Document:Censoring Criticism of the hate group concept
==Criticism of the hate group concept==
The “hate group” concept has come under fire in recent years from academics and intellectuals on both sides of the political spectrum, but especially the political right. Like "hate speech", "hate group" is a concept not traditionally recognized by American courts and the American legal system. Nevertheless, outside of the American legal context, the concept is widely accepted and employed.
Many critics of the term argue that the demographic divisions (racial groups, whole religions) the term attempts to insulate from group criticism are arbitrarily or ideologically selected. For example, why aren’t lesser political groups (atheist organizations, for example) or smaller religious denominations (scientologists, for example) equally protected by the label and the stigma surrounding it? In other words, instead of protecting the powerless, the term seems to insulate from criticism those populations with the most political power and capital of all. After all, any number of randomly selected demographic categories could be deemed above group criticism or political opposition, yet few are. Why do certain groups seem to be so much more worthy of the term's protections? In sum, the term appears to place arbitrary or ideology-laden restrictions on speech and activism, in defiance of the liberal democratic tradition, which asserts that all ideologies, movements, groups, and religions are fair game for philosophical critique and peaceful opposition.
Other critics of the term argue that the label is not only arbitrary, but selectively applied. Some well-known champions of the term are even on record admitting as such. Mark Potok, former senior fellow at the SPLC, the organization that basically invented the term “hate group”, conceded this years ago. In a 2009 interview, he stated that the “hate group” label is not uniformly applied, because the SPLC is by no means apolitical, but is instead a fundamentally leftist organization that does battle with radical groups on the political right in an effort to “destroy them” (his words), and that it is sometimes very much guilty of focusing on the political right, while roundly ignoring bad actors on the political left which engage in the self-same tactics and employ the self-same incendiary language as supposed “hate groups”. Some believe this political bias is driven partly by perverse economic incentives, that the SPLC chooses to focus its ire and its activism on right-wing groups and activities because that is how it appeals to its donor base and funds its massive war chest, which totaled upwards of half a billion dollars in 2018. Nevertheless, many believe that an anti-right bias is not something unique to the SPLC’s hate monitoring and classification system, but instead something that inheres in the term itself, which is to say the very concept of “hate group” is rooted in, steeped in, and defined by the ideals of the political left, and is thus partisan by nature and design.
Other critics of the term argue that virtually any political organization could potentially meet the standard definition of the term, given its breadth. For example, a cadre of left-leaning academics that regularly publishes papers criticizing “white privilege” or “white fragility”, could easily be understood to be expressing hatred toward, exhibiting animus toward, or even dehumanizing whites, as a race. Likewise, a feminist activist organization which regularly criticizes the putative prevailing culture of the male sex or the toxicity of masculinity, might also be said to be a “hate group”, according to the accepted definition of the term, given its willingness to insult an entire sex. Occupy Wall Street might also have been labeled a “hate group” on account of its open disdain for financial executives and oligarchs, who its members so endearingly labeled “banksters”. Unsurprisingly, however, Occupy Wall Street was never labeled a “hate group” by the pundit class or society at large, and none of the hypothetical groups would be labeled as such, because groups like these, that is those with the “right” values, residing on the "correct" side of the political spectrum, are rarely, if ever, described this way by the press or the powers that be.
There is therefore concern in many circles that the label is being surreptitiously employed as an illiberal and antidemocratic backdoor contrivance by various powerful entities in the West to sideline political viewpoints and movements which powerful oligarchs and interest groups do not approve of. A wide array of rightist commentators have pointed out that those organizations which share the leftist views and values of the United States Federal Government and its corporate accessories, especially on hot button issues like race, sex, and sexual orientation, are essentially completely insulated from the pejorative appellation, “hate group”.
We find a curious analogue to this structural bias for “hate group” designations in the “terror” designation process by the United States Department of State. For example, “state sponsors of terrorism” are almost invariably nations which stand in the way of United States geopolitical dominance, or which have poor diplomatic or economic relations with the United States Federal Government. After all, a vast amount of terrorism is committed by the United States Federal Government and her allies. Moreover, a vast amount of resources and weapons which find their way into the hands of terrorist groups worldwide originate in the United States and nations allied with the United States, and are built by weapons manufacturers intimately connected to the United States Federal Government and the governments of its allies. Alas, however, those allies (Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar) are basically never deemed state sponsors of terror, and the press never accuses entities deep in our own government of sponsoring terror either. Thus, being an actual state sponsor of terror seems to be an insufficient condition to land a nation on the Department of State’s list. It seems that a nation must also have the wrong politics, values, leaders, or foreign policy to earn such a designation. Similarly, only those domestic political groups which possess the “wrong” values, worldviews, or politics seem to be worthy of the "hate group" label, despite the fact that many other political groups, if not most political groups, could be fairly or accurately described as such. In some cases, as with Syria and Iran today, and Iraq prior to the 2003 invasion, a strong argument could be made that being an actual sponsor of terror is not even necessary to land one on the "state sponsor of terror" list, and that the process is wholly political/geopolitical in character, having nothing whatsoever to do with the actual policies of such governments regarding terrorism. Ergo, the process of designating nations state sponsors of terror, is, in fact, subordinated entirely to the political aims and interests of the United States power structure, and is thus perfectly divorced from anything resembling reality. Likewise, a cynic might argue that the very purpose of the “hate group” label is to delegitimize perfectly legitimate dissident political organizations in the eyes of ordinary people, thus rendering “hate groups” not so much a major source of state-sponsored repression, as many in the United States power structure are fond of alleging, but instead a major target of state-sponsored and quasi-state-sponsored (read: corporate and NGO) repression.
Other problems exist with the standard definition as well. How much organization is required for a a group of people to constitute a “group” in the first place? Are largely disorganized, right-wing dissident networks on the internet (men’s rights activists, for example) “hate groups”, or even “groups” at all, in any meaningful sense? Moreover, at what point does a comedy troupe that mocks and degrades conservatives, christians, or “podunk” middle Americans constitute a “hate group”? What if its members don’t really even consider the troupe a political organization? Furthermore, at what point do persistent attacks on a nation or an ethnic group constitute “hate”? At what point does a baseless conspiracy theory about Russian meddling in a United States presidential election constitute bigoted, anti-Russian hysteria or anti-Russian “hate speech”? Indeed, in the run-up to armed conflict, governments the world over almost always spearhead massive propaganda campaigns against the enemy (Jihadists in the War on Terror, Germans in World War 1). Is it proper to understand all war propaganda efforts then as state-orchestrated "campaigns of hate"?
Furthermore, how does one measure the amount of “hate” within a group or within the hearts of its members? How much vitriol must be spewed by a person for his/her speech to be “hate speech”? How much coarse or degrading language must a group employ for it to be a “hate group”? How much extralegal violence must a group engage in to earn the title? What if a group has never engaged in or so much as advocated for extralegal violence of any sort, like Jared Taylor’s American Renaissance? Taylor’s principled unwillingness to endorse extralegal violence, no matter the circumstances, did not spare American Renaissance from being placed on the SPLC’s 2014 list of “active hate groups”.
A lack of any clear or quantifiable criteria for classifying groups as “hate groups” makes the concept particularly problematic. When a concept is sufficiently amorphous it can be slapped on most anyone with ease. Moreover, once such a label has been attached to you or your organization by someone with apparent expertise or authority, such a designation can be hard to shed, as claims of vague, highly inexact content are virtually impossible to prove or refute. Indeed, this is one of the hallmarks of political concepts, as distinguished from intellectual ones. Such concepts are fuzzy by design, because if they weren’t, they would have very little use to the powerful. They can only exist as concepts insofar as they avoid all intellectual rigor and scrutiny. The “flexibility” in their definitions is precisely what makes them so useful as instruments of power. Though everybody is actually guilty, the only people charged are whoever those with authority choose to charge, and since nobody is innocent, nobody can prove themselves innocent, and since nobody can prove themselves innocent, every charge is equivalent to a conviction. Political concepts can not survive real scrutiny because they are generally ill-defined and logically inconsistent. Nevertheless, they do not need to be consistent, nor do they need to be well-defined, to survive as political concepts. The natural soil of political concepts is power, not truth.
The stakes are that much higher and the risks that much greater when highly political organizations such as the SPLC and the ADL are coaching and working alongside powerful law enforcement entities. Law enforcement is not supposed to be politically or ideologically driven. Membership in a “hate group” could form the basis for “hate crime” prosecutions by local authorities, or for the targeting of “hate” organizations for state surveillance. This problematic label, combined with a lack of any sympathy for such groups among the general public, create the risk that members of such groups could be targeted by local police, prosecuted selectively and unfairly by district attorneys, punished excessively by judges or magistrates, or otherwise crushed by the state on account of their political beliefs, with no repercussions for those doing the oppressing, bringing to mind totalitarian states of yore, where “enemies of the state” (also usually political dissidents) were targeted by state and quasi-state actors for persecution, imprisonment, or worse. Some believe a number of Western nations are already very much there, but many who don’t are still understandably concerned that terms like “hate speech” and “hate group” are stepping stones to such a place. Given the European Union’s willingness to use state power to crush political dissent of a supposedly hateful nature, and Michigan Attorney General, Dana Nessel’s call to create a stasi-esque “hate and bias” database to carefully catalog instances of supposed “hate” within Michigan, even if those instances don’t constitute actual crimes, there is ample reason to be gravely concerned.
Moreover, these are only the threats emanating from the state itself. As Big Tech censorship, well-funded left-wing boycotting campaigns, and willfully discriminatory corporate policies have shown, the “hate group” and “hate speech” labels are used on a fairly large scale in the private sphere as well, as a pretext to marginalize, silence, disemploy, blacklist, and even deny essential services to those with the "wrong" ideas or associations. What's more, violent left-wing paramilitary organizations like Antifa and By Any Means Necessary have shown themselves quite willing to use these labels as justifications to engage in mob violence against innocent civilians, in many cases specifically to deny them the free exercise of their essential rights and liberties. As such, the threats to ordinary Westerners arising from these labels are by no means confined to state action.
Various social critics have also criticized the usefulness of the label. Some contend it amounts to little more than a slur or an ad hominem attack (informal fallacy). In a similar vein, many insist that if one disagrees with another’s speech or another’s politics, there is no reason whatsoever to use a demeaning, tendentious label such as “hate speech” or “hate group” to describe such speech or such a group. The liberal tradition prescribes civilly stating one’s reasoned disagreement with such speech or such politics, not slapping some silly propaganda label on ideas or parties, so that one doesn’t have to actually grapple with what is being claimed or represented. Amalric de Droevig, over at American Thinker, contends that both labels are used not to encourage debate or understanding, but as an underhanded attempt to arrest all dialogue, debate, and inquiry. As such, both terms are both implicitly authoritarian and fundamentally illiberal, in that they are meant to advance a political agenda rather than describe the world as it really is. Given that these concepts are often used to delegitimize dissident groups, and lay the foundation for persecuting, prosecuting, and materially harming people on account of mere speech and association, both essential human rights, some also therefore view the concepts as fundamentally totalitarian in nature or effect. Others view the ideological foundations of these concepts, and especially the way such concepts manifest themselves in real-world sociopolitical contexts, as fundamentally Marxist or Cultural Marxist in character. One’s license to use crass and harsh language against out-group members seems to reflect the prevailing views on the modern left regarding “oppressor” and “oppressed” classes/groups almost perfectly. The more allegedly powerful and oppressive is the group you speak for, the more worthy are you of censorship, contempt, and maltreatment by those with power. What's more, the dynamics of the situation seem inherently paradoxical. Why are all of these supposedly powerful groups in fact unable to defend themselves or advance their interests through peaceful advocacy?
Many proponents of “hate speech” restrictions and the forceful disbanding of supposed “hate groups” have also been known to contend that “hate speech” causes intergroup violence, genocide, and other like atrocities. Nevertheless, there is simply no evidence for this in the scientific literature. Not only is a society’s toleration of radical political speech and expression, including but not limited to “hate speech”, essential for the proper functioning of democracy, the liberty to express oneself openly in a society is also strongly negatively correlated with the adverse outcomes aforementioned (genocide, interethnic and interreligious strife, etc.). The most oppressive regimes on Earth (Saudi Arabia, North Korea) are certainly not known for their enthusiastic support for freedom of expression after all.
Research by Jacob Mchangama and Rasmus Andersen finds that only in the most closed and repressed societies, does loosening up speech restrictions lead to a slight uptick in intergroup violence, civil discord and unrest. In the vast majority of cases, reducing speech restrictions and minimizing censorship reduces interethnic and interreligious violence, social unrest, and like adverse outcomes. What’s more, there is absolutely no reason to believe that restricting freedom of expression fosters tolerance or social cohesion. A 2017 study out of the European Journal of Political Research finds that countermeasures like “hate speech” restrictions, which are intended to constrain radical right politics, paradoxically appear to actually fuel right-wing extremist violence. Not only do such laws not achieve their stated goals, they actually exacerbate existing intergroup tensions, deepen perceived grievances, and further polarize societies. Israeli scholar Amichai Magen has argued that one of the reasons for this is that political freedom, especially freedom of speech, allows grievances to be voiced before they boil over and turn violent. Gordan Danning, author at Qullette, argues that although “hate speech” by powerful officials or elites, may, in rare cases, facilitate the carrying out of major atrocities, in that it can incite violence and aid coordination efforts by brutally repressive regimes, this threat does not extend downward. When speech reaches the coordination phase amongst lesser, non-state entities, it is not mere "hate speech" at that point, but a criminal or terrorist conspiracy, and as such, is better addressed by counter-terror operations rather than content-based speech restrictions. Danning states that there is no evidence to suggest that permitting “hate speech” by ordinary persons in ordinary contexts, has any effect whatsoever on violence of this nature. For that reason, placing hate speech restrictions on everyday speakers and internet users is horribly misguided. What such labels really do is help create excuses for governments and other powerful entities to use allegations of “hate speech” to silence any ideas they dislike, or which might pose a threat to their rule.
Those who cite the Nazi era as proof that freedom of speech is a particularly dangerous right for a society to protect, especially on account of Adolf Hitler’s uncanny ability to rile the masses via passionate oratory, are ignoring the fact that the Weimar Republic had many “hate speech laws” of its own, and that those laws were enforced regularly and aggressively against Nazi members and officials. Not only did those laws not stop the Nazis, they arguably aided them, by enabling the Nazis to successfully portray themselves as victims of hostile, left-wing, anti-ethnic-German elites. Thus, those laws and the public prosecutions arising from them, arguably deepened the divisions in German society, enraged a sizable number of ordinary Germans, provided free publicity to Nazi leaders, and made a severe right-wing backlash all the more likely.