Racial, Ethnic, and Homophobic Violence: Killing in the Name of Otherness

By Michel Prum; Bénédicte Deschamps et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 10
Challenging the offence and
reclaiming the offensive
The gay and lesbian movement in the United
States and online homophobic speech1

Guillaume Marche


INTRODUCTION

Not all countries deal with hate speech in the same way. In France for instance, an 1881 law on the freedom of the press makes it a crime to publicly use speech encouraging hatred against members of any specific racial group.2 The European Union likewise issued in 1989 and amended in 1997 a directive entitled ‘Television without Borders’, which makes it mandatory for member states to ‘ensure that broadcasts do not contain any incitement to hatred on grounds of race, sex, religion or nationality’.3 The original directive was in turn enacted into French law.4 In the United States on the contrary, victims of hate speech refrain from struggling to have it silenced. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) organisations and leaders in particular almost unanimously consider that anti-homosexual hate speech is only to be opposed with more speech. This chapter purports to examine the causes and implications of this quasi-consensus from the angle of social movement analysis. Do the French and American approaches for instance differ mainly as a matter of cultural idiosyncrasies? Free speech indeed has dissimilar values in American and French cultures, while hate speech does not assume the same historical significance in either culture. Or does it point to something more significant in terms of the mobilisation of gay and lesbian identities in social movement – namely: is it a sign of weakness and submission to an unfavourable power dynamic, in which case it amounts to an expedient for lack of better political opportunities? Or does it on the contrary allow for a more offensive articulation of LGBT identity in public space? Online homophobic hate speech and gay and lesbian responses to it thus raise important questions about the definition of public and private spheres, and about individual and collective action in virtual space.

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