Monday, January 24, 2011

The Rhetoric of Hate, a piece of angry editorializing from Tina

"The misuse of language induces evil in the soul."
 — Socrates

Mondays are usually devoted to Reader Recommendations. But this Monday, I have something else on my mind.

A friend of mine, Sonya Huber, wrote a fantastic book – Cover Me. It’s a memoir about her struggles and successes trying to provide health care for herself and her family. It’s really good too, which is why I wrote a review of it on Amazon saying as much.

This morning she saw another review, also posted as a response to my review. I will not quote from it because it is violent, twisted, misogynistic, and vile. If it had been sent directly to her, it would have been grounds for calling the police (this is not an exaggeration).  But because it is in a public forum, all of us can only stare at it and report it as abuse and hope that someone at Amazon takes it down, and quickly,

I’m sick about this, and very very angry. Public discourse has taken a turn toward the violent and unhinged. We debate whether events like the recent bloodbath in Arizona are a product of this kind of language. I think it’s time we stopped debating and realized that yes, it’s connected. Very much so.

Say something loud enough and long enough, and the edges between the printed page and flesh-and-blood reality get blurred. Rhetoric influences our actions whether we like it or not. Here in America, we tilt too strongly toward the primacy of the individual. We like to think of ourselves as a nation of do-it-yourselfers, hard-working citizens who pulled ourselves into whatever niche we occupy by our own smarts and sweat.

But America is a collective, and we all stew in its cultural juices. Now imagine paranoid minds like Jared Loughner‘s or the hate-spewing reviewer’s on Amazon — what juices does America provide for brains like this to absorb? What actions might result from this unholy recipe?

Our right to free speech does not protect recklessness. It does not protect dangerous inflammatory rhetoric. It does not protect cries of fire in a crowded theatre, and it NEVER HAS. If your words provoke a stampede, then responsibility for that stampede’s all on you, fellow citizen.

UPDATE: After an outpouring of reports identifying the review as abusive and inappropriate, Amazon removed the offending post. Many thanks to everyone who took the time to step on this nastiness.

(A longer version of this post can be found in my Local Views column in the Statesboro version of The 11th Hour, soon to be available online).


Laura Valeri said...

Well said, Tina.

Bobbye Terry said...

Hideous that anyone would do this. A long time ago my co-writer and I got a nasty review on Amazon and we just asked others to write reviews who'd read the book and they buried the offending sucker in an avalanche of applause. So take that you evil witch! Some people are so jealous of anyone who rises like cream with a work of art. It's like some nasty streak that makes them thoroughly enjoy what it took years of hard work to create. Karma will hopefully pay those people back.