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Words Can Be Violence?

By Staff 11 months ago

Can words and speech can be considered "violence"?

Although free speech remains a constitutionally protected right in the U.S., the idea that speech can be a form of violence has gained footing in recent years. This is a particularly prevalent view among younger, highly-educated Americans: in one survey of college students [nationalreview.com], 81% of respondents agreed that speech could be a form of violence.

The conflation of speech and violence has also been promoted by mainstream media outlets, most notably the New York Times. One essay claimed to make a scientific case [nytimes.com] the idea of speech as violence: "If words can cause stress, and if prolonged stress can cause physical harm, then it seems that speech — at least certain types of speech — can be a form of violence."

Another essay, titled "Free Speech Is Killing Us [nytimes.com]; takes a slightly different tack, pointing to incidents in which violence was preceded by hateful speech as evidence that speech itself is dangerous: "I no longer have any doubt that the brutality that germinates on the internet can leap into the world of flesh and blood," writes the author. "Noxious speech is causing tangible harm."

Is speech a form of violence?

Despite the veneer of legitimacy offered by the NYT, the arguments for redefining speech as a form of violence are either fallacious or unsupported by data. The "scientific" claim that words cause stress, and stress causes harm, is particularly shaky. [nymag.com] The studies that purport to show a link between offensive speech and physically harmful stress do not actually examine the effects of, say, reading an upsetting op-ed or listening to a speaker with whom one disagrees; rather, they examine the effects of chronic stress on the health of children who were raised in harsh, neglectful, abusive homes. A New York Magazine rebuttal points out the problems with this apples-to-oranges comparison: "One situation involves a level of chronic stress that is inflicted on you against your will and which really could harm you in the long run; the other doesn’t."

Even in cases where a violent act appears downstream from an incidence of offensive speech, to describe the speech itself as violence requires ignoring both legal and human principles that recognize them as fundamentally different. The entire concept of free speech is founded in the recognition of a bright line between discussions or depictions of violence (even those that people find provocative, offensive, or upsetting) and violence itself, and the value of preserving that distinction is apparent across party lines. Whether it's the edgelord posting of the alt-right or the guillotine memes of the socialist left, speech exists on a separate spectrum from violence. For an extreme example, consider the photograph in which Kathy Griffin posed with a prosthetic made to look like the severed head of Donald Trump: although many people found the photo horrifying, and although Trump himself dearly wanted to prosecute Griffin for producing it, it was still protected speech — precisely because a work of art depicting a severed head is not the same, in any respect, as literally cutting someone's head off.

The quest to redefine speech as violence may be rooted in legitimate frustration: articulating better arguments in response to bad ones is an exhausting and never ending task that requires patience, energy, and a willingness to engage with disagreeable people and ideas. It is tempting, under those circumstances, to seek an easier way to shut down offensive speech — either by criminalizing it, or by making it acceptable to commit violent acts against the speaker as a form of self-defense. But not only are the arguments in favor of characterizing speech as violence factually flawed, the value of preserving a distinction between the two continues to be clear.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of this website or its members.

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21 comments

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9

It seems to me that the conflation of speech with violence by the Left is intended by them to serve a dual purpose. On the one hand, they want to use it to stop speech with which they disagree under the guise that is amounts to violence. On the other hand, they want to use to it to justify their own actual violence in response to speech with which they disagree. We cannot long tolerate such blatantly hypocritical and utter nonsense in a civilized society and still remain free.

The left are riddled with hypocrisy - "words are violence", then "silence is violence"

4

Can speech be violence? No. Can it cause harm? Yes....although primarily to children. And those like them.

Well said. The First Amendment actually assumes that we have a population of adults engaging in it, adults who have a thick skin and an appreciation for the actual pursuit of truth.

4

I propose an experiment to test this theory. You find someone to attack me verbally, and consent to my physical attack in response. At the end of the test, we will see who needs more medical or mental health care. HINT: I will not need either one. I think @KeithThroop summed it up best in his comment.

Thanks! I think your proposed experiment pretty much settles the issue. Perhaps I should suggest such an experiment to the next young man who suggest to me that speech is violence. I'm guessing he won't consent to it but will walk away yelling obscenities at me. LOL

@KeithThroop Perhaps if they are alone that would be the result. It would seem however, that they roam in mobs and allow the mob mentality to rule the day. In such a case, you may wish to be armed. They tend to attack in force, and then claim "self-defense" because your words were violent.

@AnomalousAnon1 Good point. They have a habit of ganging up on people when they have them isolated. Most of them are cowards.

4

People who claim speech is violence are people who are easly offended and don't like to here other views and opinions that might cause them to change there minds

3

Speech is not violence. Violence is violence.

Can speech be hurtful? Sure, under two conditions: first, the speaker must say words that the listener finds to be hurtful; second, the listener must be willing to be hurt by the words. If a five-year old calls you ugly, are you going to need some alone time to process it? Probably not. Why? Because you don't consider a child's opinion to be something worthy of hurting your feelings, even if it's the gospel truth.

And in recognizing this, we must also recognize that people exist that are willing to be hurt by just about any words they hear, even words that aren't directed at them. They view the world through a victimization lens and take anything that's said as having the potential to fit that narrative, even if it must be taken out of context to do so. Hence, they can be offended "on behalf" of people they don't even know, or really know anything about.

And thus we have a NYT article discussing the absurdity of having to censor people so that they don't inflict "violence" on people who've appointed themselves to the role of being arbiters of what is offensive and to whom. And if you should happen to be one of the people for whom they are being offended on behalf of? Well, you better agree with it, because if you tell them that you're not offended, they consider that to be violence as well. For example, all the black people who "needed to be reminded that they are black" because they weren't offended by President Trump.

True violence doesn't require such mental gymnastics. It doesn't require your consent or your willingness to allow yourself to be hurt. And it's very, very personal, meaning if the guy next to you gets punched in the face, your nose doesn't bleed.

So let's stop pretending that lines between speech and violence have somehow blurred as a pretext for censorship of free speech.

So, where does antifa's antics fall in this?

@NoPosers

Depends on which antics you're referring to.

Antifa has just as much right to peacefully protest as anyone else. And if that's what they choose to do, I would not categorize that as violence, no matter how little I agree with their message.

But harassing & assaulting people? Smashing windows? Setting fires? Attempting to harm police and people they identify as Trump supporters? Taking over public property and pointing guns at people? How do you call that anything but violence?

@Alysandir The AntiFirstAmmendment guys are full of violence, yet nothing happens to them. And Yes, that is antifa. Call them what they are.

2

To the left, "words are violence" & in their next breath "silence is violence" - oh their hypocrisy - it reeks

2

I went through boot camp. All that I was told there did not hurt me in the end. So to say word is violence is just a way of trying to control the power dynamic. I am sorry if you feel you are helpless because of other words.

2

Speech is never violence. If speech is violence who gets to determine which words, phrases and subject matter is "ok" and which is not. Speech can be gross, ignorant and possibly hurtful but there are social mechanisms in place to hold it in check. Define speech as violence and the western world is done.

Define speech as violence and there are those who will atomize definitions and control information at a level never seen before. It is a slippery slope of semantics. 2+2 is 5 because anything else is violence.

2

Strong men make good times, good times make weak men, wean men bake bad times, bad times make strong men

2

If speech causes harm, then even reacting facial expressions could be said to be harmful. Any interaction with another human being could potentially be harmful.

The problem isn't even with violence, it's the fact we're too weak to withstand such feeble assaults.

The left are emasculating society to the degree that even the slightest jab knocks us down. It'll be the end of humanity if we let it continue.

Do you not remember how many people discussed the "Face Crime" of the kid ... what was his name? Nick Sandmann I believe? When he was confronted by Black Supremacists and an elderly Winter Soldier Native American?

@AnomalousAnon1
The lefty media were guilty of reporting "misinformation" & distorted the truth & facts regarding Nick Sandmann - he was never disrespectful, didn't utter a word while that idiot confronted him banging his drum & the racist BlackIsraelites hurled abuse & insults at the teenagers

1

"Sticks & stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me."

Sums up what I believe very succinctly. If lefties want to see what violence really is, they only have to visit, say Iran, and loudly and proudly in a city square announce that they are gay or lesbian or trans. Then they will be able to clearly tell the difference between 'violent' words and real violence.

And no, I do not wish that on anyone, I simply wish them to remember the idea the left used to propagate: "Keep your laws off my body."

1

What ever happened to "sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me?" For heaven's sake, people, grow a backbone.

1

I think most people on the left would agree that words can cause harm--but the word violence is unhelpful hyperbole.

0

The Mainstream Media, and most of the left, try to use words as weapons all the time. So it is understandable how lefties get very confused about about verbally implied and actual physical violence. Some verbal threats might precede a violent assault, or physical battery, but preventing the preceding verbal assault will do nothing to protect anyone from a follow-on physical attack, or ameliorate the resultant harm.

Without free speech the physical attack will come as a total surprise because the lefties would not know that they had illegally pushed their opponents beyond their limits. Without the peaceful means to redress grievances, as described in the First Amendment to the Constitution. Violence, perhaps even civil war, becomes much more likely as violence moves ever closer to becoming the sole option for redress.

I am against civil war, but the lefties are not, and unless they are stopped they will continue to erode and circumvent the Constitution. Our most precious rights might be inalienable, but if they're not defended what does that matter? Lefties do not know or respect the Constitution. They have demonstrated to us (via General Flynn) that they will take what they want by force. If we should legally resist they will treat us as criminals, even a general who had served his country faithfully, with integrity and honor, can be falsely accused and treated as a common criminal. AND THEY DO THESE DASTARDLY THINGS WITHOUT REPERCUSSIONS.

Lefties will send an innocent man to prison for life without regret or remorse. They continuously demonstrate to us how despicable they are and yet we give them the benefit of any doubt even when we know that they will convict an innocent man.

0

Words are violence, okay then. There is a "dark complected" individual at work. Seems to enjoy just following around and staring at blond, blue eyed guys. Management just says "ignore him". Really, this isn't intimidating?

0

violence...
noun

  1. behaviour involving physical force intended to hurt, damage or kill someone or something.
0

No, absolutely not. When you claim that speech can equal physical violence, then you are on a slippery slope where others get to define what speech is allowed. As an example, these days just about everything is considered racist by left-wing nut jobs. If they are allowed to claim that speech they find to be racist equals violence, then any non-white can be physically attacked for saying literally anything at any time to anybody. Speech is speech, period.

0

Yes obviously words - spoken, printed, written, sung, chanted...can be acts of violence. The terminology "verbally and mentally violent" are not without meaning. Anyone who has lived in a hostile environment - in the workplace, in a familial setting, whether male of female, child or adult can truthfully testify to having suffered tremendously from verbal and mental abuse. Abusive language is inarguably real. It is a figurative cudgel that batters the psyches, the emotions of individuals as well as greater society.

0

I got called a cracker once. I laughed. I might not have laughed if "cracker" was a word associated with centuries of enslavement in my people's history.

Nevertheless, I think the only time speech can be violence is when a reply to one's speech is suppressed. So if someone calls me a cracker and I tell that [insert slur here] to get bent, we're even ... they can get fucked.

But suppose the insulter has some sort of power of me to compel my silence? In such a scenario, verbal abuse can cause tangible psychological harm. Violence doesn't only have to be physical. Repeated verbal and emotional abuse can have impacts just as harmful as a fist to the face, perhaps even more so.

So free speech, uttered in an effort to communicate an idea in good faith, is never violence; but speech intended to harm, in which the victim is compelled to suffer the verbal onslaught, could very well be considered violence.

It's the difference between me expressing an opinion someone might find hurtful (e.g., "Africans are fucking retarded" ) and that someone having the freedom to rebutt my opinion (e.g., "Stick it up your ass, honky!" ); and me coming home to my wife every day to tell her what a stupid, ugly cunt she is and I wish she'd kill herself, with her being too afraid to speak up in her defense.

Cracker is the n word. A racist statement.
It may not hurt me, but it most probably would hurt the speaker.

0

When they are used as violence. There will always be times when words are used that way and there is nothing anyone can do to change that. Part of childhood education should be teaching what to look for, what it means, strategies to use and how to best deal with it when it happens and personal confidence building.

0

Psychological violence exist. It can establish threatening parameters which can alienate a sphere of tolerance, when tolerance is broken, the social norms are put into stress, stress causes action, not necessarily a “bad or good” As these ideas can be conflicting in human terms. Proving God to an atheist could be harmful to the current position, but stress of new information allows the progress into a possible future. Words are the medium of emotion, and outlawing emotion is what a computer might legitimize or Social Lettuce Warrior. did my SJW joke offend someone’s stress and it is the speakers fault? The information the speaker received? Or is it the one who is unable to allow their stress to be tested? If I terrorize a person, which legal recourse classified it as such? Can society cancel negativity? What kind of safe space can United Nations turn the globe into, and why shouldn’t the world be a safe space mandated by an ideological based government. Imagine a feminist gets authoritative position, how would men ever be able to act in a satisfying manner, given past examples. Religion would be ordered by decree not fashion

I say treat others how you want to be treated, as Jesus taught society. To me you want to live in peace, it’s is up to us to make peace. If you want to fight, then exchange with someone who wants a fight. Want to be treated like a sex icon, you’re going to treat others just like that sliding scale. Personally I want to be treated with respect, so I must be committed to respect. Yet I called SJW’s lettuce, so I also believe in forgiveness, as I need it as well. But on a voluntarily basis. If someone tried to authoritatively specifically Repress me for it, then I couldn’t respect that, as that is not how I treat others with a such finality. If someone mocks Jesus, I could tattle tale, or I can allow them thier opinions, I can even allow opinions if the threat grows, to the point the whole world calls Jesus evil, as long as those who do believe he is Truth to have our community and rights.

Yadda yadda

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