to anyone until good ol' Western imperialism had to create the notion of racial dynamics and hierarchy.
posted by dkhong at 11:37 AM on June 16, 2003


son_of_minya: I don't know what nationality you are, but have you ever been to a British football game?

Generally I think Americans would be shocked at the venom and the underlying current of hatred that can be felt, even if actual violence inside the ground has been almost eradicated.
posted by salmacis at 11:38 AM on June 16, 2003


Eustacescrubb I'm not going to try to prove myself to you. I'm not going to apply to some body for a certification of "not racist" so I can discuss contentious issues like this, or enter discussions about the age of sexual consent and it's variation throughout the world, after having acquired certification of "not paedophile" status.

Feel free to think of me as you wish.

My assertion is that 'you' do not dictate what my language is. That the law does not say, "You are using a word that is offensive, therefore you may not use it, on penalty of [whatever.]" This is fascism, in my opinion.

The problem occurrs when you think that the use of a word equates with a state of mind. I can use the word "bastard" in any number of ways, from real hatred, to faux-envy. The word is fluid in it's meaning. I don't think it's for anyone to dictate that any word has a set meaning, and therefore must not be used as a result.

Also, being offended is a choice not some sort of de-facto, inherent, biological reaction.

[Oh and what kablam said, far more succinctly and clearly than I have.]
posted by Blue Stone at 11:40 AM on June 16, 2003


For all the platitudes about freedom of speech I'd like to see how people would feel if they were a pakistani at a match with 500 fans chanting "paki" at them.

Keeping thinking, Sticks & stones blah blah blah...words will never harm you; a slogan heard repeatedly growing up.
posted by thomcatspike at 11:45 AM on June 16, 2003


Aside :- It seems interesting that most of the people on this thread who have identified as soccer supporters agree with this ruling. :) (I'm not a fan myself - just saying is all...)
posted by plep at 11:46 AM on June 16, 2003


A lot of people complain about political correctness in the United States, but it pays a healthy dividend in niceness, in courtesy. I suspect that minorities in the United States are victims of name-calling less often than minorities in other countries. It's a function of a better-evolved culture in which it's uncool to label people by their looks. Sure, it happens, but I think it happens in other cultures more often.

A few examples from my limited travels. In Latin America, everyone from cab drivers to politicians call me "guero" -- blondie. It's not pejorative, but, still, it's nicknaming someone for their appearance. Mexicans are forever referring to strangers as Skinny, Fatty, Chinese-looking. In Belize, I got hassled for being white and talking to black girls. In Germany and the Czech Republic, I noticed that Vietnamese and Gypsies were treated with contempt.

That kind of behavior is frowned upon in the United States, but seems to be more acceptable in other countries that I have visited. As far as calling Chinese food "chinkie" -- this politically correct American is appalled, and proud of being appalled.
posted by Holden at 11:50 AM on June 16, 2003


eustacescrubb: You're joking, right?

No, I was not joking. I do find it offensive that you'd edit my remarks and then reply to them as if I were some kind of moron, unable to understand what would happen were I to be so foolish as to yell "Nigger" in the Apollo Theatre. As I stated originally, I would expect harm to come to myself.

ascullion: It puts people at risk of harm because it's an outright incitement to hatred. Simple.

Simple? Perhaps, but not in the freedom-of-speech-limiting way you obviously intend it. Without prior restraint, there's no threat there of physical harm or violence, either real or implied. The only "threat" there is one of perceived offense - and as I said, there's nothing in the Constitution that affords you Freedom from Hearing Nasty Things that Might Hurt Your Feewings...
posted by JollyWanker at 11:52 AM on June 16, 2003


"For all the platitudes about freedom of speech I'd like to see how people would feel if they were a pakistani at a match with 500 fans chanting "paki" at them."

How about a person wearing black, with half the crowd chanting abuse at them?
posted by Blue Stone at 11:56 AM on June 16, 2003


"Ah, you've fallen into my trap Outlawyr. If find what you said, offensive to me. Please refrain from ever saying anything like it to me again, I know you will, since you've just said as much."

Nice try, but the distinctions between the two situations are fairly obvious. I am one person telling another person that they are obviously not familiar with the offensive connotations of their speech. If that person (you) is offended by that message, it's not because of your race or any racially inflamatory speech on my part. I called you "ignorant," which means you are, "1 a : destitute of knowledge or education ; also : lacking knowledge or comprehension of the thing specified <parents ignorant of modern mathematics." As shown by subsequent posts, you were unaware of what many others knew, that both of these words (paki, chinki) were broadly considered offensive. Presumably, your ignorance is "curable," you can educate yourself in these matters. But a Chinese person can't decide to stop being Chinese, and therefore cease to be offended by "chink" or "chinki". Verbally abusing someone for something they can't change about themselves, let alone a huge crowd of people doing so in unison, is something distinctly odious.

I do however agree that legislation is not appropriate.

posted by Outlawyr at 11:57 AM on June 16, 2003


Sticks and stones are all too common. Racist chanting ligitimises the belief that it is OK to view people of a different race in a derogatory way, and if stopping that in anyway helps reduce the attacks then I'm all for it. For me it's a practical solution to a very nasty problem.
posted by ciderwoman at 12:02 PM on June 16, 2003


Hackworth: Football Act was used recently against racist fans at the England-Turkey game. The delightful so-and-sos were singing "I'd rather be a Paki than a Turk." Arrests for a handful followed a ruck.

Ciderwoman: While racism is less prevalent than it was it's still there. Anecdotally, group of friends of mine were abused by fellow England fans at the England-Brazil game for not booing the opposition national anthem. Called the c-word, the cavemen in front questioned the boys' patriotism. Sigh.

Blue Stone: I don't think that 'Paki' and 'Chink' is acceptable in any context really. They're commonly accepted to be pejorative and derogatory. To think otherwise is to be wilfully ignorant.

That said, your point about the criminalisation of language is well made and well taken. With Britain about to pull out of the European Convention on Human Rights so we can continue to shaft asylum seekers whilst simultaneously worrying about this sort of thing is hypocrisy of the most rank kind. Wrongheaded legislation. Sure to be almost unenforceable.

You ask "Anyone can find anything offensive, but my question is, what right does that give them to censor my language? What right does that give me to censor yours? And what happens where there's simple disagreement?"

I'll take a stab at this. What you or I find personally offensive is fundamentally different to what the vast majority of an ethnic minority may find offensive. While for you and I it's put up, shut up or shove off, that's not the case when the offence is aimed more broadly at an entire community. What right to censor your language? I think that it's predicated in the assumption that derogatory slurs tend to be expression opinions which, unchecked, would lead to unacceptable behaviour. You're more than welcome to dislike those of Pakistani descent if such is your wont, but you're not allowed to discriminate against them. The word indicates a propensity towards illegitimate behaviour, as such banning it serves to reinforce the illegitimacy of discrimination. Make sense?

Kablam's point is a valid one, that existing incitement of racial or religious hatred that already exists should already be sufficient. You can't legislate against the words that people use any more than you can against what they smoke. I think such legislation serves as an expression of its condemnation of the action which shorthand such as 'Paki' and 'Chinki' denotes.
posted by dmt at 12:02 PM on June 16, 2003


Racist speech is against the law - and quite rightly. The judge merely applied the law - and quite rightly.

Ditto.

First time i heard the word "paki" was while talking to some english person, (me=french), and i remember looking at her thinking "WHAT did you just say? That's like using the word 'nigger', for f's sake!"
posted by Sijeka at 12:13 PM on June 16, 2003


Blue Stone: Personally I'm for the way the gay community has dealt with this sort of thing. Appropriation of the pink triangle, "queer," "fag" etc. Better than playing the po-faced "victim."

I agree that re-appropriation is an excellent way for a minority to disarm hateful language. However, in most cases it seems that it's still only appropriate for members of the minority to use the slurs with each other. As a straight white girl, I would no more call my gay friends "fag" than I would jovially salute my black friends as "nigger", despite the fact that both terms have arguably been reclaimed by their group. As well, it's really up to the minority group in question to re-appropriate what they will. It just doesn't seem proper for a white person to use racial slurs, and then sit back and argue that they're just disarming hate speech on behalf of some beleaguered group.
posted by jess at 12:19 PM on June 16, 2003


son_of_minya,

If that's the issue -- for you -- so be it. That's not the issue I was commenting on, and it's not the topic of this thread. While it may be a valid sub-topic, it is not the sub-topic I was writing about.

My point is that the topic about which you are writing doesn't matter. No one ever utters contentless words outside of a given context, no government ever enforces laws outside a context. Discussing this or any issue without addressing the specific context from which the issue arose means discussing something that ends up not mattering. The British law in question addresses specificities, and yet you seek to condemn it by porting the particulars to a realm of universals. But the moment you port any issue to the realm of universals (which, by the way, don't exist), you hopelessly relativize it. "Free speech" doesn't exist; what does exist is a nexus of legal rights that allow citizens of a given nation to express themselves freely to different degrees, depending on context.
In the U.S., we cannot use these legal rights to endanger others, incite riots, plot to assasinate the President, overthrow the country, plot to steal something or kill someone, defraud others, help someone win a war against us, etc, etc. But any these same things can be said in a movie. If you told me that you'd heard Edward Norton said the n-word a hundred times in the space fo two hours, would I conclude that Edward Norton was a racist? Wouldn't it matter that he is an actor, protraying a racist in a movie?


The issue must be removed from any "racialist" context, so that we can debate it for what it really is.

It isn't "really" anything if it has no context.

Yes, they are. So is divorcing the debate from its context. These are both things you are guilty of.

Care to demonstrate how I used an ad hominem attack or divorced the topic from its context?

Blue Stone

I'm not going to try to prove myself to you.

That wasn't my point. Instead my point was that in this thread, your statements seem to contradict. Whether that has any bearing on what sort of person you really are, I cannot (and did not attempt to) say.
posted by eustacescrubb at 12:20 PM on June 16, 2003


Raise your hand if you are a Gwai Lo. Enjoy the Gwai Lo Cooking. You can also try to rock the boat.
posted by titboy at 12:22 PM on June 16, 2003


Outlawyr - 'Presumably, your ignorance is "curable," you can educate yourself in these matters. But a Chinese person can't decide to stop being Chinese, and therefore cease to be offended by "chink" or "chinki". Verbally abusing someone for something they can't change about themselves, let alone a huge crowd of people doing so in unison, is something distinctly odious.'

That what I'm saying is "ignorance" is a point of view. An opinion. And it's your opinion. Maybe you should educate yourself, that such terms are meaningless, and easily brushed off as a cow does a fly, instead? Aren't you just being conceited?

As for Chinese people not being able to change their 'racial' identity, well, no, I'd agree with that. But why they have to take such offence, and that such words are so terribly wounding when they're just another word for the racial identity, of which they should have no problems with, I do have a problem with.

You ascribe to these groups a mental disablility and weakness, that I never knew they had: that they can't go, as the gay community has, "Fuck you... yeah, we ARE queer."

Wow, these fags must have superior powers to your average chinki, who, by your estimation, lack resiliance, ingenuity, humour and spunk (something which the ga... no I won't go there.)

A swastika. What is it then? A nazi symbol of Aryan racial supremacy, or the Buddhist symbol for the turning of the wheel of the heart? A symbol used by Hindus, Mexicans, etc, all entirely absent of hate.

One thing, many meanings. One word, many meanings.

The symbol/word alone does not dictate the meaning.
posted by Blue Stone at 12:25 PM on June 16, 2003


Anyone can find anything offfensive, but my question is, what right does that give them to censor my language? What right does that give me to censor yours? And what happens where there's simple disagreement?

I think this assertion is right on. And for the context of violence at English football matches, whoa, they'd have to outlaw chanting altogether to make a dent in it! If one team's fans doesn't use racial epithets, they use something else.

In the larger context, any word or set of words can be intimidating depending on tone of voice and body language. Movies do this all the time, for instance, when a mob boss explains to someone they better do as told or the boss's enforcers will be paying a visit.

On a personal level, I was the victim of such a situation as a nine year old. Some bullies cornered me and a buddy and as they pushed us around included the word "Hebe" in their insults. But I couldn't care less about their words, even at the time, it was the pain from the punches and the damage to my bike that worried me.

I think the concept of outlawing offensive speech is not only silly but also too easily the first step down a slippery slope. Today racist chants at football matches, tomorrow racist insults anywhere in public, next day after that saying anything the government of the day doesn't like.

Go First Amendment!
posted by billsaysthis at 12:27 PM on June 16, 2003


The symbol/word alone does not dictate the meaning.

Agreed, but it is indicative in certain contexts. In the context of UK society the terms are widely recognised to be derogatory and as such shorthand for the holding of unpleasant opinions the expression of which is rightly constrained.

Was it Cher who sang "words are like weapons, they wound and kill." Words do have the power to harm, it's only right that there should be checks on their use. Whether these checks should be legislative or societal norms, well, that's a harder question.
posted by dmt at 12:36 PM on June 16, 2003


A lot of angry loudmouths all shouting at you in unison is not that pleasant. Maybe you've not been there, languagehat?

On the other hand, maybe I have. Personal experience, in any event, can be more a hindrance than a help to forming wise judicial decisions... unless you think that murderers should be turned over to the families of their victims for sentencing and/or summary justice? In any case, I was not saying it was pleasant. I was saying language should not be criminalized. Or perhaps you think being unpleasant should be against the law?

The world, in other words, is complicated.
This is something I often have occasion to explain to people. I'm not sure I see the relevance to my argument.

languagehat: This isn't a cut and dried issue. We all agree that there are limits on free speech. (Freedom to shout "fire" in a crowded theatre, etc.) We just disagree on where those limits lie.

You are so, so wrong. I entirely disagree that there should be such limits, and I'm pretty sure I'm not alone even in this thread. You can come up to me and call me every name in the book, insult my wife, my mother, my race, my (lack of) religion, anything. I may laugh at you, I may punch you in the mouth. I guarantee I will not take you to court. And if you shout "Fire" in a crowded theater, you should be prosecuted for causing a public disturbance if in fact you cause one, not for your speech itself. There are laws on the books to deal with the negative consequences (other than hurt feelings) of "harmful" speech; there's no need to legislate against the speech itself.

I must say, I'm dumbfounded to see the readiness, even joy, with which many (presumably for the most part Canadian or European) are greeting the idea of censoring and prosecuting speech that insults people or makes them feel threatened or whatever. Miguel, your words "For the life of me, I can't see what the controversy is" make me shudder. It's one thing to disagree, it's another to be so blind to the dangers of criminalizing speech that you can't see any problem. I certainly hope you were merely indulging in stereotypical pipe-smoking, scotch-swilling Blimpery for amusement's sake.

Blue Stone and billsaysthis are my MeFi heroes of the day.
posted by languagehat at 12:43 PM on June 16, 2003


"Words do have the power to harm, it's only right that there should be checks on their use."

But it's not the words that harm, it's the hate, surely; the associated intimidation. It's the intimidation that's the hurtful thing.

The focus on "words" is mistaken, I feel.
posted by Blue Stone at 12:44 PM on June 16, 2003


As far as calling Chinese food "chinkie" -- this politically correct American is appalled, and proud of being appalled.

And, therein lies the hypocrisy of linguistic policing. It's not about protecting or defending the victim of the "bad word." It's about the American patting himself on the back for raising his conciousness and being enlightened.

I know you're hearts probably in the right place, but it's been my personal experience that plenty of people who wouldn't dream of using an Un-PC word are the most bigoted I know. In a lot of ways I think the endless debates about what words to use , are a way of turning racism into a matter of etiquette rather than ecomics or politics, which is silly and dangerous.
posted by jonmc at 12:46 PM on June 16, 2003


In Canada, all Americans are Yanks, irregardless of where they come from in the actual country. The word's slang, but not really derogatory.

I was in China for two months back in 1999, and while I was there, everyone called me "gweilao" (Cantonese) or "yangguo" (Mandarin). A surprising number of folks there had simply never met or spoken to a white guy before, and had no other word to describe me, and I never took offense (I ended up "Canada Man" to people I knew, a slight step up). I met one black guy while I was there, very briefly. He was about six and a half feet tall, three-hundred and fifty pounds, and a crowd of random Chinese was literally following him around all day long in awe. Every so often someone would run up to him, bow and say something like "You are very dark, very tall," before running back to the crowd. And this pretty much went on all day, every day, so far as I could tell. He just seemed to brush it off and treat it like a fan club.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 12:51 PM on June 16, 2003


So languagehat:

Do you think cross burning should be protected speech, keeping in mind the fact that symbolic action (flag burning, etc.) has typically been classified as "speech" in U.S. Constitutional law? I think there might be a strong analogy between the intimidating, threatening nature of cross burning and that of racist speech at a U.K. football match. (Maybe not, though; I've never been to such an event.)

In fact, your comments make it seem that you think that speech that "makes [people] feel threatened or whatever" should be protected. Is threatening speech protected by the First Amendment? I would say not.

The distinction between offense and intimidation is an important one, I think.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:57 PM on June 16, 2003


"A swastika. What is it then? A nazi symbol of Aryan racial supremacy,"

Um. Yes. In the context of a bunch of Nazis marching around with a swastika, it is. Just as in the context of people chanting "Paki" at a football match the Pakistani players would most likely interpret this as it was intended, as a racial insult. The intent isn't to say, oh, hi there, are you from Pakistan my friend? It's to say, you are from Pakistan, and there's something wrong about you because of that. This is hurtful. One need not suffer from what you call "mental disablility and weakness" to have ones feelings hurt. One need merely be human. The realization that lots of other people hate you because of something about yourself that you cannot change is painful. If you don't understand this then perhaps I was wrong about your ignorance being curable.

Yeah, it would be nice if everyone were as thick skinned as your super powered gay people, but we aren't. So let's deal with that reality.
posted by Outlawyr at 1:02 PM on June 16, 2003


billsaysthis: Today racist chants at football matches, tomorrow racist insults anywhere in public

Ahem. I think you'll find we already covered the latter in 1986 bill. Try to keep up. ;-)
posted by squealy at 1:04 PM on June 16, 2003


I'm really not trying to upset people when I say this.. but I think the concept of absolute freedom of speech is little more than smoke and mirrors. It's an lillusion designed to make citizens feel more comfortable about the chaos unfolding around them, at least to my European eyes.

I don't see anyone saying - "sure, the USA has the most irresponsible government in the western world, but at least I can say what I like about them".

I digress. What I'm really trying to say is that with freedom of speech comes great responsibility, and in a democracy, surely we can rely on our government and judicary to decide which of those words, when used in certain contexts, are too dangerous to be ignored.

And that is exactly what has happened in this case.

The problem with declaring freedom of speech to be the most important thing is that you automatically assume a purity of human spirit, and anyone who has been to a big soccer match, or walked through any medium-sized English city late on a Friday night, knows that you can't always rely on people to do the right thing. Or say it. Or think it.
posted by ascullion at 1:06 PM on June 16, 2003


Yes, jonmc, I confess to patting myself on the back for being enlightened. If only more people had reason to pat themselves on the back for being enlightened!

As far as "turning racism into a matter of etiquette rather than ecomics or politics," there's a saying in Alcoholics Anonymous: "Fake it till you make it." If one generation makes it unacceptable to utter racist speech, the next generation might be less likely to think racist thought. In fact, I believe that's what's been happening in the United States. A lot of progress has been made in the past 50 years, and I daresay some of the economic and political progress stems from heightened etiquette. It's impossible to separate those three strands.
posted by Holden at 1:10 PM on June 16, 2003


In Canada, all Americans are Yanks, irregardless of where they come from in the actual country. The word's slang, but not really .

All is the derogatory word here in this sentence, as you are implying all the Canadians in Canada will say this, how do you know, because I would like to win the lotto with your crystal ball. :)
posted by thomcatspike at 1:12 PM on June 16, 2003


I just find it so interesting that, ONCE AGAIN, the term redneck(s) is used so casually and not a single person even thinks twice about whether it's right or wrong. If I said, "Anacostia has plenty of dumbass niggers..." I'd find myself in another MeTa thread. I mean alumshubby uses a racial slur in his/her post, NOT as an example for the discussion, but as a slur. Is there something I'm just missing about redneck that makes it "ok"? Seriously.
posted by Witty at 1:21 PM on June 16, 2003


Back when I was growing up in Boston, a very common phrase was "I'm going off for a packy run" - meaning going to buy liquor. The name comes from the old laws limiting alcohol sales at certain times to just package stores (packys), not the ethnicity of people owning the stores. Perhaps these defendents could say they spent a lot of time in Boston?
posted by fiz at 1:22 PM on June 16, 2003


Yeah, it would be nice if everyone were as thick skinned as your super powered gay people, but we aren't.

I presume you haven't heard the vile intonations with which the word breeder can be uttered? Sure, we may have appropriated the slurs applied to us, but that doesn't mean we don't come up with other ones to use right back.
posted by WolfDaddy at 1:34 PM on June 16, 2003


dmt:

I think such legislation serves as an expression of its condemnation of the action which shorthand such as 'Paki' and 'Chinki' denotes.

Sort of how the religious Right thinks anti-sodomy legislation serves as an expression of its condemnation of an immoral action? My position is neither Left-wing nor Right-wing. I am just saying that legislating morality is immoral.

jess:

As a straight white girl, I would no more call my gay friends "fag" than I would jovially salute my black friends as "nigger", despite the fact that both terms have arguably been reclaimed by their group.

You must be very good friends with them, then. I don't like the word, so I don't use it in conversation either, but my black friends call me "nigger." They've never understood why I won't say it back to them.

eustacescrubb:

In my book, you are just an educated dummy. It seems that words are like alphabet soup to you. I will humor you with this response, but it is the last time. If you don't get it after this, just shut up, because you aren't going to contribute anything if you don't know what you're talking about.

You're forcing me to go off on your sick little tangent, and I hate you for it.

There is a movement to make words criminal. It comes in the forms of hate speech legislation, obscenity laws, and blasphemy laws; as well as many other forms. There is a common thread among them. It is this common thread that the FPP was addressing -- that the law cannot morally control language.

You say that the context matters because "Edward Norton said the n-word a hundred times in the space of two hours," I say to you that the context does not matter because many people say nigger a hundred times in the space of two hours and they have every right to do it. Who are you to say that American History X has more value than The Turner Diaries? Saying that Edward Norton can make racist statements, but John Q. Public can't is truly offensive. And what about other art, which is not so extreme as The Turner Diaries, but which simply uses a few naughty words and doesn't include a nice Schoolbreak Special ending like American History X? Whoever would write such a book is obviously a criminal against taste and decency and must be arrested!

"Free speech" doesn't exist

You said it. Not me. You said free speech does not exist, and you even put insulting little "quotation marks" around it. I think I can rest my case as to where you're coming from.

Everyone:

I think now would be a good time to play "Don't Call Me Nigger, Whitey" by Sly and the Family Stone. The radio stations won't play it, so somebody has to.
posted by son_of_minya at 1:36 PM on June 16, 2003


But why they have to take such offence, and that such words are so terribly wounding when they're just another word for the racial identity, of which they should have no problems with, I do have a problem with.

So in other words, all of us oversensitive minorities should just suck it up and accept whatever words other people wish to label us with, even when those words are not meant as mere identifiers but more onerous, demeaning and diminishing insults? That calling someone a "nigger" is the moral, contextual and meaningful equivalent of calling them an African American? That saying "Oh, he's a chink" is no different than saying "He's from Hong Kong." and that any perceived difference is our shortcoming and unwillingness to accept the linguistic choices of those whose feelings toward us are less than charitable but should be binding upon us nevertheless?
posted by Dreama at 1:42 PM on June 16, 2003


Do you think cross burning should be protected speech, keeping in mind the fact that symbolic action (flag burning, etc.) has typically been classified as "speech" in U.S. Constitutional law?

The US Supreme Court ruled on that this year in Virginia v. Black. The decision upheld in part a Virginia Supreme Court ruling that struck down a state law which said that cross burning is "prima facie evidence of an intent to intimidate a person or group". That is, intent to intimidate still must be judged, even though Justice O'Connor acknowledged that burning a cross is a "symbol of hate".
posted by eddydamascene at 2:04 PM on June 16, 2003


Seems most folks don't like labels, but I see a lot of labeling going on in these comments. The irony some are being used defending the wrongness by which these words paki & chinki are used.(never heard these used this way in Orange Co., Ca).
posted by thomcatspike at 2:05 PM on June 16, 2003


The focus on "words" is mistaken, I feel.

I quite agree, Blue Stone. That's actually not the focus of the court case or the law in question. The focus of the court case and law in questiona re also not the "criminlalization of language" but rather the criminlaization of chanting one word in a very specific context. According to the ruling, and the law it interprets, the word "Paki" has not been made illegal; what has been made illegal is using the word in a certain context (and, I might add, at a certain volume). This is normal legislative behavior and should bother no-one. I am not allowed to use my car in a grocery store. I am also not allowed to use a gun in a grocery store. I am not allowed to have sex at the intersection of Market St and Van Ness. I am not allowed to evacuate my bowels on the White House lawn. Yet I rather think that even you would not attempt to argue that the U.S. and its court system is attempting to ciminnalize driving, cars, sex, or evacuation of bowels.

In my book, you are just an educated dummy. It seems that words are like alphabet soup to you. I will humor you with this response, but it is the last time.

I'm in your book? How utterly cool! What's the name of this book? Is this like one of those Ann Coulter exposes? Am I a "dangerous liberal" too, or just a plain old "educated dummy"?

If you don't get it after this, just shut up, because you aren't going to contribute anything if you don't know what you're talking about.

Awesome! You're like my own personal Bill O'Rielly!

You're forcing me to go off on your sick little tangent, and I hate you for it.

But son_of_minya, I'm just using words. They have no power, right?

I say to you that the context does not matter because many people say nigger a hundred times in the space of two hours and they have every right to do it.

Ummm, that was what we "educated dummies" call an "analogy". At no point in the analogy did I say that Mr. Norton does or does not have the right to use the defamatory expletive in question. Nor did I say that Mr. Norton had more right to say it in a movie than John Q. Public. Nor did I bring up The Turner Diaries. Nor did I say that people should be arrested for writing books. The entire paragaph from in which you spout all that garbeldygook is guilty of what we "educated dummies" call "the straw man fallacy". In plainer terms, I didn't ever say none of that stuff, so you're arguing against products of your own imagination.

I think I can rest my case as to where you're coming from.

Well, I hope it makes you feel better.

I think now would be a good time to play "Don't Call Me Nigger, Whitey" by Sly and the Family Stone

If you play it loudly enough for all of us to hear, the police will come make you stop. If you broadcast it over the radio for the same purpose, the FCC will send the police to make you stop. In neither case will it be censorship.
posted by eustacescrubb at 2:08 PM on June 16, 2003


Do you think cross burning should be protected speech, keeping in mind the fact that symbolic action (flag burning, etc.) has typically been classified as "speech" in U.S. Constitutional law?

One problem using the burning cross here in context, whose home are we at when you burn the cross? Why I ask, I'd shoot you in your ass wether law or not on my lawn.
posted by thomcatspike at 2:09 PM on June 16, 2003


In this specific case, the right to make using a certain word illegal comes from the fact that use of the word leads to mob violence.

That's the mentality that upsets me most. You do not have the power to "lead me to mob violence" The idea that we have to watch what we say so that people do not become violent is a common feeling in europe as far as I can tell from these and other discussions. This idea is abhorrent. Who are you to say that these people are so below you that they cannot be held accountable for their actions? Are they like animals who have to be controlled? Will a misplaced word send them into a violent rage?

If, as I am starting to suspect, the UK has such an extreme problem with racism perhaps some of the root causes need to be addressed, rather that the superficial.

People do not have the right not to be offended. I'm gay, and of course I have been yelled at. Was I sad? Sure. But I grew up. Would I be sad if someone said something to me now? No, I wouldn't, because I don't value the opinions of idiots.

And I agree with blue stone and languagehat.
posted by rhyax at 2:16 PM on June 16, 2003


and praise jesus for thomcatspike.
posted by rhyax at 2:18 PM on June 16, 2003


(left this part off) ...This is leagal too as you are on my private property which is a different issue all together.
posted by thomcatspike at 2:21 PM on June 16, 2003


The realization that lots of other people hate you because of something about yourself that you cannot change is painful.

Why hurtful? Why not annoyed, amused, maybe pissed? Degrading an entire race is such a silly logical concept as to be the equivalent of saying somebody sucks because they have eyes, ten fingers, or something equally arbitrary and stupid. I really don't get it.

That calling someone a "nigger" is the moral, contextual and meaningful equivalent of calling them an African American?

Hell no its not. Calling someone a nigger usually represents an intentional attempt to degrade someone. But so what? I can think of quite a few better ways to hurt someone than by making fun of their ethic origin. It's almost like the person making the insults is so monumentally stupid/ignorant/feeble-minded all they can do is mutter "... yeah, well, you're from Africa/Asia/Somewhere else, so Ha!".
posted by cohappy at 2:24 PM on June 16, 2003


jess:

Stupid typo. I meant to write, "You must not be very good friends with them, then."

That was a sarcastic comment anyway, so you can ignore it. I just hate leaving a typo that big without correcting it.
posted by son_of_minya at 2:37 PM on June 16, 2003


"Just as in the context of people chanting "Paki" at a football match the Pakistani players would most likely interpret this as it was intended, as a racial insult

Just to point out an interesting fact, we have almost no Pakistani players in the professional British football leagues. Or Indians. Don't see a lot of them at the matches either. Thankfully things seem to be changing at last.

And for the benefit of our gridiron loving cousins, here's football story you may not have come across, a racist attack on a young asian by two professional footballers.

"Moments before a chase involving the student, his friends and a group of white men outside the Majestyk nightclub in Leeds, one of the whites said: 'Do you want some, Paki?'. 'I took that as meaning, "Do you want a fight",' Sarfraz tells tonight's BBC Panorama programme. 'I just thought they're racist scum, so I just ignored them because there were too many of them and I'm not a trouble-causer.'"

And what did the young asian get for ignoring these comments? The Leeds student was kicked and beaten senseless in Mill Hill, after a chase through the city centre. He suffered a smashed nose, fractured cheek and broken leg.

I'm not wild about using the law to restrict speech either, but I'm not wild about the amount of racism in my favourite sport either (and no Blue Stone, I don't think you're a racist).
posted by ciderwoman at 2:41 PM on June 16, 2003


"Any niggers here tonight? Any kykes, crackers or spics?"

This was the beginning of a Lenny Bruce routine in which Bruce applied these labels to his audience constitutency so frequently that the pejorative nature of these words eventually meant nothing at all. Back then, of course, the uproar got him into trouble with the law. But in the end, he had the audience laughing.

What a different world we live in today. Like languagehat, I am appalled at the politically correct linguistic depostism that I see within this thread. To bar words that hurt or maim or offend is to live in some kind of terrible hybrid of Hooked on Phonics, the Moral Majority and the antiseptically clean environs of Disneyland. It is akin to denying the very face of reality, the cracks in the dirt, the bedraggled, the sebaceous anus on the human body. It is Joe & Jane Suburban walking in a prevaricating, artificial sunshine, Real Cancun world, hand-in-hand, blissfully ignorant of real problems.

Have people here no faith in the average Joe? Is it not possible for Joe Sixpack to make a decision over what is right and what is wrong? Must we surrender language along with our civil liberties for yet another temporary security scam?

People will do the right thing if you give them the chance. Particularly against hatred. Maybe not in every case. But certainly in most cases. When the KKK were allowed to hold a rally back in 1999, they were drowned out by the uproar of counterprotestors. That same year, in San Francisco, a mere 50 people showed up for an antigay rally. They too were overshadowed.

Let them rally. Let them use the words. And then let them be drowned out. That's democracy.

But place a stigma upon a linguistical choice and you only encourage people to taste the forbidden fruit. You encourage them to revolt. In your safety and security, you turn to the dark side by giving them the key to the castle.

Or does no one hear remember how Jackie Robinson, originally tainted by slurs, soon allowed his ability to play ball to speak for itself? The taunts died down and Robinson became a legend.
posted by ed at 2:42 PM on June 16, 2003


People will do the right thing if you give them the chance.

Sadly, that's just not true. The idea that human spirit will eventually overcome is a fairy tale that ignores the major social and economic problems that plague so much of the world.

Maybe the next item on the agenda of those "denying the very face of reality" should be major restricitons on the output of publishers and movie producers who fill people's minds with dangerous untruths about the nature of human spirit.
posted by ascullion at 2:50 PM on June 16, 2003


I think now would be a good time to play "Don't Call Me Nigger, Whitey" by Sly and the Family Stone

.... If you broadcast it over the radio for the same purpose, the FCC will send the police to make you stop. In neither case will it be censorship.

A federal government-mandated authority telling me what can and can not be said in a public forum, and backing up that mandate with force? That is, in fact, the very definition of censorship. And fuck that.

"Free speech" doesn't exist

You people terrify the living bejesus out of me. There has been plenty said already - I'll try not to add to the noise much more. But, what these guys said. If you don't like what I'm saying, that's a you problem. I might be an idiot for thinking or saying what I want, but last time I checked, being an idiot wasn't against the International Declaration of Human Rights or whatever.

If your aim is to outlaw speech, you know that your true aim is to outlaw thought, and that is the one of the most dangerous things in the world, in my opinion. Bad, wrong, stupid, offensive, or dangerous thoughts can not be eliminated through legislation. The only cure for "bad" speech is more "good" speech. Let the racists and fuckwits spout hate all day if they like - it just serves to let us know who to avoid, pity, or educate, depending on your inclination.
posted by majcher at 2:55 PM on June 16, 2003


Yeah, you're right ascullion, I'm not capable of realizing what is right and wrong, and I need your expert help to legislate my behavior in order to be able to exist in the great social contract we call civilization.
posted by cohappy at 3:01 PM on June 16, 2003


Ed, this law isn't designed to stop Lenny Bruce or the average Joe. It's designed for Football stadiums, because over here we do have a very real problem with football and racism (see this excellent report from the Sir Norman Chester centre for football research.

I would never condone extending this law outside of football stadia. If you want to go and call someone a paki, you go and do it (wouldn't advise it round here mind, but it's your choice). But this sort of chanting has a pernicious effect when practiced by all the "lads" at a match. I wonder how many people threw bananas at John Barnes just because the other lads were doing it? There is a very real problem at some grounds (I've been told Bowyer and woodgate were just "having a laugh"), and something needs to be done about it. I'm trying to do my best every saturday at 3pm, and appreciate the help.

Nice thread, mind.
posted by ciderwoman at 3:04 PM on June 16, 2003


Becoming offended when someone calls you a name is basically equivalent to becoming offended by the existence of morons. But morons are merely a side efect of a normal statistical distribution of intelligence. To become offended is to unduly anthorpomorphize the universe, and the universe hates it when you do that.
posted by kindall at 3:05 PM on June 16, 2003


Yeah, you're right ascullion, I'm not capable of realizing what is right and wrong, and I need your expert help to legislate my behavior in order to be able to exist in the great social contract we call civilization.

Well, perhaps had I helped you you wouldn't have made such a childish post to a public forum. Perhaps you need to read up on what happened in the former Yugoslavia and Northern Ireland to realise what civilisation is capable of.
posted by ascullion at 3:09 PM on June 16, 2003


As a Roman Catholic, living in Northern Ireland, I would say that Fenian in it's basic sense is not a derogatory word. As Fenian refers to the Fenian Movement, one of the first revolutionary groups in Ireland to rebel against British rule.

However, while the word itself is not derogatory it is the manner in which it is said that is. You can feel the hatred when it is said to you, not often now...but in the past, yes.

Much more derogatory is Tague, derived from the Irish name Tadhg, which was very common in Ireland for many years.

Paddy, used predominantly by the English, is also irritating... as is bogman. Once when I was in England I heard, "we should have left them to die in that fucking famine." Particularly insulting, considering that is basically what the British Government did. Sorry, personal rant.


Finally, at recent Republic of Ireland home 'soccer' matches there have been incidents of booing at any player who plays club football for Glasgow Rangers, a team with Protestant/Loyalist connotations. This disgusts most of the fans although it is marginally better than the fairly recent monkey noises epidemic at Irish home games.

Should booing be banned because of these people? I don't think so. Same with language, yeah it's offensive, but banning it gives them more ammunition. Think of underage drinking, it's illegal, but it's still done. Drugs the same.

Banning anything will only make it more 'cool' to do it. Educating people about the matter instead would be a better approach.
posted by knapah at 3:09 PM on June 16, 2003


Perhaps you need to read up on what happened in the former Yugoslavia and Northern Ireland to realize what civilization is capable of.

Jesus, if you wanna have a link-fight over who can find the worst examples of what man is capable of, then here, and I'm calling Godwin on this particular sub-argument as well. As you seemingly ascribe to a "subjugate the sheep" point of view, we'll just have to agree that we strongly disagree with each other.
posted by cohappy at 3:25 PM on June 16, 2003


You people terrify the living bejesus out of me.

I don't think anyone here is arguing for:

A. Censorship

B. "criminalizing" specific words or phrases

C. Limiting current rights to freedom of speech

So far as I can see, those of us who are terrifying you are arguing

A. That the law in question does not, in fact criminalize language, but rather a specific use of one word in a very specific context.

B. That there are (and should be) limits to everyone's freedom to do anything - those limits being decided on a case-by-case basis.

C. That many (but obviously not all) people who are subjected to racial slurs, religious slurs, slurs based one's class or the region of the country in which one lives, etc, can be damaging to their psyches, and that therefore, if one knows a certain word causes others such harm, one should be kind and refrain from using such slurs.

A federal government-mandated authority telling me what can and can not be said in a public forum, and backing up that mandate with force? That is, in fact, the very definition of censorship

What the federal government-mandated authority would be telling you is not "what can and can not be said" in this forum, but rather:

A. Who can and can not use a certain bandwidth for broadcast, and at what strength signal

and

B. Who can and can not broadcast copyrighted materials

the issue isn't one of cesnorship but one of order. We can't all broadacst whatever we like on a given frequency, and so far as I know, no one has the freedom to broadcast on a signal strong enough for every person reading this thread to receive it.

(I might agree with you if you were to argue that the FCC mismanages the airwaves, and unfairly favors large corporations, but that's an entirely different kettle of fish.)
posted by eustacescrubb at 3:38 PM on June 16, 2003


The US Supreme Court ruled on that this year in Virginia v. Black. The decision upheld in part a Virginia Supreme Court ruling that struck down a state law which said that cross burning is "prima facie evidence of an intent to intimidate a person or group". That is, intent to intimidate still must be judged, even though Justice O'Connor acknowledged that burning a cross is a "symbol of hate".

I'm not sure if I agree totally with your interpretation of that decision, eddydamascene. The Virginia court had found the law unconstitutional on its face because it discriminates against certain speech (cross burning) on the basis of its content. It also found that the jury instructions, which indicated that cross burning should be viewed as prima facie evidence of an attempt to intimidate, were overbroad. SCOTUS vacated the first part of this decision, deciding that cross burning is not necessarily protected speech: it can be a threat. They also agreed with the Virginia court, however, that intent to intimidate had to be proven (i.e. the jury instructions were overbroad), and they sent the case back to the trial court with that stipulation.

So the Virginia law against burning crosses with the intent to intimidate remains intact; it was not "struck down". See the discussion of the case that I linked to above for more details.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:40 PM on June 16, 2003


Some great comments here since I left to do some actual work. (I hate when that happens.) Joining Blue Stone and billsaysthis in my gallery of heroes are rhyax and ed. And jonmc is absolutely right about "turning racism into a matter of etiquette rather than economics or politics."

a crowd of random Chinese was literally following him around all day long in awe.
Great story, Pseudoephedrine. When I was in Taiwan a couple I knew had a red-headed little girl, and they were going nuts because every time they took her outside they were followed by a similar crowd commenting on her amazing hair. They figured it would give the kid a complex or something. (There was, by the way, a tremendous amount of prejudice against blacks and Jews even though almost nobody had met an actual example of either. I had to stop my English class in mid-discussion to give a little lecture about prejudice against Chinese in the 19th-century US and more recently in Australia and didn't they realize what they were doing was the same, etc. etc.)

Do you think cross burning should be protected speech?
Yes.

with freedom of speech comes great responsibility
Absolutely not. Freedom of speech is a basic right, like freedom to breathe. If you don't have the right to speak "irresponsibly," you don't have freedom of speech.

So in other words, all of us oversensitive minorities should just suck it up and accept whatever words other people wish to label us with
Not at all. Fight speech with more speech. Tell assholes they're being assholes. Just don't try to shut them up.

I just find it so interesting that, ONCE AGAIN, the term redneck(s) is used so casually and not a single person even thinks twice about whether it's right or wrong
Witty: You're absolutely right; it's funny, I just went ballistic (in my quiet, civilized way) about this in somebody's blog this morning. Half my family is rednecks, and they're as good as anybody else. Dammit.

I would never condone extending this law outside of football stadia
And yet I can pretty much guarantee you it will be so extended. That's the way authority works; give it power, it takes more. This is not an extraordinary one-time measure; it's a precedent.

Comment of the day:
People do not have the right not to be offended
posted by languagehat at 3:48 PM on June 16, 2003


languagehat: I must say, I'm dumbfounded to see the readiness, even joy, with which many (presumably for the most part Canadian or European) are greeting the idea of censoring and prosecuting speech that insults people or makes them feel threatened or whatever.

The problem here is that most of the people you're addressing -- particularly those with any experience or training in British or Commonwealth legal systems -- won't share your concept of an absolute distinction between speech and action. Yelling in someone's face, for instance (if there is any physical contact whatsoever between yeller and yellee) may well be considered assault under British law. Similarly, in this country, 'threatening to kill' is a criminal act. Any variation on the sentence 'I am going to kill you' (if said in an appropriately threatening context) is already criminalized (and taken seriously by the courts, I might add).

rhyax: The idea that we have to watch what we say so that people do not become violent is a common feeling in europe as far as I can tell from these and other discussions. This idea is abhorrent.

Look. Europeans (I'm generalizing here) probably have some pretty nasty historical precedents in mind when they express these ideas. The combination of demagogues and large groups of people -- the power of words to incite a mob to violence against a section of the population, or the overthrowing of the state, or whatever -- has a certain resonance in Europe for a reason. It's not simply some quaint local custom, but the result of having to engage historically with the irrationality of mobs.

There's a long history of this. You might even want to trace some kind of tradition between (say) seventeenth-century English apprentice riots; pope-burning processions; and anti-Catholic mobs, and football violence -- the different forms that resentment and xenophobia cohere into in different periods. It all goes back to this. Football crowds are scary. They can draw on (and feed) some pretty ugly emotions and prejudices. I think this judge is on to it: there's no way that a connection between a crowd yelling 'Paki' in a football ground, and the possibility that it might afterwards spill onto the streets and smash some shop windows and assault some people, should be dismissed out of hand.
posted by Sonny Jim at 3:53 PM on June 16, 2003


Ursula Owen: The Speech That Kills.
This piece, I think, is worth reading (all the way through) by both sides, especially those who are most partisan about this issue. It was originally published in 1998 in the pro-free speech magazine Index On Censorship. Ursula Owen is the magazine's editor.
It summarises both sides fairly but does come to a conclusion ...
'... For the most dangerous threat behind hate speech is surely that it can go beyond its immediate targets and create a culture of hate, a culture which makes it acceptable, respectable even, to hate on a far wider scale. Such a culture of hate is not easy to define, and does not necessarily have one trajectory, but its evolution is evident in the circumstances surrounding
some events in recent history. '
'On 4 November l995, Yitzhak Rabin, prime minister of Israel, was assassinated by Yigal Amir, a 25-year-old law student. But what part was played by rightwing Israeli radicals chanting, `Rabin is a traitor! Rabin is a murderer!' at Likud rallies? Or by placards showing Rabin's features overlaid with the thin black circles of a rifle target? Or by the mainstream Israeli rabbincal leadership, who for months before the assassination had questioned the `Jewishness' of Rabin's land-for-peace policies, and solicited the learned opinions of their colleagues around the world as to whether - purely theoretically of course - the abandonment to Palestinian control of West Bank territory divinely promised to the Jews `might merit the death penalty' ... '
' ... Words can turn into bullets, hate speech can kill and maim, just as censorship can. So, as dedicated opponents of censorship and proponents of free speech, we are forced to ask: is there a moment where the quantitative consequences of hate speech change qualitatively the arguments about how we must deal with it. And is there no distinction to be made between the words of those whose hate speech is a matter of conviction, however ignorant, deluded or prejudiced, and hate speech as propaganda, the calculated and systematic use of lies to sow fear, hate and violence in a population at large? '
'One has only to run through newspapers in former Yugoslavia to find examples of hate speech as propaganda. In l987, the Serbian newspapers published a photograph taken by a Belgrade reporter in Prekale, Kosovo, a Serbian province with a majority Albanian population. Under the headline, `The Mother from Prekale', it showed a Serbian woman working in the field, surrounded by her children. A gun hung from her shoulder. She needed the weapon, the papers revealed, to protect her and her children from
Albanian terrorists, who were torturing and killing Serbs and raping their wives and daughters. The photograph attracted a lot of publicity, and shocked the whole of Serbia ... '
' ... The US philosopher and political scientist Sidney Hook set out starkly his experience of the workings of expressions of hate. `I believe any people in the world, when roused to a fury of nationalistic resentment, and convinced that some individual or group is responsible for their continued and extreme misfortunes, can be led to do or countenance the same things the Germans did. I believe that if conditions in the US were ever to become as bad psychologically and economically as they were in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s, systematic racial persecution might break out. It could happen to the Blacks, but it could
happen to the Jews too, or any targeted group.' '

This article was written after the war in Bosnia, but before the war in Kosovo following Milosevic's attempted genocide of the Kosovar Albanians. There are fairly obvious lessons to be drawn for the current world situation, and for the (I almost hesitate to say this) the US and some of the opinions coming from that country, especially from the right wing.

See also hate radio in Rwanda (BBC) and the role of 'hate radio journalists' in inciting the genocide which killed 800,000 people in 1994. Also, an extensive piece on Rwanda hate radio at Media Network Dossier.

So by all means... it is respectable, even necessary to oppose censorship. But it is not enough to dismiss hate speech as 'words will never hurt me', and to condemn attempts to deal with this. There are too many examples from recent history to the contrary.

Good thread, btw (including those I disagree with - I'm aware we don't all share the same political philosophy).
posted by plep at 4:03 PM on June 16, 2003


Would this be a good time to mention that it's only a game?
posted by squealy at 4:09 PM on June 16, 2003


Sonny Jim, I think you're on to something but your examples don't really support it because those sorts of threatening speech are (at least the last) also illegal in the US.

There are some difficult issues in this area. Thinking about this in the past, one thing that I came up with was that you don't have the right to speak to a particular person. This doesn't include the person picking up your racist 'zine and getting offended, but if I want to tell you that you should die, then that's harassment. I'm no lawyer, but it seems to make some sense to me. Of course, harassment and threats are different things in my mind. Harassment is where the victim is the target of speech, a threat is where the victim is the subject of speech. (Please, ignore the fact that what I call the subject of a threatening speech is actually the "target" of the threat. And if anyone knows what I'm trying to say and knows the right Latin, please help me out here.)
posted by Wood at 4:23 PM on June 16, 2003


I first came across the term Paki when I moved from London to the West Midlands in the late 1960s. The word was usually used in sentences that included the adjective 'fucking' as in:

"They're a bunch of fucking Pakis."

or the verb 'bashing' as in:

"I'm going Paki bashing."

it was never used in a friendly way, and was applied to Asians irrespective of nationality.
posted by lilburne at 4:44 PM on June 16, 2003


I'm not sure if I agree totally with your interpretation of that decision, eddydamascene.

Sorry that I missed your previous comment. You are absolutely right that the statue was not "struck down". The ruling stated that "because of the interpretation of the prima facie evidence provision given by the jury instruction, the provision makes the statute facially invalid at this point". It seemed to me that Va courts would be hard pressed to deliver a future ruling based on that provision alone (so in that sense the strictest interpretation of the law will not survive future challenge unless sufficient evidence is included so as to make the provision more or less irrelevant), but I didn't mean to imply that cross burning as intimidation is now protected.
posted by eddydamascene at 5:07 PM on June 16, 2003


[damn! it's late and I should have been in bed over an hour ago but this subject is just too close to home.]

I'm guessing that a lot of you don't have much of a clue about the cultural background to this in the UK. Which is understandable. And as much as my liberal (as in 'open-minded/tolerant', not 'left-wing') sensibilities want freedom of speech and all that loverly 'hey, isn't this great this freedom to do stuff?' I've seen the reality here and it is not something I want.

When the main wave of immigration from south Asia came to the UK in the late 60s it was just speech. Enoch Powell's almost legendary [warning: National Front website] (over here anyhow) 'rivers of blood' speech. And then the demonstrations by the docker's union and others. And then the far-right National Front. And of course all of the rest who decided to take it all a little further. A different kind of slippery slope to the one that supposedly ends with the government telling us what we can & can't say against them. A slope that ends in families being burned out of their homes because some white thugs don't want them living nearby.

The far-right and the more dull-headed football fans have been too cosy since the late 60's/early 70's. Football stadiums were always seen as fertile recruiting grounds for what used to be called 'disaffected young men'. The booze, the tribalism & the aggro. 'Paki-bashing' was a great extra-curricular activity.

The thing is, the decent people didn't speak out. They either hid away from the trouble or just shut up for fear of getting their heads kicked in. Attendances at football matches dropped and the stadiums began to resemble prison camps with fences & barriers to keep rival supporters apart.

Then a few things happened. The Heysel Stadium disaster in Belgium when a wall collapsed crushing fans of Italian club Juventus who were trying to escape attack from a small group of Liverpool 'fans' at Europe's showpiece of football, the European Cup final. [National Front leaflets were found littering the terraces.] English clubs were banned from European competitions.

John Barnes (as mentioned previously by ciderwoman), the well-spoken son of a high-ranking Jamaican military man signed for Liverpool, who were then, and had been for over a decade one of England & Europe's most successful clubs. During a derby match vs the other Merseyside team, Everton, he was pelted with bananas when he went to take a corner kick. For once the media noticed and were shocked.

ID schemes for football fans were proposed [scroll down a page or two] by national govrnment. The racism had descended into just plain old violence whilst clubs had been ignoring the fact that they were playingt host to a little more than just football. But it was a problem in UK society, not just with football and the decent, articulate fans finally found their voice with the explosion of the football fanzine culture which started partly in response to the draconian measures proposed by Margaret Thatcher's govenment.

Then a fire at a stadium in Bradford followed by the Hillsborough disaster when nearly 100 Liverpool fans were crushed to death due to terrible crowd-control at the start of a cup semi-final in Sheffield. The pictures of innocent people having the life squashed out of them was the final straw for a nation & the footballing authorities that had been ignoring the 'problems of football' for too long.

Lord Justice Taylor's report into the game usured in a new era of vastly improved facilities where instead of being treated like cattle, fans were able to see the game without peering through a mesh of wire cages. Security was stepped up and anti-social behaviour was all but eliminated in the upper levels of the game.

And in the bizzarest twist of fate, the youth of the UK found Ecstacy. Yup, good ol' MDMA. Instead of booze (& coke for the hardcore thugs) it was happy pills. Instead of lobbing bananas they were waving inflatable toys. And instead of getting into a ruck, opposing fans went out raving together. You had to see it to believe the turn-around.

Of course a lot of the casual hooligans were priced-out of the game. Families were now the order of the day. Football became trendy and rich.

I miss some of the things about the old days. Sitting down at a footie match is boring (and if I can get away with it I, and many others, won't). The whole 'football as fashion' thing gets on my wick. But I don't miss the racism or the violence. And I don't want them back thankyouverymuch.

Of course it was never just 'football's problem'. It was, and still is, a problem in a strand of UK culture where booze & fighting and hating people that aren't like you is almost a way of life.

The problem becomes more of a problem when people don't stop it at the start. If this country had stood up to the racists in the first place & not looked the other way for too long then a lot of the problems then & now could have been avoided. Maybe this time round we've learned a little.

Maybe it is something that you have to experience to understand. Maybe the world will be just fine if anyone can say anything to anyone. But in my experience I don't think so. Maybe one day there will be no need for a law that attempts to prevent racial hatred and incitement to racial hatred. Hey, maybe one day we won't need laws to stop us speeding on the roads, stealing money or punching people in the face cuz we feel like it.

In the meantime, even as someone who isn't too crazy about our current crop of lawmakers in the UK, I'll support the laws that lead to prosecutions like those in this FPP. Racism is NOT freedom.
posted by i_cola at 5:18 PM on June 16, 2003


That was beautiful, i_cola. Thank you.
posted by timeistight at 5:22 PM on June 16, 2003


Anglo is just English, what else are Latinos supposed to use to differentiate, you speak English as a primary language, they speak Spanish, simple.

This is just a bit silly. Mexicans seem to love this particular racial generalization. When anglo is used in this sense, it refers to Anglo-Saxon. While I may have a similar skin tone to Anglo-Saxons, I have neither Angle nor Saxon blood in my veins. My ethnicity is a mix of Eastern European, Gaelic and Semitic; I find it sort of offensive to be called "Anglo," much like my Puerto Rican friends are offended when they're called Mexican.
posted by charlesv at 5:25 PM on June 16, 2003


Very good thread, with persuasive, well-put arguments on all sides.

I think those on the side of absolute free speech have an admirable philosphy, and one to which we should all aspire as people, regions, nations, football supporters, or whatever other type of grouping we wish to associate ourselves with.

The problem, as astutely put by eustacescrubb, plep, i_cola et al, is when such "free" speech turns into "hate" speech. Perhaps most native-born Americans are not very familiar with the problems of mob violence, never having experienced any crowd emotion stronger than a baseball match (or in previous times, perhaps a lynching or two.) Perhaps they have been protected from experiencing first-hand the evils perpetrated by leaders who use hate and fear as mechanisms to inspire and control their followers. Perhaps these same people will realise too late that this is what is being done to them right now, in the name of never-ending war.

I digress though. An excitable crowd of 40,000 or so young-ish men, with what could be described as a death-wish for the opposing side, is quite a thing to behold when fully roused. A few well-placed ringleaders can easily move such a mob to action, whether it's via a command to attack the opposing footsoldiers of an evil empire by their squadron leaders, or by a few racists slurs intended to intimidate and psychologically damage the opposing forces' supporters.

I don't wish to call the supporters of absolute free speech naive: as I said it's an admirable thing to aspire to. But civilisation has not reached those levels of equality on the playing field yet. A few checks and balances are required to protect those who can be the potential victims of unrestrained freedom of speech.

It's a very difficult issue and one which I have argued on both sides. However, I think the intent of the British goverment is entirely benign in this case: protecting a minority's right not be initmidated/threatened must take precedence over the right of the majority to express its contempt for that minority in a violent fashion. It is not a step towards censorship of speech. It is banning a term that many find offensive (but more to the point: that others find common cause in using) in a particularly dangerous, volatile environment. The "universal" right to free speech is not being abridged IMO.

If I were living in the US today, I would be far more concerned with the PATRIOT Acts and their implications for free speech, than with the banning of insulting football chants, but that's for another thread.
posted by cbrody at 5:41 PM on June 16, 2003


i_cola: Your intentions are good; your thinking is muddled. Most of your examples have nothing to do with speech. The fire at a stadium in Bradford, the Hillsborough disaster, these were terrible things that were appropriately dealt with; do you think banning speech would have been more helpful than "vastly improved facilities"? John Barnes was pelted with bananas, and that should be punished: bananas are not words. All those terrible things you think may follow from bad words are subject to punishment and can be dealt with in their own right; banning speech may make liberals feel better (momentarily) but will not solve anything.

Of course it was never just 'football's problem'
Of course, and this is exactly why I assured ciderwoman that the penalties would be extended beyond football. And all you people who think these fine liberal bans will be used only against those bad, nasty, illiberal people who say bad things about blacks or Pakistanis or gays should investigate the actual history: they are always used against precisely those groups on the grounds that they are being "racist" or "offensive" to whites, straights, etc. Laws will always be used for the benefit of the powerful.

Here's the part of your comment I entirely agree with, and I urge you to reread it and consider the implications:
The thing is, the decent people didn't speak out.
The cure for speech is more speech.
posted by languagehat at 6:33 PM on June 16, 2003


Prison Planet Archive -- eight articles on exactly the same topic as the FPP. The argument against criminalisation of speech is not limited to one hooligan's football chant, and the movement to criminalise speech is not limited to one arrest in a football stadium.

If you think the British government is just trying to prevent scuffles at football games, read this. Nobody here AFAIK sat thought the entire trial, and was there the day of the arrest, so making a 100% assertion of exactly what everyone's intentions were is pointless. What I do know is that there is a very strong history of this, and that there is a cross-Atlantic movement to criminalise words since the advent of PC culture.

Free Speech: Hate Speech -- About.com's Civil Liberties section, with many links to articles holding exactly the same position I do. Just to point out that people calling for the criminalisation of words are not in the mainstream. It is a radical fringe of liberalism, and anyone (eustacescrubb the "astute") declaring himself a liberal because he believes speech should be criminalised is fraudulently misidentifying himself.

As for this whole "swaying power of hate ringleaders" fantasy -- where are the hypnotic leaders of goodwill? I think we should outlaw mutants, rather than outlaw speech. Anyone who can control the minds of a crowd should not be allowed inside any stadium, arena, or shopping mall.
posted by son_of_minya at 6:48 PM on June 16, 2003


Thanks for that clarification, Wood. It just goes to show what jumping into a thread with no prior knowledge of US law can lead to.

languagehat: At the risk of sounding ridiculous, bananas exist in a linguistic context. It's not just a random choice; bananas get thrown because banana=monkey, and in a society that sees nothing wrong with referring to Afro-Caribbeans as 'monkeys', banana throwing is what you'll get. Language here is at the root of the problem; bananas are just an outgrowth.
posted by Sonny Jim at 6:56 PM on June 16, 2003


Chinese people here in Taiwan often call me "Lao-wai", "Wai-guo ren" or "Ah-dokha". I suppose that is racist as it is based entirely upon my race. And it does get annoying, but I don't believe legislating a law against it is the answer. Education would be a much better answer. I've become used to it anyway, as it's usually people that don't know me who call me such things.
posted by Poagao at 6:59 PM on June 16, 2003


NIce post i_cola. Languagehat, while you're right that a lot of footballs problems had nothing to do with speech they were also grounded in the old football world, one where it was OK to chant the most offensive racial slurs and where, as a result, the National Front and the BNP found many new converts. Far right politics made great inroads into society in the seventies and eighties undoubtedly helped by the prevailing football culture.

On a slightly different note, no, I don't think this law will be extended outside stadia. We just don't seem to have the fears of an all encroaching government many of you do in the US (tho maybe Europe will allow us that import from you). This defence of the individual at all costs as the only way to keep a government in check isn't part of our national character.

That said it's a thorny problem, and I've enjoyed reading both sides of the argument. Even the posts from you right wing racist militia nut jobs ;)

On preview, sorry son_of _minya, I'll take any article about europe in the Telegraph with a pinch of salt (euro standardised and not good old British salt, of course).

And as for the ringleaders fantasy, come with me down to Stamford Bridge for the next Chelsea / Tottenham game and I'll point them out to you.
posted by ciderwoman at 7:02 PM on June 16, 2003


The thing I don't understand, as an American, is why this is an issue the courts even need to deal with. Why isn't the football league enforcing rules to civilize the game? We see almost no racist chants during any sporting event here. If the crowd is behaving poorly, the home team is penalized for their crowds' action. Throw banana's on the field/shouting racist slogans should result in on field discipline. Every time a home crowd starts chanting 'Paki' or whatever, I say a penalty shot is in order. In basketball here, poor crowd behavior is penalized with Technical fouls and freeshots for the visiting team. Wouldn't the crowd shut up after loosing 20-2 after 18 penalty shots or losing by forfeit a couple of games pretty quickly? I'm not concerned that the crowd was penalized, but I am that it needed to reach the level of the state. In-game penalties and fan club disbandments seem a logical first step before the drastic stage of bringing in the cops.
posted by superchris at 7:05 PM on June 16, 2003


The people in my group at my workplace sometimes call me Paki and I do not feel insulted. The reason being that I find them ignorant of any thing or culture outside the USA. Some of them have given up on pronouncing my first name right and now just call me by my last name. I think it always depends if the use of a term such as Paki is threatening or insulting. But I also think that such terms should be discouraged so some lunatics do not make their weapon of choice to harrass a community. When I came to the states, I did not know of the term "nigger". But I was educated by other people that this term is very offensive and is not to be used, even if the african american community uses it often amongst itself.

I know the British people use Paki in an offensive manner, and some Americans like Mr. Bush use it out of pure stupidity. I can live with the later.
posted by adnanbwp at 7:09 PM on June 16, 2003


son_of_minya: are you seriously saying that people who are capable of galvanising a crowd into action should be banned from public spaces? What on earth are you getting at? Have you never been to a rally in your life?

Incitement to racial hatred is the problem. Unfortunately overt racism it is still common (and commonly accepted) in large sections of UK society. It is different in the States now, probably largely due to the efforts of the civil rights movement ("Political Correctness", if you like), which has made most common racial epithets socially unacceptable.

Paki = Nigger, there are no two ways about it. Adnanbwp has the right attitude: people who use these terms as insults are just plain stupid. But they exist, and can be dangerous in large groups (or running large heavily-armed countries.)

I agree with superchris that legislation is perhaps not the best way to deal with this. But the FA has been pretty useless at preventing hooliganism, which the UK is proud to be exporting to the rest of the world.
posted by cbrody at 7:53 PM on June 16, 2003


That there are (and should be) limits to everyone's freedom to do anything - those limits being decided on a case-by-case basis.

surely you don't mean this. if you think you do, re-read it, and think about what it means.

It's weird and sad how threads like this can accentuate the differences between peoples as similiar as americans and british. I hope racial slurs really aren't as common in everyday UK language as this thread has made me think.
posted by rhyax at 8:26 PM on June 16, 2003


cbrody:

son_of_minya: are you seriously saying that people who are capable of galvanising a crowd into action should be banned from public spaces?

Not at all.

I'm saying that anyone who has the superhero-like ability to turn a rational, non-violent, non-racist person into a violent racist, not only should be banned from public places, but after he effortlessly galvanizes the people into lifting that ban, the military should be called in. We cannot bow down to these mutants.

That's all I'm saying.

If someone is just a loud-mouth racist, on the other hand... Why not just appreciate the fact that he's telling you he's a racist, and that anyone who joins in with the bastard is also a racist. I'd like to know who they are. Nothing sucks more than hanging out with somebody you've known at work for months, and seeing a Nazi flag on their wall. It's best for people to be open about these things.
posted by son_of_minya at 8:38 PM on June 16, 2003


I know the British people use Paki in an offensive manner, and some Americans like Mr. Bush use it out of pure stupidity. I can live with the later.

Adnanbwp has the right attitude: people who use these terms as insults are just plain stupid.

I'd call that "ignorance" rather than "stupidity". The term is offensive in one culture, not offensive in the other, and being smart or stupid has nothing to do with whether or not one is familiar with that bit of trivia.

When I was in college (here in the States), we had this big group of friends of all different backgrounds. All of us, the Pakistani-Americans included, used "Paki" as an abbreviation for "Pakistani", and it meant nothing more than that (wasn't a slur, wasn't an empowring reclamation of a slur, etc.). "Ooh, Sameera's mom cooked a bunch of Paki food and she's bringing some back with her!" (Man, that rocked when Sameera hooked us up with her mom's chow.) "I'm going to the Paki student group meeting, I'll meet you guys after that." Etc.

So you can imagine my English co-worker's horror (and mine as well) the first time I said "Paki" in front of him; he just stood there aghast. At which point I learned about the pejorative connotation the word carries abroad and decided against using it in the future.

But really, when you're dealing with someone from another culture and you hear a word like that, it's best to give them the benefit of the doubt. My partner is Venezuelan and her dad went to graduate school here in the 1960s; it took us a while to get him to stop referring to black people as "negros" during his visits to the States, because last he heard that was an acceptable term in English (and the cognate in Spanish didn't help things any). The point of course being that his intentions were completely innocent, and only an asshole would jump on someone from another culture without first giving them the benefit of the doubt.

The people in my group at my workplace sometimes call me Paki and I do not feel insulted. The reason being that I find them ignorant of any thing or culture outside the USA.

While I share your dismay at my fellow Americans' frequent ignorance of world culture, I wonder whether it isn't even more narrow-minded to expect everyone else in the world to arrive at your doorstep being already familiar with the minutia of your own culture. (I'm not directing that at you, adnanbwp, because your post demonstrates the opposite.) I have friends from every continent on the planet, and finding out that one of us is ignorant of some aspect of the others' culture is just a mundane fact of life. Best to just expect that sort of thing if you're going to interact with people who grew up outside of your neighborhood.
posted by boredomjockey at 8:41 PM on June 16, 2003


Which yankistani was it that called Canada, Canucistan recently?


You can't legislate respect, can you?

I'm with knapah, education not legislation.

As for British football, I've never attended a game, but if I visited there, I'm not sure I'd want to go and be surrounded by such yobs [yep, I'm stereotyping, but keep in mind mob rules, ie: people acting anonomously in a mob situation]. I'm quite allergic to ignorance. Hell, I'm afraid I'd regress to their same level.

Chanting racial slurs under the guise of a game isn't funny nor sportsmanlike, but legislating against it? Seems draconian, what next?
posted by alicesshoe at 9:07 PM on June 16, 2003


anyone (eustacescrubb the "astute") declaring himself a liberal because he believes speech should be criminalised is fraudulently misidentifying himself.

Not only do I not believe speech should be criminalised, but I've said quite the opposite several times in this thread. My bone of contention with you, son_of_minya, was thatwe should discuss the case in specific instead o in your la-la land of universals, and that the specific case in question is not an example of speech being criminalised, just like traffic laws are not an example of cars being criminalised. Telling abject lies about me here (when the truth is evident for anyone who bothers to read the thread in its entirety) and sending me multiple threatening, abusive emails won't change that fact. (threatening me via email is, by the way, speech that is not protected under the First Ammendment.)

Never mind the fact that the statement "believes speech should be criminalised" is nonsense. How would one criminalise speech? Outlaw talking? Isn't nonverbal communication technically "speech" under First Ammendment law? Do you want us to outlaw nodding, raising the eyebrows, waving of hands? Print communication is speech too, so criminalising speech means criminalising print, and web communictions. It means criminalising babies for rooting towards a mother's breast when they're hungry.
How will the police communicate with each other to coordinate arrests? They'll be so busy arresting themselves for communicating with each other that they won't have time to arrest anyone else.
posted by eustacescrubb at 9:10 PM on June 16, 2003


crustaceanrub:

I sent you threatening e-mails that are not protected by the First Amendment? That's news to me. What's really hilarious is that your pathetic reading comprehension skills extend to e-mail. I thought it was just in this thread that you had problems.

Never mind the fact that the statement "believes speech should be criminalised" is nonsense. How would one criminalise speech? Outlaw talking?

While that is funny, it's also complete nonsense and you're a buffoon if you seriously don't understand the concept of "criminalising speech." To clarify: Everyone already knows that you don't understand the concept of criminalising speech. What I mean is... that you don't even know what the basic words mean. When you realize this, I'm sure the words will come hiccuping out of you like the first time Helen Keller said "water."

While it may be true that in your most recent post, you laid out a nice high school level A-B-C "logical-looking" statement, it is also true that the statement demonstrated a complete lack of reading comprehension. Either that or you're in such denial that you honestly believe nobody here ever said speech should be legally restrained. Either way, you're a goofball.
posted by son_of_minya at 9:22 PM on June 16, 2003


Getting back to the strictly football context (and thanks languagehat!), first I agree that the FA should take responsibility and if the current leadership of that group can't get the job done, boot them in favor of new blood that can.

More significantly, let's say that the idiots in the crowd get the message after this and similar trials. No shouting that particular word. But they're still nimrods and asshats and one or two has a certain kind of intelligence, enough to figure out that they can use other words, not covered by the law, that through context, tone of voice, and body language, give the same sad result.

In other words, bottom lining it, 500 nasty guys get up together and start pointing at their target group and chanting in a loud nasty way "you you you you" over and over. Message is still delivered but I don't see how TPTB could ever outlaw that, not if they still allow people to come in and sit where they want.
posted by billsaysthis at 9:35 PM on June 16, 2003


boredomjockey, I'd just like to point out that what I said was:

people who use these terms as insults are just plain stupid

Note the emphasis. Yes, racism itself stems from ignorance, but insulting, degrading and wilfully aggressive behaviour towards the "other" goes in my opinion beyond ignorance to pure stupidity. It is a losing game - there is no shortage of "others". Football is of course just such a game - shame that so many stupid people also love it!

son_of_minya: What if these mind-controlling racist mutants came from outer space? Or, at the risk of invoking Godwin on this thread, Germany, Yugoslavia, Russia, Japan or even the good ol' USA? Think about what you are saying: it has happened MANY times before. You seem to be advocating censoring an individual's right to free speech, by "bringing in the military". Isn't that exactly what you have been arguing against?
posted by cbrody at 9:45 PM on June 16, 2003


Either way, you're a goofball.

Well done... and it was really going so well, for so long. For a thread on race (for the most part), I'd give it an 8.5 on the civility scale (and informative to boot). Don't fuck it up now son.

superchris: I think some of your ideas are certainly well-intended. But I'm afraid they wouldn't carry much weight at European football matches. See, Giants fans, here in the U.S., hate Eagles fans, but only because they're Eagles fans... not for anything that really goes any deeper than that.

Football (soccer) hooligans hate opposing fans for equally absurd reasons, but for them, it DOES go deeper than simply team association. So much so, that they are willing to destroy a game by storming the field by the hundreds and pummel people to death in some cases. This happens, sometimes, within the first few minutes of a match. It very unlikely that a penalty shot imposed against their team is going to have much of an effect.

ciderwoman: I think i_cola was trying to paint the larger picture of the football hooligan problem... which I think was important.
posted by Witty at 9:49 PM on June 16, 2003


cbrody: No one has the right to telepathically or telekinetic control the actions of another, just as no one has the right to imprison someone based on their choice of words. I do discriminate between mutants and humans, but I do not consider that to be prejudice.

Witty: He started it, not me. The crustacean came into the thread by attacking me for no apparent reason, then slowly retreated to a legalistic position after invoking the indignation of several people on the board. The final straw was when he compared me to Bill O'Reilly, proudly identified himself as a capital-L Liberal in opposition to me, and implied that I'm a redneck who can't speak properly.

In my e-mail, I suggested he take this to MetaTalk, but he instead chose to post here again with more nonsense, and an accusation that I had threatened him (this from a person who claims to know the meaning of an ad hominem attack).

Also, if you scroll up a little... You'll see that I was angry at him for horsing around in what should be a perfect thread for civil discussion. This was, mind you, over halfway through the thread to this point; after repeated shit-kicking nonsense from this Narnian clown. "You're forcing me to go off on your sick little tangent, and I hate you for it." Sorry, but the guy's a jackoff, and I give him no respect.
posted by son_of_minya at 10:24 PM on June 16, 2003


Bah! The little crab got me so worked up, I'm making mistakes. I spotted two. Pointing out others to me will not earn any bonus points. I firmly believe everyone here is smart enough to figure out which words were not intentionally written, and what word should be in their place.
posted by son_of_minya at 10:26 PM on June 16, 2003


Fair enough... but as I'm sure you know, it's always "the last one to throw a punch that gets caught". We have a good thread going and both of you could stand to just cool it a little.

Both sides make great and reasonable arguements, the two of you included. It's rather refreshing.
posted by Witty at 10:39 PM on June 16, 2003


Fair enough. ^_^
posted by son_of_minya at 10:48 PM on June 16, 2003


Great thread. Languagehat, Blue Stone, others, I also cannot believe that people actually understand what they are implying with some of this stuff.

"...can be damaging to their psyches.

Who cares? A lot of people's psyches are big, glowing targets that they've painted themselves. My teenage daughter's psyche was darn near irreparably damaged by not getting a convertible. Why on earth should I give a shit about how easily or not your psyche gets its panties in a twist? And --9 times out of 10-- upsetting someone's psyche is just another way of saying, "offended" And to repeat the sweetest, tastiest nugget in the thread yet again...

"[nothing]...guarantees you or me or anyone else the right not to be offended."
posted by umberto at 11:26 PM on June 16, 2003


son_of_minya: I'm sorry, I'm not smart enough. For "mutant" I have to assume you mean "politician". All humans are mutants (unless you believe in Divine Creation), and some people do have the power to influence huge numbers of others. Call this power what you like: the terms you use are ("telepathically" and "telekinetic") are meaningless in the real world. It's inflammatory language that gives these people power.

I'm not saying anything should be banned, but in certain volatile situations it makes sense to limit the rights of individuals (even of the majority) for the well-being of others.

You claim that speech should be free, but in the same breath that those "mutants" abusing its power should be locked up. Which is it? You say "The issue must be removed from any 'racialist' context", and go on just five lines later in the same post to accuse eustacescrubb of doing the exact same thing, calling it a faulty debating tactic to "divorce the debate from its context". Which is it?

Also: "You're forcing me to go off on your sick little tangent, and I hate you for it." is something YOU said: it does you no favours to repeat it.

Without wishing to make this completely into an ad hominen, I'd say that your debating tactics, if not your reasoning processes, need some work. Accusing others of things they haven't even said (no-one has called you a racist, at least not on this thread) is just silly.

As for "the hypnotic leaders of goodwill" Ghandi or Martin Luther King could be the ones you're looking for. Shame they're dead though.
posted by cbrody at 11:55 PM on June 16, 2003


Perhaps we're all overlooking the difference between the behavior of individuals versus the behavior of mobs? What may be "merely" offensive as speech, becomes something wholly different when it's used to incite mob behavior? More threatening to the social structure? I'd venture to guess that that would be the purpose of outlawing such speech in a specific setting. Perhaps that's why Ciderwoman felt able to challenge it in some circumstances, but not in others...and good on her, btw.
posted by cookie-k at 12:08 AM on June 17, 2003


cbrody: There's an important distinction I need to make here. There is no such thing as mutants with special powers. No human being can compel another human being to do anything he/she does not want to do. Even hypnotists can't do that.

I blew it way out of proportion to make a point: That human beings do not have magic powers. They aren't going to cast any magic on anyone, or take control of their brain, by shouting racial slurs. It is therefore pointless to fear them.

A real monster, though, now that is scary. If people actually did have this magic ability, I would definitely try to stop them; but they don't.

Also: I thought Witty the peace maker had spoken on this crustacean nonsense? Please don't make me insult your reading abilities as well.

1) I did not remove the debate from its context. I attempted to clarify the context by removing "racialist" nonsense from it. It was crustaceanrub who removed the debate from context by narrowly focusing on the football incident and completely ignoring the wording of the FPP as well as the majority of comments.

2) I know I quoted myself. That was the whole point, which would be clear to you if you read the paragraph containing the quote. "You'll see that I was angry at him for horsing around in what should be a perfect thread for civil discussion."

So you see, I never accused anyone of something he didn't say. BUT, you just did.
posted by son_of_minya at 1:39 AM on June 17, 2003


I hope racial slurs really aren't as common in everyday UK language as this thread has made me think.

No, in the majority of contexts if you used the word Paki, even in jest, there would be a horrible, stunned silence. As with every society in the world racist intimidation and violence occurs most where there is 1. poverty 2. distinct racial groups living apart but close together 3. alcohol 4. young men.
posted by Summer at 3:10 AM on June 17, 2003


I'd actually like to apologise to the reast of the thread; when I started posting, I thought son-of_minya waas just somewho disagreed strongly with me, but with whom debate might be fruitful. But by the time I made my last post last night, I'd recieved his emails, and I knew better. I ought to have bowed out and not posted again, and didn't. Mea culpa.
posted by eustacescrubb at 3:22 AM on June 17, 2003


eustacescrubb: Check Meta Talk.

You've gotten it backwards. You should have known better, because I told you that debating with you would not be fruitful. And once again, you've made a misleading, insulting comment, which is completely inaccurate.
posted by son_of_minya at 3:52 AM on June 17, 2003


slightly off the football chanting ;

There are people in Lapland that used to be called "Lapps" in Swedish. One day they declared: "Lapp has been used in a derogatory way, we prefer 'sami', which is the sami word for lapp". That the Swedish word for sami=lapp is apparantly irrelevent. Not once, ever have I heard anyone use the term lapp in a derogatory way, everyone knows that in swedish you have to add -jävel to anything (or any ethnicity) for it to be derogatory. Finnjävel would be "finnsih bastard", see? (apologies to Finns everywhere).
I wonder when the day comes when we change the Swedish word for "Turk" (Turkish) to the Turkish word for Turkish as "Turk" has very often been used in a "applies to any dark-haired non-swede" way, so much that it is socially uncomfortable to say even if you really just mean "He's from Turkey".
posted by dabitch at 5:04 AM on June 17, 2003


I find myself in absolute agreement with languagehat and others here who decry the criminilization of (what amounts to) foul language. Surely this is a small step from the criminalization of any sort of foul language?
I cannot understand the logic that states that a change in our choice of words can have any real and lasting effect on our behaviour. I suggest that the opposite is predominantly true: when racism as an attitude declines in a society, the use of racial slurs declines also. Not the other way around. Banning slurs by law just creates a veneer of propriety that masks a deeper racism in a society (as jonmc pointed out).
It also seems difficult to believe that language (by itself)can be legislated into conformity with whatever a legal system considers appropriate. I know of no successful precedents for this endeavour.
Finally does anyone believe that the violence in Yugoslavia and or Rwanda was caused in however small an extent by "racial slurs"?
I might add that, to my knowledge, this preoccupation with all things PC is not European so much as British. I might be wrong on this though.
posted by talos at 5:43 AM on June 17, 2003


Slightly off topic:
As a reference to global hooliganism, a fairly recent football match between Russia and the Republic of Ireland in Moscow was marred by post-match violence conducted by the skinhead groups so evident in today's Moscow. They were extremely well prepared in their attacks on Irish supporters as can be seen in the picture on the bottom of this site [Warning: Combat18 site]. Bizarrely the article sounds almost fair, but the rest of that site worries me.

Should this kind of 'free speech' be allowed? Inciting sectarian violence deliberately through the use of widely known symbols in Northern Ireland? Russian hooligans are known to look up to the English hooligans and I personally saw gangs of them carrying the Union Jack through Moscow's streets last August.
posted by knapah at 6:30 AM on June 17, 2003


Banning slurs by law just creates a veneer of propriety that masks a deeper racism in a society

I agree that racism goes deeper than words, but I don't see why you shouldn't set out to tackle the deeper causes AND address an issue such as threatening behaviour at football matches. If I was a member of a minority and being subjected to threatening racial abuse in front of thousands of people, it would go some way to assuring me that civilized citizens were on my side if the perpetrators were removed. I'm not so sure about arrested, but at least removed and banned.

I might add that, to my knowledge, this preoccupation with all things PC is not European so much as British.

This isn't about differences between Europe and the US or even Britain and Europe, it's about this particular administration.

On social issues the Labour government is still very left wing at heart and believes in meddling. I don't mind this law so much because it only applies to football matches, although I think it should be up to individual clubs to ban the guilty parties and not a matter of arrest for the individual.

What I do object to is laws such as incitement to religious hatred, which, although brought about to protect muslims from racist attacks, in effect make it possible to arrest people just for attacking a religion. But then this Government, due to its huge majority, can basically do what it wants with no debate - this law was brought in on the back of the anti-terrorism bill, which no one wanted to oppose.
posted by Summer at 6:37 AM on June 17, 2003


If I was a member of a minority and being subjected to threatening racial abuse in front of thousands of people, it would go some way to assuring me that civilized citizens were on my side if the perpetrators were removed. I'm not so sure about arrested, but at least removed and banned.
Summer, I don't mind removal or even banishment. I would encourage confrontation with the racist thugs- that would really assure me that civilized citizens are on my side. I am very uneasy with arrest because I do not consider that it is the government's role to legislate morality (because there being no actual physical attacks that is what this is about).
posted by talos at 7:29 AM on June 17, 2003


Confrontation talos? You can't expect ordinary, unorganised bystanders to involve themselves with potentially violent thugs. It's just not going to happen in most situations. It's up to the police to enforce order.

I also don't like the government involving itself, so we agree on that one. This law makes little logical sense. You can't be racist in a football ground but you can be, say, in the street outside? It's another half-arsed law from a muddled administration led by Saint Tony of the Moral Highground, as per my comment above.

Another complication is that the insulted group (Pakistanis) is not the target in this situation. It's actually the rival supporters, in which case this is a much lesser offence in my opinion than shouting 'you're going home in a fucking ambulance' at them - which is incitment to violence. Insulting their town doesn't have quite the same effect.
posted by Summer at 8:17 AM on June 17, 2003


*takes his hat off to i_cola's mesmeric post*

Languagehat: The cure for speech is more speech.

Sorry to dig this up, but all others things being equal I agree with you. The fact of the matter is that they are not. 'Paki' is used as an insult by a numerically superior community to a small one. Even though critical examination of falsehood (or debate, or just getting in someone's face and giving as good as you get) yields truth (or at least parity from previous parentheses) as JS Mill noted, it's awfully hard to do that when you're a outnumbered ten or one hundred to one. To my mind, one has to bear in mind the power dynamic inherent in language. That's the reason for outlawing certain forms of expression, because it forebodes unacceptable actions towards those who are all but powerless to oppose it.
posted by dmt at 3:26 PM on June 17, 2003


dmt: Are there really more white racialists than South Asians in the UK? Somehow I doubt that. It would be interesting to see the numbers, though.

There definitely are more white people, no disagreement there. Do you have any idea how many white racialists there are, though? Somehow I doubt it. Just because a person is white, does not mean they are in opposition to Pakistanis (or anyone else). In a way, you're comment is like counting every Briton as a Christian because the UK is a Christian nation... which would not really be true at all. I'm sure there are many, many more white people who eat curry, listen to Indian music, and genuinely want to learn more about South Asian culture.

That's the reason for outlawing certain forms of expression

I hate to come back into this, but you just -- literally -- advocated outlawing forms of expression. And... the most recent justification you gave for it still has no impact on me whatsoever.
posted by son_of_minya at 10:08 PM on June 17, 2003


Off-topic and purely out of curiousity: son_of_minya, is there a particular reason you use the word "racialist" where most people would say "racist"?
posted by hippugeek at 1:28 AM on June 18, 2003


seems to me you're trying to make a straw man out of a fairly decent argument son_of_minya... I don't see dmt attempting to articulate the number of white racists. It seems to this reader that dmt is simply noting that in most hate speech exchanges, the people making the hate speech possess a numerical majority - which seems obvious on its face, as the types of people who make hate speech hardly seem the type to pick a fight when they're outnumbered.

If this reader is viewing dmt's post correctly, then your objection - dmt can't possibly know the total number of both white racists and asians, and that there are probably less racists than he thinks anyway - isn't very effective, since even if you're right, in hate speech encounters the smaller number of white racists would still have a numerical advantage over the smaller still subset of the asian population.
posted by cohappy at 1:55 AM on June 18, 2003


son_of_minya

Sorry to take so long to come back on earlier points:

dmt: I think such legislation serves as an expression of its condemnation of the action which shorthand such as 'Paki' and 'Chinki' denotes.

son_of_minya: Sort of how the religious Right thinks anti-sodomy legislation serves as an expression of its condemnation of an immoral action? My position is neither Left-wing nor Right-wing. I am just saying that legislating morality is immoral.


Yes, exactly right. But then while under law sexual relations – and the privacy within which they are conducted - are protected, discrimination has been societaly deemed to be illegitimate and is prevented by law. You’re not just comparing apples and oranges but trying to equate one with the other.

Your point about numbers is apposite. The British National Party has a mere 16 councillors in the UK. There are more councillors of an ethnic descent from the subcontinent by at least an order of magnitude. That said, I stand by the premise that there is a power dynamic in language and the use of these terms is an expression of a community which feels stronger than another. While there may not be more white racists than Asian Britons, they do identify as a part of a larger community and think of itself as its outriders. When their hateful shorthand washes back over into the mainstream to the extent that the non racist find it acceptable to say things like “I come from a culture that finds it acceptable to say things like "I'm just going to the Paki shop” then they may even have a point.

The fact remains that one primarily uses 'Paki' to disparage, threaten or demean. One does this out of an expression of urges which unchecked would find expression in unacceptable action. That the term has been debased and its coinage devalued does not legitimise it.

While not every white Briton is a racist - indeed, blessedly few are - they have the potential to be one. If there's no check on disparaging people on the basis of their ethnicity that sends a message of tacit acceptance that it's ok to call people 'Pakis', that it's ok to make value judgements based on ethnicity and ultimately that it's ok to be racist.

While being ardently pro-free speech I am in favour of outlawing a tiny subset of expressions because they're near as dammit to verbal violence. There's no meaning expressed in such phrases, merely the expression of prejudice - 'Paki' is only ever said to wound, or by those who're too apathetic to think about the emotional impact of such a word on those to whom it refers. If one thinks that 'Pakis' are inferior - as the use of the word intimates - then explain it to me, using logic, science and reason, don't toss an ugly word at me and expect me to assume that you've a basis for your prejudice.
posted by dmt at 2:54 AM on June 18, 2003


...all others things being equal I agree with you. The fact of the matter is that they are not. 'Paki' is used as an insult by a numerically superior community to a small one.... To my mind, one has to bear in mind the power dynamic inherent in language. That's the reason for outlawing certain forms of expression, because it forebodes unacceptable actions towards those who are all but powerless to oppose it.

While being ardently pro-free speech I am in favour of outlawing a tiny subset of expressions because they're near as dammit to verbal violence. There's no meaning expressed in such phrases, merely the expression of prejudice...


Sorry to weigh in again—I figured I'd explained myself at great length and would stay out of the discussion—but dmt has expressed the opposing view in such a dialectically beautiful way I can't resist trying to make him rethink things; anyone who can write so clearly and has such good instincts can surely be brought to see the contradiction in his position. So here goes:

1) All other things are never equal; there are always good reasons to suppress free speech (just as there are always good reasons to evade laws protecting the rights of the accused: a crime is likely to be committed, we desperately need to find a terrorist, &c.). Free speech is inherently uncomfortable; you don't need to protect comfortable, nice speech. The whole point of having free speech is to allow people to say nasty, vile things that make you want to shut them up—that's how you know it's working. The ACLU lost a lot of members when they supported the right of Nazis to march in Skokie; I send them my money because they supported the right of Nazis to march. If they support Nazis, they'll definitely support me if I "get out of line."

2) "near as dammit to verbal violence": This makes no sense on two counts: there's no such thing as verbal violence except in a metaphorical sense (and laws should not be metaphorical), and "near as dammit" doesn't count—you can't prosecute someone for coming "near as dammit" to hitting you with a car. Similarly for "That's the reason for outlawing certain forms of expression, because it forebodes unacceptable actions": you can't outlaw things that "forebode unacceptable actions" unless you want a police state. We all have fears, prejudices, ideas, &c. about what is sure to follow from events, but if you go back and check on the predictions of op-ed columnists, MeFites, or anyone else, you'll discover they generally turn out to be wrong. The world is infinitely complex, and a minor event in some remote part of the planet can cause huge disruptions half a world away. We can guess, but never know. So you can only outlaw actions, not things that might lead to actions.

3) "There's no meaning expressed in such phrases": of course there is; it's just a meaning you don't like. And even if there weren't, so what? Speech isn't protected because it has certain meanings; it's protected because humans need to speak, to express themselves, the same way they need to sleep and to love, and to forbid it is a crime against humanity (if you'll forgive the pomposity).

4) I really urge you to think about the contradiction in this: "While being ardently pro-free speech I am in favour of outlawing a tiny subset of expressions..." You can't be "ardently pro-free speech" and in favor of suppressing speech at the same time; it's like being an ardent monotheist and only accepting a few other gods, tiny ones, downright insignificant. Doesn't work.

I apologize for going on at such length, but this is important stuff, and I figure by now only people who really care are still bothering to check the thread!
posted by languagehat at 6:56 AM on June 18, 2003


Give it up, langueagehat. There are two groups arguing here. Those who believe free speech is sacred, such as yourself. And those who believe that society is ultimately better served by some restrictions on absolute free speech, such as myself. It's clear by now that neither side is going to convince the other, so there's no point arguing about it. There are no contradictions in either point of view and neither view is absolutely right or wrong. It's just a philosophical outlook.

As plep pointed out, all those who have identified themselves as British football fans have come out in favour of the judge's decision. That says something to me, that we are the only ones who really understand the circumstances behind the useage of the language, and it's ultimate effects on British society.
posted by salmacis at 7:49 AM on June 18, 2003


I wasn't talking to you, salmacis. You've already made it perfectly clear that your mind is made up and can't be changed. If anyone wants to actually address my arguments instead of chanting "racism is bad!" I'll be glad to hear from them. And the day I take my political views from British football fans will be a cold day in hell. No offense.
posted by languagehat at 9:23 AM on June 18, 2003


Personally I come from a culture that finds it acceptable to say things like "I'm just going to the Paki shop, do you want anything?

That'll be 'bigot culture', then.
posted by riviera at 11:07 AM on June 18, 2003


salmacis, I'm a British football fan--go Liverpool!--and my comments can hardly be taken as supporting this decision. Don't exaggerate.
posted by billsaysthis at 11:43 AM on June 18, 2003


hippugeek: The articles and the Football Act itself used the term racialist. Also, before reading this, I thought Ali G had made that word up. It's a good word.

cohappy:
seems to me you're trying to make a straw man out of a fairly decent argument son_of_minya... I don't see dmt attempting to articulate the number of white racists. It seems to this reader that dmt is simply noting that in most hate speech exchanges, the people making the hate speech possess a numerical majority
No straw man. I think your going a little further than dmt, actually.

Refer back to previous comments here, which give anecdotal evidence of hate rallies being drowned out by opposition. I'm not trying to prove to the entire field of sociology that this is the case, but I think nearly everyone will agree that it is. In cases of actual hate crime, involving gangs of thugs intimidating individuals, yes. In "most hate speech exchanges," I don't think so.

Even in the article the FPP linked, you don't really think the entire stadium was filled with racists, do you? AFAIK, only one man was arrested. Of course, I think the article also said there were hardly any South Asians in the crowd, so it was sort of ridiculous that the hooligans would be chanting "paki." But...is this a case of threatening numerical superiority, or just a case of hooligans misappropriating a word as a slur; the way street kids use the word "fag," for example?

dmt:

As pointed out earlier in the thread, there are already laws protecting people from threats and intimidation. What hasn't been touched on yet (AFAIK) is whether the people in the crowd were even directing their words towards South Asians. True, it is a very bad thing to do, but it is not a direct threat towards a minority. It's just the defaming of a minority, which is very different when looking at this in terms of "violent speech."

There's no meaning expressed in such phrases, merely the expression of prejudice...

And this is what it really boils down to, which I've been trying to get at the whole time. This type of legislation is basically an extension of obscenity laws. As obscene language serves no "valid" purpose and only debases humanity, raising prurient interest, and leading to immoral acts, so does so-called racialist language.

If I were a British stadium owner, I would 1) eject any fan who carries on in an unsportsmanlike fashion, and 2) publicly humiliate them from the press box. Bringing the law into it will only bring innocent people into the criminal justice system and set precedent for serious curtailment of civil liberties.
posted by son_of_minya at 11:46 AM on June 18, 2003


Are these stadiums privately owned and operated? If they are, I think I know the better solution. If they aren't, then maybe they really should be. Then the Squad of Language Vice & Virtues can prevent all the racially-charged soccer hooliganism it wants.
posted by dgaicun at 11:47 AM on June 18, 2003


If I were a British stadium owner, I would 1) eject any fan who carries on in an unsportsmanlike fashion,

Jinx.
posted by dgaicun at 11:51 AM on June 18, 2003


son_of_minya,

Perhaps I am badly interpreting another poster's comments, but I thought dmt was responding to languagehat's idea: The cure for speech is more speech. At this point the ideas being discussed have shifted out of the realm of the physical to the philosophical. dmt provides an argument against the ideas languagehat is offering, concluding that even though he identifies himself as "ardently free speech" he is still in favor of "outlawing a certain subset of expressions." languagehat seems to realize than we've traveled into philosophical territory as well, and responds in kind.

Thus, your reply to me - Even in the article the FPP linked, you don't really think the entire stadium was filled with racists, do you? - is dismissable and irrelevant, as the conversation has shifted towards a debate about the idea that speech can have no limits put on it of any kind, which means this section of your post - And this is what it really boils down to, which I've been trying to get at the whole time. This type of legislation is basically an extension of obscenity laws. As obscene language serves no "valid" purpose and only debases humanity, raising prurient interest, and leading to immoral acts, so does so-called racialist language. - is the only part worth anything.
posted by cohappy at 1:45 PM on June 18, 2003


cohappy: I was directly responding to you. You've completely lost me with this last comment; and possibly your mind. You seem to be pulling the same stunt as a certain person I'd prefer not to name -- declaring that the physical and conceptual are seperate and one or the other is not being focused on, so therefore what was written is irrelevent. May be reading too much into your comment, but I also catch the scent of misguided elitism on the part of someone who thinks he's been slighted and wants to believe that the other person is wrong no matter what they write.

Am genuinely sorry that you're so philosophical and that my rebuttal to your comment is so irrelevent, but if you want to avoid irrelevent answers stop asking irrelevent questions.

I could go off on a rant here, quoting exactly what others and myself have written, but there's a good chance you won't get it and I'll end up going on a sweaty-toothed rage again. So just forget it. At least you deem my last comment worthy -- even though I've written it several times here by now and this is the first anyone seems to have noticed.
posted by son_of_minya at 3:32 PM on June 18, 2003


I see. I'm genuinely sorry, I'll attempt to be more clear. When I read languagehat's writing - the cure for speech is more speech - I read someone offering an idea, not directly discussing the fpp, the idea being that existing system already in place, one that allows judges to make laws as such in the fpp, are inadequate.

Again, I read languagehat's comment as signaling the need for a new "foundation", as it were - we can't start with the idea that banned some forms of speech is ok, and attempt to build a law out of it.

Rather, what we need is to start with the idea that no speech can be banned, period. If this idea is the foundation, then the judges decision would be illegal, people would learn to not to get too excited about hate speech, and all the other good fun things that represent the "really free" free speech side of this issue.

This an idea that dmt disagrees with. He provides an argument which you've already attacked and I've already defended.

What confuses me, and thus is probably the source of my "misguided elitism" and penchant for "declaring that the physical and conceptual are separate and one or the other is not being focused on, so therefore what was written is irrelevant" is the manner in which you object to dmt's remarks:

languagehat proposes an idea.

dmt disagrees, and offers another.

son_of_minya objects to dmt's argument by saying that the ideas dmt presents are incorrect because in this fpp the situation was not one in which he describes.

Do you understand my confusion? I'm reading your response to the idea that people who use hate speech often possess numerical superiority as basically saying "but they didn't in this instance."

Even if that is true, and you're right, do you honestly believe that you've disproven dmt's idea?

Perhaps I am insane and need to both freshen up on my reading comprehension skills and stop putting words in other's mouths, but please believe that I am sincere in everything I wrote.
posted by cohappy at 5:42 PM on June 18, 2003


cohappy:

son_of_minya objects to dmt's argument by saying that the ideas dmt presents are incorrect because in this fpp the situation was not one in which he describes.

There's the problem.

Everyone here has read the FPP, so it's a convenient example. I don't think one case is going to prove any point, but it is useful for illustrating one. (And... besides that, the FPP never went away in the first place. Unless I'm mistaken, it's still at the top of the page.)

I never said that dmt's ideas were incorrect because of that particular situation either. The first part of the comment was directed towards you specifically, using the FPP as an example of a "hate speech exchange." That segued into the second part of the comment, which was more about the true (IMHO) nature of what dmt termed "violent speech." Then I came back to the FPP again to suggest a blatantly obvious private sector solution.

I know, it's rambling, but it makes perfect sense, trust me. The important thing is that dmt seems to have gotten it.
posted by son_of_minya at 6:12 PM on June 18, 2003


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