H8 Speech by David Smooke addresses the ever-persistent problem of hate in our communities.
"I conceived this piece to support two of my favorite organizations whose purposes go hand in hand: The American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center. The ACLU works to protect our right to engage in political discourse without limitation, as guaranteed by the First Amendment, and more than 200 years after the drafting of the U.S. Constitution this aspiration remains the foundational principle of our democracy. However, some speech is inherently abhorrent, as it might be filled with hate, can incite violence, or otherwise preempt other voices from being heard. Therefore, while I truly believe that everyone should have access to the public sphere, I also understand the importance of holding people accountable for what they say. This is where the SPLC comes in, identifying people and organizations whose ideas involve silencing others. In this way, we fight for our right to assemble and protest, but also for other people's right to condemn the content of our speech and for what we say to have real consequences in the social sphere, although never in the political domain.
The piece itself vacillates between two emotional poles—violent storminess and calm sweetness. These two states vie for supremacy throughout this short composition, akin to how protestors and counterprotestors might react when occupying a shared space. I use the shortened version “h8” instead of “hate” in the title not just to evoke the informal speaking style found in texts and twitter posts, but also because this formulation evokes an insidious aspect of hate speech itself: many neo-Nazi groups use the symbol “88” as a shorthand for “heil Hitler,” since “h” is the eighth letter of the alphabet. These sorts of dog whistle codes abound in our online discourse, and part of the SLPC’s work is to catalog this language of the abusers.
Specific activities include:
1. Donate to the American Civil Liberties Union.
2. Donate to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
3. Check the SPLC list of hate groups to see who is in your area or is actively trying to influence people you know.
4. Research the sources for all of your information. Check media bias charts (www.adfontesmedia.com
) to see what the agenda is of the person telling you information.
5. Listen to others. Support their right to speak but also hold them accountable for the content of their speech."