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The Hate Monster

For those that are mildly freaking out that a red, fuzzy, fictional character called the ‘Hate Monster’ is a hot topic in Scottish politics right now… for clarity, we’re talking about ‘Hate Crime’ and new laws that are being brought into force next month.

 

The ‘Hate Crime and Public Order Act 2021’ received Royal Assent 3 years ago and comes into force on April 1st.

 

Why it couldn’t wait a day after April Fools is another conversation. Needless to say, this didn’t help PR wise.

 

The Bill deals with “the aggravation of offences by prejudice; to make provision about an offence of racially aggravated harassment; to make provision about offences relating to stirring up hatred against a group of persons; to abolish the common law offence of blasphemy; and for connected purposes.”

 

In other words, abusing people based on their age, disability, race, religion, sexual orientation, or transgender identity will not be allowed. Scotland will treat each form of abuse on equal terms.

 

Bad news for those that like to sing about being up to one’s knees in fenian blood, or think that screwing your face up and calling someone a ‘p**fter’ is acceptable.

 

Good news for the many that think it’s about time. 

 

Naturally, however, in the modern, hate-indulging age of social media, we stumble across 3 predictable obstacles: mocking talk of our feelings, resistance to accept the trans community and the ‘don’t come after my free speech’ criticism.

 



Listen, first off… the marketing could’ve been better.

 

Coming into force on April 1st alongside an advertisement campaign on Police Scotland’s website with a big, red, fuzzy monster was always going to cause an absolute storm on social media.

 

The critical eye might think this was deliberate, to grab attention.

 

Even at that, it made the campaign look a wee bit silly.

 

Personally? I don’t hate it. They’re encouraging us to relate to this feeling of unreasonable anger that we pass onto others when we've got sh*t going on in our life elsewhere. Giving it a graphic and making it trivial allows us to feel like we can overcome it with ease. It’s not wildly dissimilar to language you’d use in a counselling session. As the video points out:

 

“When yer feeling insecure, when yer feeling angry; he’ll be there, feeding aff they emotions. Getting bigger and bigger, til he’s weighing ye doon. He’ll make you want to have a go at somebody. A neighbour, somebody oan the street, oan a night oot, security guy oan the door, somebody in the chippy, at the taxi driver… just cause folk look different or act different fae you.”

 

Genuinely not being funny… this is spot on.

 

And it’s relatable. We’ve all been in irrational arguments on nights out. If it’s fuelled by unreasonable anger, that’s often coming from somewhere else in your life. Not the argument itself. It’s a feeling that causes you to say things you’ll later regret.

 

This campaign urges to stop and think twice. Look inwards. Address our emotions before it hurts someone else.

 

Is this not entirely in tune with modern society? Is this not a really positive message in an increasingly hateful, and therefore dangerous, digital world that we live in?

 

A lot of people were triggered by the citing of ‘young men aged 18-30’ who are most likely to commit this crime. Whilst this might be true, Police Scotland didn’t have to include this. This could’ve been left alone as intel used by officers who operate based on sociological knowledge all the time when investigating.

 

Then again, is it such a bad thing that young men take note specifically? Encouraging them to tap into their emotions and address it properly? I wouldn’t have promoted it in the ad campaign… but I understand it.



The second criticism comes with the protection of transgender identity. Julia Hartley-Brewer, for instance, asking the police to ‘arrest me’ because ‘you’ll never make me pretend to believe the lie that men can become women.’

 

With respect to those that don’t understand transgender people, this doesn’t give you the right to mock or abuse them without repercussions.

 

Nobody is saying that a rational conversation about how their rights fit into implementable law is forbidden. Nobody is saying it is illegal to think or disagree with something. You’re perfectly entitled to your opinions about the physiological make-up of our bodies.

 

It’s the abuse, hate-stirring and threatening behaviour towards someone that won’t be allowed under this law.

 

Despite what mainstream media outlets are telling you, that shouldn’t be at all controversial.

 

It’s a safety measure that contributes to a wider feeling of respect towards each other. Regardless of who you are.

 

This isn’t ‘subjective’ or ‘up in the air’… you’re just being asked to be a decent person. Deal with the feeling of hate you have in a way that doesn’t impact others.

 

If you were to have a slip of the tongue, like misgendering someone by accident… just explain that to the person. Tell them that it’s nothing personal. Tell them you don’t understand their identity. Ask them why the thing you said is offensive and do so in a calm manner. Every day is a school day.

 

And newsflash… you’re not going to prison for this. Media hysteria has run wild with this notion. Just because you could ‘face a fine’ or a prison term ‘up to’ seven years for the most extreme of cases, this doesn’t mean Police Scotland are going to be monitoring your every sentence and throw you behind bars for an honest mistake.

 

This brings us naturally to the question of free speech. The Elon Musk trigger.

 

Another newsflash… free speech in its purest form doesn’t exist. Not even in Western democracies. There are some things that you just can’t say in modern Scotland.

 

Whilst the principle of being able to express our opinions without threat of punishment is still respected, there are limits. There’s been limits for as long as anyone can remember.

 

Most obviously is the case of how we speak about ethnic minorities. Nobody, for instance, is free to abuse black people citing the ‘N’ word. That’s just plain and simple in the moral compass of most in the 21st century. Almost everyone agrees people shouldn’t be free to say something like that without punishment. Stirring up racial hatred has been a criminal offence since 1965.

 

So if we replace ‘N’ with a derogatory term about gay people, ethnic minorities, certain religions, someone’s disability or transgender people… why should it be any different?

 

WHAT ABOUT COMEDY

 

A conundrum as old as time.

 

Side note – media hysteria, again, hasn’t helped.

 

A front page of The Herald headlined ‘Police told to target comics under new hate crime law’ alongside a tweet from Annie Wells MSP saying: “Because of the SNP’s Hate Crime and Public Order Act, officers for Police Scotland are now being instructed to target comedians and actors for anything that might be perceived as “threatening and abusive.” This endangers free speech for everyone.”

 

I can’t seem to find the timing… but a statement from Police Scotland categorically states that the force is “not instructing officers to target actors, comedians, or any other people or groups.”

 

 

What people don’t remember when discussing comedy and free speech is that it’s often self-policed. The authorities aren’t aware of every incident of discrimination that goes on in Scotland. It’s mostly called out and dealt with by the public.

 

Comedy is important. We need comedy. Making light of a situation or the world around us isn’t a crime.

 

Comedy doesn’t exist without an audience but. The audience are as morally responsible as those that initiate the comedic expression.

 

If you laugh and egg on someone saying a racist comment, you’re not immune from the same criticism as the person who made the comment would be.

 

If a comedian is performing at the Assembly Rooms during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and mocks an audience member for the colour of their skin, I doubt anyone will find that funny. The reason you don’t see this during the Fringe is literally because nobody finds it funny. There will be racist comedians out there, but the market for racist jokes isn’t there.

 

Has the inability to sell tickets for racist humour stopped the wealth of culture, arts and entertainment that comes to the city in August? No. Absolutely not.

 

Comedy, like other facets of society, moves on and evolves.

 

Once this is understood, it leaves you wondering… maybe it’s time we move on from other prejudice?

 

Nothing around you will change. All that’s being asked of you is to be more considerate in the language you use.

 

And if it makes countless others happier, would it not be worth it?

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