hate speech – ngram

I previously examined how the concept of “divisive” arose rather abruptly some time ago, and how use of that word might be linked to our use of television. It’s just a theory, of course, but it seems plausible and worth considering.

In the wake of our increased emphasis on the divisiveness of, well, just about everything, other phrases have also sprung up to bolster such thinking.

As always, here’s a link to an intro to Google’s useful ngram viewer, if you haven’t heard of it before this.

Today, I look at the concept of “hate speech.”


Not much to say, really. Prior to about 1990 nobody was really using the phrase “hate speech” very much, and after 1990 it took off like it’s going out of style. It is a remarkably recent public phenomenon.

So for all those folks for whom the phrase (often an accusation) “hate speech” rolls off the tongue as naturally as does “um” to a novice public speaker, just recall that the phrase really only sprung into mainstream in the past couple of decades. Prior to that, people really didn’t tend to accuse each other of “hate speech” even though all of the same concepts and ideas were being discussed and shared. So if you consider fighting “hate speech” as one of the great moral human causes just recall that this flash-in-the-pan wasn’t considered a significant issue for the overwhelming majority of human history.

And also recall that the concept of “hate speech” is increasingly being understand as a moralistic attempt to censor views that happen to be politically unpopular, and often end up devolving into “justifications for intimidation, threats, disruptions, and disturbances.”

The popularity of the phrase “hate speech” arose very suddenly, and much later than the word “divisive” became a part of everyday discourse, but as we will discover next week there is slightly more to the story than this.