Expanding the field of hate

Posted January 6, 2023, 10:03 am

The disruption of digital technology in our lives has freed speech and transformed human interaction. Never in history have we talked so much, observe Roger-Paul Droit and Monique Atlan. However, we may never have talked so little. Because the more we talk, the less we talk. The quantity explodes, the quality explodes.

“We are full of words, we don’t have them. Their automatic propagation silences us even when we think we are speaking up. And we do not measure the weight of the phenomenon: what is at stake is the existence of humanity, nothing less. Indeed, humanity is not only biological: we are first and foremost a community of speaking beings. If the speech is left unfinished, the humanity dries up.

From Method to school bullying

Still, we don’t say that speech is free? Social networks have allowed the Metoo movement, the condemnation of abusive rule, the voice of silent terror. For better or worse, the speech has come out of silence: with fake news, an insidious mix of lies and truth, the substitution of public vendettas for the work of the courts, even “hills” of classmates driving children to commit suicide. (800,000-1 million students are victims of school bullying each year, 61% say they have suicidal thoughts), we are witnessing a widening circle of hate.

“We don’t measure enough how much these small rivers of cows have turned into an ocean of mud carrying insults, slander, insinuations, persecution, threats… Because the words thrown out continue their trajectory. They often scratch, sometimes they hurt deeply. Finally, they can kill. Or incite to kill. The road from talking to death is shorter than you think. The old slanders were not cruel. But they spread more slowly.

Look with “two eyes”.

Yesterday, the places where “pikes” can move freely were determined: from “Chained duck” to Coluche or Bedos shows, they were restricted. Today, everywhere and at any time, “everyone throws his arrow, is proud to set himself as the absolute judge, eager to criticize everyone for everything at any time. And since 2009—the introduction of the Facebook Like button and the retweet on Twitter—the virality of reviews has accelerated. His strike force has increased.

Of course, defamation, insult or hatred did not wait for the existence of the Internet: they are inherent in humanity. The Internet did not create toxic speech. But dematerialization, distribution and above all anonymity ensure unlimited success. It would be foolish to demonize networks; As Nietzsche said, it is better to look at them “with two eyes”, distinguishing between their magnificent side and their disastrous side. And above all, describe the main lines of the “renewed speech economy”. Authors do.

Fountain in Emojis

It’s not just about social networks: words permeate our daily lives. From the sound of a door opening to the sound of a GPS guiding us, from a podcast listened to on the subway to a clock counting steps, the quantity or synthesis of human voices fills our existence. By being everywhere, speech runs the risk of being nowhere. Talking too much reduces speech.

Because at the same time, we are witnessing the impoverishment of language: more and more complex images are placed on words with emojis, even suppressing them. This is not a tragedy, but a sign of the times. They will not cancel the lyrics. Try translating “The Crow and the Fox” into emojis. You will find something to describe “tree”, “raven”, “fox” and “cheese”, but that’s all: you will not rewrite La Fontaine.

Other machines have captured speech with Alexa, voice robots and other chatbots. For now, they are incapable of conveying emotions and affects, quickening or slowing breathing, inflection of the voice, subtle intonations. But they will get better. What will happen next? Or we will make machines that imitate us on purpose. Or our ways of speaking are changing invisibly, imitating machines to achieve the “New Speak” dear to George Orwell…

It is our duty to speak up

The worst thing is to imagine that there are no consequences for speaking up or being silent. It’s all about speech. As we know, you need to talk more to get out of school: children with a vocabulary of 500-1500 do not live on the same planet as those with a vocabulary of 5000 or 6000.

Basically, Roger-Paul Droit and Monique Atlan wrote a book about responsibility. They insist: “If this book had to be summed up in one sentence, it would be: ‘Remember that speaking can make you live or kill you, build you up or destroy you, so nothing you say, write, or repeat matters. If you clearly understand this, your responsibility can contribute to the rehumanization of the landscape. »

When the word perishes

Monique Atlan and Roger-Paul Droit, Editions de l’Observatoire, 320 pages, €22.

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