Hate is hate

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Last month, one of my friends on Facebook told me that I don't understand the difference between satire and journalism. We were discussing the shooting at Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine in France that has published controversial cartoons depicting Muhammad.

Clearly fueled by religious turmoil, the shooting prompted Americans to stand with France in support of freedom of speech. My friend urged that we should not support the magazine because it had published material insulting Islamic people.

"Please acknowledge that the freedom of speech you're supporting is hate speech," he wrote.

As a working journalist with a degree in journalism, I hoped I could discuss the topic with him. I didn't think he meant to sound ignorant, believing his response to be simply emotional and uninformed. I wrote a short reply explaining that satire is meant to poke fun at controversial topics to reveal something about those who seriously demean people of certain faiths or race.

The cartoons run by Hebdo were not hate speech, I wrote, but rather highlighting the hate speech of others. I added a bit about mourning for those lost and hoped my response would be met with a discussion.

Instead, my friend responded with sassy one-word phrases. I was accused of not understanding what journalism is. I was told that I should stop working in the field if I thought the material published by Hebdo was journalism.

Boy, was I angry. I was angrier than I've been in a long time and probably for a long time to come. Not knowing how to respond to such vitriol, I stopped responding at all. Of course I continued to spew anger at my boyfriend and the cat.

"Who does he think he is?" I ranted. "I have a degree. I am a professional. I respect others, so why couldn't he respect me?"

I realized that I was so upset because I thought this friend held the same political views as I did. I believe in equal rights for everyone -- including the right to marry -- and I believe in respecting other faiths, but I refuse to believe in something so passionately that I can't see my own faults.

This friend showed me that there are faulty views within any political doctrine, revealing to me that liberal extremists are just as bad as conservative extremists.

He doesn't believe in equal rights for all sexual orientations; he believes transsexuals deserve more rights and more protection than heterosexual people like me. He responds to every minor act of the media or the government with reactionary, uninformed statements to support his belief that he and other minorities are constantly being discriminated against.

Now, I'm not saying discrimination doesn't exist. The Arkansas Legislature just passed a bill allowing businesses to discriminate against the LGBT community in matters of housing and employment. I'm personally quite unhappy with this, but I know it won't do any good to throw a tantrum over it.

That's what my friend is doing, and it really hurts the movements he's trying to support. I believe in reason. I believe in respect. I believe we can't have either of those without opening ourselves up to discussion that could potentially alter our views.

Because he isn't open to that type of conversation, I'm not sure my friend will ever understand the value of diversity. You can't call yourself open-minded if you refuse to acknowledge views you disagree with, and that's exactly what he's doing.

It's not cool to hate others. I don't care if you're a Republican or a Democrat or a Whig. If you respect others, you'll receive the same respect in return. And even if you don't, you're still a heck of a lot better than the opposition.

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Samantha Jones is a reporter for the Carroll County News.