Tag Archives: racism

In Lightning Memory: A Philosophical Dictionary à la Baroncelli

The following definitions combine insightful personal memories and personally memorable insights that I recall from, and associate with, Flavio Baroncelli (1944–2007) qua eloquent and witty teacher, brilliant and ingenious writer, fast and sharp conversationalist, generous and kind human being, and committed promoter of the teacher- and student exchange programmes linking together Iceland, my adoptive country, and the University of Genoa, my alma mater. Not all of them must be taken literally or too seriously; besides, I would not agree with some of them myself! All of them are, however, sincere tokens of gratitude, friendship and love to a truly remarkable individual, who enjoyed entertaining and shocking his audiences, but above all liked making them think, debate, and think some more. Furthermore, these definitions are a creative and inevitably poor attempt at exemplifying for the Anglophone public the sort of pithy and humorous style that, inter alia, made Baroncelli famous in Italy in his day.

 

Actuality

Another word for potentiality.

 

Addiction

A disease mistaken for moral failure.

 

Adulation

Causing pleasure by sly words, even when the listener knows that they are lies. Philosophers, in their stately parlance, would call it a perlocutionary speech act.

 

Advertising

The daily demonstration of how little control we have over our own will.

 

Agnosticism

A polite way for educated people to be open-minded pluralists in theory but narrow-minded atheists in practice.

 

Analysis (of concepts)

The bizarre tendency to turn ambiguous profundity into unambiguous superficiality.

 

Analytic (philosophy)

A typically modern attempt at making self-conscious philosophers sound like respectable scientists.

 

Banking

The best way to acquire power in a capitalist society, especially if one wishes to destroy it.

 

Beauty (physical)

One of the most important life-defining characteristics that a person can have the good luck to possess and that philosophers keep stating not to matter.

 

Bedroom

A seemingly private place where both neighbours and State authorities seem often eager to enter.

 

Brotherhood

The least understood yet most important principle of the French Revolution: without a modicum of genuinely felt compassion among fellow citizens, both liberty and equality will get used to ruin someone else’s life.

 

Censorship

A dangerous and stupid way not to listen to dangerous and stupid claims.

 

Chickens

When rasping hopelessly and continuously on a hard road surface, they exemplify instinctual behaviour as opposed to deliberate.

 

Cigarettes

Powerful, sweet, devious killers.

 

Clarity

The curse of any philosopher who may wish to come across as deep, original and worthy of enduring attention.

 

Coherence (aka consistency)

The unhealthy obsession with getting rid of all the instances of personal diversity, creativity, capriciousness and experimentalism that make individual life interesting and collective life possible.

 

Communism

The 20th-century political scarecrow that, for the duration of about one generation, made the de iure liberal countries of the world be actually a little more liberal than their de facto oligarchic past and present flag out.

 

Compassion

The most important virtue cultivated by Christianity.

 

Complaining

Generally loathed by the very same people who have most reason to complain—an instance of slave morality.

 

Continental (philosophy)

A not-so-modern attempt at making self-important philosophers sound like profound mystics.

 

Courage

Someone else’s form of madness.

 

Culture

The folklore of the rich.

 

Daydreaming

Coping with far-too-real nightmares.

 

Defecation

Its training in infancy reveals how people prefer freedom to be qualified and circumscribed.

 

Discipline (and Punish)

The most important book by Michel Foucault, who taught us that the more societies publicly incense liberty and call themselves “liberal”, the less freedom common people truly enjoy in order to do as they please.

 

Dogs

The ideal sort of loyal, selfless, hard-working and simple-mindedly grateful employees that employers would like to have.

 

Economics (contemporary)

A branch of mathematics mistaken for empirical science.

 

Economics (modern)

A branch of philosophy mistaken for empirical science.

 

Emancipation

The possibility for all people to be as bad and as silly as the rich and powerful minorities frequently are.

 

Euphemism

See “Get lost!” below.

 

Evolution

It is only after Darwin that people understood what the heck Lucretius and Telesio were talking about.

 

Exceptions (making)

The first step towards tolerance and pluralism.

 

Faith

An option generally available only to a person who stops doubting.

 

Folklore

The culture of the poor.

 

Geese

Birds that can be confused with swans, especially in Iceland.

 

Geometry

An exact formal science that can be used rhetorically as a persuasive labelling method for inexact metaphysical reasonings.

 

Get (lost!)

Uttered in a timely fashion, it can save a person the trouble of having to answer a difficult question.

 

Greek

If ancient, it is an excellent way to display one’s own erudition.

 

Health

The true source of happiness, yet regularly forgotten until missing.

 

Hegel (Georg Friedrich)

A typical German philosopher, he wrote several tomes to demonstrate that nothing stays the same.

 

History (of ideas)

A way to find out why we think the way we think.

 

Homologation

The equalising social process deplored by anthropologists whereby identifying the poor, the outcast, the loathed, the derided and the downtrodden becomes a little less easy.

 

Hume (David)

An uncharacteristically prodigal Scotsman, he noticed that the only way to be sure that all matches in the box do work is to light them all up.

 

Ideology

A set of loosely interconnected concepts, some of which may be even mutually contradictory, that allow people to feel justified in their claims and actions, or at least to project an air of justification for them.

 

Illness

The demonstration of the bodily basis of the mind.

 

Indifference

The least acknowledged yet most important virtue in a pluralist society: by caring little about what other people believe or do, mutual tolerance can be the norm.

 

Insight (aka Intuition)

Prejudice we like.

 

Institutions

The remarkable social invention whereby to preserve the memory of past errors and make the inexorably ignorant new generations less likely to repeat them.

 

Jokes

A valuable means of instruction that can reach even those who do not wish to be instructed.

 

Kant (Immanuel)

A typical German philosopher, he wrote two tomes to undo an earlier one.

 

Knowledge

That which philosophers seek and analyse most, and yet have the least of.

 

Language

The precious and inevitable source of all misunderstandings.

 

Lashes (by whip)

As long as someone else gets more than yourself, most slaves will not rebel against slavery.

 

Latin

Another good way to show one’s own erudition.

 

Liberalism

The political wisdom teaching that State authority should be used only to protect a person from her worst enemy: her neighbours.

 

Life

A rather bothersome business, but also the only one in town.

 

Lust

An open motive among men; less so among women. Gender equality’s lewd horizon.

 

Magic

Another way to understand religion.

 

Marx (Karl)

A typical German philosopher, he wrote several tomes to demonstrate that, normally, if the employer gains, the employee loses out—and vice versa.

 

Mixed (marriage)

The easiest and fastest way to explain why a marriage did not last. No such option is available for divorces between people of the same ethnic origin, the explanation of which may then take years of keen psychological scrutiny.

 

Montaigne (Michel de)

His essays became so famous and commonplace that later philosophers forgot to mention the source of the ideas they discussed and, eventually, Montaigne himself. There can be such a thing as too much fame.

 

More (Thomas)

Great wisdom expressed with clarity.

 

Nietzsche (Friedrich)

An atypical German philosopher, he wrote aphorisms to acknowledge a major yet neglected motive of human thought and action: resentment.

 

Nothingness

The likeliest outcome of a person’s life, which we spend trying not to think about it.

 

Order

In practice, the supreme official principle of social life.

 

Originality

The future outcome of the present ignorance about the past.

 

Pain (and Pleasure)

The fabric of our inner tapestry.

 

Philosophy

When good, it is the playful use of our imagination and of our reason in order to break apart, toy with and recombine concepts, beliefs and habits of thought, in order to make better sense of them. When bad, it is the skillful use of our imagination and of our reason in order to do the same and be even more confused in the end.

 

Poetry

An artificial reminder of life’s beauty.

 

Political (correctness)

The ungainly social process whereby the less respected members of a community can have a chance to be paid a little more respect.

 

Pornography

A widespread yet uncomfortable signpost of liberal freedom.

 

Potentiality

Another word for actuality.

 

Poverty

A person’s attribute that, if conspicuous, makes other significant attributes deplorable or intolerable to the surrounding individuals: age, race, religious affiliation, ignorance, ugliness, etc.

 

Prejudice

Insights we dislike.

 

Pride

A vice leading frequently to virtuous behaviour.

 

Quality

Often confused with quantity.

 

Quantity

Often confused with quality.

 

Questions

The best instrument available to reveal how ignorant we are, no matter the number of university degrees we may have.

 

Race

A historically popular but unnecessary notion which justifies people being nasty to one another. In its absence, freckles or bad pronunciation can serve the same purpose.

 

Radicalism

The art of making outlandish ideas sound plausible, thus duly impressing unsuspecting young minds and potential sexual partners.

 

Reason

The perplexing faculty to take apart whatever solid conclusion we had reached before.

 

Rhetoric

The unjustly neglected study of how language shapes people’s life under all circumstances.

 

Righteousness

The most dangerous virtue cultivated by Christianity.

 

Scepticism

Unwise over-intelligent overthinking—it is by far too delightful an endeavour for most philosophers to resist the temptation of indulging in it despite their own better judgment.

 

Sparrows

A natural reminder of life’s beauty.

 

Spinoza (Baruch)

Great wisdom could be expressed with more clarity.

 

Stratification

Having someone below you is usually more important than having someone above—another instance of slave morality.

 

Stupidity

The regularly underplayed yet visibly increased outcome of greater freedom in human societies.

 

Swans

Birds that can be confused with geese, especially in Iceland.

 

Syllogism

A structured way of thinking and talking that allows the person using it to come across as astoundingly intelligent and thereby force another to shut up, even if the latter may actually be right.

 

Tolerance

The socially crucial ability to endure people we dislike.

 

Toleration

The perplexing notion whereby tolerance is not enough in society, for we must also like the people that we dislike.

 

Torture

The most efficient way to get bad information from innocent weaklings and no information at all from guilty brutes.

 

Transubstantiation

To modern eyes, an old form of cannibalism.

 

Ugliness (physical)

One of the most important life-defining characteristics that a person can have the ill luck to possess and that philosophers keep stating not to matter.

 

Unpleasantness

That from which all great ideologies wish to free us once and for all, but which all great historians tell us we must accept for any human endeavour to have a chance to work at all.

 

Urination

See defecation.

 

Violence

Whether threatened or applied, it is in practice the supreme unofficial principle of social life.

 

Voltaire

The best example of how being a master of style condemns a man to being remembered as a minor thinker.

 

Wealth

A person’s attribute that, if conspicuous, makes other significant attributes invisible to the surrounding individuals: age, race, religious affiliation, ignorance, ugliness, etc.

 

Will

We like thinking of it as free, despite all contrary evidence.

 

Wittgenstein (Ludwig)

A Continental philosopher mistaken for an analytical one.

 

Xanadu

One of the many words for the imaginary place of endless joy that all cultures have concocted and that only some silly philosophers would state not to want to go to.

 

Youth

The time of peak performance in a person’s life, the rest of which is spent trying to make use of ridiculous concepts that can help that person to enjoy some respect and self-respect: the wisdom of old age, the charm of grey hair, the value of experience, etc.

 

Zionist

Often confused with “Jewish” and “Israeli”, it can be combined with them in the following matrix:

Jewish, Israeli and Zionist

Non-Jewish, Israeli and Zionist

Jewish, Non-Israeli and Zionist

Jewish, Israeli and Non-Zionist

Non-Jewish, Non-Israeli and Zionist

Jewish, Non-Israeli and Non-Zionist

Non-Jewish, Israeli and Non-Zionist

Non-Jewish, Non-Israeli and Non-Zionist

Polarization and the Role of Digital Media

Group polarization is a serious and worrying phenomenon developing in democratic societies. It occurs «when members of a deliberating group move toward a more extreme point in whatever direction is indicated by the members’ predeliberation tendency» (Sunstein, 1999: 3-4). As a result, after a discussion where different points of view emerge, people tend to align to the opinion they were already tending to, before the discussion itself. For example, if confronted with someone that supports a different position, people who believe that vaccines are linked to autism will adhere to their pre-existing perspectives with much more conviction; the same will occur between left-leaning voters or pro-feminist activists and so on.

This mechanism ‒ that creates extreme views in a group after deliberation ‒ clearly leads to a strong fragmentation on political and social issues and, in some cases, to the rise of extremism and fanaticism.

When society develops into factions that are not able to communicate and understand each other, democratic institutions weaken, because democracy needs a healthy public debate (i.e. open, constructive, balanced) to remain strong and vital.

Polarization is not a new problem, nor is a specific issue of the digital age. Groups tended to be polarized far before the rise of the Internet and social media.

How is polarization shaped by the peculiar characteristics of Web and digital environments, though? Is the Internet causing a more polarized public opinion, exacerbating differences and confrontations between different groups?

Through the review of the current state of the art, I will try to point out the main characteristics and issues of online polarization. I will refer particularly to the theories developed by Cass Sunstein, one of the first academic that has recognized the importance of group polarization in democratic societies. Then, I will analyse lots of empirical studies that have tried to examine the behaviour of online group users with the aim to give a precise representation of the phenomenon. Moreover, online polarization will be addressed as a result of three different causes interacting with each other:

  1. the individual one, represented by bias and heuristics (i.e. mental shortcuts based on empirical thinking);
  2. the social one, through the formation of echo-chambers;
  3. the technological one, with the rise of algorithms and the so-called filter bubbles.

 

Three Explanations for Polarization

Being polarized doesn’t simply mean having strong disagreements with others who share a different worldview: in a free society finding contrasting opinions is a sign of good health, not a manifestation of decadence. Diversity is a desirable virtue for a democratic society. But polarization goes far beyond this natural co-existence of divergent thoughts: it means having personal and «emotionally charged negative feelings» (Blankenhorn, 2015) towards those who think in other ways, that are recognized as members of an opposite, rival group. It’s “us” against “them”, in which “them” is the enemy, viewed as a group of people who are certainly wrong in their values and beliefs (while “we” are certainly right).

Why does this happen?

There are mainly three reasons why groups tend to polarize:

  1. persuasive arguments and information: people should change their minds according to the most convincing argument. But «if the group’s members are already inclined in a certain direction, they will offer a disproportionately large number of arguments tending in that same direction, and a disproportionately small number of arguments tending the other way» (Sunstein, 2017: 72). The limited argument pool will only reinforce pre-existing convictions, leading to group polarization;
  2. reputational reasons: people care about their reputation and want to be accepted by other group’s members. That’s why they tend to be aligned to the dominant position, while minority opinions dissolve in a «spiral of silence» (Noell-Neumann, 1984);
  3. confidence, extremism and corroboration: polarization increases when people feel more confident. If someone is not certain about an issue, then there’s less possibility that he might develop extreme beliefs about that issue, while extremism fosters polarization. Corroboration and agreement from other group’s members can increase someone’s confidence: like-minded people talking to each other become more convinced of their opinions and thus more extreme.

It’s also important to underline the role of traditional and social media in the development of polarization, as they are vectors of information and places that gather together homogeneous groups of people. News in newspapers, television and digital media can be reliable, truthful, or correct but never completely objective: there will always be a point of view, a shade of interpretation, a trace of subjectivity. Consumers and users choose the source of information that better fits in with their worldviews. Thus, Christians will address to newspapers that are near to the thought of the Church; right-wing voters to the ones that support the traditional values of the Right and so on.

Media, if devoted to one cause and openly partisan, can enhance polarization. This happened also in the past; but how has the Interned changed the situation?

 

Internet and the “Daily Me”

With the rise of the Internet, and in particular of the so-called Web 2.0 era (O’ Reilly, 2004), there has been a real shift of paradigm in the creation and consumptions of information, passing from a mediated (think about the traditional role of journalists) to a more disintermediate selection process. Users are more independent in choosing their source of information, because of the wide availability of contents on the Internet. Furthermore, on social media the exchange of info, from the producer to the consumer is much more direct and interactive: users can debate, react and contribute with their role to the success of a specific content. They can even create new contents, not being just a passive audience but turning into “prosumer” (Toffler, 1980).

In 1995, Nicholas Negroponte theorized the “Daily Me” (Negroponte, 1995), a personalized and tailored made news package, containing only information previously chosen. We are not far from that. On the Internet, users have the power to filter what they see: they can subscribe to specific newsletters or channels (for example on YouTube) and deliberately avoid source of information whose values they don’t agree with. These developments increase individual power and entertainment. Filtering, by itself, is a normal and democratic process: in a free society no one is forced against his or her will to watch or read something. The present situation combines in worrying ways «a dramatic increase in available options, a simultaneous increase in individual control over content, and a corresponding decrease in the power of general interest intermediaries» (Sunstein, 2007: 8). By “general interest intermediaries” Sunstein means newspapers, magazines, broadcasters which may bring to people not only the information they already look for, but also unwanted and unexpected information.

How does such condition affect polarization?

First, people on the Web can easily get connected to people with similar views: in like-minded groups opinions tend to polarize. In such environments, it’s also easier for individuals to self-segregate ideologically, building gated communities.

As a second issue, users of the social media are predisposed to look for information that confirms their system of beliefs. This could lead to extremism and a distorted vision of reality.

 

Of Biases, Echo-chambers and Filter Bubbles

I will now try to analyse the three different levels that combined together lead to group polarization on social media.

In spite of the theory of communicative rationality theorized by Apel and Habermas, human beings are not completely driven by rationality when they deliberate and take decisions. Human minds are regulated by two different thinking systems: System 1, dedicated to fast thinking and guided by emotional response and heuristics and System 2, connected to slow thinking, responsible of critical and logical speculation and needing more attention and cognitive effort (Kahneman, 2011). Each of them should be activated by specific situations. Heuristics, which are not linked to logical thinking but use empirical methods to decode reality, are useful only in certain circumstances: otherwise they can bring to distortions and misjudgements. Together with heuristics, individuals are affected in their excogitations by inclinations and prejudices, called bias, determined by personal experience and history, intimate beliefs, personality traits, and the socio-cultural context in which someone lives in.

There are many types of bias: confirmation bias is the most important aspect to be able to understand the role of personal inclinations of polarized communities online. It occurs when «one selectively gathers, or gives undue weight to, evidence that supports one’s position while neglecting to gather, or discounting, evidence that would tell against it» (Nickerson, 1998). Other two biases are important for the dynamics of polarized community: the bias blind spot (the inability to detect one’s own biases; Pronin, Lin, and Ross, 2002) and the bandwagon effect (individuals adopting the majority opinion; Nadeau, Cloutier, and Guay, 1993).

Personal inclinations can easily lead to the polarizations of one own’s beliefs: together with social influence (i.e. the process under which someone’s values, behaviours or opinions are affected by others), biases can result in polarization (Del Vicario, et al., 2016a; Bessi, Zollo et al., 2015a). This is what I describe as “individual level”: opinions tend to polarize because individuals are deceived by cognitive biases. During a discussion, participants will take as reliable only the arguments that confirm their pre-existing views, according to their system of beliefs, and reject those who contradict prior preconceptions. When in Internet, people are exposed to plenty of different opinions, but they will be naturally inclined to listen to the ones with which they already agree. This also proofs that «individuals who receive unwelcome information may not simply resist challenges to their views. Instead, they may come to support their original opinion even more strongly … a “backfire effect”» (Nyhan, Reifler 2010).

This kind of automatisms (bias and heuristics), which have existed since the dawn of times, have intertwined with digital technology in an alarming way, amplifying the diffusion of misinformation and disinformation and poisoning public debates in social networks.

The individual level of polarization on social media merges together with the social one.

Online spaces take shape as groups of social networks and subnetworks (Castells, 1996). These networks are mostly composed by people which share similar values and interests: this peculiarity is called homophily. That’s why on Facebook our “friends” are likely to be ideologically and politically homogeneous to us; that’s why on Twitter we follow mostly people which we identify with. «Similarity breeds connection» (McPherson, Smith-Lovin and Cook, 2001: 415). The tendency towards homophily is one of the causes of the formation of echo-chambers online (Bright, 2017; Barberá, 2017).

Echo-chambers are homophile clusters, digital environments that gather together homogeneous groups of people. Cass Sunstein has been one of the first academic to study them. On 2001, before the birth of social media, he wrote about the risk of fragmentation brought by these digital spaces, considering it a danger for democracy:

…it is important to realize that a well-functioning democracy—a republic—depends not just on freedom from censorship, but also on a set of common experiences and on unsought, unanticipated, and even unwanted exposures to diverse topics, people, and ideas. A system of “gated communities” is as unhealthy for cyberspace as it is for the real world. (Sunstein, 2001: 2).

Many studies have proved and investigated the existence of echo-chambers on different social networks (about Facebook: Bessi, et al., 2015a; Bakshy, Messing, and Adamic, 2015; Del Vicario, et al., 2016b; Quattrociocchi, Scala, and Sunstein, 2016; Bessi, et al. 2016; about Twitter: Himelboim, McCreery, and Smith, 2013; Colleoni, Rozza, and Arvidsson, 2014; Garimella, et al., 2018).

It’s not easy in echo-chambers to run into people that have different values and beliefs, because of their homophily. Inside of them, groups tend to polarize because some information and opinions are constantly echoed and repeated while others seem to disappear.

Group’s members see only what confirms their previous conceptions and live closed in «information cocoons» (Sunstein, 2017). Moreover, some studies have proved that members of groups that support opposite narrative (such as science vs conspiracy groups) are inclined to interact only with their own community while when they relate to others from different echo-chamber they do not communicate, but express only negative feelings or comments (Bessi, et al., 2015c; Zollo, et al., 2017).

Thus, all these elements put together ‒ confirmation bias, homophily and the isolated and deformed reality of echo-chambers ‒ lead to group polarization. It is also true that some researchers have found that not everyone is using the Internet to segregate in echo-chambers but only those who are already extremist and partisan in their views (Gentzkow, and Shapiro, 2011; Guess, 2016), although these subjects «exercise disproportionate influence» over the political system (Nyhan, 2016).

In summary, the technological element adds heavily to the mixture of biases and echo-chambers. Social media and search engines operate through algorithms, automatic procedures that using a predetermined number of steps aim to solve a problem. These technologies are mainly used for researching, content promotion, selection and filtering. Without algorithms, the average user would be lost in the depths of the Internet.

There are also collateral effects, that must be taken into consideration since they can lead to further distortions and deformations of the real, stimulating polarization and strengthening the effects of bias and echo-chambers (Flaxman, Goel, and Rao, 2016; Bessi, et al., 2016; Johnson, et al., 2017). Eli Pariser, one of the first academics to talk about this phenomenon, created the term filter bubble to address this condition (Pariser, 2011). Algorithms, by giving priority to certain contents, would isolate people in their own bubble, where alternative points of view struggle to enter. This happens because they «foster personalized contents according to user tastes—i.e. they show users viewpoints that they already agree with» (Bessi, et al., 2016). That’s exactly what is stated by a post from Facebook Newsroom about changes in the NewsFeed, published on April 21, 2016:

we make updates to help make sure you see the most relevant stories at the top… With this change, we can better understand which articles might be interesting to you based on how long you and others read them, so you’ll be more likely to see stories you’re interested in reading (Blanc, Xu, 2016).

Online platforms, through customization and the use of algorithms, give priority to the most relevant contents, but the logic behind this concept is questionable. What does the word relevant mean in such a contest? Is something relevant just because people would be interested in reading it? These tailored made services can bring to polarization because they corroborate people’s biases, by giving them what they already like or have searched for. Moreover, they reinforce the segregation of echo-chambers.

 

Conclusion

The most serious aspect of the “algorithm dilemma” is that the mediation operated by platforms to the most is unknown: many people do not even imagine according to which criteria Google or Facebook propose contents. In the same way, it’s difficult to recognize your own bias or the dynamics of echo chambers. Thus, people believe they are objective and well-informed, while their visions of the world are affected and influenced by mechanisms invisible to them. This makes emancipation even more difficult.

A homogeneous and cohesive group, isolation, and a little presence of contrasting points of view: these are the conditions that lead to group polarization. Polarization is well represented both offline and online. On the Internet, three different dynamics promote the development and spread of group polarization: personal leanings (individual level), the forming of gated communities called echo-chambers (social level) and the selective action of automatic algorithms (technological level). These elements could be considered three different kind of biases ‒ «bias in the brain, bias in society, bias in the machine» (Ciampaglia, and Menczer, 2018) ‒ that combined together isolate communities and strengthen fragmentation.

 

References

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Pariser E. (2011), The Filter Bubble: How the New Personalized Web Is Changing What We Read and How We Think, London and New York: Penguin;

Pronin E., Lin D. Y., Ross L. (2002), The Bias Blind Spot: Perceptions of Bias in Self Versus Others, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28 (3), https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167202286008;

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Us vs. Them: Ideology and Discourse

No one said the “East” or the “Reds” or the “Soviets” or the “Russians” any more. That  would have been too confusing, since some of Them weren’t of the East, weren’t Reds, Soviets and especially not Russians. It was much simpler to say We and They, and much more precise. Travelers had frequently reported that They did the same in reverse. Over there They were “We” (in the appropriate language) and We were “They”

(I. Asimov, Let’s get together, «Infinity Science Fiction», 2, 1957: 66-7).

 

The question I ask myself about the Us vs. Them polarisation is apparently simple. The phrase is certainly a divisive and adversial but: can it only mean a desire to overcome and subjugate, or is it possible to remark on differences between groups of people without necessarily assume conflict and abuse? In the quoted short story, Asimov wrote:

At the beginning, it had been called a Cold War. Now it was only a game, almost a good-natured game, with unspoken rules and a kind of decency about it (Ibidem: 67).

In sports and in playgrounds, the meaning of “Us vs. Them” is straightforward: teams competing to win a game. Sometimes the competition is fierce, but it is always regulated by precise rules, and characterized by mutual respect. Teams can be assembled, disassembled, and reassembled without any negative consequences on the single members of either team: it is matter of agonism, not antagonism. Except for The Paul Street boys – but that was a war game. And in wars competition is violent and the opponent is an enemy to be killed, as well as defeated.

We do not need to quote Machiavelli or Lionardo in the Libri della famiglia (The Family in Renaissance Florence) by Leon Battista Alberti, to note that some traditional games for boys have been interpreted as a preliminary exercise to prepare for war.

My question is, therefore: can a group of people feel different from another group of people without necessarily feel superior? Or is any difference implicitly – if not openly – discriminatory? When does equality in difference become inequality, and how? Is this inevitable?

Social psychology studies about diversity and prejudice offer no univocal answer. Many theories analyse stereotyping processes according to the cognitive-motivational approach. Some focus on the contrast between a deeper prejudice (someone could describe it as innate, but I prefer implicit) and controlled beliefs. Patricia Devine pointed out the phenomenon of ambivalence (see Devine 2012). Acknowledging the existence of implicit prejudice even in those individuals who deliberately refuse prejudice – be it racial, sexist or homophobic – is a necessary step to develop containment and control strategies. Devine and Cox, who prefer to define the implicit bias as unintentional bias, try to demonstrate «that unintentional bias is like a habit that can be broken with sufficient motivation, awareness, and effort». Moreover «the habit-breaking intervention produces enduring changes in peoples’ knowledge of and beliefs about race-related issues». And about bias reduction strategies they write: «We believe … that the prejudice habit-breaking intervention causes its recipients to recognize bias and its consequences for minorities, then address it in the world around them» (Forscher, Mitamura, Dix, Cox, Devine 2017). If biases are as manageable as habits, they can be overcome just like bad habits.

Social Dominance Orientation theorists seem less optimistic: according to them, in hierarchical societies, such as modern industrial and post-industrial societies, individual minds are permeated with prejudice (Sidanius-Pratto 1999). The Social Dominance Theory, developed in the ’90s, recently experienced a revival in relation to the migration phenomenon. The SD theory maintains that in groups – and between groups – there is a kind of predisposition to inequality, confirmed by the wish to maintain hegemony by those higher up in the hierarchy. The SDO seems to be pervasive in contemporary society, albeit in different degrees depending on gender and personality. It is strictly connected with conservative policies and social attitudes, with racism and sexism – «ideologies that promote or maintain group inequality are the tools that legitimize discrimination» (Pratto-Sidanius 1994: 741).

Susan Fiske states that cultural biases and sterotypes are the base for the Us vs. Them polarization and the resulting discrimination, where the other group – “Them” – is dehumanized. Fiske hopes for the scholars’ focus to move from discrimination to a search for balance in diversity (Fiske 2000). This is what she said in a public debate:

It’s only human to be comfortable with people who you think are like you; there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, it gets us through a lot of stress – to be attached to our in-groups is our backup system. But the downside is that you’re then excluding people who are not in the in-group (Smith 2013).

The trouble is: if in feeling part of the “US” we find warmth, trustworthiness, and friendliness, what happens when we feel “THEM”? What are the individual and social consequences of these processes?

It seems useful to approach the problem from another point of view: e.g. from a sociolinguistic perspective. The purpose is to find a method to analyse interpersonal and public communication in order to identify the traps of essentialist differentialism – gender, culture, people, nation – and its heavy social repercussions.

The research carried out by Teun van Dijk about ideological discourse structures could prove particularly useful at this time in the history of European societies – our history – when national  revanchism seems dominant.

 

Ideology

The topic is complex. It refers to the long history and different meanings of the concept of ideology, starting from the lucky lexical invention by Destutt de Tracy in Élémens d’Ideologie (1825-27). We have been experiencing a “crisis of ideologies”, involving views of the world on which political establishments are founded. However, this does not imply the end of ideology as a system  of thought and behaviour.

Ideologies can be expressed through all forms of communication – verbal, gestural, visual. We shall focus on verbal communication, limiting our field of research to discourse, both as written text and oral expression.

Van Dijk started studying verbal communication of racist ideology in the ’80s, identifying in the opposition us/them one of its typical discursive structures. It must be noted that Van Dijk describes ideology as a cognitive and social structure. Thanks to this definition of ideology, Van Dijk can carry out his investigation at a macro level – groups and societies – as well as at a micro level –  individual interactions (Van Dijk 1998).

«Ideologies, then, are the overall, abstract mental systems that organize such socially shared attitudes», he wrote in his Discourse Analysis as ideology analysis (Van Dijk 1995: 18). In other words, ideologies are a group’s defining characteristics. Ideologies affect the cognitive construction of mental models organizing experiences and actions of both individuals and groups.

For those who wish to study the matter more in depth, Van Dijk developed a complex multilevel system for the analysis of the relationship between ideology and discourse – social, cognitive, and communicative. His intuition is apparently elementary: ideologies control social interactions, text and talk. The opposite is also true, however: social interactions convey social notions – i. e. ideologies.

Discourse Analysis can thus be described as ideology analysis, with well known applicative results in the social and ethic fields (see also Van Dijk 1985).  This is nothing new, if we think about the way news are offered in newspaper headlines.

 

Scientific Ideology

Considering Discourse Analysis as a tool for ideology analysis – actually the tool for those who deal with communication – I think that to analyse at a macro level the way the US/THEM, inclusion/exclusion issues are expressed, the premises to the work by epistemologist Georges Canguilhem on the definition of scientific ideology could still prove very useful.

The ideological use of science – or, rather, the supposed scientificity of ideology – plays an important role. Canguilhem wrote:

Is the notion of scientific ideology relevant? Is the term a suitable one to designate and properly delimit the whole range of discursive structures claiming to be theories, the whole  variety of more or less  consistent representations of interphenomenal relations, and the whole spectrum of more or less permanent structures in terms of which men have interpreted their everyday experience? In short, is it  a useful way of denoting those pseudosciences whose falsity is revealed solely by the fact that a genuine science has been established to refuse their claims (Canguilhem 1977: 35)?

Discursive structures claiming to be theories:  what closer connection between ideology and discourse?

As far as discrimination is concerned – in particular, racial or ethnic discrimination (see Amselle-Bokolo 1985) – we can say that science no longer supports discriminatory ideology. But it remain in public opinion.

 

Aliens

To better explain the above considerations on methodology, I would like to illustrate a case study about the US/THEM issue – and, ultimately, racism – in the past and nowadays, from scientific discourse to media debate.

Recently Italian media and social networks have been arguing about “Italians were migrants, too!”. From L’Orda. Quando gli Albanesi eravamo noi, by journalist Gian Antonio Stella (2002)  to anthropologist Marco Aime’s lectures, the “We were migrants, too. We were illegal, too” argument has proved rather controversial (for the debate in USA see Stapinski 2017). In 2018 migration stopped being a crucial issue for both media and politicians, but racial ideology, attitudes, and expressions, as van Dijk would say, remain widespread.

The following passage was broadcast by Italian Rai News24 between 2009 and 2011, and circulates on the Web, widely commented by fact-checking professionals and amateurs:

They are usually short and dark-skinned. They don’t like water. Many of them smell because they keep the same clothes for weeks. They build huts for themselves out of wood and aluminium in the outskirts of cities and towns, very close to each other. Whenever they move towards the city centre, they rent out dilapidated flats at high prices. They come in pairs, usually, and look for a room and a kitchen. After a few days, there are four of them, six, ten.

They speak unintelligible languages, probably ancient dialects.

Many children are sent out begging, while in front of the churches women in dark clothes and old men ask for pity in whimpering and irritating tones.

They have many children, whom they struggle to support, and are very close-knit. They are said to be prone to thieving and, if confronted, violent. Our women ignore them not only because they are wild and unattractive, but also because they are said to attack women who walk home from work along empty streets and rape them.

Our authorities have opened the borders to too many people, without checking whether they were coming to our country to work or to live by expedients or even illegally.

I suggest preference is given to those who come from Veneto and Lombardy, as they are more willing to work, although slow of understanding and uneducated. As long as their families can be together, they are willing to live in houses where Americans would refuse to stay, and do not negotiate for higher salaries. The rest of them – on whom this first report largely focus, come from the South of Italy.

You are requested to check where they come from and to send back as many of them as you can. Our security must be our first concern.

This is proposed as a passage from a Report by the US Congress Inspectorate for Immigration into the United States dated October 1912. Actually, it is a popularisation of some pages of the Reports of Immigration Commission – the famous Dillingham Commission, named after its chairman, Republican Senator William P. Dillingham – which from 1907 to 1910 studied immigration to the United States, collecting data and developing recommendations.

The Reports consist of 41 volumes, now available on-line: the summary on Italian immigrants quoted above is quite reductive. Reading the original documents is very interesting for those who study migrations, but also for statisticians and sociologists. The Reports are indeed a thought-provoking example of scientific ideology and political discourse, with more or less obvious social repercussions. We cannot analyse the issue in depth, here, but I would like to point out a few points in the Reports which show the ambiguity in passing from scientific ideology to public discourse and, therefore, to social bias.

I recommend reading a few pages of Volume 5, Dictionary of races or peoples, Volume 36, Immigration and crime, and Volume 38, Changes in bodily form of descendants of immigrants, published by the Government Printing Office, Washington, in 1911. The Abstracts of Reports and Recommendations in Volume 1 and 2 will help us draw a few general conclusions.

 

Dictionary of races or peoples

This Dictionary of races or peoples (by anthropologist Daniel Folkmar, “assisted” by Elnora Cuddeback Folkmar) originated from a need for study and classification explained in the Introductory. Following the new ethnical factors resulting from immigration to the US from Eastern Europe, it was felt that the true racial status of most immigrants was unknown. It was not clear what race those new aliens were. Before 1899, immigrants were recorded only according to their countries of birth, with no indication of  race or people. Under the Bureau of Immigration, there were 45 races or peoples, 36 of which were European. Under the Dictionary, there are more than 600 subjects!

The Commission’s survey was not for ethnologists, but rather for those who studied migrations, and its purpose was to collect sources and data and to promote «a better understanding of the many different racial elements that are being added to the population of the US through  immigration» (Dictionary: 2).

Given the «present imperfect state of science» and having decided to classify by race – there being 3 races according to some scholars, 15, 29 or even 63 races according to others –  the authors adopted Johann Friedrich Blumenbach’s classification of human races. The father of physical anthropology had identified 5 groups: “Caucasian, Ethiopian, Mongolian, Malay and American,  or, AS FAMILIARLY CALLED  [my capitals] white, black, yellow, brown an red races”.

The Report compilers were clearly aware that the various possible classifications were not objective, and chose the one that was best known in the US. It was a communication decision, a political, rather than scientific effort. The fact that the new “races” introduced in addition to the original five were based on linguistic differences – cultural parameters – further proves the scientific inadequacy of these divisions claimed by physical anthropology.

Let’s stop here. However, one cannot help but wonder: what was the ratio behind this racial (racist?) classification of immigrants, if the authors themselves specified that it had little practical use, since inspectors in the Immigration Office  had no time to classify each new entry as dolichocephalic o brachycephalic (Dictionary: 4)? As we’ll see later, an answer can be found in the recommendations on “ethnically” restricted migration policies – dangerously close to eugenics and “biopolitics”.

As far as it concerns US closely, wrote the author. Well, as far as it concerns us, here, we’ll deal with the Italians (Dictionary: 82 ff.). The Bureau of Immigration divided them into two main groups: Northern Italians and Southern Italians, different in looks, language, temperament and geographical distribution. The former lived in the river Po basin, the latter in the rest of the peninsula and the islands. Even the Genoese were considered Southern Italians.

It is the same distinction drawn by the famous Italian anthropologist Giuseppe Sergi, who “invented” the Mediterranean race. According to Sergi, the Mediterranean race originated from the Kamits who lived in the highlands of Ethiopia, who were not «true Africans», notwithstanding «some traces of infusion of African blood in certain communities of Sicily and Sardinia» (Dictionary: 82). While according to Sergi the Mediterranean race was mainly an alternative to the Arian explanation of the origins of European peoples, in a crudely simplified version it could be used to confirm that Northern Italians were not only different from, but also superior to, Southern Italians.

If complemented by the results of another Italian anthropologist, Alfredo Niceforo, such physical and psychic distinction between the two ethnic groups would show the “decay” and “degeneration” of Latin peoples, especially from the South of Italy. Finally, statistical data indicated that Italy had the highest crime rate as regards offences against the person, in the South more than in the North (Bosco 1891). In the Report, Italy was described as «one the most illiterate countries in Europe», with 48.5 % of its population who could not read or write –  78.7 % in Calabria, as we can read.

For the compilers of the Dictionary, the number of Italian immigrants in itself showed that Italians, especially from the South, were a problem – 2,284,601 from 1899 to 1910, 1,911,933 of whom from Southern Italy. Just in 1907, out of 297,000 immigrants to the US, 240,000 were from Southern Italy – definitely the most numerous race. It was a significant data, compared to the overall number of Italians who emigrated that year: 415,000. Most of them were from Sicily and Calabria, the least productive and most poorly developed regions. The quoted number of immigrants from Liguria, South Italian in race, is higher than the number of immigrants from the whole North of Italy – it is a figure we find difficult to believe.

Italian immigration was a problem as it continued, because of its high birth rate, even when people from other countries stopped emigrating to the US (Dictionary: 84). Southern Italians were the most numerous race in absolute terms, followed by Jews, Polish, German and Scandinavian people. The problem, therefore, was their demographic weight in the whole immigrant population.

 

Immigration and crime

Notwithstanding the migratory waves from Southern and Eastern Europe (the language is not that different from that used today) the author of the Report on Immigration and crime is determined to disprove the preconceived notion that there is a causal link between immigration and crime. In the Introduction, Leslie Hayford maintains there is no evidence of the fact «that immigration has resulted in an increase in crime disproportionate to the increase in adult population. Such comparable statistics of crime and population… indicate that immigrants are less prone to commit crime than are native Americans» (Immigration and crime: 1).

The uneven distribution of immigrants, however, who lived mainly in cities and towns in the North-East, caused the author to wonder: «is the volume of crime in the United States augmented by the presence among us of the immigrant and his offsprings?» And «If immigration increases crime, what races are responsible for such increase» (ibidem)? These questions assume there is a link between immigration and crime, even though no evidence is provided to support it. It is obvious that immigration affected crime, increasing the number of offences against the person, public policy and chastity, even though more crimes were committed by Americans than by immigrants.

It is clear that the purpose of the survey, albeit patchy and incomplete was to emphasize «the change of character of crime in US which had resulted from immigration and the crimes peculiar to various races and nationalities»  (Immigration and crime: 9). Italians ranked high in in blackmail, extortion, kidnapping, kidnapping of minors, homicide and offences against public policy, at least in the 5 districts of New York (Immigration and crime: 17-18).

The only data from the Bureau of Census that could be used to draw such conclusions refer to alien prisoners and juvenile criminals. Two graphs show that in 1904 the largest percentage of aliens under sentence for murder and attempted murder were Italian (Immigration and crime: 26), while in 1908 Southern Italians were at the top of the list (over 2000), followed by the Irish, Polish, German, and Northern Italians (less than 500, see Immigration and crime: 180).

Notwithstanding Hayford’s determination, the above connections between specific crimes and races could not but have a political and social impact.

 

Recommendations

The first repercussions concern the Recommendations set forth by the Commission. Immigration laws in force and recommendations resulting from the research concerned mainly the physically and morally unfit, but it is stated that future laws would have to be based primarily on economic or business considerations touching the prosperity and economic wellbeing of «our people» (Abstracts: 45). A slower industrialization would have been preferable to the rapid process implemented through high numbers of workers imported from abroad, who lowered the American standard of wages and conditions of employment  (ibidem).

American society should first of all be protected against unfits: any immigrants convicted of serious crimes within five years after they arrived just like those who became a public charge within three years should be deported. Aliens trying to persuade immigrants not to become American citizens were also subject to deportation.  Aliens having no intention to become American citizens and unskilled single labourers should be excluded, as well those who were considered undesirable because of their personal qualities and habits (Abstracts: 47). Exclusion could also depend on race: the authors suggested that the Chinese continue to be barred, as they had been since 1882.

Considering that the recent massive immigration, mainly from Southern Europe, had caused worse working conditions  for natives and older immigrants (Abstracts: 500ff), decreasing the number of aliens in those areas would be beneficial. Some aliens used forms of economic and social control often leading to exploitation and abuse: the “padrone system” was widespread among Italians and Greeks (Abstracts: 29).

The best – and most feasible – way to reduce undesirable immigration, according to the majority of the members of the Commission, was to introduce of a reading and writing test (Abstracts: 48). As many Southern Italians were illiterate, such test was deemed a good method to reduce their number.

 

Assimilation

The stated purpose of the Dillingham Commission was to promote the assimilation and naturalization of immigrants, and their possible settlement in farming states.

In a context where physical anthropology was so important, assimilation implied physical changes in immigrants’ offspring:  «even the racial physical characteristics do not survive under the new social and climatic environment of America». Changes in bodily form of descendants of immigrants by Franz Boas, an anthropologist whose theories were never based on the concept of race, contains a number of tables illustrating the changes occurring in American born descendants of Bohemian, Jew, Sicilian and Neapolitan immigrants – weight, stature, but also headforms (Changes: 500-509). The American environment apparently made some a little less brachycephalic and others a little less dolichocephalic. Such observations, adequately documented, would undermine racial fixity.

Assimilation, however, could be achieved only in certain conditions: immigrants must be healthy, literate, skilled labourers, with a family and a spotless record. Those who did not fit these criteria should be sent back. In particular, surveys and data collected showed the rather problematic situation of immigration from Southern Italy (and from Liguria).

 

Migration policy, scientific ideology and prejudice

What were the consequences of such a description of hundreds of thousands of Southern Italian on migration policies? What was the impact on the public opinion of “natives” (that is American-borns) and “older” immigrants?

The Emergency Immigration Act of 1921 and the Immigration Act of 1924 introduced quotas in a free immigration system – a restriction policy.

However, our concern here is: to what extent did this «statistically obtained situation» contribute to the “Us vs. Them” polarization, to racial stereotyping and prejudice? Could the ambiguous absence of judgement in a survey whose scientific grounds were doubted by the same authors, the scientific ideology of racial classification, have turned into social ideology?

Those who collected data and wrote the Reports were not a homogeneous group. A cultural anthropologist like Boas must have introduced elements of historical and environmental analysis into the general race perspective: significantly, Boas specified in his Report he had chosen the word type but the Commission changed it into race. This, however, does not alter the perspective. If the new immigrants from Eastern Europe (Hebrews were the “problem”) e from Southern Europe (here the “problem” were Southern Italians) were incapable of proper assimilation and could not become US (American and “us”) they had to be barred. If not, they would continue to be “them”, a threat to the living conditions of the “natives” (i.e. the descendants of 17th – 18th century settlers, not “native Americans”). The only alternative was to adopt inclusive and support policies as suggested by Leslie Hayford, the author of the Report on Immigration and crime, who, as secretary of the North American League for Immigrants in Boston, promoted public schools for immigrants’ children to encourage assimilation.

Despite these oscillations, the contrast “Us vs. them” in the Reports generally means that certain races have traits which the writers deemed incompatible with the American way of living to the extent of compromising proper assimilation. So it can justify discriminatory policies, not only, but increase a discriminatory ideology, racist in Van Dijk’s sense, what we can find in the Dillingham Commission and in the contemporary public debates.

A similar approach, albeit without any scientific pretence, can still be found in day-to-day discourse, as well as in the political discourse of those who believe in the superiority, identity and non-equality of US.

How can we react positively? How can we deconstruct the divisive polarization and discrimination?  Is it enough to use positive metaphors in order to find  the “warmth” Susan Fiske hoped for?

May be something else is required –  non-discriminatory ideologies, i.e. systems of  thoughts and social practices. Perhaps we should not remove differences, but stop classifying them as values or axiologies. As Baroncelli said in his Il razzismo è una gaffe (Racism is a blunder).

 

References

Alberti, L.B. (2004 [1434-40]), The family in Renaissance Florence, Waveland Press.

Baroncelli, F. (1996), Il razzismo è una gaffe, Roma, Donzelli.

Amselle J.L. -’Bokolo E.M, edd.,  (1985), Au coeur de l’ethnie, La Découverte, Paris.

Benton-Cohen (2018), Inventing the Immigration Problem: the Dillingham Commission and its Legacy, Harvard UP.

Boas, F. (1912), Changes of bodily form of descendants of immigrants,  American Anthropologist, n.s. 14: 530-562.

Bosco, A. (1891), La studio della delinquenza, Bulletin de l’lnstitut international de Statistique, vi: 167-214.

Canguilhem, G.  (1977), Qu’est-ce qu’une idéologie scientifique? [1969], in Ideologie et rationalité dans l’histoire des sciences de la vie, Librairie J. Vrin, Paris.

Devine, P. et al. (2012), Long-term reduction in implicit race bias: A prejudice habit-breaking intervention, Journal of  Experimental and Social Psychology, 48: 1267-78.

Duckitt J. – Sibley Ch.G. (2007), Right Wing Authoritarianism, Social Dominance Orientation and The Dimensions of Generalized Prejudice, European Journal of Personality, 21: 113-130.

Fiske, S.T. (2000), Stereotyping, Prejudice and Discrimination at the seam between the centuries: evolution, culture, mind, and brain, European Journal of Social Psychology, 30: 299-322.

Forscher P.S., Mitamura C., Dix E.L., Cox W.T.L. and  Devine P.G. (2017), Breaking the prejudice habit: Mechanisms, timecourse, and longevity, Journal of Experimental and Social Psychology, 72. Available from:            https://www.researchgate.net/publication/316874118_Breaking_the_prejudice_habit_Mechanisms_timecourse_and_longevity.

Pratto F., Sidanius J., Stallworth L.M., Malle, B.F. (1994), Social dominance orientation: A personality variable predicting social and political attitudes, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67.

Reports of the Immigration Commission (1911), Government Printing Office, Washington:

vol. 1: Abstracts of Reports of The Immigration Commission, with Conclusions and Recommendations:

 https://archive.org/details/reportsofimmigra01unitrich/page/n5

vol.  5:  Dictionary of races or peoples:

 https://archive.org/details/reportsimmigrat02croxgoog/page/n6

vol. 36:  Immigration and crime:

 https://archive.org/details/reportsimmigrat08dillgoog/page/n6

vol. 38: Changes in bodily form of descendants of immigrants:

 https://archive.org/details/reportsofimmigra38unit/page/n5

Sergi, G. (1901), The Mediterranean race: A study of the origin of European Peoples, London.

Sidanius, J. – Pratto, F. (1999), Social Dominance: An intergroup theory of social hierarchy and oppression, Cambridge UP,  Cambridge.

Smith, J.A. (2013), What does prejudice reveal about what it means to be human?, Greater Good Magazine, october 21:

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/what_does_prejudice_reveal_about_what_it_means_to_be_human.

Stapinski, H. (2017), When America barred Italians, The New York Times, 2017/06/02.

Van Dijk, T. (1985), The Role of Discourse Analysis in Society, in Handbook of Discourse Analysis, Academic Press, London, 4: 1-8.

Van Dijk, T. (1995), Discourse Analysis as ideology analysis, in C. Schäffer-A.Wenden (eds), Language and Peace,  Routledge, Aldershot.

Van Dijk, T. (1998), Ideology: A Multidisciplinary Approach, SAGE Publications, London.

Zeidel, R. (2004), Immigrants, Progressives and Exclusion Politics, Northern Illinois UP.

Prejudice and Presupposition in Offensive Language

  1. Updating an old distinction: Frege on sense and tone[1]

In a much-discussed example from his Posthumous Writings (from the piece called “Logik” , written in 1897), Frege makes an analysis of the difference between two similar sentences:

(1) That dog howled all night

(2) That cur howled all night

The two sentences, Frege says, express the same thought:

[T]he first sentence tells us neither more nor less than does the second. But whilst the word ‘dog’ is neutral as between having pleasant or unpleasant associations, the word ‘cur’ certainly has unpleasant rather than pleasant associations and puts us rather in mind of a dog with a somewhat unkempt appearance. Even if it is grossly unfaith to the dog to think of it in this way, we cannot say that this makes the second sentence false. True, anyone who utters this sentence speaks pejoratively, but this is not part of the thought expressed (…) It might be thought that the second sentence does nevertheless tell us more than the first, namely that the speaker has a poor opinion of the dog. In that case, the word ‘cur’ would contain an entire thought.

I have quoted Frege at length because the selection contains many ideas that we may summarise as follows:

– The two sentences express the same assertive content, so that if (1) is true then (2) is true;

– However, (2) expresses also a tone or colouring given the pejorative expression “cur”, which suggests a negative attitude towards dogs;

– The term “cur” may be thought to contain an entire sentence expressing a derogatory attitude towards dogs;

– But the sentence ideally contained in the word “cur” is not expressed, but hinted at with the use of the pejorative word; a person unaware of the derogatory meaning of “cur” would interpret (2) as intending exactly what (1) means.

Therefore, we need to distinguish between:

(a) The thought expressed, which has to do with the truth or falsity of the state of affairs described (we may speak of the truth conditional content of the sentence);

(b) The thoughts “which the speaker leads others to take as true although he does not express them”.

The distinction is reminiscent of a distinction already made by Frege in his 1879 masterpiece, Conceptual Notation (Begriffsschrift), where he insists that we have to distinguish between sense and tone:

(a) The sense of a sentence is what pertains to the truth.

(b) The tone or colouring of a sentence is what pertains to pragmatic agreements.

Although Frege does not use the term “implicature”, widely applied by the philosopher Paul Grice in his analysis of implicit communication, many authors have considered his distinction as a forerunner of Grice’s idea of conventional implicature. Following this lead, David Kaplan (1999) suggested developing the Fregean distinction between sense and tone with the following analysis: in pejorative expressions we have to distinguish a descriptive part and an expressive part; both have the same information content (they refer to the same individuals when used to refer), but the pejoratives express also an attitude that we should take into account.

Consider two sentences concerning a crime:

(3) That nigger is the culprit.

(4) That man is the culprit.

Both have the same truth conditions; they are both true or false depending on the person in question having committed the crime, provided that with “that man” and “that nigger” the speaker intends to refer to the same individual. But while the descriptive part of (3) and (4) have the same function in helping the hearer, maybe together with a gesture, to refer to the individual in question, the expressive part of (3) creates a problem because it expresses a strongly negative attitude towards a class of individuals just because of the colour of their skin.

A possible reaction to this difference could be, “I don’t care about expressive aspects or tone: what counts is the truth of the matter”. The problem is just to answer correctly to the questions:

– Is that man the culprit or not?

– Did that dog howl all night or not?

If we are interested only in the objective truth of the matter, who cares about different shades of linguistic expressions? Actually, this reaction has been more and more powerful since the diffusion of “politically correct language”. Sometimes exasperated by the societal request or even imposition to use politically correct language, many people have begun to think that such a language is only an imposition that hides the real beliefs: political correctness comes across as if people abandon their prejudices, while those prejudices continue to stand as solid rock hidden by a pretentious and insincere use of politically correct jargon. After having been exposed to the excesses of politically correct language during his stay in the United States, Flavio Baroncelli, a political philosopher from Genoa, thought of a way out of the difficulties of politically correct language, by individuating—with a sarcastic humour he often used in his interactions with colleagues—its particular properties and possible virtues.

 

  1. A suggestion by Flavio Baroncelli (1996)

Commenting on the (sometimes correct and sound) reactions to politically correct language, Baroncelli reminds us that:

 There is not only a question of truth but also a question of appropriateness.

I was impressed at that time (the mid-1990s) by Baroncelli’s precise wording. Actually, “appropriateness” is a property of utterances, and it is traditionally connected in the studies of pragmatics to the concept of presupposition, which, in turn, is strictly connected with the concept of prejudice. Although this is not the place to define prejudice, given the abundant literature and different concepts behind different words in different languages (and we may refer to the paper by Oprah Załęska in this issue), I want to provide at least a generic distinction about the term “prejudice”, given that literally “pre-judice” means a “judgment before…”. The question remains “before what”?

Is a prejudice a judgment given before having correct information or is it something that comes before a judgment? There are two ways of taking the term “before” that lead us to see two different aspects of prejudice: we may think of a prejudice (a) as a judgement given in advance, before having proper information; or (b) as something that comes before the actual act of judging and supports the judgement. On the one hand, we have missing information that is normally required to give a proper judgment; on the other hand, we have assumptions, beliefs, and attitudes that lie hidden and are taken for granted, as a common ground on which a judgment is possible. These kinds of opinions or beliefs on which we ground our judgments can be labelled—in contemporary terminology—“presuppositions”.

Frege distinguished the mental act of judgment from the linguistic act of assertion: an assertion is the expression of a judgment. Using the term “cur” instead of “dog”, in asserting (2), I express a prejudice against dogs; while giving a judgment on a situation I rely on a background of tacit assumptions that lie hidden in my judgment. Is this necessarily bad? Not necessarily. Actually, every assertion is based on some presuppositions. If I say that Elena stopped smoking, my assertion presupposes that Elena smoked. However, this doesn’t mean that I have a prejudice against Elena; I just tacitly state that she was a smoker in a previous time. We speak of “prejudices” only when we think that presuppositions are fundamentally wrong, and often these presuppositions are wrong because they select some superficial feature of a class to define the class itself as being negatively characterized by those features (race, gender, and so on).

From this point of view, prejudices belong to presuppositions, to what is taken for granted without or before any speech act (assertion, question, command…). A presupposition is what is taken for granted without the need for being expressed explicitly. Prejudices are a subset of the set of presuppositions.  Studying presuppositions, we study the basic features of prejudice itself, features that it shares with “normal” harmless presuppositions, but that may drastically impinge on our well-being and social life.

A basically accepted definition of presupposition is the one introduced by Robert Stalnaker (2002: 712):

[PRES] A sentence S pragmatically presupposes a belief B when an utterance of S is appropriate only if B is shared by participants to a conversation (or B is taken for granted by participants)

Taking the example above, the sentence “Elena stopped smoking” presupposes the belief “Elena used to smoke”, and this presupposition is triggered or activated by a simple piece of the lexicon, in this case, the verb “to stop” that indicates a change of state that requires having done an action before. If I say, “Carlo gave a talk on prejudices again”, I presuppose that Carlo has already given a talk on prejudice because of the use of the iterative adverb “again”. My interlocutors take for granted those presuppositions either because they already know them or because they “accommodate” the common ground of shared beliefs with those presuppositions. Analogously, if I say, “that nigger is the culprit”, I presuppose that blacks are inferior as such, because I use a pejorative word that requires assuming an attitude of contempt towards blacks. And one who uses this pejorative expression assumes that her interlocutors share the same kind of belief and attitude.

There are at least two apparent problems in applying Stalnaker’s theory and his definition to the case of derogatory words, and they are the following:

(i) In using a pejorative in a case of reappropriation, people do not share the prejudice attached to the term; therefore we should say that their use is not appropriate, but intuitively it does not seem so.

(ii) In contrast, the use of derogatory terms by people with racist prejudices seems perfectly appropriate in their own context of dialogue where the prejudice is shared. Should we accept that?

I give here two short answers to these two problems:

(i) Reappropriation as detachment

The term “nigger” is normally and typically used in contexts where black friends enjoy using the term as a signifier of social bonding; but certainly, they do not share a prejudice against black people. However, they share the knowledge of the prejudice attached to the derogatory term and want to explicitly reject the prejudice by using the term in order to change the presuppositions. Not only is the knowledge of the presupposition shared, but also the understanding that they want to detach the use of the term from the prejudice. It is similar to irony, where a term is not used with its literal meaning, but the literal meaning is intended to produce in the audience the contrary of what is normally intended. In the philosophical and linguistic environment, irony is typically interpreted as an implicature or as an “echoing” of others’ point of view in order to mock the speaker. It is as if the group of people wanting a reappropriation were mocking the usage by racists: in using irony concerning their presuppositions, they detach the term from the prejudice and can use it freely—but they cannot leave other people to use it.

Apparently this problem would deserve a deeper analysis, but it is at least useful to have an insight from actual discussion on the subject, like the wording of one famous rapper, Ice Cube: “A slur is like a knife. You can use it as a weapon or you can use it as a tool. It’s been used as a weapon against us by white people, and we’re not gonna let that happen again by nobody, because it’s not cool. It’s in the lexicon, everybody talks it, but it’s our word now. You can’t have it back.”[2] Not everybody agrees on the idea or practice of reappropriation, and some take a more radical stance similar to the one held by Jennifer Hornsby (2001: 129) concerning pejoratives in general: “Derogatory words are ‘useless’ for us. Some people have a use for them. But there is nothing that we want to say with them. Since there are other words that suit us better, we lose nothing by imposing for ourselves a blanket selection restriction on them, as it were.” In particular, with the term “nigger”, Oprah Winfrey claims that the term “should not be a part of the language, of the lexicon”[3].

(ii) Appropriateness of hate speech in small groups

It may sound awkward to say that the use of derogatory terms is “appropriate” in small groups, but it is just a consequence of the definition. And it helps in understanding the working of prejudices. In fact, if an expression is appropriate if its presuppositions are shared by the participants in a conversation, then a pejorative term is perfectly at home in a conversation among racists, because they certainly share the prejudices attached to the pejorative term. And knowing that using a term presupposes a common ground of racist beliefs may help us to acknowledge other people’s perspective—also in order to find ways to contrast them. However appropriate in small groups, racist or hate language should be legally forbidden
 in public—as it happens or should happen, in Italy, where promoting Fascism is a felony punished by the law. A public offence always invites the possibility of legal action, and we have many cases of public debate on that, as well as on situations where the speaker did not intend to offend. (The quotations from the previous section come from a discussion of the use of the term “nigger” by a notorious white television personality.) At the same time, we cannot actually “forbid” using slurs, including derogatory and offensive language, in private conversation. Besides—and this is not so different from reappropriation—it is well known that derogatory language is often used in groups or pairs as a joke or as a sign of confidence. (I may use derogatory language and you are not offended because you know that I don’t mean it.)

But we have invented “politically correct language” where even in private conversation people tend to adhere to a kind of language that avoids pejoratives and offensive terminology. And in this particular fashion, developed to some extremes in the United States, Baroncelli makes his provocative challenge: with politically correct language, racism becomes a “gaffe”.

 

  1. A provocation by Flavio Baroncelli: “Racism is a gaffe”

In what follows, I try to present Baroncelli’s idea without his humour (and therefore missing something relevant, but I cannot be him). Let us take again our examples (3) and (4). Following the definition [PRES] above, the sentence (S) “that nigger is the culprit” is appropriate if it presupposes the sharing of the tacit belief (B) “coloured people are inferior as such”. Now imagine a situation of a classroom in a scholarly educated town for which we may assume that (B) is not shared among the participants in the conversation. Let us imagine that the classroom is brought to a court to assist a case in which—let us say—the former president of the US is accused of having wiretapped Donald Trump. What will happen if a less educated girl—seeing the once president of the US accused of the crime, and maybe unaware of the role of the person in front of her—utters “that nigger is the culprit”? Other students will look at her in a very curious way and will judge her with mixed feelings of astonishment or embarrassment and maybe take distance from her. At this point, facing the reactions of her companions, she will realize that she has made a gaffe.

But what is a gaffe? By common definitions (e.g. Wikipedia), a gaffe is:

To say something true but inappropriate in social context.

By this definition, a sentence is inappropriate in a social context when the presuppositions are not shared. Using the case of politically correct language, Baroncelli, on the one hand, puts racists in a humiliating situation, whereby they are unable to understand the social place they are in, and on the other hand puts politically correct language users in a ridiculous situation, making them reduce racism to a mere gaffe.

Yet there is something deep in this analysis, and it is the attempt of analysing the interaction of different presuppositions in different contexts. The point is that there are always many social contexts and they have complex relations; in small local contexts, you are allowed more liberty. As we have hinted at before, slurs and offensive language are easily used in small groups of friends, xenophobes or not, and offensive language among friends may also be a sign of friendship: you are not offended, but take the slur as a joke, as a colourful way to say something that could be also expressed in “educated” language. Youngsters are used to this (although sometimes there are periods when bad examples by adults get over the fence; Italian television during the Berlusconi era became a means to foster far too much vulgar language[4]).

What politically correct language teaches us is therefore the need to take care of different presuppositions contained in our lexicon and in different contexts where these presuppositions are or are not shared. Only with this awareness can people avoid making a gaffe, when they involuntarily use a pejorative expression in an environment that rejects the prejudices attached to the term. Often young and old people are not aware of prejudices of this kind. An aunt of mine, Maria Bianca Penco, in a report of her travel through Italy after the second World War, wrote something like “….and we met groups of niggers…”. She did not have another lexical item, like “black”, and we had to explain to her that “nigger” is now a pejorative term with such and such presuppositions. She was happy to learn, and she felt enriched and changed her lexicon. But young people are not excusable; they need to learn as soon as possible (and this is the duty of teachers) the presuppositions attached to the lexicon they use.

If in a local small context you are allowed to use slurs, in a larger context you receive social censorship (or even denunciation). The main thing to teach in this regard is that what seems normal in your small environment may be inappropriate if uttered in a larger context. Understanding this implies understanding the stereotypical presuppositions triggered by derogatory words (whose force people are often not aware of), and getting to the roots of prejudice.

What then is the role of politically correct language? Through realizing having made a gaffe, a person may learn the power of the prejudices hidden in language and emotionally react to them; a person may learn more about others and about social history, and, taking a careful attitude towards the use of lexicon in a public environment, the racist himself may find a way to change. As Baroncelli says:

It is not important just having different words; what is relevant is the effort of changing. It is the way we train the animals we are.

Last, but not least, there is also a particular form of prejudice: assuming that others share racist stereotypes while they do not. This attitude, this presumption, may be considered a kind of prejudice and may be felt very offensive. If you attribute a presupposition to a social group where the presupposition is not shared, your utterance in not appropriate, and therefore you make a gaffe. More than 10 years after Baroncelli’s book, I have been struck by an apology made by Microsoft. In the US, Microsoft deployed advertising that depicted three experts in discussion around a table: a white woman, a white man, and a black man. When the company began to use this advertising in Poland, it cancelled the image of the black expert and put in his place a white person, probably thinking that the Polish cultural environment might not have been ready to positively accept a black figure. Many people in Poland reacted strongly, feeling themselves to be judged as culturally inferior by Americans; eventually, on August 26, 2009, Microsoft re-introduced the original picture (with the black expert, as you can see from a journal article commenting on the fact[5]) with a comment, which sounds mysterious unless you know the entire history, saying:

Microsoft apologizes for the gaffe.

 

 

  1. Baroncelli 20 years later

Baroncelli’s main lesson is the search for awareness of the clash of contexts, from contexts of face-to-face conversation to different kinds of contexts of public interaction. What is new after 20 years? The World Wide Web  was invented in 1994; the first University homepage in Genoa (the Faculty of Literature and Philosophy homepage) was launched in 1996, the same year of the publication of Il razzismo è una gaffe. Twenty years later, we realise that two aspects could not have been foreseen:

(1) When derogatory expressions pass by ignorance from the context of private or small-group conversation into the context of social networks.

(2) When derogatory expressions are used on purpose in structured ways in social networks to convey the prejudice presupposed by those words.

If considered with care, (1) is exactly the kind of problem Baroncelli was trying to denounce: you cannot use offensive language out of a restricted context without paying consequences or making others pay consequences. The enormous consequences of offensive language on the Web have attracted public attention; (some) people are beginning to understand that they cannot write the first thing that passes through their mind without having or provoking dangerous consequences. Public offence can have provocative consequences both for the writer and for the offended. It depends on the strength of the offended person, who can be devastated—if young or inexperienced—or can devastate the writer, who may be denounced by the public. The novelty in the social space since the 1990s is the wide variety of social networks, from Facebook to Instagram or YouTube and Twitter. The varieties of contexts on the Web are a novelty that we still have to learn to fully manage and master, trying to find software that could check tens of thousands of pages coming online every minute[6].

However, the analysis made in the previous section, concerning the sharing of presuppositions in different contexts, still keeps its original flavour and interest. And Baroncelli’s legacy might be a warning for teachers to work with students to better understand different levels of contexts of reception.

The second aspect above, concerning the use of social networks for actual intentional spreading of prejudices, fake news, and offensive or hate language, is really something new, and it was unpredictable in the nineties. We can no more speak of a “gaffe” inside a context, but we are facing a new way of spreading prejudices through new means. Here I abandon philosophical and linguistic analysis, and give a short comment on some common news.

The diffusion of offensive language[7] increased sharply during the “Brexit” referendum in the UK (June 23, 2017). In June 2017 in Great Britain we had 5,468 records of hate speech (40% more that one year before), and in July–September 2016 there were 14,300 hate crime reports. We have to consider these to represent only a small part of actual hate crimes, given that most are not denounced. There is a strong hidden support to hate speech grounded on prejudices, which politicians have used to support their party (think of the UKIP, which had a fundamental role in deciding Brexit and disappeared in the June 2017 elections). Similar statistics come from the US after Donald Trump’s election, as a sign that prejudices are not typical of Europe, but are spreading around, supporting different political agendas (we don’t have statistics about hate crimes between Sunni and Shia populations, which go beyond what we know in Europe).

Statistics typically report only actual hate crimes in the streets, expressing prejudices against “other Europeans” or against “non-Europeans” just because of the emergence of nationalism. Is nationalism enough to explain the diffusion of prejudices and hate crimes? Not really, although we already know that propaganda in the Nazi period made great use of prejudices shared or imposed on a great part of the population. What is new today is the way in which hate crimes and offensive language are diffused through the internet, where neo-Nazi and white supremacist channels are always very active, and the way in which countless sites deliberately generate and distribute fake news on any enemy. Some YouTube channels reach very high numbers and have therefore a very high influence in generating prejudices. To provide only a few examples:

– Steve Anderson is a famous US pastor who commented on the massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando as “good news” and said “there’s 50 less paedophiles in the world”. For him, gay people “were not born that way, but they will burn that way”. His YouTube channel has had 33.5 million views.

– Wagdi Ghoneim is a Muslim preacher and a central figure in the diffusion of hate speech; his channel has more than 200,000 subscribers and has had 31 million views.

– Donald Trump’s twitter account has a similar number of followers: 31 million. A peculiar feature of this president of the United States is that he insists on defining the official press as “fake news”: “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC@CBS@CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”[8] In this way he implicitly suggests that his supporters rely more and more on sites that support hate speech (like the sites supporting the news that Hillary Clinton and her campaign chief John Podesta ran a child sex ring—also provoking an assault on an innocent pizza restaurant in Washington[9]).

The novelty of the Web is that hate speech and offensive language not only create a common ground of shared presuppositions, but they do it while making money. According to marketing experts, extremists and hate preachers have made around 300,000 euros from advertisements for household brands and government departments placed alongside their YouTube videos. The above-mentioned sites make money by spreading prejudices; but in having millions of views they use their sites also for advertising normal products, services, and institutions. And they make a LOT of money (gaining something like $4.18 for every 1,000 clicks may not seem like much, but it becomes relevant if you reach millions of visualisations).

In front of this new diffusion of hate language we need reactions, and perhaps Europe may be able to do something about that. We need both institutional reactions and communitarian reactions. Here are some data and suggestions, selected only from recent news. Two examples of institutional reactions: the Home Affairs Committee (British Parliament) in April 2017 asserted that the largest and richest technology firms are “shamefully far” from taking action to tackle illegal and dangerous content, and specifically that “one of the world’s largest companies has profited from hatred and has allowed itself to be a platform from which extremists have generated revenue.” And the Germany Justice Ministry in April 2017 proposed imposing financial penalties of up to 50m Euros on social media companies that are slow to remove illegal material. But reactions from private firms have also been relevant, and McDonald’s, the BBC, L’Oréal, HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds, the Guardian, Audi, and Channel 4 are among the companies that have decided to refuse to work with web companies if they permit advertisements on their sites with offensive or hate language[10].

As I reported at the end of Section 3, in 2009 Microsoft made an apology for a gaffe implicating that Poland is a retrograde and racist nation; later, in March 2017, Google’s European chief has publicly apologised after online advertising for major brands appeared next to extremist material[11]. As Aristotle taught us, if you ask for excuses you begin to admit there is something wrong. It’s just a first step.

 

 

References

Baroncelli, F. (1996). ll razzismo è una gaffe; eccessi e virtù del “politically correct”. Roma: Donzelli.

Frege, G. (1879). Begriffsschrift. Halle: L. Nebert. English translation in M. Beaney (1996), The Frege Reader. Oxford: Blackwell.

Frege, G. (1897). “Logik”. In H. Hermes, F. Kambartel, & F. Kaulbach (Eds.), Frege Gottlob 1969: Nachgelassene Schriften. Hamburg: Felix Meiner (pp.137–163). English translation in M. Beaney (1996), The Frege Reader. Oxford: Blackwell.

Gundle S. (1997) “Television in Italy”. In James Coleman and Brigitte Rollet (eds.), Television in Europe, Exeter: Intellect Books, 61-76.

Hornsby, J. (2001). Meaning and uselessness: how to think about derogatory words. Midwest Studies in Philosophy, XXV, 128–141.

Kaplan D. (1999). The meaning of Ouch and Oops. Exploration in the theory of meaning as use. Unpublished.

Penco, C. (in press). Refusing to endorse: a must explanation for pejoratives.

Rovatti, P.A. (2012). Un velo di sobrietà. Uno sguardo filosofico alla vita pubblica e privata degli italiani, Milano: Il Saggiatore.

Stalnaker, R. (2002). Common Ground. Linguistics and Philosophy 25, 701–721.

 

[note] Carlotta Pavese suggested that it is literally wrong to call “prejudices” a “subset of presuppositions”. If a presupposition is expressed it is no more a presupposition. If a prejudice is expressed it is still a prejudice. Therefore I should recommend a lighter rendering of the intuitive idea. I should say that when prejudices are hidden, they work as if they were shared in the common ground, therefore as presuppositions given for granted.The similarity with presuppositions runs as follows:
Like many presupposed contents triggered by a presupposition trigger, also prejudices may be challenged. If you say “Elena stopped smoking” and I know that Elena never smoked, I may react saying: “hey, wait a moment! Elena did not smoke at any time!” canceling the presupposition. If you say “that cur howled all night” I may react saying: “hey, wait a moment! dogs are nice animals; I don’t accept your way of speaking”, putting the prejudice against dogs in the open, rejecting it and pulling it out of the presupposed common ground.
I cannot cancel the prejudice expressing it, but I may refuse to endorse it.

Endnotes

[1] I have developed these hints in Penco (in press).

[2] See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gnwiYdFaRfk

[3] See  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5A9aPUpHQ6M

[4] P.A.Rovatti, 2012.

[5] See: http://edition.cnn.com/2009/TECH/08/26/microsoft.ad.gaffe/index.html

[6] See for instance Google’s attempt to “flag” hate speech on line:

https://www.ft.com/content/8786cce8-f91e-11e6-bd4e-68d53499ed71

The task is difficult, and any solution has its shortcomings. Think for example of the ontology used by Facebook to avoid and cancel offensive posts. The first solution is to distinguish main “protected” categories and subsets of those categories. This is a tentative ontology that has, among its consequences, the effect that “white man” (main categories) is more protected than “black children” (where “children” is a subset and not a main category). This has been criticised as intentional. However, the difficulty of the task is overwhelming for any ontologist, and we are assisting in the first attempts to provide regulation on the spread of prejudices through hate language.

[7] From now on, unless differently remarked, data comes from The Guardian—a reliable source of information, although not specialised.

[8] Twitter 17 Feb. 2017. Another Trump Twitter on July 27, 2017, was: “So they caught Fake News CNN cold, but what about NBC, CBS & ABC? What about the failing @nytimes & @washingtonpost? They are all Fake News!”
See for instance: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/06/27/trump-renews-attack-on-fake-news-cnn-after-retraction/?utm_term=.49bd0eda471a

[9] See for instance: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/hillary-clinton-fake-news-conspiracy-theory-child-sex-ring-edgar-maddison-welch-open-fire-comet-ping-a7456021.html

[10] With results from pressure by the UK government, McDonald and Mark & Spencer’s on Google:
https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/mar/21/google-advertising-boycott-hateful-offensive-content
Online petitions are also useful; Sumofus succeeded in making 2,000 companies dissociate themselves from Breitbart and forcing the commerce giant Shopify to adopt hate speech policies. Some gains may also come from websites that actually fight against prejudices:

https://oie.duke.edu/knowledge-base/toolkit/reducingstereotypethreatorg

https://www.nohatespeechmovement.org/hate-speech-watch

[11] “Recently, we had a number of cases where brands’ ads appeared on content that was not aligned with their values. For this, we deeply apologise.” (from link at endnote 8). See also:
”https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/mar/20/google-ads-extremist-content-matt-brittin

 

Rikke Andreassen & Kathrine Vitus (eds.), Affectivity and Race. Studies from Nordic Countries (Farnham: Ashgate, 2015)

The book’s title announces that two concepts are of crucial importance in this publication: affectivity and race. The book’s subtitle places its content geographically: in the Nordic countries; or better, in Scandinavia, since there are no studies comprised in the present book that deal with Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands.

Continue reading Rikke Andreassen & Kathrine Vitus (eds.), Affectivity and Race. Studies from Nordic Countries (Farnham: Ashgate, 2015)