Hate Speech and the Internet

I for one believe that posts to websites such as the one that I’m about to reproduce below the page-break constitute hate-speech.  Were, for example, you to receive an envelope via the postal service, and upon opening it, found that it contained a handwritten or typed letter that expressed the exact same message, it clearly would count as an instance of hate- and/or threatening-speech, and very well may be prosecutable under Federal law as as well as (in all likelihood) the laws of all 50 U.S. States.  My question, therefore, is simply this: Does it or does it not (Should it or should it not) also constitute an instance of hate- and/or threatening-speech when the person uttering this message chooses to post it anonymously to an electronic website—in the present case, to some other person's weblog?

ny-ex chicagoan said… [*]

Don't worry, fuckhead, I haven't read a single word of your stupid blog. I wouldn't dare. And I didn't even glance at your stupid pictures. I just wanted to say, GOOD RIDDANCE ASSHOLE. We won't miss you at jaythejoke.com.

Fag bastard.

8:40 PM

(* For the original instance of this message, see the Comment that was posted to "The Kibitzer Salutes…," at Chicago Sports Kibitzer, August 16, 2006.  For more postings by this same person (presumably the same person, that is, since the Internet permits so much anonymity and phony identities), also see Chicago Sports Fans Unite, a website by "NY-Ex Chicagoan.") 

As you no doubt suspect, the list of similar–indeed, far worse–postings could be greatly expanded.  I am intrigued by the phenomenon for various reasons.  Not the least of which is that in the past it has caused one or more of the ZNet bloggers as well as the people posting comments to ZNet so many headaches.  (See, e.g., "Blog Comments v. Discussion Forums," "This Is Not FOX News, Folks," and "Free Speech?")

More important, the (pardon my jargon) socio-psychology of hate equally amazes and intrigues me.  You see, I continue to be impressed by how structures of lies so rapidly coalesce around demonized figures, no matter whom they are. Take this classic, ageless and enduring pathology of human relations (i.e., the scapegoatting of demonized figures, and the license to hate them), then add onto it the relative anonymity that the Internet provides, and what do we get?

Immediately, we ought to recognize how important it is to shine a light on the haters who otherwise lurk in these anonymous shadows.  The nature of which we've never understood.  Let alone conquered.  But the tools of which keep multiplying.  Relentlessly.  

Combatting Extremism in Cyberspace: The Legal Issues Affecting Internet Hate Speech, Anti-Defamation League, 2000

Illinois Commission on Discrimination and Hate Crimes (Homepage)
Chicago Commission on Human Relations (Homepage)

Jay The Joke (Homepage)
Chicago Sports Fans Unite (Homepage) 

- "The Strange Death of Joseph Egan," August 18, 2006
Calling Out Michael Miner (Homepage)

'Jay the Joke' – History, Wikipedia

"Jay the Joke Isn't Funny Anymore," Michael Miner, Chicago Reader, August 18, 2006 

"Hate Speech and the Internet," ZNet, August 19, 2006

FYA ("For your archives"): An entry proposed for the Wikipedia website on the date given (August 11, 2006), but since then dramatically revised and later merged into a separate entry–the revisions and merger constituting one small act of historical fabrication out of a whole litany of the same for which I believe we have every reason to count the open-source Wikipedia project a disinformationist's dream.  (Note that although the hyperlinks in the References section still might work, the rest might not.  I am simply leaving them in place because they were parts of the original.) 

Created and posted on Friday, August 11, 2006, around 5 PM, ET.

Jay the Joke

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jay the Joke is a website that was launched anonymously on May 21, 2006, by Pat Dahl and Matt Lynch, whose true identities were only later revealed. [1]

When it began, Jay the Joke‘s sole purpose was to carry out a smear campaign against the Chicago Sun-Times‘s sports columnist, Jay Mariotti.

But, in turn, the website attracted individuals for whom the anonymity that the website provides made it possible for them to join in acts of vulgarity and hate-speech that soon extended beyond its original target.

By this stage in the website's devolution, Jay the Joke smears anyone who does not post material according to the website’s presumptive rules, which, to oversimplify only slightly, are as follows:

The first rule of Jay the Joke states that all posted material should denigrate Jay Mariotti.

The second rule of Jay the Joke states that whenever someone violates the first rule, and either fails to denigrate Jay Mariotti or denigrates him insufficiently, the posted material should also denigrate this other person.

Thus the phrase ‘Jay the Joke‘ now denotes a range of meanings that refers not only to this particular website, to its administrators and posters, and to the smear campaigns they are conducting.

The phrase also denotes the contemporary, deeply troubling, social-pathological phenomenon in which a smear campaign carried out against one single person via a website created for this specific purpose rapidly morphs into a platform for hate-speech and acts of intimidation and virtual violence more generally.


1. Teddy Greenstein, “Columnist gets a slow roasting,” Chicago Tribune, June 27, 2006; Michael Miner, " The Plot To Get Mariotti," Chicago Reader, July 14, 2006; and Teddy Greenstein, "Dahl's son in on website jabs at columnist," Chicago Tribune, July 17, 2006.

External Links


Update (September 3): Have written to two different Wikipedia administrators about their August 30 decision to delete the 'Jay Mariotti' entry in its entirety.—See below for a copy of one of these letters, addressed to a person who lives and works in France.    

Dear David Monniaux:

I see that the old Wikipedia entry for ‘Jay Mariotti’ has been deleted (“Logs”); that you were the person who undertook this action (17:41, 30 August 2006); and that the reason you gave is that “Almost all the sections in this article had big warnings complaining about lack of sources and contained potentially libelous material.”

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