It hasn’t occurred overnight. It’s been coming for a long time and those that haven’t recognized what’s been going on now for a few years are either incapable of noticing a sea change or are willfully ignorant. What I’m referring to is the idea that words are violence and criticizing someone because of what they’ve said or done is inciting violence against that person. We’ve just heard this explicitly from Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) when defending her fellow democrat, Ilhan Omar (D-MN) over a statement made in a speech where she referred to what happened on September 11, 2001, as some people did something.
So what do we hear? Criticizing a statement is inciting violence against a person. That looks to be where we’re headed as a society. We’re all victims of our own making. Personally, I don’t see this playing out well over time, especially for a politician. But as we’ve learned this year, being factually correct is not as important as being morally correct. Feelings over facts is what we’re being fed and in many cases the media are complicit in this conspiracy to silence those voices they find objectionable.
We see more and more advocacy for laws that would restrict our speech here in the United States. Having an opinion that may differ with one that is thought of as more socially acceptable is considered hate speech my many. I find it troubling to even define hate speech in our current environment. It sees to be very subjective. I know there are some that will say that there’s speech most of us would find hateful, but for me that speech would have to have some ill intent behind it.
As atheists, many of us are critical of religious belief, often working against those that would impose their belief on society in general. Could that, in this context be considered hate speech? How about people that don’t believe that same sex marriage should be legal (outside of a religious conviction)? I can find people in both instances that would agree that this is a form of hate speech where I would simply call it a difference of opinion. So then we start running around in circles because now a simple disagreement may be labeled as hate speech by either side of any question.
None of this rises to level of inciting violence against another person or a group. When we start claiming that our disagreements rise to the level of violence, we are either being hypersensitive or are fomenting the kind of division that keep reasonable people from being able to disagree.