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Tools can help counter hate speech

Tracey Hayes

By Kaye Hult

Tracey Hayes, assistant professor in communication and leadership studies at Gonzaga University, identified verbal, written and behavioral forms of hate speech proliferating on social media to attack or discriminate against a person or group based on their religion, ethnicity, nationality, race, color, descent, gender or other identity factor.

During a presentation on "Hate Groups and Hate Speech" at the International Conference on Hate Studies, she noted that neither banning hate speech nor countering it with facts works.

"Banning forces hate groups underground. That makes them invisible so people forget to plan to counter hate. Then it rises up again," Tracey said.

She suggested engagement rather than censorship, pointing out that the United Nations strategy supports more speech, not less. It says countering hate speech is everyone's responsibility as individuals, society and government.

Tracey recommends focusing on ways to counter the message, noting that those engaging in hate speech use the "Big Five Techniques" of narrative, myth, affect, embodiment and spectacle.

Knowing those tools helps people understand how hate messages are created, spread and readily accepted. Organizations countering hate speech can point them out and use them to turn people from the hate messages.

• Narrative is telling stories to invite mutual identification around shared values. Stories help people bond and act together.

• Myth works within the narrative to add purpose and investment in the story.

• Affect is the opposite of reason. It invokes fear or another emotion as a motivator.

• Embodiment is action, such as blocking a building entrance or turning one's back on someone in disagreement.

• Spectacle is a striking, realistic performance or display.

Tracey said politicians regularly use the Big Five, to play into people's fear of not attaining the American dream under their opponent's policies.

On digital media, hate speech is ungovernable and decentralized. Social media circulate hate speech widely and openly at rates of speed not possible before. It can use coded language to flout laws and regulations, Tracey said.

So in the digital age, people need to recognize, reject and stand up to hate speech, she said.

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Copyright@ The Fig Tree, February, 2022