Hate and the SDMB

There is already a thread discussing the possible changes to the rules of the Pit. Since all of the potential changes are being discussed simultaneously, I want to focus on the issue of “Hate speech”.

I’ve seen hate expressed for all of the following on these boards:

White Police officers
Child Molestors
Abortion Doctors

Hate exists. When a person expresses their hatred here, it might be applauded or attacked, depending on the target of the hatred and of course, the audience. Should the admission of hating a group of people or even an individual be allowed on these boards? If I say “I hate the bastard who killed the little 5 year old girl”, nobody would probably have any issue with that. If I said “I hate any Christian that thinks that gays shouldn’t be allowed to adopt”, I would possibly get both flamed and congratulated. Should a line be drawn and if so, where?

If someone has not violated the “Don’t be a jerk” rule and in their mind, legitimately hates a person or group of people, I appreciate the honesty. I like knowing how a person really feels. As a gay male, there are too many people in this world that are nice to my face but later on will ridicule me or make jokes or express their hatred for me. I think it is always better to know how someone feels up front, and if you disagree, be vocal about it. Every once in a while, somebody learns something in the process and maybe even a little ignorance is fought. I might be very pro-police, for example, thinking they are the saviours of society. Then, a black woman might explain that her husband is pulled over three times a week because he fits a profile by driving a nice car. Maybe her sister was shot while reaching for her ID. I might not think the hatred is valid, but at least I can try to understand the reasoning. That’s the important part, I think. Trying to understand the reasons why people hate.


  1. Are you in favor of banning expressions of hatred. If so, why?
  2. Where should the line be drawn as to what is allowed and what isn’t?
  3. If someone hates another person. Would you rather you know about it or wish that they keep it a secret?

Mods, Lynn asked me to mention that she gave me the go ahead to put this thread here.

My $.02: People should be allowed to post anything they want. As long as it’s not in the wrong forum, and isn’t trolling, I see no problem with it. Or, of course, if some sort of a crime is taking place, either criminal or just a violation of copyrights.

I don’t want to see Political Correctness distort the freedom of expression that I love about this board.

I’m not sure it’s Political Correctness; it’s more like Social Correctness. Political correctness, for example, would forbid offending anyone, thus prohibitting the images of crucified deities used as curses as well as colorful metaphors that insult races. Rather, what is forbidden is offending selected people. You may offend people of faith but not people of color. In my case, I happen to be both, and I would much much MUCH rather that you call me an Indian giver than call my God damned.

(I do understand Gaudere’s reasoning, or at least the basis of it, but that doesn’t mean that I agree with it. I can both understand and disagree.)

Well said Debaser. That is exactly how I feel. Creative use of the “Don’t be a jerk” rule should be enough. If someone feels hate is defensible, let em give it a shot, if they can remain civil in their arguments. Unless their in the pit. And even there no trolling. That covers it as far as I’m concerned. Things like “lawn chair” rules and disallowing hatred (usually a result of the worst kind of ignorance - and therefore in need of fighting) alltogether is a serious case of overkill.

DaLovin’ Dj

If I might add another question…

Are some forms of hate ok? Such as " I hate you because you are a child molester". Or is that still ignorant?

How about hating people who hate people? :wink:

The question that comes to my mind is this: can the SDMB be held legally accountable for the actions of one poster against another? If so, then I understand any and all “banning” of speech. Our delicate sensabilities as a nation of laws did it, not the SDMB.

Remember: Paladin books (I think this was their name) was held accountable for the actions of someone that read their How to be a Hit Man book. Loompanics, another publisher, has discontinued selling the book and also other how to books.

Speech that hurts or can be used to hurt has, in some specific respects at least, been used for legal action against third parties. Now, not being a lawyer I hope I will be filled in on the juicy details I am missing, but the disclaimer “This book is for information purposes only. We will not be held accountable for the any actions taken which are in violation of the law” didn’t help Paladin, and Loompanics felt it wouldn’t help them anymore, either.

musicguy, for a sarcastic answer, it is acceptable to degrade child molesters in general because they are criminals. Doubleplusgood speech and all of that. Even pedophiles in thought have taken a beating on this board. Hell, even non-pedophiles who merely think about girls that are between, say, 14 and 16 have taken a beating on this board.

*Originally posted by musicguy *
1) Are you in favor of banning expressions of hatred. If so, why?

No, absolutely not. No form of speech should be banned. If we are to truly “fight ignorance”, then forbidding some topics is hypocritical. How can any discussion be fair if some viewpoints are disallowed? It can’t. Banning certain views will artificially bias the discussion, regardless of how repugnant those views are. Certain rules of decorum should be enforced of course, but dictating what is and is not a valid opinion is not in line with the mission of this board.
2) Where should the line be drawn as to what is allowed and what isn’t?

It shouldn’t be drawn at all. We are all adults here (well, mostly anyway) and should be able to discuss anything with civility. If we can discuss freakin’ miniature cities on the moon and whether the Apollo missions were hoaxes we can discuss racism and antisemitism. Racism is a topic that needs to be discussed more frankly than it is anyway, and we are viewing the world through rose colored glasses if we think it will just go away if we don’t allow those who are racist to speak.

The protection of all viewpoints is exactly why the US has our most cherished ammendment - the First.

However, this is a privately run site and the first ammendment doesn’t really apply here. The powers that be at the Chicago Reader may have a vested interest (legal or otherwise) in banning some forms of speech. If the want to ban all mention of, say, the Inuit and igloo construction, then we all have to go along with that. I may not like that if I have a bug up my ass about ice block houses, but it doesn’t matter. It is the Chicago Reader’s perogative to set the restrictions. If the restrictions beome too severe, I can (and will) leave.
3) If someone hates another person. Would you rather you know about it or wish that they keep it a secret?

I would rather know, I am not afraid to discuss any topic
4.) Are some forms of hate ok? Such as " I hate you because you are a child molester". Or is that still ignorant?

As a Christian, I really don’t think any form of hate is “OK”. However, as a thinking man, I realize that others may have different worldviews than my own. I believe I am adult enough to handle that and yet still hold opinions on right and wrong. (racists - wrong; child molestors - wrong; discussing and trying to understand these evils in order to fight ignorance - right)

The first amendment issue intrigues me. It would seem that this isn’t any different than say, having a discussion in an auditorium. Sure, the auditorium may be owned by Company X. Are they really liable for the speech that occurs within though? That would seem like it was in a slightly different realm than a book publisher. Any lawyers that would like to comment?

And erislover, I chose the child molester example obviously due to the amount of hatred that many people express towards them. I have seen some of your defenses though on this topic and I agree with you.

As my old high school American history teacher used to say, “The answer to bad free speech is more free speech.” Let them bring their hate speech here and attempt to defend it rationally. In my experience, those folks don’t last too long going mano a mano with some of the august debators who hang out here. I say anti-trolling and the infinitely flexible “Don’t be a jerk” rules work just fine. This board has the highest level of discourse I’ve seen anywhere on the internet. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

What is the real difference between hate speech, delivered to stimulate reaction and cause harm, and trolling? It seems that on a message board, hate speech is just one subset of trolling. This is manifestly different than merely hating or holding an unpopular opinion.


Trolls generally don’t hold the beliefs they profess to. It seems to me that if a person can say, “I hate all gay people, and here’s why,” they should be able to.

Maeglin, when a person hates something, though, aren’t they also liable to say things intended to hurt those they hate?

I think the rules should be different here in GD from what they are in the Pit.

Personal attacks of any sort, and the use of insulting terms for groups of people, should not be allowed here, unless the use can be backed up with proof. Referring to NAMBLA as a bunch of incipient child-molestors, or Al Sharpton as a liar, would be OK. Use of racial or religious epithets would not.

I have posted in the thread discussing the Pit rules regarding the use of one particular insulting generalization that I think unfortunate - the term “fundie”. I am not always sure that it is inadvertently insulting, although sometimes it is.

It may be like my late grandmother’s use of the term "colored’ for black people. She honestly didn’t think of it as insulting, although some certainly found it to be so.

Maeglin - are you thinking of hate speech as simple flame bait, or do you mean expressing a racially biased idea as part of a discussion? I think there is a distinction.


I’m not sure that I have understood the rule right and I am not certain that I’ve read the posts right in this thread either, but I have feeling there is a slight misunderstanding somewhere in all this.

Doesn’t the ruling apply to hate speech, that is to say hateful diatribe towards a group of people based on qualities inherent to people of that group, usually a minority?

I would thereby surmise that expressing hatred of for instance child molesters wouldn’t qualify as hate speech, but as just hateful speech, which is arguably slightly different.

Sociably speaking I think that hate speech is absolutely unacceptable and as such has no place in civilized society, thereby amongst other places the SDMB. Hateful speech on the other hand, albeit probably not the politest and nicest way to argue a point would be vaguely acceptable in civilized society, while it would remain unacceptable in polite society.

Hence both should be off limits in the lofty sitting rooms of Great Debates, or in the steamy kitchen that is MPSIMS, while in the smoky barrooms of the Pit it would be all right to go off the handle in the second way, or am I misreading all this?

In any case I have a question to the thread in regards where hates speech begins and ends; what about bigoted slurs that aren’t really hateful but still extremely offensive such as in; ‘Europeans routinely burn synagogues.’ Is that hate speech or just deep seated bigotry and ignorance? Independent of which it falls under, how should one deal with it in a public forum such as the SDMB?

I have real hard time getting my mind around all this. I feel a moral obligation to take people to town on those kinds of opinions independent if its real hate speech or just bigotry, in the same time I know how futile the task is if it isn’t part of a long and concerted effort to sway someone from those kinds of opinions. Could the SDMB as a whole be considered a concerted effort through its mission to ‘fight ignorance’? In that case I think one should accept the milder forms of bigotry as long as they don’t go troll, while the ‘hate speech ruling’ makes sense since we can never hope to sway anyone with deep seated hatred based on bigotry through a message board. The presence of such things then only serves to debase the quality of the exchange.

As I said, I don’t know, I find that this all is very hard to grasp in any manageable way.


I am not a lawyer, but my take is that it is and isn’t different. Vague enough? Anyway, erislover’s example of Paladin books doesn’t really apply here because they knowingly provided the information with which to perform a criminal act. SDMB has a very clear policy of not providing such information (you can’t even post info on file sharing software here). Also, any criminal or civil case would be very hard to win against a message board because, unlike in the case of a publisher, it would be hard to prove that the admins knew the offending material was there, so I don’t think the Chicago Reader has much to worry about in that regard. TOTSE doesn’t seem too worried, and they even post text files on how to make bombs!

But that’s not what we are talking about here. Teaching a person how to commit murder may be illegal, but hate speech isn’t. If they wanted to, the Tribune could dedicate it’s entire Sunday edition to how all races besides the Inuit are “mud people” and genetically inferior. The paper would tank after that of course, but they would be protected by the first ammendment.

Being in the media business and having the desire to actually turn a profit, papers have a certain image to keep up. If this site was flooded with neo-nazi’s, it could become a public relations nightmare for them. When I mentioned the first ammendment in my earlier post it was simply to remind that the Chicago Reader retains the right to censor us. In the interest of free speech and the stated mission of this board they should keep a very light hand when it comes to censoring posters, but they still retain that right to censor.

My worry is that hate speech will be defined much more broadly than speech “delivered to stimulate reaction and cause harm”. If we kept it at that, then you are right, that’s no different from trolling. However, I can easily see discussions of African descendents of the “twelve tribes of Israel”, pit threads regarding “the damn Amish”, or a baptist stating that all Catholics are damned to Hell producing bannings. I believe even the most ignorant and unpopular ideas have need to be examined, provided those who do so act with a certain bit of decorum. I have met some mind-boggling racist people who were very polite. These people will remain blissfully unaware of their own ignorance unless it is discussed.

In short, we already have a rule against trolling, what use is another rule except to expand the reach of the first one? The only real way to expand the reach of the “don’t be a jerk” rule (which already covers insults) is to tread into the territory of ideas. That makes me wary.

My point is this: Paladin provided the expression of material that could hurt other people. If the SDMB allowed such expression of speech that hurts, could they be held responsible for anything?

Paladin didn’t write the book. They just published it. You see why I wonder if there is any way that painful or inflammatory speech could be used against the SDMB?

I think it is stupid that anything like that could happen. I think Paladin got the shaft big time. I just wonder if the same style of thought applies.

And Beeb, teaching a person to commit murder isn’t illegal. But you can be brought to court over it. I think it was a civil case, not a criminal one.

You are correct about the legality of course, perhaps I misspoke. You can be held responsible for the death of someone if you teach another to kill, but simply allowing someone to spew filth is not going to get you any fines in a civil court. There is a difference between physical and emotional harm. You’re example might of worked if Paladin had been sued for libel rather than reckless endangerment or whatever it was they were sued for, but even then hate speech isn’t libel unless it is directed at a specific person or organization. Simply writing “the Inuit are mud people” isn’t libel, but it is hate speech. I suppose the Inuit could find a lawyer to file a frivolous lawsuit alleging “emotional distress”, but I can sue my neighbor for not saying hey to me last Tuesday. Both have about 1/100th the chance of working as the Paladin case - nobody died or suffered physical or financial harm.

Eh? No you can’t.

I’ve done martial arts over the years. I used to learn how to kill people twice a week, every week. If I then went out and actually killed someone I would be held responsible, not my instructor.

I’m not familiar with the Paladin case so I can’t comment on that except to say I’m not surprised it was a civil case rather than a criminal case. Civil cases require a lower standard of proof than criminal cases.

To win a civil case, all you need to do is prove the accused is guilty on balance of probabilities ie 50% ie it’s more likely than not that the accused done the deed. To win a criminal case, you need to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused done the deed. Criminal guilt requires a higher standard of proof.

If we are talking about legal accountability here, we need to understand that what we are talking about is the means of transmission of information.

Three means of transmission have been mentioned:

  • information transmitted via a discussion held in an auditorium owned by Company X

  • information transmitted via an internet message board

  • information transmitted via a published book

I would think that each of these three would be viewed differently (by the law). However there is a crucial difference between the first two and the last one (the book).

The first two merely provide a forum wherein things can be discussed. The book provides direct information on a particular subject and so therefore is (arguably) more culpable.

Since the SDMB is quite obviously not a “hate” site I would think it extremely unlikely that anyone could successfully sue the Reader for something they read on this board. If the SDMB were a hate site and had a history of incitement and a history of providing people with instructions on who to kill and how to do it, then it might be different.

However, having said that, and bearing in mind what I said earlier about civil cases requiring a lower standard of proof, it makes legal good sense for the SDMB to be careful about what they allow people to say - any Joe can bring a civil suit.

Although they would still need to have some kind of a case. Courts take a dim view of frivolous lawsuits.

As regards the wider world (outside the SDMB) - I don’t have a problem with hate speech. If somebody hates a whole group of people for some reason then they obviously have some kind of ignorance which needs to be eradicated. It’s impossible to rationally hate a whole group of people.

You might be able to hate one particular person, I suppose, (although I don’t hate anyone) but you can’t rationally hate a group of people since all people are unique and different.

This would extend even to extreme examples, such as “I hate all child molesters”. I might be in favour of locking them up for the rest of their lives but I don’t really see where hate comes into the equation.

Well, here’s a link to a story that could relate to this discussion here; what it doesn’t show, though, is the headline on the main page, which reads “Free Speech for the Few: Girl Sues High School For Not Letting Her Criticize Gay Lifestyle.”

Does this count as “hate,” I wonder? Even if it doesn’t, is the connection too hot to handle? And what do you do when someone just doesn’t agree with your idea of diversity? Usually, it’s pretty easy, but in a school, that often seems like another issue entirely…