I learn in the middle of the afternoon, as I write this article, that the young man who denounced the homophobic aggression has retracted. I hardly need to retouch the article because we have a real increase in lgtbiphobic attacks and because in the middle of the afternoon the Vox spokesman came out threatening everyone with reports of hate crimes. I am aware of what this false case is going to be used for: for the same as 0.01% of false accusations of sexist violence, to hide the real increase in homophobic and transphobic aggressions, including murder, so that the right wing blames the Government and for Vox to victimize itself.
Attacks and lgbiphobic hate speech have grown exponentially in recent months. In recent days there have been several, in Toledo, Castellón, Melilla and Vitoria (and let’s not forget Samuel). The aggressions have never completely disappeared but the social climate was different. The other day in the YouGov survey in which Spain came out as the country that best accepts LGTB people, many people, the vast majority, feel enormous pride in the country. There were people then who said that this survey was not real or that it did not reflect the data well. Those of us who have been working with the LGTB issue for years know that it is real to the extent that these surveys always reflect a partial reality. There are others, from the Eurobarometer to the Pew Research Center polls, that point in the same direction. What these surveys express is a firm real will; at the very least, they express the country in which we want to see ourselves reflected.
Violence against vulnerable groups does not arise out of nowhere and the discourses that sustain it have a clear political intention. They seek, precisely, to break those basic consensuses that the surveys show. We are witnessing a reaction, in the purest sense of the term; to an attempt to back down by parts of Spanish society, minority, isolated, but powerful, who do not accept these advances. The reaction takes on more easily in the face of advances that a part of society may come to perceive as “excessive” or dangerous because they seem to endanger a status quo that is taken for natural and apolitical. Those who operate within a conservative political or vital framework do not become lgtbfriendly from one day to the next, but they learn that some opinions are frowned upon or not widely accepted. And they refrain from expressing them, as Noelle-Neumann explained. They may also learn to make these issues less important. The reactionaries ultimately try to reconfigure mental frames. Issues of equality and acceptance of minorities “pull” on many others and for the extreme right it is essential to impose a different common sense. The more feminist a society is, the more inclusive, the less racist, the more sensitive it will be to civil rights, for example, human rights, the more sensitive to equality and the more intolerant of inequality.
Hate speech is all related, as are egalitarian demands. They are a grammar of society, a way of communicating and acting socially, whether from anger, hatred or fear, which are always conservative or from empathy, equality or justice, which are the basis of any progressive project . And that is why, to impose their agenda, the reactionaries seek to break those consensuses, channel social frustration through hate speech and establish a climate of anger, fear, tension and permanent conflict. All these discourses are the same, they all go through the dehumanization of a vulnerable, easily identifiable social group that already has a certain social stigma; everyone goes through understanding the rights won as rights that are taken from other majority, all go through objectifying a broad group as if all its members were interchangeable, as if they shared the same dangerous characteristics. Whether hate speech turns into violence depends on many factors, some difficult to measure. One of these factors is the social climate. The social climate makes the people, the media, the social spokesmen, the laws… all come together in the delegitimization or legitimation of the discourses of inequality.
When hate speech is expressed it does not have to incite violence directly, in fact, it can be presented as something completely different knowing how it will be interpreted by certain people. This is what is called “dog-whistle” policies, something the Republicans in the US are masters at. When someone with legitimacy, such as a politician, an opinion leader, a well-known person, expresses openly or even covertly what until now remained in the personal sphere, it is as if a door were opened. Whether it opens more or less will depend on how society and its representatives react. If the condemnation of such speeches is unanimous and real, if the media are responsible and condemn such speeches and of course any hint of violence; if, above all, it is the leaders of more conservative sectors who turn to their own to warn them that hate speech is not admissible in a democracy (as Merkel clearly does in Germany), if the majority of the media side with human rights clearly, then it is possible to restore the social climate; if not, it will be complicated and everything can get worse. The social climate is crystal clear and once broken it is very difficult to put it back together.
And yet it is not only hate speech that is responsible for worsening the social climate against vulnerable groups. Some institutions have enormous capacity to contain the worsening of this climate or, conversely, to encourage it with inaction. There are institutions that are key and that are not up to par: a part of the judiciary, the prosecution and the police, for example. A democratic state cannot be equidistant between the groups that spread hatred and those who fight it. Here for too long, hate crime has been allowed to be used in a spurious way to ideologically persecute those who, wrongly or not, that is another matter, oppose Nazism, racism, homophobia … machismo of course . An “ideological hate” crime cannot be applied to those who oppose sexist, racist, homophobic or aporophobic discourses; It is not a crime, nor is it “ideological hatred”, it is normal, it is democratic, it is the only acceptable option. A police officer cannot be the victim of an aggravated hate crime, nor a Nazi.
The other day Espinosa de los Monteros threatened to prosecute for a hate crime who links Vox with violence. Vox’s speech is racist and dehumanizing of vulnerable groups and condemning it would not be, in any democracy, a hate crime. That this is possible is an anomaly that has been allowed here. The figure of hate crime is created to protect people in vulnerable situations based on a personal characteristic within a specific social, historical and cultural context. That this is not understood, in addition to showing that hate crime is not well defined, it also indicates to what extent the strange idea that Francoism and anti-Francoism can even be similar, feminism, survives in some of our institutions and anti-feminism … racism and anti-racism. We cannot allow that it is not understood (that it does not want to understand) what hate speech is and that it is also intended to use this type of crime for the ideological persecution of those who, precisely, fight hatred. It is an absolute nonsense and for this Vox is not solely responsible.
We also tend to say that intervention in education is essential to stigmatize hatred of the different and prevent violence; and it should be. Socializing in empathy for others who are different is not difficult, but Spain has a serious problem in the design of its educational ecosystem in which, unlike in most of Europe, control of the education was left in private and confessional hands. school. And this has not been reversed, but on the contrary. Let’s not fool ourselves. The school is a battlefield where the reactionary ideology has deposited, throughout the world, the survival and teaching of its ideals of exclusion and inequality. The fact that in other European countries the school is mainly public, is a fundamental factor to homogenize basic ideals of democracy, to consolidate a shared civic common sense. That is very difficult to make it possible here, and this is one of the fundamental problems that both feminists and LGBT activism have, such as anti-racism, as well as anyone who tries to teach civic values of democracy. In Spain, trying to speak in the school of affective sexual education or equality (both essential things) generates the explosion of the reaction, almost the same as in Brazil, but light years away from any democratic European country.
And in the end, there is always politics. The Popular Party has entered into a deeply reactionary drift that leads it to seek at all costs the vote of the extreme right, assuming that its moderate votes are safe. For this, this party has renounced to claim its contribution to the construction of democratic consensus and has gone on to directly claim Francoism, the worst in our history, the most painful, the darkest, that which in any democracy would be socially and politically outlawed. This drift will lead us to increasingly aggressive speeches against vulnerable minorities and violence will increase and, thanks to Vox, the PP does not even have to enunciate them, it may be enough for them not to delegitimize them.
Whoever thinks that hate speech can be separated from one group of others is wrong; hatred and violence spread like the plague, they pollute the social and political climate, spread the tension against everything, it ends up reaching everyone and there only those who promote said climate can win. It reaches institutions, public speeches, visibility, rights, individual freedom, public liberties, culture, science, everything retracts, dwarfs and darkens when hatred spreads . And you never know how it ends.