What is Hate Speech?

George Lakoff

I have been asked what hate speech is. It is not exactly hard to detect.

Hate speech defames, belittles, or dehumanizes a class of people on the basis of certain inherent properties — typically race, ethnicity, gender, or religion.

Hate speech attributes to that class of people certain highly negative qualities taken to be inherent in members of the class. Typical examples are immorality, intellectual inferiority, criminality, lack of patriotism, laziness, untrustworthiness, greed, and attempts or threats to dominate their “natural superiors.”

The method of defamation typically includes:

  • Salient exemplars — that is, using highly rare and very ugly individual examples that have been sensationalized by the media and taking them as applying to the whole class. Examples: Trump’s racist attacks on Latinos and Muslims, attempting to stereotype all of them and smear entire classes of people on the basis of a handful of individual cases.
  • Extolling the false virtues…

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