The Geography of Hate

gohDr. Monica Stephens, an assistant professor at Humboldt State University whose current work “surrounds geographies of gender, hate, and censorship online,” has undertaken a project to identify the geographic origins of online hate speech. The result is the Geography of Hate map. Check it out, says a writer at the Fast Company website, “if you’ve wondered where the truly hate-filled people in America live.” Well, not exactly.

For the data used to construct the map, Stephens gathered every “geocoded” tweet in the United States from June 2012 through April 2013 that contained one or more “hate words” that she categorized as homophobic (“dyke,” “fag,” “homo,” “queer”), racist (“chink,” “gook,” “nigger,” “wetback,” and “spick”), and disability (“cripple”). Apparently she is saving hate words targeting whites (e.g., “cracker” and its variants), conservatives (“teabaggers”), and black conservatives (“Uncle Toms”) and straight people (“breeders”) for a future map, because they weren’t considered for this one.

The total from that time frame amounted to over 150,000 tweets. But because “computers are poor judges of sarcasm,” Stephens says, “and Twitter is often used in sarcastic ways, or used to quote somebody else,” three of her students first had to read the entirety of each tweet to identify only the ones in which the key words were used in a pejorative sense (they weren’t interested in phrases, for example, celebrating “dykes on bikes #SFPride,” or “nigga” as a very common term of endearment among blacks themselves).

The map ended up showing where people tweeted those offending terms most often, aggregated to the county level. Where there is a larger proportion of tweets that include one of the aforementioned slurs, the region glows red on the map; where the word was used less often (although still more than the national average), the proportion is moderate and appears as pale blue. Areas without shading indicate places that have a lower proportion of negative tweets compared to the national average.

If you zoom in, you can see, for example, that parts of Iowa, Virginia, and Indiana have the greatest concentration of people tweeting the word “nigger,” and that there are higher numbers of people tweeting “fag” in Minnesota and Kentucky. “As you’ll note from the maps,” Stephens says, “racist and homophobic sentiment exists around the country and not just in red states.” [emphasis added] Notice her generalization (can we call it hate-filled?) about the residents of red states, her casual “progressive” assumption that conservative states would naturally be the national repositories of racism and bigotry. Hopefully her research will begin to disabuse her of that, but I’m not optimistic.

Rather than indicate “where the truly hate-filled people in America live,” the map more precisely shows where some people, who may or may not be truly hate-filled (which is a very strong accusation), merely tweet a specific set of slurs. It excludes a range of people who may be much more hate-filled but who don’t fit the project’s parameters. First, it obviously excludes anyone who isn’t on Twitter. It also doesn’t consider people who may not use slurs but are quietly plotting the next terrorist bombing. It certainly doesn’t include people like the New Black Panthers, who are gearing up for a race war.

Furthermore, Stephens’ research unsurprisingly neglected to catch vicious tweets directed at Christians, conservatives, straight people, law-abiding gun owners, pro-lifers, Sarah Palin, her Down Syndrome son, Michele Bachmann, her 23 foster children, Mitt Romney, his black adopted grandson, and other such targets of a shocking degree of leftist online venom. Now THAT would make an interesting map. But that will never happen in an academic setting.

Limiting the mapping of hate to a tallying of epithets circulating on Twitter offers a ridiculously narrow perspective. The assumption that slur words alone are an indication of where “hate” is localized is seriously flawed, and such tweets themselves (though they are ugly and may be hurtful) are largely impotent in the real world. The internet empowers countless posturing bullies who talk tough online but are cowards outside of their parents’ basement. The greater danger lies offline, from those who are more inclined to act physically upon their hate.

As one might expect from an academic project, the map doesn’t seem to serve much of a practical purpose beyond curbing free speech. How about drawing up a map that catalogs actual hate waged against actual victims? For example, what about mapping the hate exhibited in the sick Knockout Game, which is racist violence (let’s be honest about that, since neither the mainstream media nor Eric Holder’s office will be)? That might be useful in identifying where real hate resides, the kind we need to eradicate.

But as long as we’re focusing on “hate speech,” what about the hate emanating daily from the set of MSNBC, where its attack dogs like Melissa Harris-Perry, Ed Schultz, Martin Bashir, and Dean Obeidallah spew more venom than any red state hot spot? Their audience, embarrassingly small though it may be in comparison to, say, that of Fox’s Megyn Kelly, is much larger than that of any loser on Twitter, and has much greater impact.

The Geography of Hate map may be an interesting intellectual exercise for academics, but its narrow focus on ugly tweets renders it rather meaningless. Of course, the very concept of “hate speech” is questionable and flawed anyway, because who gets to define what constitutes “hate speech”? Why the left, naturally, which is why the left never finds itself guilty of said hate. That’s why Stephens’ research neglected to include conservative targets, a consideration that very likely never even occurred to her.

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  • leninsbarber

    Great article. I think the idea of looking for hate in individual words is just the silliest thing I’ve every heard. There are many ways of expressing racism, homophobia, sexism and misanthropy without resorting to the banal, or what she would call ‘hate-words.’

  • Richo

    If a lowly assistant professor of geography at a state university could execute the project in question, surely you could also do one of the things you propose in your article (include slurs against Christians, or incidents of the knockout game or actual physical violence in the real world), instead of just pontificating about how nice it would be for her to do those things.

    • A Z

      “The total from that time frame amounted to over 150,000 tweets”

      We do not know if the 150,000 were a random sample, cherry picked or the whole universe. We also do not know what events happened during this time period or preceding it.

      She also left out as people have mentioned whole categories of offensive words.

    • Race_Dissident

      This “research” and article also demonstrates that race-class-gender Leftism is not confined to hoary redoubts such as English, history, sociology and anthropology, but has contaminated seemingly refractory and respectable fields such as geography as well.

  • Clare Spark

    Liberal foundations and progressive universities originated “hate speech.” See “Origins of political correctness”. Don’t miss part two, linked in the blog.

  • A Z

    This map is worthless.

    It merely shows where population density is high.

    I take it back. This worthless so called scholarship keeps Dr. Monica Stephens. By the time her scholarship is shown to be a fraud she will be a professor emeritus and retired.

  • Wolfthatknowsall

    I was once given an assignment to keep an eye on the local Klan, and try to ascertain what their program was. However, this post is about the leader of that Klan group …

    He was a well-known and highly-respected banker, the Board President of his local United Methodist Church, and well-loved for his work on behalf of the poor. I started going to his church, in order to make friends with him. Not once did I ever hear him use “hate speech”.

    And yet, he made sure … in connection with a local gun-shop owner … that Klan members had the money to buy fully-automatic weapons, and the pull to get past the FBI background check.

    My point is that the most dangerous people on both Right and Left are not likely to be “tweeting” such terminology, but are deeply embedded in local society.

  • PAthena

    As Tom Lehrer said, “I hate anyone who doesn’t love his fellow man!”

    • Joel Cairo

      Referencing his TW3 song “National Brotherhood Week.” Great Reference!!!

  • James Foard

    Most people who use the word “nigger” are blacks when tweeting about themselves. It’s been a common jive colloquialism in the black community for decades. Did she take that in consideration in doing her calculation?

  • doruss03

    I have come to the conclusion that hate really exploded by the invasion of the people from the middle East. And most of all the differences in religion that they bring along with them has a big impact. Over the years that would improve if they pick and choose which people can come to the Amerca’s.

    • MarilynA

      You don’t understand the purpose of these changes in our immigration policies. It’s to CHANGE America. Those who have been taught to hate American in our public schools and colleges have also been taught that you have to tear down what exists and rebuild it like you want it to achieve real change. These advocates of CHANGE also believe America is immoral because it has so little of the world’s population and uses more than it’s share of the world’s resources. Their real goal is to reduce America to the state of other third world countries. Only then will America become a moral country in their eyes. .

  • PeterB

    Muslims are the most hate filled, bigoted and supremacist people I have EVER met.

  • tanstaafl

    She left out “peckerwood”.

  • Trapper

    Let’s see: Rap music constantly uses “nigger” so are they racist? Leftist homosexuals often call themselves “queer” or “fag”? ….well, you get the picture.

  • john spielman

    stupid research, off course the total number of”hate speech” incidents WILL correspond to the MOST POPULATED PARTS OF THE COUNTRY (see her maps on her web site). It would only be valid IF THE NUMBER WAS DIVIDED BY THE BASE POPULATION OF THE AREA (to get the INCIDENCE)

  • Rollin

    There is a lot of criticism of Dr. Stephens’ work here, but I wonder what these critics have contributed themselves to an understanding of hatred in our country? Where are your ideas to educate people about the importance of diversity in our societies and the role of social organizations in the perpetuation of hatred?

    • Charlie

      My personal contribution to an understanding of hatred in our country, Rollin, is to point out that articles like this are thinly disguised examples of progressive hatred.

    • john spielman

      dear Rollin: see my critique below.

    • veeper

      Here’s my contribution….

      Go back to the time when people knocked the sheite someone that spews rude insulting bullsheite…..

      when these people get tired of having their nose broken…….they will keep their rude hateful sheite to themselves….

  • Erick Blair

    “Apparently she is saving hate words targeting whites (e.g., ‘cracker’ and its
    variants), conservatives (‘teabaggers’), and black conservatives (‘Uncle
    Toms’) and straight people (‘breeders’) for a future map, because they
    weren’t considered for this one.”—Mark Tapson

  • cheeseburger

    I hate everybody, but mostly I hate people who compile lists of slurs. leftists may possibly be the biggest offenders of all.

  • veeper

    when the premise is wrong…..

    everything about the subject is wrong….


  • MarilynA

    Re changing definitions of hate speech: First they objected to being called the N word, which is what they called each other, so everyone else used the same term. Then they objected to being called Negro which is the Latin word for black. Then they demanded to be called black (Remember the Black is beautiful campaign?) Then they objected to that and demanded to be called people of color. Then they objected to that and demanded to be labeled African Americans. As soon as they realize that being called African Americans means they are black they will object to that because what they really object to is being black, and no matter what they call themselves they will still be black and there is nothing we, they or society can do that will change that.

  • Phil

    In my experience it’s liberals that spew the most foul hate speech.
    Our President does it all the time.