There is a fine line between freedom of speech and hate speech.
That line has been blurred and crossed on a variety of media platforms. It seems to occur mostly online where anonymity seems to bring out the very worst in just about everyone, but recently it has reared its ugly head into a college publication I write for.
The writer wrote a demeaning column belittling the women’s field hockey team at Indiana University. He mocked the sport and the athletes that played it. Understandably, the column ticked off a lot of the players to the point where they stormed into the newsroom to confront an innocent editor who had no real control over the situation.
The players and fans flooded the writer’s Twitter feed with responses. They wrote in letters to the editor, wrote emails and did everything they could do to return the blows and let the writer know how upset they were with him. It eventually got to a point where it was getting out of hand and it was almost impossible to not feel bad for the writer who had made a rather large mistake.
The columnist did not get the reaction he was expecting, but could he have expected anything better? When is it ever a good idea to say hateful things anywhere? The sport gets overshadowed at such a large school, but was there any reason to belittle them?
Never, under any circumstance, should a writer attack or belittle a person or a group of people just for entertainment value or to gain eyeballs.
Freedom of speech was in the First Amendment for a reason. A columnist is always entitled to his or her own opinion. It is arguably the most important right U.S. citizens have. After all, the Founding Fathers wrote it in first for a reason.
That same principle can be applied to conversations, publications and especially social media. It is much easier for someone to say hateful things behind the screen of a computer, but those words can still hurt a person just as much or more than verbal abuse.
The Internet is written in permanent ink. Any hateful status, tweet or post can all quickly turn into hate speech and absolutely nobody deserves to deal with that type of abuse.
There is no excuse for going out of one’s way to belittle others around you, especially through text. The Golden Rule still applies to writing: “Treat others the way you’d want to be treated.”
If nothing else, the columnist writing a negative column about a field hockey team did remind me of a valuable lesson.
Just because you have the right to say something absurd does not make saying it a good idea — so keep quiet.