Hate speech


  • Anne Birgitta Nilsen




The manifesto of the Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik is based on the “Eurabia” conspiracy theory. This theory is a key starting point for hate speech amongst many right-wing extremists in Europe, but also has ramifications beyond these environments. In brief, proponents of the Eurabia theory claim that Muslims are occupying Europe and destroying Western culture, with the assistance of the EU and European governments. By contrast, members of Al-Qaeda and other extreme Islamists promote the conspiracy theory “the Crusade” in their hate speech directed against the West. Proponents of the latter theory argue that the West is leading a crusade to eradicate Islam and Muslims, a crusade that is similarly facilitated by their governments. This article presents analyses of texts written by right-wing extremists and Muslim extremists in an effort to shed light on how hate speech promulgates conspiracy theories in order to spread hatred and intolerance.
The aim of the article is to contribute to a more thorough understanding of hate speech’s nature by applying rhetorical analysis. Rhetorical analysis is chosen because it offers a means of understanding the persuasive power of speech. It is thus a suitable tool to describe how hate speech works to convince and persuade. The concepts from rhetorical theory used in this article are ethos, logos and pathos. The concept of ethos is used to pinpoint factors that contributed to Osama bin Laden's impact, namely factors that lent credibility to his promotion of the conspiracy theory of the Crusade. In particular, Bin Laden projected common sense, good morals and good will towards his audience. He seemed to have coherent and relevant arguments; he appeared to possess moral credibility; and his use of language demonstrated that he wanted the best for his audience.
The concept of pathos is used to define hate speech, since hate speech targets its audience's emotions. In hate speech it is the emotions that prevail, rather than reason. Sensational and dramatic claims are used to exploit existing feelings of anger, irritation and fear. The speech is aimed at those who may be persuaded of its negative content, and who may spread the message further. A distinct feature is its absence of logos: argumentation aimed at listeners' reason. To the extent logos is used in hate speech it is for the most part only apparent logos. The speech is often based on falsehoods, exaggerations, stereotypes, over-generalisations, and startling formulations. Hate speech therefore requires an uncritical audience – an audience that is either unable to see through the fallacies, or unwilling to do so because the arguments and conclusions fit well with their worldview. The overall aim of the article is to contribute to a more thorough understanding of hate speech’s nature and its role in disseminating conspiracy theories. However, through analyses of text examples from al-Qaeda’s leader, Osama bin Laden, and right-wing European extremists the article also contributes to explaining the terror attack in Oslo in July 2011 and the terror attack on September 11, 2001, in New York and other similar acts of terror.



How to Cite

Nilsen, A. B. (2014). Hate speech. FLEKS - Scandinavian Journal of Intercultural Theory and Practice, 1(1). https://doi.org/10.7577/fleks.852



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