First place essay
Newton Lee, a computer scientist and author once said, “There is a fine line between free speech and hate speech. Free speech encourages debate whereas hate speech incites violence.” Lee’s point was that many people confuse free speech and hate speech. Free speech was a right given to us, so we could have an opinion on controversial topics. Hate speech, however, attacks a person or group based on ethnicity, color, religion, gender or disability. We were not given the protection of freedom of speech and expression so we can bully, harass, hurt, or specifically target a group of people for the way they live. There is no question of whether hate speech is wrong or right. Hate speech and propaganda were powerful tools used to start many wars and genocides, including the Holocaust that killed almost two-thirds of the European Jewish population in 1933. Hate speech and propaganda that are used today share many similarities and differences from when they were used in the Holocaust.
To begin with, Adolf Hitler used hate speech to influence Germany to think all of its problems were caused by the existence of the Jewish people. Propaganda dehumanized and degraded Germans. According to one article, “Propaganda was the tool by which nearly every facet of German life was dictated … their most successful sphere of influence was in promotion of anti-Semitism.” This was not only the start of the Holocaust but it was a pivotal point in history.
Hitler’s radio broadcast was another example in which hate speech destroyed lives. In the book “I Have Lived a Thousand Years: Growing Up in The Holocaust,” it states, “Hitler’s shrill radio broadcast, especially one of his oft-repeated promises, ‘We will play football with Jewish heads,’ strikes panic in my heart.” This book is about a girl who lived in the time of the Holocaust and how she suffered because of one man’s hateful opinions. It also explains how Hitler spread propaganda across Germany which led to a mass genocide. Hitler attacked, terrified and murdered the Jews. He took away their right to life because of their ethnicity. If hate speech had that much power then, and created a genocide, imagine what hate speech could do now.
Furthermore, even with the results of the Holocaust our world today still uses hate speech and it influences many people. It can result in depression, shootings and suicides. All over our world today people are dying because of their race, religion, or sexual orientation.
According to police reports on hate crime in 2016, “ Jews were victimized 221 times, up from 178 the previous year, a rise of more than 20 percent. Blacks were next at 214 incidents and those victimized due to sexual orientation, 176.” This shows how hate speech has increased in the last couple of years. We are repeating history by tormenting people who are different than us. In reality, every single person is different. Yes, there are people who share many similarities with each other and others who share many differences.
However, one thing all people have in common is we are all granted the right to live on Earth. There is a reason we were born and created. We were not meant to live our lives trying to get rid of everyone who is different. There are always people who don’t agree with others on some things, whether it be the little things like pizza toppings or the major things like religion and race. So many people suffer because they are “different.” For example, this last December, a Spokane citizen discovered a pumpkin covered with violent and racist slurs. He said, “It’s shocking that the racism and hatred is so close to home.” Can you imagine seeing something so awful? People spend so much time putting labels on others. Why does someone have to be gay, straight, or transgender; black or white; Catholic, Jewish, or Christian? Why must we be anything? There are so many labels, but we all share the label human beings.
Lastly, our world today shares many similarities regarding the world that used hate speech 85 years ago. The Holocaust was a terrible time; unfortunately, we have not evolved. We still target innocent people who have no control over how they were born, or the color of their skin. We don’t have the right to take away their right to be themselves. In the Holocaust, people feared the Jewish people because they didn’t understand them. Our world is the same today. We fear the unknown. We continue to take lives.
In 1975-1979 the Cambodia genocide killed millions of people. Doctors, teachers, journalists, the rich, and anyone with an education and ethnic or religious minorities were all targeted; children and babies were no exception. Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge often said, “to stop the weed you must also stop their roots.” They killed so many people because they were afraid of the targeted group’s intelligence.
Rather than using concentration camps, today we now attack on social media. There are posts calling out specific groups and people. This hate speech can break a person; social media has made it easy to target individual people, as well as using propaganda to attack specific groups. It is the reason people bring guns to school and kill 17 people in cold blood in Florida, or why others commit suicide. Our world today and that of the Holocaust are not so different.
There are tremendous similarities and differences in how hate speech and propaganda was used by the Nazis during the Holocaust and how it is used today by the people in our society. Social media can also be used for individuals to make a positive difference by standing up to our society that is now full of hatred for others. I challenge you to stand up to the people that use hate speech against those at your school, at your work, on social media or in your community. Show kindness and support toward those that are victimized and stand up for what’s right. Each and every one of us can make a difference in our world. Are you prepared to step up to this challenge?
Taylor Cargile is an eighth-grader at Chase Middle School in Spokane.