Of course, individual responsibility in eradicating atrocity speech is not limited to the realm of the internet. Here, we offer four basic principles that can serve as a guide for curbing hate speech in its early stages before it metastasizes into atrocity speech that sparks or fuels mass violence:
1. Speak Out
When you encounter speech that vilifies another group, do not let it go unchallenged. Hate-mongers count on people not resisting their divisive rhetoric. Ordinary citizens who “just” repeat what they hear in the media may not realize the impact of transmitting such content. Calling out virulent hate speech (or, in its later phases, atrocity speech) for what it is – whether by writing an online comment, reporting a persecution/atrocity-focused post on social media, penning a letter to the editor, or simply speaking up in the course of a conversation – helps prevent atrocity speech from becoming normalized.
2. Reach Out
There are concrete steps that political bodies and bureaucracies can take to prevent atrocity speech – including making some of the shifts in the legal regime outlined in this website and in the book Atrocity Speech Law. But they are less likely to make these changes on their own, in the absence of pressure from constituents. It is therefore important to contact political representatives and human rights organizations in support of a more comprehensive and robust legal framework against atrocity speech. And because schools are an important forum for learning about the impact harmful speech, as well as strategies to confront it, engagement with school boards is also vital.
Schools are not the only places where we can learn about the modalities and dangers of atrocity speech. Parents bear a responsibility to teach their children about how and why words matter. In many cases, individuals are in the best position of anyone to make a difference on these issues with their friends, colleagues, and peers as well.
4. Build Bridges
When “hate entrepreneurs” (those seeking to divide groups for political gain) go to work, they emphasize differences within society, and claim that some are more entitled to protection than others. When people make the effort to be more inclusive in all walks of life – at work, at home, in schools, and in public – the hate entrepreneur’s job becomes that much more difficult.
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