Authors explore hate’s place in American culture

AP, Aug. 23, 2002
By Gretchen Parker
Associated Press
FREDERICK, Md. — A new book by two Hood College professors takes on Snoop Doggy Dogg, Eminem, Limp Bizkit — and President Bush.

Law, Media and Culture: The Landscape of Hate” explores the language of rap music, the Internet sites of hate groups and speeches by politicians.

Authors Janis Judson and Donna Bertazzoni argue that visceral emotions once seen on the fringe of society — expressed by groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and skinheads — are bleeding into mainstream society. They say Americans may not even realize how pervasive hate has become in their lives.

Through the Internet, film, television and radio, the authors argue, hate is becoming acceptable and at the same time, invisible. ”It’s so pervasive that we almost don’t see anything wrong with it anymore,” Judson says. ”That’s why we called it the ‘landscape of hate.”’

Hate speech on the Internet and in popular culture is directed mostly at minorities, gays and pro-abortion activists. Because it’s largely nonsexual, it is less alarming to most Americans, say Judson and Bertazzoni.

While pornography is widely regarded as taboo and unacceptable for children, violent movies and hate group Web sites sound fewer alarms and are just as dangerous, the authors say.

Several skinhead groups use crossword puzzles and other games on their Web sites to attract young people, Bertazzoni says.

”One of the valuable contributions of this book is it takes an explicit look at the way Internet technologies are providing a new platform, a new public space for the expression of hate,” says Dianne Lynch, who heads the department of journalism and mass communication at St. Michael’s College in Burlington, Vt.

The new expression of hate is dangerous because it is anonymous, says Lynch, who reviewed the book before it was published.

”The Internet desensitizes us to the expression of hate in a way I think is new,” says Lynch. ”It gives us permission to be as ugly, vicious and public as we’ve ever been — in some ways that have been socially taboo in the past.”

While most Americans don’t log onto sites run by neo-Nazis or skinheads, they listen to President Bush, Bertazzoni says.

Bush ”inadvertently pressed the hate button,” by praising the Southern Baptist Convention at its recent annual meeting, Judson says.

The president cited Southern Baptists for being ”among the earliest champions of religious tolerance.”

The White House qualified the statement after reports that a former convention president had called Mohammed, the founder of Islam, ”a demon-possessed pedophile who had 12 wives” and said many of America’s problems can be blamed on religious pluralism.

Hate speech doesn’t necessarily take a form Americans might expect — of outright violence, Bertazzoni says. It can be as subtle as condemning affirmative action, and it happens when ”you try to impose your moral code on other people and begin to see those other people who don’t fit that mold as somehow wrong,” she says.

Hudson’s and Bertzzoni’s book was written before Sept. 11, but the authors added a postscript after the terrorist attacks. It details how hate speech subsequently has contributed to attacks on Muslims and immigrants.

The book notes that Arab-Americans received ominous e-mail from ”ordinary people,” not just hatemongers or fringe groups. It finds ”the response by some Americans to the Sept. 11 attacks demonstrates how close to the surface mainstream hatred really is.”

But the mainstreaming of hate began before the terrorist attacks, the book argues. Besides political speech, children and teen-agers are gobbling up recordings and videos by musicians the authors call ”hate promulgators.”

They said female students of all races at Hood College tell them they listen to Snoop Doggy Dogg, Tupac Shakur and Eminem, even though some consider the lyrics hateful toward women.

”They say, ‘We don’t listen to lyrics, we just listen to the beat,”’ Judson says. But she believes the music is harmful because it damages the psyche of the listeners, desensitizing them in a subtle way.
Judson and Bertazzoni question whether mainstream hate can be solved by public education. Messages children receive in the classroom can be drowned out by what they hear from their parents at home, the authors say.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Saturday August 24, 2002.
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