Can reporting news be hate?

Earlier today OHPI received an e-mail with the message “Very Offensive Y tube video , pl stop this hateful obnoxious video”.  It linked to a YouTube video titled “Indian Hindus Force Muslims To Eat Cow Poop & Urine in Ramadan”. The video was posted by a user called “A Muslim” and it’s description is:

Hindus of the Gau Rakshak Dal forcing two men, who they suspected were beef transporters, to eat a concoction of cow dung, cow urine, milk, curd and ghee

These Hindus said they made them eat this “to purify them”, and to “punish them” for transporting beef.

This was done in Ramadan, the Muslims’ blessed month of fasting.

In India the cows have more rights than women!!!

dated: June 25, 2016

The video itself shows exactly what the descriptions says. The two men appear to have been beaten and are sitting on the ground. They throw up at the end of the video.

The incident was the subject of media coverage internationally. The Mirror in the UK ran a story which included an embedded copy of the video titled “#NEWS Beef Truckers Forced to Eat Poo”. The article states the men were caught transporting 700 Kg of beef in the northern Indian State of Haryana where state law makes the consumption or transport of beef illegal and punishable by up to ten years in prison and a 100,000 Indian Rupees (£1,100) fine.

OHPI’s response and what followed

On reviewing the content OHPI’s view was that this was not hate speech against either Muslims or Indian Hindus. We replied to the person who sent it to us pointing them to the Mirror article and indicating there was more to this story. We also said that:

“As the content is about a specific incident and specific people, it isn’t promoting hate in general against either Muslims or Indian Hindus. I don’t believe there is much chance of YouTube removing it. The fact it relates to a story in the media and there is nothing in it’s description beyond the facts will also make YouTube disinclined to remove it.”

We received an immediate reply from the person who sent it to us saying:

Why don’t you do selective hate against Jews , If you hate Muslims so much and make Jewish style excuses.
There was no need to give a useless explanation showing your approval of the hateful video.
If these men were carrying Kosher meat and hindus did teh same to them what would have been your reaction
May be the same as the killing oppression land grab by Israelis naming babies as terrorists.
You r really fucked up.

Our reply to this delightful message was:

The Online Hate Prevention Institute has done more on anti-Muslim hate online than any organisation not just in Australia but globally. You are welcome to see our work tackling anti-Muslim hate at:

In this particular case it wouldn’t make any difference if the meat was Halal, not Halal, Kosher, nor Kosher etc. If the person transporting the beef was Jewish, Christian, atheist etc then the same thing would have happened. The incident took place in a country where the local laws prohibit the sale or eating of beef and the meat in question was beef. It is therefore not an issue about the religion or identity of the people involved. It is about what they were doing. The video itself simply states the facts of what occurred, it doesn’t use it to incite hate. The video is published by an account called “A Muslim” which also contains videos promoting Islamic thought. The person who published it clearly did not intend doing so to incite hate against other Muslims.

I’ll put this online, along with your e-mails (anonymous of course) and see what people think.

We received a response saying the fact we covered anti-Muslim hate was a good thing. He went on to say “rules are made by the humans to suit who so ever is in the majority or holds the power”. This was illustrated by the claim that people who are antisemitic are “cursed in USA but not [people who are] anti Islamic or anti-christian”. He explained being antisemitic as denying “holocaust fake figures” and went on to cite CODOH (Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust), one of the leading Holocaust denial websites, as evidence for a claim that Hitler has 150,000 Jews in his army. His point, however, is that the response against antisemitism in the US is “so powerful that it allows Jews to carry on killing innocent Palestinian babies women children”.

The Issues

Not every action against someone from a minority is prejudice.  If the same response would have occurred regardless of someone’s race, religion, gender, sexuality, etc. then the action did occur because of the person’s identity.  S18C of the Racial Discrimination Act captures this idea in S18C(1)(b) which says the law only applies when “the act is done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the other person or of some or all of the people in the group”. In the incident in India, it was the transportation of beef and not the identity of those transporting it that was the issue.

One law for all. One can imagine a situation in which the people transporting the beef were not professional criminals, but perhaps members of a Muslim community who wanted beef to break their fast for Ramadan. One can argue that there should be an exception to the beef eating and transportation law to allow the Muslim community to have Halal beef in order to protect their right to religious freedom. Such an argument can support campaigning for an amendment to the law, or the existence of such an exception in the law, but it can’t be used as a justification for breaking the law when no such exemption exists.

Reporting about hate is not itself hate. It can be part of the solution to hate. The context is critically important and sometimes it is a subjective call on whether something is being published for the purpose of raising awareness about hate or for the purpose of further promoting the hate content. The context is determined by the way the content is presented, who presents it, and what they say about it. It is possible that the same video with the same description and title might be considered hate if it was posted in a YouTube channel that general posts hate, but not if it was posted in the YouTube channel of a news organisation. It is possible for news about a particular group to be curated in such a way that the message it gives is a general one of hate against a particular group. This occurs on some Facebook pages.

Justifying bigotry is not the answer. The e-mails makes the claim that antisemitism is the only form of hate taken seriously and that it is misused, the logic then follows that antisemitism can be ignored or should be considered acceptable. This is justified by the accusations made again Jews. The strongest accusation is in relation to Palestinians…. yet nothing about the initial conversation on the video from India relates in any way to the Israeli / Palestinian conflict. This accusation is the author of the e-mail granting themselves permission to be bigoted against Jews by justifying why they think Jews deserve their hate. A lot of hate, against any community, starts with such justifications.

Accusing people (or communities) of bigotry can be hate speech. The reply e-mail says,”Why don’t you do selective hate against Jews , If you hate Muslims so much and make Jewish style excuses.” This is an example of hate speech. First there is the baseless accusation of anti-Muslim bigotry, then there is the reasoning about “Jewish style excuses”. It implies Jews don’t support the rest of society or other minority groups. Perhaps “Jewish style excuses” is intended to draw on other antisemitic stereotypes of Jews. In reality, the evidence is quite to the contrary. The Australian Jewish community has repeatedly been recognized, both as a community and through recognition of individuals, for its contribution to multiculturalism and support for other communities. To take one example, Mark Leibler, a leader in the Jewish Community, is currently chair of the Indigenous Referendum Council. John Searle, another Jewish community leader, recently retired as Chair of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission and years before was instrumental in championing the introduction of Victoria’s laws against religious vilification which protect among others the Victorian Muslim Community (the Jewish community was itself already covered on racial vilification laws). This is to say nothing of the Jewish community’s contribution to wider Australian society, from Sir John Monash Australia’s greatest general to Sir Isaac Isaacs Governor General and one of the drafters of the constitution.

Holocaust Denial. The e-mail refers to “holocaust fake figures” which is an effort at denying or at least minimizing the Holocaust and references CODOH, the “Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust” – one of the leading Holocaust denial websites and a site OHPI has discussed twice before. The e-mail author refers to 150,000 Jews in Hitler’s army, a misrepresentation used by many of the Holocaust denial websites. The basis for these claims is a 2002 book by historian Bryan Mark Rigg called “”Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers: The Untold Story of Nazi Racial Laws and Men of Jewish Descent in the German Military” as the title implies, these are people who had, for example, one Jewish parent or grandparent. The Nazis rules about racial purity were not always strictly applied and some people with Jewish ancestry were given “German blood certificates” stating they were “Aryan”. There were a small number of actual Jews who served with the Germans, but the number is closer to 300 and is the special case of Finland. Finland allied with the Nazis against the Society Union, but did not accept anti-Jewish laws. Jews served in the Finish army and a few were recommended for German military medals like the Iron Cross – but refused them.  The study of the Holocaust is to be encouraged but sites like CODOH and other Holocaust denial websites promote lies and misinformation, but a better understanding of history. They are the original fake news.

The Blood Libel. The blood libel is an antisemitic trope going back to the Middle Ages. It involves an accusation that Jews for their own purposes have an agenda of killing non-Jews. Historically Blood Libel was specifically an accusation that Jews killed Christian children as part of their rituals. The idea “Jews… carry on killing innocent Palestinian babies women children” is an expression of this. The context of the e-mail was about hate speech and unrelated to the Israeli / Palestinian conflict, the accusation made was leveled against Jews in general and implied an ongoing deliberate Jewish agenda of murder of innocents.

Your thoughts

As our regular supporters will be aware, due to a major shortage of funding we have changed from an organisation with 5 full time staff tackling all forms of online hate, and trying to deal with everything as quickly as we can, to an organisation based entirely on volunteer effort. As a result we are constantly having to turn people away as we lack the resources to respond in a timely fashion to all the issues that are brought to us. We are still tackling issues when we can, and seeking to improve public understanding about online hate and freedom of speech issues. This work is made harder when what we receive is abuse rather than support.

Leaving aside the abuse directed against OHPI and our volunteers, what do you think about this video and our response? Do you agree it’s is not hate speech? If you disagree, why? Would you like to see it removed and do you think it should be censored (perhaps removed for reasons unrelated to hate speech)? The video itself (if you really want to see it before expressing a view) can be seen here. You can leave your thoughts on this Facebook thread.

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