Wednesday, December 27, 2017

When Hate Speech Came to Ham

I posted this last week on a neighbourhood Website: 

The Greenwich council has declared the deceitful, indecent, inhumane, xenophobic monster Donald Trump persona non grata in their borough. I, an American in Ham, avidly urge my neighbours to petition their own councillors to do the same.

Many of my neighbours were not pleased, in a way that made clear that Americans might have an awful lot of it, but certainly have no monopoly on political naivete. And the Brits can't punctuate they just can't!

MS, Bushy Park 
You, and your like, pose a real threat to democracy. We should remember that not only was he  elected democratically but the very essence of the democratic process permits individuals to travel as they wish no matter how much we may personally disagree with their views.

The gentleman accuses ME of threatening democracy, and is not bothered by Trump's campaign to disenfranchise voters of colour, muzzle the free press, and elevate himself above the law at every turn? I won't pretend not to find that incomprehensible.

CS, East Twickenham
So agitating about him on this local forum now is simply virtue signalling- see how righteous I am!  Since we are all agreed that we don’t like him, there’s no reason to keep going on about him. As my old mum used to say, if you can’t find anything good to say about someone, much better to say nothing at all.

RK, Canbury Gardens 
He should come and we should have a dialogue with him. He does some good things and many bad but banning him isn't the answer. We should have discussions

AL, Latchmere 
John Mendelssohn must be barred from this website. His vile, unsubstantiated abuse of the President of just about our only ally is actionable in law and has no place on this forum.

DS, Teddington Park
Freedom of expression is great, until someone calls you a "deceitful, indecent, inhumane, xenophobic monster". There are limits, and in a country that calls itself civilised we should be able to see that.

With which part of deceitful, indecent, inhumane, xenophobic monster did you disagree, Mr. S? I'll concede that "monster" involves some editorialising, but the rest of it is abundantly documentable. 

Mr Mendelssohn there is a post from earlier that suggests American nationals should go back to America and protest in person, i've seen people take offence and call the police for less. I merely asked people to respect other peoples opinions as we are all entitled to have them. Freedom of speech welcome, no policing here.

We diverge on this, Ms. or Mr. Police. This is The Idea That Poisoned America, and that led to Trump's election:  My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge, and just as deserving of deference.  I do not automatically accord respect to anyone simply on the basis of his or her ability to type words into a little box. As for people taking offence, as the great British sage Ricky Gervais has pointed out, the fact of one's being offended doesn't make him or her right, but only offended.

PG, Petersham
Enough, John Mendelssohn. Your bile filled language is bordering on hate speech and your thoughts on "subliterate idiots" as opposed to "distinguished members of political science faculties" is one step away from the herrenvolk concept.

Nope. Hate speech is that directed at an ethnic, sexual, or other minority on the basis of an involuntary characteristic, like skin colour or erotic preference. That said, I do indeed hate the defiantly stupid — people whose credo is "My ignorance is just as good as your wisdom". Such people elected Donald Trump, the most ghastly political leader in the history of Western democracy. But they're not the only ones I hate. I also hate racists, homophobes, Pink Floyd (a free lunch at Gregg's to anyone who gets the joke), violent religious fundamentalists, misogynists, litterers, and those who park so sloppily as to occupy two spaces. And I submit to you that the foregoing sentence did NOT constitute hate speech.

People feeling that their ignorance should be given exactly as much credence/respect as someone else's expertise is what got us in the ghastly pickle we're in, with a dangerous moron in the White House. That's actually one of the things I can't fathom about democracy — that the subliterate idiot with a [Sarah] Palin for President 2012 on the back of his pickup truck and an eighth-grade education gets the same number of votes as the most distinguished member of the political science department at Harvard (or Cambridge, or Oxford, for that matter). As for the ludicrous statement that Trump has done some good — like what, I wonder, tossing rolls of paper towels to Puerto Ricans who'd lost their homes? — I continue to believe that those who spew utter nonsense do NOT have an automatic right to respect.

DC, Petersham
So let me get this straight, Mr Mendelssohn. You're suggesting that only a privileged group (from Harvard or even Oxford or Cambridge) get the vote, while others ("who spew utter nonsense" ) are denied it?

This seems somewhat discriminatory and turns respect for others into a travesty don't you think?  But while you're on your soapbox and we're on the subject of discriminating according to education, do you have any other groups who aren't quite good enough for your world?  Perhaps some gender, religious, ethnic, socio-economic, disabled groups too?  What about cyclists?  Pet owners?  How about Catholics? Why reserve your vitriol and wish to limit the vote and respect based only on education?

John Mendelssohn 
I am turning respect for others into a travesty by objecting to the idea that someone defiantly stupid and uninformed deserves equal footing with one who has troubled himself or herself to understand the issues? You may wish to note that when I speak of education, I'm not speaking necessarily of formal education. I have known some products of Prestigious Universities whose opinions I respected far less than that of other friends who did a lot of attentive reading and listening. And now you've got me depriving disabled Catholic pet owners of their rights! Has anyone ever told you you don't do sarcasm very well, and ought to look for a different hobby, Mr. Craig?

DC, Petersham 
Sticks and stones, Mr Mendelssohn. I'm sure disabled Catholic pet-owners and others will rest easy now they have your imprimatur. A pity about the irredeemably stupid and Pink Floyd fans though. Where should  the restaurant bill be sent?

You could send it to my office, Mr. Craig, not that you seem to have understood the joke. But seriously, can you outline your objections to my idea that the vote should be restricted to those able to pass a simple civics test? [Which of these was NOT a UK Prime Minister: (a) David Cameron (b) Gordon Brown (c) David Beckham (d) Margaret Thatcher.] One must pass tests to become a citizen, or to drive. Why not to help decide who's going to make decisions that impact the lives of tens of millions of people? 

In my country in 2016, something like 65 million people heard a presidential candidate declare, for instance, "I know how to deal with Isis: we'll bomb the sh*t out of'em!" and thought to themselves, "Hey, this guy's pretty terrific!" He said, and I'm paraphrasing, "Mexicans are rapists and drug dealers, so what we'll do to keep 'em out of our country a great big wall!" and the cousin-marriers thought, "This guy's making a world of sense! Where's my polling place at?" And you're asserting that such people should help determine whose finger gets put on the nuclear button? I'm sorry, but I SO disagree. 

I have never met a disabled Catholic pet owner I didn't like, and don't actually have an office.

MSJ, Ham
It’s all a load of stuff and nonsense if he comes he comes if you don’t like it don’t go

Beautifully expressed, madam. I guess I'd just lost sight of how simple the situation is when viewed with the clarity you have brought to it.

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