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Calling Men 'Scum' or 'Trash' Is Now Hate Speech

"Facebook jailing" over mild insults shows how far "hate speech" policing has creeped—and the folly of actual laws against it.

modified screenshot from facebookjailed.commodified screenshot from facebookjailed.comDozens of female comedians have had their Facebook accounts suspended for posting derogatory messages about men. Facebook justified these suspensions by describing the women's words as "hate speech."

Their messages weren't about specific men, mind you; we're not talking about targeted harassment here. They said things like "men are scum" and "men are trash," statements made in response to harassment they were receiving from men or in solidarity with other women going through such pile-ons.

Just to be clear, I do not think all men are scum. And from the sound of it, neither did most of these women. These were mostly hyperbolic or emotional responses to current events and to direct comments from other Facebook users. But rhetorical flourish or sincerely held belief, these PG-rated insults should be allowed on any social platform that lays claim to fostering open communication.

Facebook, obviously, is a private company that can set its own rules. And to be sure, there is no generally agreed-upon definition, no legal category (not in the U.S., anyway), of "hate speech." Determining hate speech here is purely subjective and observational.

Some people using the term take it to mean some combination of speech that actually isn't protected by the First Amendment (like true threats and incitements to imminent violence); targeted bullying that's mean but not actually illegal; and whatever words or sentiments they find cruel and uncomfortable: taboo slurs, graphic language, the expression of negative ideas about a particular group or ideas that violate social norms.

Most people, I think, would not take "men are scum" to be hate speech. I don't think many would even take issue if the sexes were reversed. At least not when expressed in a general way, as was the case with the Facebook suspensions.

Things wouldn't be so clear-cut if the group was more particularized, however. Posting that "transgender people are scum" or "Muslims are trash" would probably be labeled as hate-speech. Calling libertarians or communists scum, probably not. "The British are trash?" Probably not. "Mexicans are trash?" Probably so.

I'm not trying to complain here that statements take on different nuances depending on context and power differentials. Quite the opposite. This is a feature of functioning dialogues that has been vastly diminished in the social-media era. But the openness of most speech to interpretation, the way meanings can shift based on who is saying what to whom, and the context collapse of social media are exactly what makes "hate speech" laws and policies so pernicious.

On Facebook and Twitter, these determinations seem to be made haphazardly and randomly. The decisions sometimes bow to social pressure and online mobs, are sometimes faulty by means of negligence, and sometimes guided by the biases and preferences of low-level employees or internal algorithms. The results can seem unfair, to feminist comedians, to alt-right activists, to Federal Communications Chairman Ajit Pai.... the list goes on and on.

Alas, a desire across the political spectrum to be shielded from criticism, combined with a culture of weaponized social-media reporting on most sides, has led us to the point where all public discourse is treated like that of the most precious liberal-arts-college classroom. And rather than face any potential backlash, platforms like Facebook have learned to treat even the most anodyne of insults as actionable "hate."

But the consequences of being labeled a hate-speaker in this context are relatively minor. Sure, social platforms can be important career tools these days, and even temporary suspensions can hurt, but no one is getting thrown in a cage or having their home seized by Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey.

When we give the state the power to regulate hate speech, the determinations tend to be every bit as random and biased. More so, perhaps. Facebook has nothing to gain from taking sides in ideological arguments. Government hate-speech enforcers laws do. Time and again, whomever is in power will use the laws to suppress political opponents or populist uprisings or people who Tweet mean things at them.

Occasionally this benefits progressive or radical causes. But it's much more likely to be used against radicalism, against any marginalized groups, and in furtherance of the status quo. Only this time, it's not just a Facebook account at stake but one's property, reputation, liberty, and possibly life.

Hate speech laws can never truly serve the fight to speak truth to power.

Photo Credit: modified screenshot from facebookjailed.com

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  • Crusty Juggler||

    Fist of Etiquette is scum.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    And how!

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    What did scum do to you?

  • ALWAYS RIGHT||

    Eunuchs are scum. Besides, they can't control their bitches.

  • Entropy Drehmaschine Void||

    Controlling Britches is an Imperative.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    to be clear, I do not think all men are scum.

    Aww shucks.

    *kicks pebble*

  • Murgatroyd||

    These were mostly hyperbolic or emotional responses to current events

    Elizabeth, I think the word you were looking for here is "hysterical".

    #Went there
    #TIWTANLW

  • Just Say'n||

    Shorter article: It was fine when these companies were censoring certain people, but now its problematic

  • Hugh Akston||

    But rhetorical flourish or sincerely held belief

    Sorry, but I'm a H&R commenter, so there is no difference between those two.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Fina-fucking-ly. I've been lobbying for protected status ever since my balls dropped. Honestly, I thought I was going to have to join MGTOW to get some goddamn recognition of my fragility.

  • colorblindkid||

    Things wouldn't be so clear-cut if the group was more particularized, however. Posting that "transgender people are scum" or "Muslims are trash" would probably be labeled as hate-speech. Calling libertarians or communists scum, probably not. "The British are trash?" Probably not. "Mexicans are trash?" Probably so.

    Which is why this is so fucking absurd. Picking and choosing which groups one can collectively disparage is in itself bigoted.

  • Zeb||

    And condescending and insulting.

  • Tony||

    Agree or disagree, the standard is "Which is more likely to lead to a hysterical mob of torch-bearing lunatics burning down people's homes and businesses?" The British are probably safe. Mexicans are one of the top scapegoats of this decade. We elected an entire president on the premise that they are scum.

  • Eidde||

    Apparently, one way to bring a hysterical mob of incendiaries descending on businesses often owned by minorities is to say that the police shot a minority.

    I'm still trying to figure out the logic of that one.

  • ||

    The British are probably safe.

    You were recently presenting the attempted genocide of the Tutsi by the Hutu as analogous to what Trump is doing in this country today.

    Do you know anything about the backstory there, or do you just instinctively climb to the top of the tallest pile of bodies you can find looking for a bloody shirt to waive?

  • Episteme||

    All black people look alike to her?

  • SchillMcGuffin||

    I dearly wish we had the option of voting for specific parts of Presidents, instead of having to elect entire ones.

  • MarkLastname||

    Torch bearing mobs? Right. But whatever you need to justify your selective approval of bigotry.

  • JoeBlow123||

    I am glad you are here Mr. Tony and think you are often treated unfairly by some of the posters here but this is an entirely ridiculous comment. What is the point of rules or standards if they are entirely subjective? Moreover what you wrote is so incredibly anti-liberal and anti-democratic.

    "All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others."

  • 68W58||

    "All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others."

    Tony's mantra.

  • Bra Ket||

    How about truthfully pointing out that an individual is a murderer or rapist? Shall we outlaw that too?

  • damikesc||

    Agree or disagree, the standard is "Which is more likely to lead to a hysterical mob of torch-bearing lunatics burning down people's homes and businesses?"

    So you admit you hold darker-skinned folks to a lower standard than you hold white folks?

  • Zeb||

    Well, at least they are trying to be consistent and not apply a double standard, I guess. Still something tells me that posting "women are dumb bitches" would get a harsher response.

    Policing "hate speech" is only going to lead to bad places.

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    ""Picking and choosing which groups one can collectively disparage is in itself bigoted.""

    No comment, just thought it was worth repeating.

  • Charles Easterly||

    ""Picking and choosing which groups one can collectively disparage is in itself bigoted.""

    No comment, just thought it was worth repeating.

    I agree with you here with regards to the emphasis upon the original statement, Vic.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Hate speech is bullshit. Hate actions might be a problem, depending on the action. In any case, FB should be able to discriminate against whomever they want.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I expected speech to get censored needlessly. Got to say, didn't think it would be this kind of speech.

  • Unlabelable MJGreen||

    On the upside, this could lead to fun new insults, or reviving old ones. Quit trying to squash innovation, you facilius flibbertigibbet.

  • Kivlor||

    Honestly, a part of me hopes FB will seriously ramp up the censorship on feminists and women and leftists. It's probably our only hope of getting everyone to agree that policing every internet comment is a terrible idea.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    There's not going to be any lesson learned there regardless. Nothing happening that I have seen have lead to any significant considerations of the negative effect of power. People only become more certain it is life-or-death to have one's own people in charge.

  • Kivlor||

    Then at least my enemies will suffer with me dammit lol

  • MasterThief||

    It warms my heart a bit when the people instigating such a disproportionate amount of incivility get hit with the same hammer they have effectively used on everyone else. I don't think they are going to learn as in case after case leftists have been caught in their own logical traps and come out the other side having learned nothing. I think it's good if FB is applying the same standards across the board even while I think those standards are dumb. Let the harpies call us scum! I really don't give a damn. I think the platform is better if they let everyone say whatever they want, but applying standards equally is the next best option.

  • Bacon-Magic glib reasonoid||

    "Men are scum" is a term that has been used forever by women just as "make me a sammich" has been used by men.
    Get over it people.

  • TGoodchild||

    I could go for a sammich right now. Turkey / swiss, butter lettuce, yellow mustard on a croissant.

  • GILMORE™||

    Things wouldn't be so clear-cut if the group was more particularized, however. Posting that "transgender people are scum" or "Muslims are trash" would probably be labeled as hate-speech. Calling libertarians or communists scum, probably not. "The British are trash?" Probably not. "Mexicans are trash?" Probably so

    I'm not trying to complain here that statements take on different nuances depending on context and power differentials. This is a feature of functioning dialogues that has been vastly diminished in the social-media era. But the openness of most speech to interpretation, the way meanings can shift based on who is saying what to whom, and the context collapse of social media are exactly what makes "hate speech" laws and policies so pernicious.

    journalists are experts on this stuff.

  • Just Say'n||

    Well said

  • ENB wants you to punch people||

    Hahahahahahahahaahahahahahahahah

  • BYODB||

    These women should be absolutely free to call all men Hitler, for all I care. Shutting them down, even if they're stupid, is idiotic.


    That said, the same thing works in reverse too and about people of different races. You want those types of people to proclaim this stuff as loudly as possible, to give them as wide of a berth as possible.


    Once you've invited the Government to determine what kind of speech is ok to say, well, you've already lost free speech so what more needs to be said? At first they came for the haters, and I said nothing...

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I'm trying to stay positive about the major social networking sites' newfound powers of international censorship that's come at the behest of the West's governments. I believe it will ultimately be their downfall.

  • ||

    Where does, "go fix me a sammich" fit in, Liz?

  • Longtobefree||

    Just before "and bring a beer, too"

  • Tony||

    May be either a preemptive strike on the MRAs pissing themselves with snowflaky outrage or a way of saying "See what you made me do?"

  • MarkLastname||

    Yes, the NOM is constantly making headlines complaining about this stuff; make studies students are always soaking up those grants to study micriagressions.

  • Eidde||

    If Facebook gets too censorious, join a more freewheeling community already.

  • Eidde||

    "Not this one, though, the troll quota is filled, but we'll keep your application on file." /H&R management

  • <Unpastable>||

    I wonder if ENB would be as offended if (and it's not really an if) FB were banning men who said "women are trash" or "women are scum" or "women are whores". Even if they'd been treated badly by some women recently.

  • Hugh Akston||

    She's such a hypothetical hypocrite.

  • Pro Libertate||

    A hybrid hypotenuse?

  • Eidde||

    I wonder what would happen if I made a joke about a sin curve - better not risk it.

  • Episteme||

    Not to get on a tangent here...

  • Charles Easterly||

    Thank you for the collegiate memories, Gentlemen.

    [Co-Signed by Charles himself (in university-frame of mind).]

  • Longtobefree||

    Well, there is a difference.
    Your comments are true, the one about men is not true.

  • Pro Libertate||

    "Bonjour, scum."

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Oui.

  • ||

    They said things like "men are scum" and "men are trash,"

    Am I wrong in thinking words/phrases like motherfucker, fucking bastard, son of a bitch, manchild, sperm donor, etc. are still copacetic or does FB already filter these?

  • EscherEnigma||

    But rhetorical flourish or sincerely held belief, these PG-rated insults should be allowed on any social platform that lays claim to fostering open communication


    [citation needed]

    Government? That "should" allow insults, PG-rated or otherwise.
    A private company's website, whether it's called a "social media platform" or otherwise? There is nothing that they "should" do. If you want a social media platform that allows all speech, then get the Fed to host it's own Facebook clone. But so long as it's a private company doing it, then you don't get to say what they "should" do.

    To be clear, you can say what you want them to do, and lobby, organize, boycott and etc. around that. But don't confuse "I want" with "you should".

  • Eidde||

    "But don't confuse "I want" with "you should"."

    Look at you, trying to abolish most of modern politics!

  • EscherEnigma||

    Nah. That's confusing "I want" with "you're required to".

    This is just for hyperbolic journalists and internet commentators.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

  • MarkLastname||

    Yes, you can still say what they should do. One can say, 'Oracle shouldn't donate money to the Nazi party' or 'Facebook shouldn't ban Cubans.' Those are perfectly valid moral claims, and not just matters if taste.

  • Bra Ket||

    yeah you think that till the Cubans take over the place.

  • Eidde||

    On Reason, you can call anybody anything, including ______, __________, ___________, and ___________.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Great! Next they'll be trying to ban Tatsuya Ishida over at Sinfest. Some change happened to Tat and he's changed from best anime webcomic artist to best feminist webcomic artist. But nobody can touch his craft. At least, not yet, anyway...

  • perlchpr||

    Yeah, I dunno what happened to Tat, but the comic is no longer fun to read. It's just yelling every day now.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    It almost seems like a long form parody at this point. Though I have the first Dark Horse book he published and even in that one he was expressing regret at comments in his earliest comics. Though, the earliest ones (not on the website, for his college paper) are basically "Fuck bitches."

  • dantheserene||

    I gave up on Sinfest so long ago I'd forgotten it was a thing. I had no idea it was *still* a thing.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Dozens of female comedians have had their Facebook accounts suspended for posting derogatory messages about men. Facebook justified these suspensions by describing the women's words as "hate speech."

    This shit had nowhere to go but here.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    And to be sure, there is no generally agreed-upon definition, no legal category (not in the U.S., anyway), of "hate speech."

    And to be sure, there is no generally greed-upon definition of "hate speech" in any other country either, but they'll sure bring the hammer down when they see it.

  • Longtobefree||

    It has been clearly defined by the same folks who define "assault rifle".
    Hate speech is any form of communication they do not like, based on today's outrage index.

  • Utilitarian||

    "Most people, I think, would not take "men are scum" to be hate speech. I don't think many would even take issue if the sexes were reversed. At least not when expressed in a general way, as was the case with the Facebook suspensions."

    Lots of people on the Left would say "men are scum" is not hate speech, but "women are scum" is hate speech.

  • damikesc||

    Which is why I won't give the women any leeway here.

    If the same thing, verbatim, cannot be said about you without you losing your shit...then don't say it about me, either. I don't bother with the "it's not hate speech" canard because THEY do not care and simply allowing them to oppress me so I can feel better about myself is damned idiotic.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    If I say "bitches be fine AF" is that hate speech or love speech? Discuss.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Depends on if you sound closer to Prince or Funkadelic when you say it.

  • Devastator||

    Yes.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    But the consequences of being labeled a hate-speaker in this context are relatively minor. Sure, social platforms can be important career tools these days, and even temporary suspensions can hurt, but no one is getting thrown in a cage or having their home seized by Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey.

    All of this is true, but also, almost all of these actions on the part of Google, Facebook and all of their subsidiaries is at the behest and threats from government, namely those of Western Europe.

    Apparently, the internet does have borders.

  • JoeBlow123||

    This. They have repeatedly been threatened to be legislated against with many a wagging finger from the media to be better, that Zuckerberg has messed up for allowing Russia to make fake news and get Trump elected, so they are now pre-emptively legislating themselves.

    If I was Zuckerberg I would do the same.

    It is funny to think about who this helps too. If the only acceptable opinions are now the ones vetted by D.C. and the big media conglomerates then they have effectively killed the "grass roots" part of Facebook and the internet. I think this impossible but I have no doubt the people in charge would think crushing independent opinion in favor of the NBC, D.C., BBC, etc. party line is good for democracy and them because those other opinions are dangerous in some way.

  • DajjaI||

    AddictionMyth always thought however that the problem wasn't 'hate speech' or 'incitement' but the failure of the good people to SPEAK OUT against them. If only he was still around today to say that himself.

  • Eman||

    im very conflicted. Obviously these laws violate free speech and shouldnt exist at all, but if theyre going to, then applying them equally seems a little fairer, and probably hastens their repeal. But really, what difference, at this point, does it make?

  • Cloudbuster||

    Is there a peak insanity point, at which point there will be a massive backlash? Every time I think we've reached it, we surge forward to new heights of insanity.

  • Longtobefree||

    Clearly we need to have hate speech, so we can invent newspeak to eliminate hate speech.
    Welcome to the revolution.

  • Sugarsail||

    No offense taken...second-wave feminism has made men quite used to being loathed at this point.

  • GILMORE™||

    second-wave feminism has made men quite used to being loathed

    Feminism is technically on at least its third wave at this point.

    that's if you actually think that its really even feminism at all anymore. I don't.

  • GILMORE™||

    Apparently someone invented a fourth while people were still trying to figure out what had gone wrong with #3

  • GILMORE™||

    it amounts to, "uhm, it uses computers.... and stuff. SHUT UP YOU SHITLORD".

  • Rich||

    "Muslims are trash" would probably be labeled as hate-speech.

    Hmm. Would "Some Muslims are trash"?

  • esteve7||

    RE: 'Hate' Speech:

    "The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly."

    ― Abraham Lincoln

  • Agammamon||

    any social platform that lays claim to fostering open communication.

    So, not Facebook then.

  • buybuydandavis||

    "The British are trash?" Probably not. "Mexicans are trash?" Probably so.

    Because Whitey *is* the devil and deserves all the condemnation you can heap on him.

  • buybuydandavis||

    But rhetorical flourish or sincerely held belief, these PG-rated insults should be allowed on any social platform that lays claim to fostering open communication.

    Of course sandwich jokes are just clear hate speech, and we should make sure a sandwich joker never ever has a job again.

    To the pain!

  • mnarayan||

    I want to poke ENB and say "you're next" so much right now.

    Basically, it feels like I'm at a funeral.

  • Liberty Lover||

    Facebook? Are people still actually using Facebook? How passe'.

  • Metathronos||

    I dislike hate speech laws but i dislike unfairness more.

    Since the article itself admits briefly that this is a matter of terms of service rather than hate speech laws, there is absolutely no point in arguing this as if it was a matter of hate speech laws.

    That said, the TOS has protected several groups for a while and it's just right that they are giving the same benefit to men. The fact that people are very publicly trying to defend the right to say disparage a whole gender while not fighting for the right to disparage other groups makes it clear how normalized it is to target men in particular.

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