Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Because Hate is NOT Hilarious

"As soon as one of those handicapped people wants to park a car they don't want to be treated 'like everybody else' anymore. Well, here at the group to revoke handicapped parking permits we say: "May every man, woman, child, and retard, be treated equally."

Do they really need it? If they're so messed up they can't drive, then why doesn't the person they're with just drop them off and find a fucking spot? If they are able to drive, but use a wheelchair then there's absolutely no need for a close spot - they're on wheels. a convenience that's gonna get them there easily and faster anyway. Now for those who are just so weak and tired that they aren't able to drive and have too much pride to get a wheel chair - I say stay home! You've probably got somebody catering to your every need there, too! Why do you feel you need to get that kind of attention when you leave the house as well?"

Hilarious, right? That's what creator of The Facebook group, Group to Revoke Handicapped Parking Permits wants you to believe. According to the author of this passage this group is, in her words, "a joke page. and a pro-equality page". 
The apparent hilarity continues with the group's Call to Arms:

"FIGHT DISCRIMINATION!
Actions to show your support:
1- get out there and send in a photo of yourself 'illegally' parking in a handicapped spot, then post it accordingly;
2- steal a handicapped placard from a car;
3- remove any 'handicapped parking only' sign you possibly can; and, finally,
4- flip off handicapped people in the name of equality!"

Subsequent comments on the group's page demonstrate the usual response to criticisms of such hate speech. There are cries of equality, that the able-bodied community are the ones being discriminated against, that the disabled are essentially a lazy and privileged group, and the final justification, that the disabled are overly sensitive and have no sense of humour. Such responses are predictable in their lack of originality and are the usual province of those using Hate 101 to support their views. So common is their usage that word 'handicapped' could easily be replaced by 'GLBT', 'women', or different ethnic and religious groups.

These groups follow the same scripts each time. They fail to own their own language and beliefs. They show no empathy for the groups they disparage, and portray themselves as the 'true' victims.

What they forget is that they may have the right to speak the words, but they cannot do so with impunity. Rights come with responsibilities and, with consequences. This group is not simply voicing their misguided belief that they are somehow victimised by those with disabilities, they are openly encouraging criminal behaviour, including theft based solely on a person's level of functioning.  This is hate pure and simple.

The fact that they cannot see the reality of their behaviour is not surprising. And I have no desire to try and reason with those of this mindset. Facebook has failed to remove this group despite multiple reports. It has even responded to one complainant stating,"After reviewing your report, we were not able to confirm that the specific group you reported violates Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities".

This is as equally disturbing as the group itself. That Facebook will remove a picture of a breastfeeding baby, a natural and frankly inoffensive act, and yet will not remove a group that advocates crimes against a specific group and justifies these actions on the grounds of humour and equality, is appalling. Failure to sanction or remove the group or those like it, gives tacit approval to the views espoused.

Sadly this group is but one of many, and a disturbing trend that perceives the disabled as lazy and somehow the recipient of preferential treatment, and in turn, that the wider community is therefore being discriminated against. Disabled parking permits seem to attract the ire of many. There are many willing to abuse users for not looking disabled enough, or the repugnant and cowardly who leave anonymous notes on the cars of users. There are those who park in the designated bays because there need overrides that of anyone else. Or the more passive-aggressive who park so close to cars in the bays that the user can no longer fit their wheelchair or walker to access their vehicle.

There is nothing funny about this group, or the views they espouse. They may be small in number, but the hurt and anger they provoke is large. They do represent a segment of the population who also rail against programs such as language education for new immigrants and healthcare and housing assistance for the poor. They feel that they are somehow missing out on their share and fail to recognise that the groups they despise are not granted equal access to the world at large. That these groups by virtue of their disability, sexuality, socio-economic status, gender, or language, are hardly brought onto an equal footing with the wider, supposedly, 'oppressed' society, even with small programs such as disabled parking permits. 

It saddens me that those who have added their names to groups such as this, feel that to boost their own self-worth they must denigrate others. That they create an imagined disadvantage for themselves and yet cannot see the irony in denying the disadvantage of others. That they lack the empathy or sense of self that would allow them to review their beliefs and if not change them, at least acknowledge that their beliefs and actions may cause harm to others.

Small or large, these groups need to be called to account as do those who lend their name or support to them. The Internet is not a Wild West where anything goes. It is not okay, and in some cases constitutes a criminal offence, to insult or actively encourage criminal behaviour against a specific group in the community. Humour is not an excuse. Nor is an imagined sense of discrimination or an inflated sense of entitlement. Hate in any form should not be tolerated.

It is easy and seductive to hate others, as it diverts a person from truly looking at their own failings.

Update: Thankfully Facebook has now reversed it's decision and the site has been removed. Thank you to everyone who took the time to report this group.

Michelle

People's Choice Award

41 comments:

  1. Sing it, sister friend.

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    1. Only if you do a duet with me ;)

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    2. If it's aCappella I'll sing the ladies bass line!

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  2. I have no words really. You have said it so well above.
    My father has a disabled parking permit. Without it he could not walk to appointments, get into a car, out of a car.
    Hiding hate (badly) behind so called humour is horrid.

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    1. As far as they are concerned the disabled have no business being out and about. Ugh. How do you reason with that kind of mentality? The issue is bigger than this disgusting group, they are just a very overt example of a wider societal attitude. Somehow they think by saying it is a joke that absolves them of being a decent human being.

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  3. I'm lost for words but sadly not surprised at how appalling this all this. But like you said though, theres nothing funny about it at all, and it's inciting hate and criminal behavior, so how the heck are they allowed to get away with it? Thanks for speaking out once again!

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    1. I think the overt nature of what they are saying and the fact that yet again Facebook isn't acting is what is irritating me the most. It always makes me sad to see this kind of thing, surely we are moving beyond this kind of vitriol?

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  4. Oh my gosh. This made me swear aloud. I must live in a bubble I often think, because I had no idea this group or others of its ilk existed.

    Utterly utterly disgusting.

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    1. I've been doing a lot of swearing too since I first heard about it, Kate. Sadly the views aren't new, but this is the most overt I've seen in some time.

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  5. This just made me really sad. When I was a healthy human being before POTS, I was always understanding of anyone who had a disability. I never begrudged a person's use of a handicapped parking spot, even if I couldn't see or understand why a peron needed it. In fact I never even gave it a second thought and just accepted that if someone felt the need to have special aids or other requirements, then they must need it. As someone who is now vulnerable because I have an invisible illness that prevents me from standing for too long without fainting, I am appalled and actually quite dismayed that there are such selfish, digusting people out there who would begrudge me my one moment of freedom in being able to get to the shops once in a while and to have some independence. I really wish one of these sods could experience what I and many others like me experience for just one day.

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    1. It made me sad too Anon. I think it's a sad indictment on the state of the world these days that this is even considered appropriate. I think regardless of if you have a disability or not people need to stand up and say this is not okay and we wont tolerate it any more. The more who can report it to Facebook the better, maybe they'll eventually listen.

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  6. GOOD ON YOU MICHELLE!! i just had a look at that sicko fb site and all i can say is they are uneducated, small minded A***holes!! great work!!

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    1. Thanks Anon. I'm trying to maintain my poise about it all but I am alternating between seething and sad. I do think it's symptomatic of a wider societal disconnect, whereby we have lost our compassion for our fellow man and live in and us and them society. I think we know these attitudes exist but to see them so blatantly expressed is very disturbing.

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    2. I just don't understand how people can have no compassion. It really upsets me and I really have the urge to to say f***!!!!!!! Sorry sometimes its the only word that works for me. I wish I could still park way out in the parking lot like I used to but I CANT. Sending you all peace and hope and understanding. Missy

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  7. Unfortunately groups like these are on the rise.

    It scares me because it looks like humanity has learned nothing from the events of the past, mainly the views of the Nazi's. That regime started a campaign of hate focusing on a group of people and then moved on to others that they deemed not fit to live in their society.

    It frightens me how quickly others jump on the bandwagon and cannot see the impact of their actions. It is deemed ok because they believe its the view of the majority, when actually its a minority.

    I am all for free speech but with that comes responsibility. Inciting others to carry out what is essentially a hate crime isn't responsible.

    Rach

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    1. I so agree Rach. So often people forget that with rights come responsibilities. I've noticed a real rise too. I think a lot of the hatred and nastiness we now see in the political arena is a reflection of this same trend. We demonise and marginalise groups again and again, until it seems 'natural'.In countries like the UK where they are currently having their disability schemes reviewed and cut there has been a substantial rise in assaults on the disabled and increased rhetoric about the lazy disabled. Here is Oz media outlets runs stories that suggest the very few examples of people who rort the system are actually the norm. This fuels the kind of mentality of these groups.

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  8. I am seeeeeething about this right now--an d I guess I'm a glutton for punishment because I keep going back there and reading the awful wall posts--UGH!! There is so much I can say, but I won't blow up your blog with all of it--It sounds like your sentiments are the same anyway-Thanks for another great post, Michelle!

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    1. You're not alone in your anger, Jennifer. I think whether you have a disability or not, most would be disgusted by the group. Whilst, we are unable to change their attitudes we can at least lobby Facebook to stop sitting on their hands and act according to their own guidelines. In many respects it is their lack of action on the topic that makes me most angry as it gives legitimacy and approval to their views.

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  9. This group is absolutely disgusting. It makes me absolutely sick for the sake of patients everywhere, especially those battling "hidden" illnesses. It's bad enough to have to battle horrible symptoms, but to have to fight to correct a completely ignorant and hateful perspective? It's scary that such abominable people exist. So wrong.
    Tell you what, witty group creators who need to get a life. Let's give you insane amounts of epinephrine, get you extremely dehydrated, put you on several meds with really crappy side effects, let you puke up everything you try to put down, poke you in the eye with an ice pick (not for fun, of course... to recreate the migraines), isolate you from social contact for awhile, and then make you walk the length of a parking lot on a humid summer day as you attempt to achieve some degree of quality of life. Caviat: don't pass out, don't get light-headed, and most definitely don't get sick. Then, and only then, do you have any semblance of a right to publicize such demoralizing viewpoints. By that point, those little blue placards might even appear gold in your eyes.
    Heck, I'll even throw in some old-lady compression stockings for giggles. Good luck getting them on.

    ~S

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    1. They just don't get it. There is almost that mentality that it will never happen to them, that those who are disabled are somehow to blame for their plight, so that makes it okay. Some people lack any empathy for others. The vitriol on the site got so bad I had to stop looking at it. There was even a picture of an old man who had been bashed and their response was that he shouldn't have been out, ie it was his fault. Ugh.

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  10. I just tried to look at the page and it appears the page has been taken down (thank God!). Hopefully Facebook realizes that these pages DO discriminate!

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    1. There is still some confusion as to whether it is down or private now. Though it's looking more like it is gone, thankfully.

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  11. what? i want to say i cant believe this! but unfortunately i can. were they not loved as children, taught compassion? thats for bringing this to the attention michelle. x

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    1. You do have to wonder how someone develops these attitudes. I'm quite sure their ire is not just directed at the disabled. That mentality seems to encompass contempt for a lot of different groups.

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  12. I have Rheumatoid Arthritis and our support group posted this disgusting web page to us and we all reported it to FB. Either FB took it down or the administrator of the group took it down. Power to the people!

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    1. It has been great to see so many groups acting on this. Doesn't matter what your disability or where you come from, this kind of mentality affects us all and is seen for what it is, hate. We may be disabled but we can kick arse when necessary. Very much power to the people!!

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  13. good for you Michelle and we applaud you I was so angry I was bedside myself because our daughter with POTS has been harassed for using a handicap placard because she looks normal NONE of this was funny to me !!!!!!

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    1. I'm so sorry your daughter had to experience that. What is wrong with people? The only people who find this kind of language funny have something seriously wrong with them. It demonstrates such a complete lack of empathy.

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  14. Thank you for this excellent post. While I normally would oppose any form of censorship, this Facebook group was promoting a form of hate speech and encouraging criminal acts against disabled persons.

    What really disturbed me is that some of the people who had joined this group on Facebook were listed as medical professionals on their Facebook profiles. I saw at least one nurse and one Physical Therapist. I wrote down their names and employers (which they proudly list on their profiles) and I am going to inform their employers of their membership in this group. These people shouldn't be allowed anywhere near disabled individuals, whether they joined the group because they actually support the idea of committing crimes against the disabled, or because they just "thought it was funny."

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    1. I had heard that as well and it is very disturbing. How could anyone who is working in health find this funny? These people have no place in health and definitely no place in working with people with disabilities. How can you rationalise being a nurse and talking about 'mutants' and 'retards' or laughing that an old man is bashed for using his disability placard. It is sickening.

      I do wonder what the legal implications are with all this? Can the creators of the group be prosecuted? So much of what they said was offensive, but they also crossed a serious line by advocating crimes against the disabled.

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  15. OMG Michelle, I am so shocked at what I just read. Even though I myself am on the mend and now only walk with a limp. I once couldnt walk 3 years ago. What an outrage to hear of such people and the nerve to create a group telling ppl to purposely park in our spots, steal away sighs or worst yet, give us the flip? WTF i get a rude finger stuck up at me for being disabled and having no control of why i got to that way in the first place. I have been told off by drivers who think im not allowed to park in those spots b4 only to get me angry. I told my mother to do a you-turn just so i could go around and yell and shove my disabled sticker up on my window to their faces and yell F#@k u rude woman! Grrr thinking about it just reminds me how angry I was that day!
    Ok i got that all out... grrr

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    1. What is it about the parking space issue? It seems to make people so angry, it's almost become an acceptable place to be an arse. So sorry you dealt with that, but I kinda like your response ;) Groups like this one seem to be popping up more and more and hate speech seems on the rise. Across the board if you are different it seems you're fair game for this kind of behaviour. If this was in the school yard it would instantly be identified as bullying, why isn't it seen in this case?

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  16. Thank goodness for people like you. Unafraid to take action. Must be why I was listening to Where is the Love? felt compelled to come here and read late as usual. and managed finally to work how to embedd something in my blog! A multi message within the lyrics I think applicable in the scenario you described so eloquently above.

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    1. I was impressed when I saw you had added that in your latest post as I know how unsure you were about how to do it. And I think you're right, it really is the perfect musical accompaniment to this topic.

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  17. I am shocked by this.. at first glance I thought was humour or irony or something... that is just ridiculous. Your response is bang on! Well done!

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    1. Thanks Brahm. The posts on the page just became progressively more hateful before it was closed. The terminology used to refer to people with disabilities, that beatings are their own fault as they leave their homes and the suggestions that they should hide in their homes as they are unpleasant to view by the able bodied. It just went on and on. Now if only the views themselves could be as easily wiped.

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  18. I'm glad I didn't see it. Just knowing it existed is bad enough. I believe a lot of it is ignorance. People who leave scathing notes are ignorant. People who say stuff or think stuff like that are ignorant. Sadly I used to be somewhat ignorant. I'd never heard of invisible disabilities before being diagnosed. I've never been mean or said anything but I HAVE wondered why someone who didn't LOOK disabled had a placard. And assumed it was a relatives. Jokes on me huh? I don't have one (haven't mentioned it) as I can still walk short periods of time and don't use a wheelchair (though I probably should) but it makes me sad thinking about how people who have one are treated. I wish people were educated about the disabilities, both clearly visible and not. I'm saddened by the hate and ignorant. I wish it were common knowledge, instead of people growing up thinking they're in the right. Ignorance isn't an excuse, it's a crutch for them. I'm just overall sad at how humans treat other humans. :(

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    1. It is sad Sierra and I must admit I flowed between anger and sadness reading the posts. In a way I expect that there will be ignorant people in the world, that is just part of the human experience. But these people crossed a line that takes ignorance into hatred, I think that is the main issue. Education around perceptions of illness definitely need to change, but this level of hate is beyond that one issue and it is likely that their views are not confined to the disabled and cover many different groups. I still like to think they are a minority and that the majority of the population would condemn their views.

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  19. This is not the first of your posts I've read, and you never cease to amaze me. Thank you, and I look forward to reading more.
    farm house karachi

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    1. Thanks for your lovely comment Atta :)

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  20. My Latin Teacher, Lovely lady, embodies your point. In the 60's she Stroked in College and 1/2 her body never uncrumpled. And yet she still managed, with adaptive technology to walk with a combination of cane and crutch and not only complete college, but to become probably the most loved and definitely best remembered EDUCATOR at our High School! She also drove with adaptive technology and Resisted using a wheelchair although she EASILY could have resorted to using one. Instead she taught tolerance an respect, quietly, and expected US as "Ladies and Gentleman" to lend a hand whenever we saw that she might need it. Or anyone else for that matter. She is the Embodiment of exactly what these idiots stated. She can walk, yes with help, but her abilities are limited if she is on her own. She requires the extra space to enter and exit her Van that is not normally allocated to a normal parking space. She COULD use a wheelchair but it would FURTHER incapacitate her as her body degenerates from lack of use. And believe me if this lady can wrangle classrooms 50+ full of Rowdy freshman and make a Dead language look cool and be the sweetest nicest person while doing it, then she should be able to run into the local StarBucks without having to Hike with 1 leg the length of the parking lot to do it or have someone else do it for her. We learned consideration and Common Courtesy from this wonderful lady and will continue to pass it on. Jane MacDonald we love and miss you! Keep Rocking!

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All who are lovely enough to comment should be showered with cup cakes, glitter and macarons. I promise to use my spoon bending mind powers to try and get that happening for all who are lovely enough to share their words. Those who go the extra step to share posts should really get a free unicorn. Or at least the gift of finding the shortest and quickest line at the supermarket on a regular basis. xx