WORDS ARE DEEDS, SPEECH IS ACTION, DISCRIMINATORY SPEECH AND HATE SPEECH
As well as the seminars mentioned above, in September we also devoted our attention to the ethics of the public media. Alongside our permanent partners in the project, the Faculty of Social Sciences collaborated on the preparation of the conference “Words are Deeds, Speech is Action: Discriminatory Speech and Hate Speech”. The purpose of the conference was to open discussion on discriminatory public discourse, which on the one hand can create a basis and stimulus for various forms of discrimination, and on the other hand is itself a form of discriminatory practice.
In his paper Matjaž Hanžek pointed out that hate speech depends on a context of power and a desire to dominate. He talked about blatant and contemporary racism and about the role of the political and media fields in creating and maintaining them. He drew attention to the fact that politicians in particular often fail to understand the meaning of the words they say – or their effects. He added that it is important to place ourselves in the role of the person who is discriminated against, in order to understand more easily the phenomenon of discrimination and the effects of our actions. He also emphasised how dangerous discriminatory speech is for social cohesion: this is also the origin of a series of recommendations from the Council of Europe and the United Nations that warn against or even prohibit this type of speech.
Alexander Pollak, the head of research at the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC), talked about discrimination in public speech and stressed, among other things, that the media play an essential role in defining the problems that concern the public. He pointed out that a changed social structure also involves changes to forms of expression, where a key role is played by the mass media. He sees the solution in the supervision of speech, above all in the analysis of media texts, since this would make it easier to evaluate and detect hate speech. Andraž Teršek discussed hate speech from the legal point of view. He explained that this area is partially regulated by the provisions of the Constitution and by criminal law, but he warned that the law should be a last resort for the elimination of hate speech, since over-regulation can seriously encroach on the freedom of expression. The afternoon part of the conference was given over to workshops on the legal aspects of hate speech, what we can do to prevent hate speech in real and virtual contexts, and analysis of discourses and hate speech. The conference ended with reports and findings from the above workshops, which produced fairly similar conclusions. The message of the conference was thus very clear. The most important thing for the recognition and elimination of hate speech is raising awareness and linking governmental and non-governmental organisations. Only this can create a critical mass capable of recognising and responding to hate speech and discriminatory speech and thus starting on the path towards a more tolerant society.