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My response to messages of bigotry on Facebook

February 21, 2014

I’ve noticed an unfortunate increase in hate messages spreading on Facebook. These messages tend to be spread by people who might characterize themselves as politically unsophisticated; that is, they likely didn’t fully consider the meaning or social consequence of the message they are spreading through a simple action of a “like”. Yet the world’s greatest human atrocities were made possibly by such attitudes of not questioning this type of message and not taking an individual stand against hated and bigotry. So I decided to draft a short, polite but strongly worded protest to be used whenever I see these messages. Here it is:

“We’ve seen this message of hate before and simply cannot ignore the actions of people who spread of this type of bigotry even through  absent-minded “likes”on Facebook. This message of intolerance and selfishness is wrong and indefensible. Do you really believe that you are more entitled to a share of the available wealth and world’s resources than another person because you happen to have been lucky enough to have been born in the United States? Or that your language or culture is somehow superior than other people simply because they are not like you? Please realize the lack of integrity in these small-minded ideas and the damage done by spreading such bigotry on Facebook.”

The definition of a bigot, for those who may not know, is someone who, as a result of their prejudices, treats or views other people with fear, distrust, hatred, contempt, or intolerance on the basis of a person’s opinion, ethnicity, race, religion, national origin, citizenship, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, socioeconomic status, or other characteristics. Bigotry is often spread based on fear, ignorance, economic frustration or anger and is sometimes viewed or dismissed as comical. Bigotry directly opposes the core beliefs of the world’s major religions, societies and governments that stand for open-mindedness and tolerance of our fellow humans.

Sometimes these bigoted messages appear under the guise of the Tea Party movement. Realize that this is not the message of America’s main-stream Tea Party activists. This is simply hate, bigotry and ignorance.

Realize that successful bigotry campaigns often share a familiar structural pattern: they start with come position of broad public appeal and then drift to specific less supportable political agendas. For example, many start with a message like “get Obama out of office” and end up with a message like “blame the immigrants for our economic problems”. The subtle turn of ideas is intended and crafted to take the audience unaware.

Some day we will look back on this type of social media bigotry with the same level of distain that we view the statements of Americans who used bigotry to support the institution of slavery or the Europeans who tolerated the racial cleansing measures that led to Hitler’s massacre of millions. For now, I believe, the right thing to do is to take individual responsibility to point about and object to it wherever it makes an ugly appearance.

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