Impartiality in media, government and public opinion is now unquestionably a thing of the past. The resulting rampant bias, closed mindedness or inflexibility manifests itself, inevitably, online. Sometimes it is malicious, sometimes through careless statements, sometimes habitual bias and other times outright calculated manipulation. The big issue is that the two, online hate and real world hate, feed on each other. Malicious and manipulative online content influences the real world audience. It is most commonly a result of content being shared without attribution. Disinformation, distortions, parafacts, lies and defamation shed the tainted patina of their truth of their source, gain credibility and resurface as bias, hate, intolerance and prejudice in worldwide media, the UN, public opinion and from the mouths of government officials. Bad information feeds back into the inter-world. It encourages and nourishes the ugly edges of our real-world.
Breaking this cycle of corrupted information exchange is the best tactic available for fighting hate. This is often called counterspeech. It is, at its heart, reminding people of the facts. Marriage equality happened because the gay community steadfastly refuted the lies being told about same sex couples; they broke the bad-info cycle. Voting rights in the 1960’s happened, in part, because the Black community insisted on being Americans, just Americans. . Lizzie Velasquez rejected the title of the “world’s ugliest woman” and showed what beauty really is. Clever Pie and Isabel Fay and many others have taken hateful comments and turned them in to songs, poems and comedy. All of them took ownership of the hate and in doing so, made a real change.
Influencing some changes are less realistic than others. You are not going to change the anti-Israel bias in the U.N., New York Times or BBC and neither are you going to undo the Russian, North Korean, Iranian anti-west tendencies or the religious fundamental objection to the LGBTQ life. You are not going to change the KKK, David Duke, Sheriff Joe Arpaio or any hardcore racist, misogynist, anti-Semite, ageist or troll. Change is up to the hater, not you. However, owning the hate gives the hated and their supporters a chance to show the world how absurd, disgusting, ignorant, pointless and ridiculous the bias voices actually are.
Owning the hate is not for everyone, especially not the weak of heart. It takes confidence, creativity, a thick skin, intelligence and above all, a dogged commitment. Lies and disinformation must not be ignored and cannot be met with mere denial; they must be confronted with mountains of verifiable truth – repeatedly. Even then, the truth needs to be defended constantly. The agents of hate and their followers, both active and tacit, always look for opportunities corrode and corrupt truth and reason. Speaking out against hate is free speech too. #ownthehate