The Speechfather

It was late when Zach arrived back at the mall from the newspaper office. The entrance was blocked by a restraining order, partially shredded. Zach and Tom walked on, past the two Human Rights Commissioners the government had stationed to prevent further Hate Speech against the Corleone family, and the good name of Italian-Americans everywhere. The door was opened by another Human Rights Commissioner. wearing an outsized coat and vest over a big belly. Zach thought the Commissioner sure was fat, then banished that thought, as a form of body-shaming. As the over-sized Commissioner held the door, Zach reflected:

Body-shaming is ubiquitous and abhorrent; it happens everywhere, to pretty much everyone, at one time or another. It is especially levied against women, who are shamed for being skinny, for being tall, for being short, for having large breasts, for having small breasts, for having tattoos, for not having tattoos, for body hair, for dressing as they will, for being sexy, for being prudish, for being smart, for having interests outside STEM. Women are shamed at some point for being pretty much anything while also being female, including for being ugly (and failing to serve a purpose as a beauty object) and for being pretty (which must mean they are vapid or dumb). Zach shuddered that he had fallen into the trap of fat-shaming. The vest was no doubt padded with writs, for the protection of the Corleone family and others against harassment and hate speech, but even if it wasn't, the Human Rights Commissioner had a right to dignity, and to revel in his own body.

Inside, Sonny, Clemenza, and Tessio were waiting. Sonny came to Zach, and took the young student-columnist's head into his hands, saying kiddingly, "Beautiful, beautiful, that police captain sure knocked you up real good."

It was Tom who spoke first, over the stunned objections of Clemenza and Tessio: "Sonny, 'knocked up' is an outdated phrase used by anti-woman bigots and mansplainers to describe pregnancy. It implies, to right-thinking people, an element of physical violence, and if I may say so, using that term is a monstrous form of Hate Speech. It denigrates women, and it denigrates choice, the choice that each woman has to decide for herself whether to terminate an unwanted fetus."

"Sorry Tom," Sonny muttered. "It won't happen again." Zach and Tom walked into the room, and closed the door.

"Jesus Christ, Zach, the old man's barely talking," said Clemenza.

Tessio spoke up, "Pete, has it occurred to you that Zach might not be a Catholic, that Zach might not be a Christian, that Zach might be an Atheist, or a Muslim, or a Jew? When you invoke that name, you're excluding people of faiths outside Christianity (which I might add is responsible for 2,000 years of genocide and repression), and people of no faith. You're talking Hate Speech, and if weren't for the law of omerta, I'd turn you in right now."

Sonny added, "Sal, you're right, but I should add that referring to the Don as 'the Old Man' is ageist. It connotes senility, and at the same time grants him an authority he doesn't necessarily deserve. We can do better than this. It's a form of Hate Speech, and it should be against the law, if it isn't already."

All five men remained silent, for a few minutes, reflecting on their crimes.

Finally, Zach broke the silence. "What have we heard about the Turk?"

"JESUS CHRIST!" the other four interjected, then hung their heads in shame.

"Mister Sollozzo is holed up with that police captain," Tom said at last. "He's untouchable with that kind of protection. What you have to understand is that no one has ever attacked a New York police captain. All of the five families, and the Human Rights Commission, would turn against us."

"You get me a gun, and I'll kill him," said Zach. "And I won't do it out of any racial or religious animus. I'll do it out of respect for my father."

Sonny hugged Zach, violently, smiled, and said "Tom, this is speech, and this man's taking it very personal. It ain't like the war. You gotta get up on top of them until you see the whites of their eyes and then BADA-BING! All over your nice Ivy League suit!"

Clemenza sighed, "Sonny, I wish you hadn't said that. The Bada-Bing is a strip club in a racist melodrama that denigrates Italian-Americans as gangsters, sexists, and thugs. The media have promoted this stereotype through a plethora of mafia movies. It's fair to say that a disproportionate number of Italian-Americans have been portrayed as hoodlums by Hollywood. Though not to the same extent as people of color, marginalized European-Americans, such as Italian-Americans, Greek-Americans, Serb-Americans, and Ukrainian-Americans, are generally reduced by screenwriters to a caricature of what Anglo-Americans deem them to be. Tragically, this marginalization at the hands of White society leads these maligned peoples into prejudicial conduct against women and people of color, the true victims of Hate Speech. If we're ever to move forward, the sort of speech in which you just engaged needs to be outlawed."

"So there's no hope for us?" Zach asked.

"I guess not. We should turn ourselves in to the Human Rights Commissioners," Tessio agreed.

And so ended the Five Families War of 1946.

Last 5 posts by Patrick Non-White


  1. TM says

    I can't tell if it's a mark of effective writing or the sad frequency that with which argument appears that I could tell the entire point of the linked article from the first sentence.

  2. Chris says

    Yobany stos!
    As more and more language becomes "un-pc" we pass the point of "some things aren't right to say" and reach "stop choosing to be offended by everything"

  3. Cromwell Descendant says

    You don't have to outlaw offensive speech to call it offensive. There is this awful meme going around, that the author participates in, where anybody complaining about any speech, by using speech themselves, are accused of supporting bans on offensive speech.
    Also, Italian-Americans were substantial victims of real discrimination in the US, and it wasn't based on using – or not using – the phrase "bada-bing." I guess the racism of implying that a group was never really wrongly discriminated against will be shielded by waving some sort of "irony" card, or some other such absurd nonsense. Racism against Italian-Americans isn't a theoretical thing. It may indeed be historical, and perhaps you just don't know it existed. It certainly still existed in 1946.
    Crap like this is why society doesn't value free speech; a large number of the people claiming to support it directly oppose it, by falsely (and intentionally!) conflating "speech that responds to other speech" with "banning speech."
    @Chris – I find it very offensive when it is claimed that a preference for inclusive speech is based on "politics." It isn't, unless the speaker is a political figure. Regular people who speak against hate speech are not claiming the problem with hate speech is that it is bad politics. It shows a lot of weakness in your argument that you use only a straw-man, and imply that you're unaware it is a straw-man. Surely you have seen people take offense to hateful speech who were not only not politicians, but not even political in any way.

  4. Jacob Schmidt says

    You don't have to outlaw offensive speech to call it offensive.

    True, though this particular example does, in fact, suggest that we outlaw.

    I'm not completely convinced there can't be a sound argument, there, I just don't trust anyone to write such a law that isn't over broad with serious potential for abuse.

    I find it very offensive when it is claimed that a preference for inclusive speech is based on "politics." It isn't, unless the speaker is a political figure. Regular people who speak against hate speech are not claiming the problem with hate speech is that it is bad politics.

    Eh. The term "politics" has become incredibly broad over the past decade. SJW issues are frequently referred to as "identity politics"; at this point I've simply given up and accepted the lingual evolution. In another decade, the dictionaries will likely catch up.

  5. TM says


    I'm fairly certain that the linked author actually is calling for bans on offensive speech. In fact if I may quote the close of the linked article:

    Many other developed and democratic nations have passed laws and instituted legal mechanisms that are quite simple in nature. America should do the same: hate speech is not acceptable and should not be legally protected.

    So I believe your protestations about falsely accusing people of wanting to ban speech are a bit off the mark.

    As to discrimination of Italian-Americans, it absolutely happened and was real. And it's over (mostly). But the modern propensity of folks to be obsessed with the offenses of the past and to relive them over and over and take offense at the tiniest of things is why no one in my family are or will be members of the Italian Anti-Defimation league. When you manage to get a genuinely funny set of commercials taken off the air because of some imaginary slight and offense that those commercials are causing, you've lost the plot. A funny commercial that plays on a stereotype for effect and pun is not "defaming" italian americans.

  6. Chris says

    @Cromwell – It's not a strawman, its a jousting dummy – designed to knock those that tilt poorly off of their high horse. Yes it is quite obvious that there is hate speech and it is bad, there are things you shouldn't say to other people, and there are things well raised people don't say in polite society. The problem is not politically bad speech, though the Middle East and Europe's (looking at you Turkey and France) blasphemy laws make being offensive to the wrong group illegal. My comment was aimed more at radicals: feminist that declare "wife" demeaning, the yearly fight over "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays" and others that demand that common idioms and phrases are offensive and should be banned.

  7. says

    Cromwell, the linked author is indeed arguing that offensive speech should not be protected from legal punishment.

    This country is supposedly built on freedom and equality, not on the right to say whatever you want without significant consequences. Our country should not legally sanction hate speech, through which those in positions of social power can disparage others without legal repercussions.

    I will not celebrate my freedom by calling you an offensive name.

  8. NaCl says

    @Patrick — You may be responding to an individual calling for the banning of speech, but that does not mean that conflating him and his ridiculous, tired arguments with everybody else responding to speech with more speech should be allowed to pass without comment or criticism.

  9. sinij says

    Patrick, after reading about Alpha Males of Gor, I was firmly convinced that anyone that brings the topic up should be immediately censored by most drastic intervention possible.

  10. Chris says

    @Sinij Censoring speech works about as well as gun control. Much better to call them out, explain to them and everyone else how wrong they are, and ask them if their brain cell gets lonely.

  11. John Burgess says

    "Denigrate?" Twice? You really went there?

    Where's a human rights commissioner (or Dartmouth idiot) when you need one as a copy editor?

  12. En Passant says

    John Burgess November 20, 2014 at 7:15 am:

    "Denigrate?" Twice? You really went there?

    Maybe he didn't want his word budget to seem niggardly.

  13. Syna says

    Insightful article! I was neutral on the idea of anti-hate speech laws until you linked it to the far-left social justice stuff. I don't think it would be an atrocity to fine someone for standing on a street corner yelling that the government should kill everyone who belongs to a certain race, for example, but it could easily be taken too far.

  14. stillnotking says

    I'm slightly worried the neo-reactionaries are correct, and hate-speech laws are Cthulhu's next mile marker. But only slightly. Absent some kind of massive cultural shift, the impetus to chuck the First Amendment just doesn't exist in America.

    Still, I make another small donation to FIRE every time I read an op-ed from one of these fucking idiots. Helps me sleep better.

  15. Stephen says

    "Denigrate?" Twice? You really went there?

    "Martha, my smelling salts, immediately! I think I feel…." *body falls onto couch*

  16. Demosthenes says

    I read Patrick's piece yesterday. I smiled a lot, chuckled several times, laughed once, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. It was just the right amount of tongue-in-cheek to make his point.

    Today, I read the comments and saw what Cromwell Descendant had to say. Why does the phrase "pearls before swine" keep ringing through my head?

    Whoops. Sorry. Should I be saying that? Or is that now offensive to porcine-Americans?

    Oh, well. I'll hash that out over a plate of bacon and eggs.

    @ stillnotking — The problem is, we don't have to chuck the First Amendment. We just have to get a critical mass of people like Zach Traynor in our society, and all we'll have shortly after is some pretty poetry that means whatever the reader wants it to mean. Or whatever the reader can deconstruct it to mean, I suppose.

  17. Personb says

    After first reading it, I enjoyed sharing the Dartmouth article as an example of a pro-censorship argument. At the time I shared the article there were at least a hundred responses to it using disqus, the overwhelming majority of them criticizing the author's position. They were extremely respectful and articulate (for comments on the Internet). I went back to it today and, surprise, the comments have been removed and disabled. The censor's argument: Free speech for me, but not for thee.

  18. Krono says

    It's unsurprising. These people typically don't expect people to call them out on the fallacies of their argument. When numerous people do so, they tend to call the negative response "harassment", regardless of how polite it is, and delete/disable comments on the basis that it's "harassment".

    Which is a good illustration of why "hate speech" should not be banned. The same sort of people tend to lump such "harassment" in with hate speech, and can be reasonably expected to try and get the two treated the same way if they manage to ban "hate speech".

  19. man says

    Noticed a lot in here mocking feminists but a curious lack of attention to the swell of transactivists seeking to make misgendering a hate-crime and equating the act of not believing in their true gender, with violence. Every time a teenage feminist blogger somewhere misplaces an apostrophe, we get full coverage on, but the last interesting piece on transactivism seems to be from back in 2009. Curious..