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Letters to the Editor

Letter: Hate speech

October 8, 2013

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To the editor:

My wife and I have undergraduate and law degrees from Kansas University, as does our daughter; and various family members are KU grads. Several members of our family, including me, are members of the National Rifle Association. On behalf of our family, we found it disheartening that Professor Guth would like to see all of us violently killed and damned by God.

Some might dismiss Professor Guth’s hate speech as merely the ill-considered rant of an immature and insecure academic, anxious to demonstrate his allegiance to the politically correct views of his fellow academics. I am not so sure; I think it is entirely possible that Professor Guth’s statements suggest that he sincerely welcomes the killing of my family and everyone who disagrees with his political agenda. Faced with publicly expressed hate speech like that of Professor Guth, is it any wonder why people continue to join the NRA and that some may choose to arm themselves?

Our family bears Professor Guth no animosity, but we deplore his politically correct hate speech targeting people like us.

Comments

avarom 9 months, 3 weeks ago

NOW, you have a taste of what Virgil Peck speech did to other people when his comments were made at the State Capitol. People were offended, but that never mattered to many and you chose to write nothing about that incident.

I guess immigrants, don't count as people, which make you ignorant to the fact that people are people, dispite status and we all should be treated as One and Equal, no matter what!

Well, I believe Guth's insensitive comments were morbid and uncalled for.....Now you can feel the Sting, like others did when Virgil Peck made his offensive remarks at work and nothing was done about it!!

Guess..... turn around is fair play..........Justice prevails one day or another.......and Patience is my Virtue and your letter......... just made my Day! Cheers!

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Charles L Bloss Jr 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Great letter. I am a life NRA, GOA, & LEAA member. I consider the rants of Guth a threat to my children's lives, as did many. Just like yelling fire in a crowded theater, you know better than most that there are limits to the first amendment. To all who think Guth was disciplined, remember he was placed on PAID leave. Like you my family detests death threats by anyone, especially against my children. I do consider this babbling by Guth as hate speech.

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tomatogrower 9 months, 3 weeks ago

I took it as he hopes you are the next one who has to experience the tragedies that have been going on. Maybe that is a mean thing to say, but it's not hate speech. I've seen statements from your conservative friends that were a lot more threatening. But that's ok, isn't it? It's funny, those of us who are considered "liberal" will condemn what he said, but support his 1st amendment right. Yet what people "pray" that the president " "May his children be fatherless, may his wife be a widow.", then you just defend their 1st amendment rights, and never condemn what they say. Quit playing the victim card; you sound like a hypocrite.

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jafs 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Why do people assume that NRA members haven't been affected by these tragedies?

I don't see Lynn and others' comments as playing the victim - I do think that many people who own guns seem overly sensitive to the possibility of threats, almost paranoid sometimes.

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Satirical 9 months, 3 weeks ago

tomatogrower...

What do you consider hate speech?

How about after a terrorist attack a KU professor puts on twitter; "the blood is on the hands of the (muslims). Next time, let it be YOUR sons and daughters. Shame on you. May God damn you."

Or what about if he picketed with the Westboro Baptist Church and held a sign saying "God Hates Gays."

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IreneAdler84 9 months, 3 weeks ago

The Supreme Court has upheld the WBC's First Amendment Rights. And, Margie Phelps is actually employed by the state of KS.

The Constitution and its amendments are not about the easy stuff. They are designed to make us uphold the founding principles of the United States, even when it hurts.

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Satirical 9 months, 3 weeks ago

IreneAdler84...

You are correct the the WBC's comments are not considered hate speech by the SCOTUS. I chose WBC's statements for that purpose--what is legally permissible may still be considered hate speech generally and could be grounds for dismissal in most employment settings (1st Amendment Law vs. Fed/State Employment Law).

The difference Phelps and Guth is that Guth probably has students who are sons or daughters of NRA members, which arguably creates a hostile working enviroment or harm to the reputation of the University.

But regardless of where state employment law falls on this area, I would hope most people, including tomatogrower, wouldn't tolerate a KU professor making similar hateful speech against gays or muslims because of the harm it would have on the image of the University, and in that scenario, I am confident KU would find sufficient grounds for dismissal.

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voevoda 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Satirical, in the analogous case your propose, in which a professor made public anti-gay statements in his capacity as a private citizen, KU already stated that such a statement could not serve as legitimate grounds for dismissal. It was not faculty members who asked for his dismissal, but rather a private citizen who was incensed by his comments.

It is hard to see how one tweet, 140 characters, of ambiguous meaning and made off campus, can serve as the basis for "creating a hostile working environment." A "hostile working environment" requires a documentable pattern of behavior. But according to Guth's students, both liberals and conservatives and including NRA members, he is open-minded and helpful to all his students, regardless of their political views.

It's a good thing that faculty cannot be summarily fired on the kind of flimsy grounds you suggest, Satirical. Otherwise, all faculty members would be vulnerable. Any person who vehemently disagreed with a position a professor took could demand that he be dismissed, claiming that the statement constituted "hateful speech." Having agreed to do so in one such case, KU would be obliged to take similar action in all such cases. I hope KU never goes down that road, Satirical. And you should hope so, too.

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Satirical 9 months, 3 weeks ago

voevoda...

I do not want a situation at KU where a faculty member can be summarily fired on flimsey evidence, or based soley upon a disagreement. I think he is free to express his political beliefs, and KU should be extremely careful not to chill speech in an academic setting (see my comment below). Guth and every other KU professor's job should be safe even if they all publically state they hate the NRA and its members. However, Guth's comments speaks for itself--he wished for the death of a whole group of individuals because he disagrees with their views.

Would you support a KU professor who wished for the death of all gays or muslims (or their children)?

1

voevoda 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Satirical, yes indeed I would support retaining a faculty member no matter what he "wished" for in his capacity as a private citizen. The expression of a private wish constitutes flimsy evidence for dismissal from a tenured faculty position.

We must certainly avoid chilling speech in an academic setting, and for academics speaking off campus. What I don't understand, Satirical, is how you can affirm this principle and at the same time advocate a severe limitation on free speech by faculty.

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Kathy Getto 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Satirical. You are beating your head unnecessarily here. The NRA is not a protected group of people, hate speech has no legal definition. Please be careful what you wish for.

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FarleyM 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Guth is a Liberal. His comprehensive tweet statements are not "hate speech". As witnessed by the pro Guth posts here, it is utterly impossible for Liberals to transmit anything that bears or insinuates hate. It's just not them. According to them.

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gr 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Yawn.

Do you consider anyone who disagrees with you making hate speech to you? No such thing as hate speech. Or all speech is hate speech. I disagree with you. Therefore, your speech is hate speech.

Now if you feel a death threat has been made to you by Guth, then that is another thing. But nothing to do with hate speech.

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Satirical 9 months, 3 weeks ago

gr...

If Guth just said something like "all NRA members are crazy", or "the NRA and conservatives don't care about people"--it would have been fine to express his political opinion. We should be careful to avoid chilling speech in an academic setting.

However, Guth's comment about the death of children of NRA members crossed a line into hate speech and should not be tolerated.

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gr 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Well, if you don't think it was a death threat but only saying something which someone else didn't like to hear, then I guess more power to you.

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jayhawklawrence 9 months, 3 weeks ago

I find it interesting that even though members of this family have a lot of education in the law and supposedly are trained to disect rhetoric and think in a logical manner, the writer implies things are said in the Professor's little tweet that were never said.

It is amazing to me that you can infer so much out of a little tweet.

I think I can do the same thing and infer that your letter is simply a ho-hum endorsement of an organization you have bought into with your mind, heart, and soul. An organization that appears to operate in ways that remind me of a cult where the members have little or no ability to question how their membership dues are being spent. While the NRA is bringing in 100s of millions of dollars and buying up members of Congress, you probably have very little influence in how they actually work to make our ownership of guns safer.

I have come to believe that their goals are more in line with the gun manufacturing industry and a desire to expand their gun market rather than make guns safer.

The question I have is whether I should compromise my ethics regarding this organization in order to protect my right to keep my concealed carry license. There has to be a reasonable compromise without becoming a a stooge for the NRA millionaires and billionaires.

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FarleyM 9 months, 3 weeks ago

His "little tweet" is almost as Palin's little "target list" comment. Wouldn't you agree?

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20027918-503544.html

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Leslie Swearingen 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Phillip, thank you for this letter. When Guth wrote, next time let it be your children, that can only mean one thing.

Is he really going to hold every member of the NRA responsible whenever there is a shooting/s anywhere in the country? The sensible reason for banning guns would not be because guns kill people but because those who wish to do murder chose them as their weapon of choice.

However, banning and creating ever more restrictive laws is not the answer, because human behaviour cannot be legislated and those who wish to murder are not going to be impressed by rhetoric.

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chootspa 9 months, 3 weeks ago

In context, I read "NRA" not as the individual members of the NRA but as the leaders and lobbyists running the political agenda.

To be clear, I still don't think what he said was OK. I would just not take it as "hate speech."

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Liberty275 9 months, 3 weeks ago

"My wife and I have undergraduate and law degrees"

And you don't know there is no hate speech in America.

1

fiddleback 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Speaking as a liberal, I can't find anything wrong with the author's reaction. Since the tweet did nothing more than wish death and eternal torment upon a certain group, it can very fairly be described "hate speech," though obviously not in a criminally chargeable way. No, Guth didn't personally threaten anyone, and he didn't malign an officially protected group. But the tweet expressed nothing but hate. All this quibbling, parsing, and outright apologism for Guth's entirely ill-chosen remark is positively ridiculous. Of all the unbalanced statements to avoid rallying around, this one is such toxic waste that it shouldn't even have to be explained.

For those who indirectly rally around it by invoking the first amendment, Guth's free speech rights are not and never were threatened. His leave was for his and students' safety following death threats, not for punishment. And he most likely won't be fired for this given it was from his private Twitter account, plus he has the added protections of tenure and invoking academic free speech.

Enough already. The only thing that deserves to die is the inordinate amount of attention this remark has already received.

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RustWatcher 9 months, 3 weeks ago

"Some might dismiss Professor Guth’s hate speech as merely the ill-considered rant of an immature and insecure academic, anxious to demonstrate his allegiance to the politically correct views of his fellow academics."

Comment about that quote: Written like a right wing jack ass would write it.

BTW: In the NRA? You are a registered gun owner. Keep your membership/regitration current so when the so called "repressive government" DOES want to come get you guns, they have a nice prepared list to work by: THE NRA Membership Rolls.

1

smileydog 9 months, 3 weeks ago

It used to be that journalists tried to be unbiased. Since the professor is teaching future journalists, shouldn't he refrain from making political statements? It is bad enough to pick out the editorialized articles that are considered legitimate news, when they should really be on the editorial page. This applies to the majority of news reporting everywhere.

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voevoda 9 months, 3 weeks ago

When were journalists unbiased? Don't journalists write opinion pieces all the time? And when Guth made his remark, was he claiming to be unbiased?

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kansanbygrace 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Although I don't like the words of Prof. Guth's message, I read it as an impassioned, rhetorical personal comment. It had never crossed my mind that he was promoting violence or hatred toward people, rather to a concept concerning behavior that he considers contributory to violence, and the people who are adamantly supportive of that behavior.

Comments hastily spoken are often ill-considered. I attribute that to being a human with passionate feelings on an issue, and the facility to express them.

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oldbaldguy 9 months, 3 weeks ago

there is no such thing as hate speech, there are threats and there are just dumb things said. time to give this a rest. I left the NRA several years ago. Own a lot of guns and I think something is fundamentally flawed with our national character when insane people have ready access to guns and ammo.

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Bob Forer 9 months, 3 weeks ago

This letter does not surprise me. Neither intellectual honesty nor intelligence was ever a prerequisite for acceptance into law school .

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