Hate Speech: Just Click it Away?


Heather Armstrong on #Hatespeech

"You are a pitiful piece of nothingness" — Heather Armstrong, speaker on the mainstage of the re:publica on the first day, reads comments like this, and much worse, on her blog on a dialy basis. Armstrong is a mummy blogger. She earns her money on the internet with pictures and stories of her daughter. But the harmonious family life that Armstrong depicts on her blog isn't always reciprocated in such a harmonious way. The 40 year old American reported that a large number of users use the opportunity to hurl hate comments at her.

Just click away, don't look? That isn't an option for Armstrong because: "If you stop being interested in your readers, then you can't write touching stories any more." Armstrong insists that comments have to be read. And that also includes hate comments.

She told the story of how she was lying in bed one night, sick and almost broke. She scrolled through her blog: It was full of hate comments again. Then it hit her. She collected all the comments that she'd ever received. It ended up being over 150 pages long. She put it online and surrounded it with ads – and made 8,000 dollars with it the following week. "It was liberating" said Armstrong. She set up three rules to help bloggers persist in their daily fight against online hate:

  • First: Don't feel the hatred afterwards. It doesn't matter where the hate is coming from.
  • Second: Be proud of the fact that you're pissed off.
  • And third: Look for the person behind the hate. Armstrong suspects that the authors of the hate comments are actually just trying to cope with their own problems through their statements.

Armstrong has an offer for her haters: "If you really feel better after leaving a post like that, then go ahead." A therapeutic gesture.

Image: re:publica/Jan Zappner (CC BY 2.0