David Sirota and the Definition of Hate Speech
So much has been written (and is worth reading) about David Sirota’s Salon article, “Let’s hope the Boston Marathon bomber is a white American," in particular, posts by Richard Fernandez, Roger Kimball, and my husband, Roger Simon, that Sirota felt compelled to write a second piece, doubling down and attempting to justify his initial thoughts. In spite of all the scrutiny, something fundamental has been overlooked, hiding in plain sight.
It is a sometimes less than admirable but nonetheless completely understandable and basic human reaction to be protective of groups with which one has a connection. When a crime is committed, people often hope that the perpetrator is not a member of said group. I am certain that many parents and relatives of individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia hoped that the perpetrator of the Sandy Hook massacre would not turn out to have a mental illness. When Dr. George Tiller, an OB/Gyn and abortion provider, was assassinated in 2009, I am certain that pro-life advocates across the country were hoping his killer would not be an anti-abortion activist. When two bombs were detonated at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, I am certain that millions of Muslims were hoping the terrorists would not be adherents of Islam.
That is not what David Sirota was doing. What if the parent of a mentally ill young person expressed publicly after the rampage at Sandy Hook that he/she hoped the killer was an Islamic terrorist? What if a pro-life advocate publicly hoped that Dr. Tiller’s murderer would turn out to be an African American gang member? That is precisely what David Sirota was doing. And that is hate speech plain and simple.
When it becomes acceptable to wish in public for people you disagree with to be heinous murderers (and without even the slightest bit of evidence), we have crossed a line that doesn’t allow for a functioning democratic society. I’d like to say that I hope David Sirota isn’t an American citizen, because his words of hate shame me, but sadly, the truth is that he is one of us and if we don’t call out his crime, we are condoning it.