8 – HOW DOES HATE SPEECH SPREAD THROUGH THE MEDIA?
The term ‘hate speech’ refers to expressions of hatred that may take the form of a statement, article, sound bite, image, or video that conveys rejection, hatred, or fear of the ‘other’ and is hurtful to the people targeted by it, thus encouraging feelings of hatred.
When hate speech is public, it can incite those who witness it to feel hatred towards others, choose their side, and, due to group mentality, sometimes to express hatred themselves that is equally violent if not more so. This is called inciting hatred.
In general, online hate speech denigrates a minority group’s ethnicity, skin colour, sex, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, or world view in order to rouse hostility and discrimination towards them. The internet and social media contribute to the spread of hate speech because people interact virtually on them rather than face-to-face. Moreover, hateful content that is posted online gets more attention and spreads more widely.
In the absence of a critical eye, this type of content, which stems from prejudice, fear, and misconceptions leads to increasingly violent discourse that turns a particular group into a scapegoat deserving of blame, which leads to sweeping generalisations, and paranoia. Fake news on social media are a major factor in the spread of this hateful, violent speech.
CASE IN POINT
In 2019, nearly every media outlet in Bosnia and Herzegovina picked up a social media rumour stating that ‘Migrants attacked a minor near Sarajevo railway station’. In fact, however, an investigation by Sarajevo police showed that the rumour stemmed from information manipulated by ill-intentioned people who wanted to stoke hatred against migrants in the country. Starting with the victim’s father, people started saying that the attack was perpetrated by migrants even though there was no way they could have known that, thus starting the rumour.
This mendacious hate speech first emerged when one of the country’s most popular websites, Klix.ba, published an item about an alleged attack by migrants on a young man of 17 in Sarajevo. Accompanying the item was a photo showing a battered person in a dark alley. After investigating, however the police established not only that the attack had not been perpetrated by ‘migrants’, but also that it did not even happen where the website initially said it had, that is, near the railway station.
Using fake news to denigrate migrants in this way is common in the Balkans, both in newspapers and on social media.