Taking Hate Speech Lying Down (Part 1)

Hate speech is problematic.  It is not the only problematic speech.  Expressions of love are problematic, especially if they are true, and doubly so if they are reciprocated.  Except we don’t usually have public energy poured into political activism to denounce or advocate the right to express love to another.  We do have stalker laws, for protection against unwanted attention (and obsession) especially if it becomes threatening to the victim.  This would be related to conditions of consent for legal sexual behaviour.  Does stalking someone constitute “true love”?  I think we can unanimously decide that it does not.  But when does attraction turn into obsession, and when does obsession become threatening, and what makes this behaviour different to true love?   One answer could be because it is unreciprocated, but we know that an unreciprocated love does not necessarily lead to stalking, so there has to be some other condition.  Perhaps it is the perseverance and continued advances of an unreciprocated proposition that accounts for its migration into stalkerdom?   This is much closer to the meaning I feel.  In the event of an x-lover becoming a stalker, you have an initially reciprocated, or at least encouraged, attraction between two agents which is followed by a termination of reciprocity by one party, and this is met by a staunch refusal of the new terms of contract by the other, who proceeds to exhibit a behaviour of entitlement to a superseded order of affections.  Now, the stalker often does not keep expressing love, as the circumstances for coherent courtship have been removed, or never existed, and so they often revert to expressions of hatred.  This might include threatening behaviour, such as irrational outbursts of rage, or maybe sitting outside the person’s house at night in a car with the lights on.  These are both examples of signalling, though neither need to include speech at all.  No, hatred itself is not speech, and speech is not hatred.  So when does one “constitute” the other?  But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, at the moment we’re trying to understand the truth of an announcement, following the circumstances that allow one to enact it.  We want to know, why does the stalker begin to hate the victim, and how, in the case of a love once reciprocated, can it turn into its violent opposite of hatred?   What connection is there between these two apparently distinct phenomena?   Let’s listen to a song (for educational purposes only):



The lyrics have their own ambiguity, but they do connote a pattern. The song is, of course, about a love triangle.  Two women, and a man. From what we can gather , the man is in a relationship with one of them, and the second girl is jealous about what she takes to be their unbreakable relationship.  She is in love with someone who cannot reciprocate, because he is already in an exclusive relation with another (or at least, this is what our disappointed third-wheel believes).  Now, whether the boy does reciprocate depends on who we conceive his lyrics were directed towards, and that’s not entirely beside the point. What is important is a question of possession.  Possession by what?   Well, love, you fool.  But not just love.  There’s also an insistence on hatred.  Let’s refine our concepts a little, we’re going to need it…

First, we have speech, or a formal relation of signs, infinitely reproducible, and therefore capable of infinite redundancy.  I hate you I hate you I hate you etc.  That there is pretty straightforward example of hate speech.  Or is it?  And if not, why isn’t it?  This is easy, you’re thinking, it doesn’t count as hate speech because it is purely insignificant, it is just a grammatical structure repeated three times. Sure, it’s semantic content literally “means” that an agent of enunciation is expressing hatred toward some undefined other, but for it to actually have any significance it would need context and substance.  As of now it’s just a floating piece of linguistic redundancy.  So, what kind of context and substance are we talking?  Well, you’ll say, what we’re looking for is non-linguistic factors.  That is, we’re searching for a (non-linguistic) expression of content, and not just a content of (linguistic) expression.  Another way of saying it is we are trying to find what is unreproducible.  Or at least, something that is reproduced in a very different way than verbal expression.  At minimum, we’ll need an agent of enunciation.  Someone who is actually expressing the designated content of hate speech.  Any agent?  We could program a bot to send emails to hundreds of people with the simple message “I hate you”.  Does this get us closer to hate speech?  But wait, a bot like that has only the agency it was programmed to have by a programmer, so it is whoever wrote the code that is the agent we’re looking for.  Does this new figure sincerely feel a lot of hatred against the victims of his spam attack, or were they just randomly picked, and he’s only doing this as a faceless prank?  Ok,  we’ll run with this, one thing we will need in our quest to find a real specimen of hate speech is a sincere expression of hatred truly felt.

So, what of an unlucky character having a bad day, until his frustration overwhelms him and he lets out a string of blasphemous curses against God, life and his fellow man.  He shouts it at the sky, and no one is around to hear him.  His hatred is genuine, so much so that he loses control under its influence, and he expends this energy in the form of shouting, but he’s content to abuse the void surrounding him.  Is this hate speech?  We definitely have hatred, truly felt, and an agent who experiences the affect and finds the words to express its content.  Or maybe he doesn’t find words, after all, no one is around to bother with articulation, so maybe he cries and shrieks as his face grows hot and wet at the exhaustion from this nervous attack of rage, he grunts and snarls incoherently, sneering at the sky, eyes crossed, fists clenched, emitting an occasional bellow of rampant fury, blindly indignant at his hapless fate, and spluttering madness and bile at the cosmic engines that condition his existence.

Ok, so we’re definitely getting the feeling the dude is a little unstable, and I’m reminded of the insulated “rage rooms” in certain private institutions for the treatment of psychotic patients, where the recovering individual can vent their frustration in relative safety,  which might include padded walls, or a punching bag, or maybe some old newspaper to tear apart and throw around.  Yet, this is not considered hate speech, but as the symptom of an illness,  one that reduces the culpability of the agent under treatment, precisely because their illness is directly linked to a disorder of agency.  If a psychotic screams at you that he hates you, he probably means it, but you were just walking in the park, and didn’t know this guy was on the loose.  You’ve never even seen him before.  What’s his deal?  You’re a really nice person, maybe if he just got to know you better? … Nevermind, the most important thing is avoid him like the plague, because he could get violent, and madmen have supernatural strength. What does it matter if his obscenities are meaningless, in that, he really has no reason to hate you, what’s important is the vibe he’s sending off, and you’re thinking he could be on some pretty heavy PCP.  After all, what does it mean when a disordered agent expresses their substantial confusion?   But a threat situation doesn’t need to have meaning to acquire significance. In fact, it is this ambiguity of significance that you find most threatening. We’re talking about an agent who is not reliable to predict their own actions following the cues of a postdictive process.  As in, his affective state has suffered a derangement from the coherence that would make it consistent.  Shame gives way to euphoria, euphoria to depression, and gentleness to aggression, all following the illogical progression of the chaos of intensity that is suffusing him, and completely at odds with the external world he finds himself in.  Yes, this is confusing.  In fact, it is what confusion feels like, when it finds substance.  It is true confusion.   You’re wondering what could cause this meltdown of sensible responsibility, but when you ask the lunatic, he fanatically ascribes it to a demon, or maybe an ubiquitous control apparatus, like some vast abstract machine of communication, that has been sending him unique messages, perhaps aliens, or an ultra-powerful programmer-wizard, who’s hacked into his brain and planted malware, and now he has these recordings playing through his mind, and all kinds of voices, of extremely varying pitches, shrieking, whispering, but also caressing, even angelic, deifying.

It’s the sky entities, he tells you, the storms, the rain and clouds, they’ve undressed his skin from his body and stretched it across the horizon, and when the wind blows, he can feel it tingling his asshole for miles, and when he smiles, the sunlight turns his teeth into diamonds, so he only open his mouth in the shade.  “Good teeth are more precious than diamonds”, he says with a smile, apparently neglectful of his behaviour just now, when he victimized you with hate speech. “This guy is seriously messed up” you think silently, “he needs a doctor, no doubt about it”.  He makes you feel uncomfortable, frightened, even a little weird, because his disordered mind is strangely contagious, and you can almost feel his confusion, but you make sure to constrain your empathy, lest you find yourself in a similar state as his through the power of mimicry.  The last thing you need is to get your mind all tangled up in another’s psychotic experiences because of the mirroring effects of an empathic disorder.  But it’s too late, you’re altruistic nature has sucked you into the vortex of his pathogenesis, and you become intimately aware of the surging intensities that form his disturbed physical and mental state, each seeming to cause the other, as though in a mixture of chemicals that never cross the threshold to a stable equilibrium, but instead react upon themselves indefinitely, now producing this affect, and now that.  You try to make sense of what he is feeling, through the construction of linguistic composition, but it’s such that words cannot express.   All you have are signs you can inscribe to the process, with varying levels of salience.  Generosity, paranoia, nostalgia, loathing, there’s that, but there’s more.  What’s the word?  Oh yes, sublimity, and an aesthetic experience of beauty,  he feels all this, but it’s all tangled up, lacking clear distinction, and you can tell it’s exhausting his capacity to predictably measure the consequences of his actions.  And there’s an experience of distance, of displacement, the doctors who speak to him come from another world, their words do not penetrate, they have no effect on him, but the messages he receives from within have a much greater significance, or maybe they can be heard behind the words of the doctors, encoded messages that they are not aware of, it is not they who are talking to him, but some other process, leaving signs for him to navigate.

The doctor asks him, “how are you feeling today”?  He hears himself answer “good, better today”.  The doctor smiles, he had heard all about the difficulty of bringing this patient in under an Involuntary Treatment Order, the patient had told his family he would see a doctor only if it had meant not giving away his freedom, of which he was extremely sensitive.  Many people are trying to take away his freedom, he had told the nurse.  When they had explained to him he was being placed under treatment, he was not subtle about his contempt.  He told them they had no authority, that the people who called themselves his family were of no relation to him, and that he could see through their lies like a clairvoyant.  He was a real jerk about everything.  He was sick of commands, he said, because they were all external forces trying to pass themselves off as an imminent condition of possibility.  They simply did not understand the importance of his task, and they could not perceive the new world he had discovered latent behind the overwhelming falsity of modern society.  They had never seen the ripples of sentience pass like a charge of electricity through the natural world, shimmering from off the leaves,  leaping from shrub to shrub, and then smoothing itself over a long field of grass, before disappearing into the thickets.  Yes, this was the living world, apart from the deadened regimes of stratified linguistic constructs, which could never say anything with meaning, or mean anything that they say.  His name had become a curse, and when he was addressed with it, it seemed to him a tactic of manipulation, a way to confine him into a few repetitive syllables, and he did not like the sound of them.  His name had become hate speech. 

There was still a few messages that reached him in the confines of his cell, only very subtly, and without the micro-perception that had accompanied his breakthrough, he would not have noticed anything.  The message was clear enough, it was a warning.  This warning was two-fold, on the one hand, it was the medical institution itself that was warning him with his confinement.  On the other, there was a secret path of signs showing him the way to behave to be released, and giving him hope that fate had not forgotten him, and in fact was only testing him, a very tough test, but he was being selected for an elite position as a prophet of the living earth, so it made sense the process would be filtered heavily for supra-normative strategies of survival.  He could tell the difference between the two agencies of signs by their intention. One displayed a malevolent continuum, and instructed him of his potential confinement for his own good, while the other was benevolent, it was warning him to escape.  That is, the first was threatening him with a warning, and the second was warning him of a threat. They both had territorial components, but one was attached to the boundaries of the medical complex, whereas the other was a porous boundary, it could contact him through any medium, or send him an omen from anywhere.  It was this that led him to consider the possibility of divine intervention.  Meanwhile, the doctors eyes all glowed red, though invisible to any ordinary observer, and below the level of appearance he was sure a few of them were demonic agents, possessed by some unfathomable evil, though there was one or two innocents who were just working the job for an income.

With a major effort of control, you manage to wrest back your cognitive independence from the affective boundary of the psychotic.  It was quite a powerful agency, which you had not expected, thinking all this time that a schizophrenic would have reduced, or negligent agency, one that did not have the capacity of self-possession.  Yet, here it was like a black hole, warping time all around it.  You looked at your watch, and realized you had been standing in the park with this fellow for well over an hour.  You new friend beamed at you, he was grateful you had taken the time to share his dreams.  You had entered his world, and now he was far less alone.  There were certain truths that had become more clear to you, as though an overcast day had been dissipated by the sun.

The first of these was the reliance of truth on ritual, or significance on the circumstances giving rise to potential acts.  Ritual is a test, with degrees of improvisation and/or rigid protocol, following a code of propriety, in service of the virtue of ren.  Some societies had standard lengths of mourning, as well as proper conduct at a funeral.  Of course, if some estranged second-cousin mourned at a funeral louder and more publicly than anyone else there, this would be a transgression of propriety, and humiliating for the family and friends who were closer to the deceased. This humiliation would feel like a violation of the identity of the mourning parties.  The only defense would be to humiliate or remove the offending party, so he would cease or change his behaviour. This is an example of a conflict of interests. Two or more agencies who are following incompatible codes of ritual behaviour. In effect, two or more exclusive properties of bodies that are unable to amalgamate without one or the other suffering a sacrifice to the dignity of their identity. The word that best describes the affect that accompanies the undignified interruption of a ritualistic agency is hatred.  That is, there is an involuntary proscription of the virtue of an acting agent, which violates a sacred process, and this forced reduction of behavioral rights leads to resentment.  The essence of the ritual experience is optimal cue integration, this is the ability of the agent to incorporate the circumstances that allow for it to act in a manner compliant with the emergent teleology of a sovereign assembly of property rights.  In short, it is the ability to behave.  

Already I can predict the opposition that may arise to these conceptions. In anticipation of these concerns we will devote some time, in this already long post, to an explanation of what is a rational behaviour of an agent.  There are sociologists who emphasize rationality over ritual, and others who emphasize ritual over rationality.  A dualism will not satisfy us here.   Indeed, we are wary of rationalists, who are often disastrously inept at recognizing optimization cues.  We are also wary of rituals, since most of them become rigidified to the point of suffocating repetition, and besides just being boring, these pose a perfect environment for the predations of psychopathic individuals, who are excellent at exploiting easy opportunities to gain social trust.  If the ritualized code is readily vulnerable to affective mimicry,  you can bet that it will make for easy pickings for the masters of deception who want to use you for their own inhuman ends.  Hence the adaptive principle of a transformational complexity for behavioral codes.  Novelty is the most adaptive trait.  It is the first and last line of defense against parasitic intrusion.  For example, the event of novel adaptation which is marked by the boundary of the Hajnal Line was an evolutionary innovation against the parasitism of extended kin-relations. It is also why living with your parents as an adult has definite connotations of parasitic behavior, but only within the Hajnal Line.  It goes both ways, as anyone can tell who has visited their parents after many years of independence only to be treated like you are their property.  This can often take the form of an infantilizing influence.  It is this enforced dependence that is adaptive for the parasitic agent, and maladaptive for its host. We call this process of castrating subjection Oedipalization.   

Finally, we’re getting somewhere.  But we still need to do considerable tweaking to unleash the full explanatory power of this paradigm.  We have truly only touched upon the problem.   That will have to wait for tomorrow, as the morning birds are singing, and I am making the executive decision to get some shut-eye.  Serialization helps to ration our reading.



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