Hate Speech Rarely Stays Just Speech [Updated]

The mantra of social order.

[Update x3] SLCPD Chief Burbank will be speaking tonight (Sept 9) at 8pm at a fireside vigil at Liberty Park. The vigil is part of ongoing work to draw attention to the attack and violence in this area of Salt Lake. I cannot attend, I am out of state. Please go and show support.

I apologize for the grizzly post, but events here in Salt Lake turned ugly last Friday night when Dane Hall was beaten just after leaving Club Sound. The assailants did not seem all that interested in hiding their motives, adding insult to injury they hurled homophobic and hateful epithets at the man as they beat him. QSaltLake relays Hall’s account of the events:

Hall said he left Club Sound, which is gay-themed on Friday nights, and crossed the street to the corner of 600 West and 200 South in Salt Lake City, when four men approached him and began yelling gay slurs. He was then punched in the back of the head and knocked to the ground. One of the assailants grabbed his shirt and began punching him in the face, he said. After Hall fell to the ground again, the attacker grabbed him, placed his open mouth over the street curb and stomped on the back of head, knocking out six teeth in a move commonly referred to as ‘curb checking,’ which can result in death in many cases. Two other assailants kicked him repeatedly in the stomach, Hall said. The attackers called him a ‘fag’ and took his identification and $40, he said.

Police are investigating the matter. The incident only began to gain public attention after QSaltLake’s account (among others) trickled out. From there, the finger pointing begins. Several commenters on QSaltLake are incensed over the lack of coverage from large media organizations in the state. However, a former colleague who works in the Salt Lake press scene drew my attention to the SLC police watch logs that omit any mention of the incident.

I asked SLCPD, via twitter, if they broke protocol in not reporting the incident. They said that is not the case and they are investigating. I have asked for more details on the incident’s omission from the watch log and if they will make a formal statement. I will update you if they respond.

[Update] SLCPD reports that the incident was not reported for 19 hours after the incident. As a result it did not show up in watch logs.

Sadly, a formal announcement from SLCPD or faster coverage by local media would not have changed the circumstances of the crime. Ignoring LGBTQ issues is a serious issue in the state of Utah. As a rhetorician what is most distressing about this case is Hall’s account of the connection between the motives, the actions, and the words of the assailants. While details are still missing, this case should remind those of us who teach about rhetoric and power that the words have a way of compelling the body to action. Rhetoric’s materiality is brutally clear here–it was only a matter of time before a society flustered by public discussion of sexuality and inundated with discourses of homophobia and hate acted out with rage. What is worse, is Hall’s case it not unique to Salt Lake or to this country.

In my Communication and Gender course I always assign Brian Ott and Eric Aoki’s “The Politics of Negotiating Public Tragedy: Media Framing and the Matthew Shepard Murder.” Students seem genuinely horrified by Ott and Aoki’s account of Shepard’s murder. What they miss, however, is their core argument that the media ignored the larger role social formations played in Shepard’s death. More over, Ott and Aoki make the point that the case’s media attention was out of the ordinary, given the several similar hate crimes occurred around the same time period but failed to garner national media attention.

When we speak discourses of hate, when we dehumanize and vilify humans we help build a chain of articulations that far too often lead to terrifying material consequences.

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2 Comments

Filed under Feminisms, news and Culture, Rhetoric

2 responses to “Hate Speech Rarely Stays Just Speech [Updated]

  1. Amelia

    very well written, sir.

  2. Pingback: Anti-Gay violence with a Texas twist. | acaguy

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