In Conclusion: Hate Speech on Facebook

Posted by at 2:03AM

Following a tumultuous day for him that included critical e-mails and a call home to his parents from readers of this Blog, the student who sent the offensive original message apologized to me in a letter on Facebook and requested that I take his name off of the blog. He said I could share the letter with you, and I think it is only fair to offer him a chance to provide his own version of the events.
Here’s what he said:

I would like to personally apologize for my comment to you on Facebook. It is something that I deeply regret saying, and was merely a result of my propensity to speak without thinking. I am not sure as to how I was even put onto the list to receive messages regarding an event I had not RSVP’d for. I had already gotten multiple copies of the message, and was simply mad to see what appeared to be spam messages in my Facebook inbox (something that would not have been surprising had it been Myspace). Again, without even thinking, I quickly fired off the response that I sent to you. I never once viewed your profile, and I can assure you that this was NOT a deliberate act of homophobia; in fact, I have many gay friends and acquaintances…

…and the fact that your blog is posted for the world to see worries me, and how I will have to explain actions to people, when my rash comment doesn’t accurately portray my personality, although you may feel differently. If you knew me, or talked to any of my friends, I think you would find that I would never have said that to someone that is homosexual. I did not at all mean to offend you any more than when someone jokingly uses the term. I think, what you are actually angered by, is the fact that using the word “fag” as a synonym for “dumb” “stupid” or “jerk” has become widely socially accepted. I would agree that this is wrong, and I apologize for allowing myself to fall victim to this widening social trend. However, I feel that it’s not appropriate for you to punish me so harshly for something that (as big of a cliche as it might seem) is actually society’s fault. I promise you, that I will think before speaking from now on, and that I will try my hardest to remove that term from my vocabulary; all I ask is that you would respect me and not make baseless assumptions about me on your blog. I would also like to thank you for being so receiving towards my apologies, and my requests to take my name off of the site.

[Following his apology, the student’s name has been replaced with his initials and other information about him has been removed from the entry. Here is my original entry, minus any personal information about him.]
Last Tuesday, about three hours before the Road to Guantanamo screening, I came across an article in the UK Guardian detailing the experiences of the three men whose story is told powerfully by the film. Because the movie’s plot is a bit confusing, I thought it would be helpful to share the article with those who were registered for the event on Facebook, just in case a few attendees had a moment before the screening to read some of the article. The event went off without a hitch, but the next day, I was disturbed to look in my Facebook inbox and find this message from a certain DN from another school in California:
I was shocked, to say the least. Who the hell was DN, and why was he on our event list?
And why, exactly, would he go out of his way to say something like that?
Luckily, the word “fag” doesn’t amaze me as much as it did when I was first struggling to come out. But I was floored when I read that message the day after the screening because I am very open at Stanford and have never been on the personal receiving end of a hate speech attack.
I have since written to Facebook to complain, but haven’t yet heard back from them. And I don’t know why he was on our event list, except that perhaps someone mistakenly invited him and he somehow mistakenly accepted the invitation. Facebook, as far as I know, does not send event messages to people who have not accepted an invitation.
So, really, it seems like his act was quite deliberate. Just as easily as one can accept an invitation to an event on Facebook, one can click a button to leave the event once that invitation has been accepted. Instead of quietly opting to leave the event, DN went out of his way to make my day a sad one. What a loving world in which we live.
This is purely speculative, but I’m guessing from his profile that his being listed as “conservative” means he’s probably also not in favor of raising awareness of America’s use of torture through films such as The Road to Guantanamo. Perhaps he was angry about the article I sent out because of this, and perhaps he wanted to see just who it was that was behind the event. Clicking on my name and seeing my sexuality listed, it must have added fuel to the flame, and calling me a “fag” was just a few clicks and keystrokes away from a self-satisfying expression of his personal righteousness and dominance.
But that’s just speculation. I don’t know him. Entries on his blog (link removed) suggest that he’s at least sarcastically racist and homophobic.
Enough on this. It’s time to get to bed.


8 Responses to “In Conclusion: Hate Speech on Facebook”

  1. Anonymous says:

    While what happened is unfortunate and terrible, I think it’s more
    reflective of a greater homophobic culture where calling people “fags” just
    because you don’t like them is ok, rather than a direct homophobic attack
    on you. He’s not in the Stanford facebook network, so he can’t see your
    profile. It would be hard for him to know your sexual orientation other
    than by word of mouth from friends (which he has 5 of in the Stanford
    network…perhaps one knows you). He was probably just calling you a fag
    because he was upset at your event–and he just happened to have messaged
    the 1 in 10 person to whom that would be extra offensive. Not that it makes
    it ok.
    On a side note, I haven’t responded to several facebook events, and yet I
    still receive messages from them.

  2. Galen says:

    Anon — I am not sure that people outside of our network aren’t able to see
    our profiles. I can see his just fine, so I don’t know why he wouldn’t be
    able to see mine.
    Also, I did consider that he might have not looked at my profile… again,
    I don’t know. But he said “you fag,” and whether he knew it or not, his
    choice of wording hit straight home.

  3. comment says:

    People outside your network cannot access your profile. When someone sends
    a message to a specific person, that person can view the sender’s
    information, regardless of network affiliation, friend status or any of the
    other factors that usually determine by whom a given profile can be seen.
    His note explains why you could access his profile, though I’m not certain
    if the fact he’d received a mass message from you means he could view your
    information; therefore, one cannot be sure if he was aware of your
    sexuality when he sent the message. Of course, his behavior is
    reprehensible either way– deliberate personal attack or general insult,
    his actions still deserve to be called out.

  4. anonymous says:

    While the comment may have been out of line given the
    circumstances, I find it unfair that you’re utilizing the mistake of this
    one individual as a symbol for a far larger social problem, even going as
    far as to post pictures of him in social situations. I find it odd that you
    would, in its own twisted way, vicitimize this person when all he did was
    ask you to stop inviting him to an event at a school of which he is not
    even an enrolled student. While I admit his word choice was crass and base,
    I feel like it cannot be denied that you are blowing this way out of
    proportion and doing nothing to help your cause.

  5. Galen says:

    anon — i don’t agree with your comment, but i also don’t think his
    comments should follow him around in google search results hell for
    eternity. i had been planning to replace his name with his initials
    tomorrow to prevent that, but perhaps i’ll do it sooner given your

  6. Irinai says:

    As disturbing as this one-liner was, I am glad to see your response to it.
    You have done the right thing by bringing this issue to the attention of
    the readers of the Unofficial Stanford Blog. This blog is meant to engender
    that kind of discussion.
    It is sad that, even in California, a generally very liberal area, many
    people still consider the words “gay” and “fag” socially acceptable
    synonyms for “stupid”, “dumb”, etc. All too often I hear people around me
    use these words and I always try to correct them. What they need to realize
    is that, even if they do not agree with/accept or generally avoid issues
    associated with homosexuality, they have an inherent humane duty before
    other people to not use such words for a variety of reasons. Whereas
    refraining from using those terms takes little effort, when said, they make
    many people uncomfortable. The continued use also confirms and propagates
    the social norm, teaching future generations that it is acceptable.
    My point is that, no matter what your views on homosexuality are, please be
    respectful enough to refrain from using those words. Because, honestly,
    that is just stupid.

  7. Social Skills/Feelings says:

    People may say that the words mentioned are acceptable in the society, it is still disrespectful to use those as a mean word against a person.
    Social skills/feelings of a person must be observed when doing something like that especially on the web because the whole world can see it.

  8. Dave says:

    You know it’s sad to see people like this are on facebook. I would expect a comment like that on myspace, which is mostly kids. Facebook though is more adult based college kids. I guess no matter how mature a place is there will always be that one person who is still a kid.
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