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September 13, 2012 - Image 34

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2012-09-13

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

metro

EMU Professor
Speaks Out Against
Hate on the Web

Hillel At EMU

Director chosen to participate
in Harman Institute fellowship.

Russ Olwell

Jack Kay's tall( on "Hate Speech in Cyberspace"
both summed up Kay's career as a researcher of the
field and underscored the importance of studying hate
speech and its transmission. Co-sponsored by Eastern
Michigan University's Jewish Studies Program, the
speech was given at the Holocaust Memorial Center
Zekelman Family Campus Aug. 15 in Farmington,
as part of a weeklong workshop for teachers on the
Holocaust.
Kay, a professor of Communications, Media
and Theater Arts at EMU, and former Provost and
Executive Vice President, told the audience at the
Holocaust center his interest in hate speech came from
his family background as a child of Holocaust survivors,
Jack Kay
and lessons drawn from that period of history. Words do matter, he said, and they can be
used to dehumanize and destroy.
Why study hate speech at all?
For Kay, it comes down to the importance of words.
"The word is incredibly powerful:' he said, "because it enables a people
to dehumanize a group, makes them seem less than human. Once that happens the
unthinkable becomes not only thinkable, but doable'
The first hate speech Kay studied was in Nebraska, where farmers afflicted by
the farm crisis of the 1980s turned to hate — bankers, Jews and other groups — to make
sense of the waves of foredosures on family farms. Kay interviewed and observed these
groups, leading him into the study of White supremacist groups in America. These groups
induded the Aryan Nation, Aryan World Congress and the National Association for the
Advancement of White People.
Kay began to study how these ideas spread. Many groups in the 1970s and
1980s relied on rallies and meetings, but Kay noted many people interested in the message
of these groups did want to be publicly seen with hate groups. In the later 1970s, groups
began trying to get the word out through newspapers that peddled hate for $1 per issue.
But the reach of these publications was not very wide.
A hate novel published in 1978, The Turner Diaries, according to Kay, gave hate
groups a new marketing strategy, more effective than rallies and newspapers. But it was
the use of mass media, such as radio and television, that began to boost the profile of hate
groups. Kay pointed to appearances on Oprah Winfrey and Geraldo as key moments for
hate groups, in which they were able to use television to get their message out to millions.
Music has also been a powerful way to get hateful messages out particularly to
the young. Kay said record labels and concerts have proven a powerful way to recruit and
mobilize hate groups. Several participants in the hate music scene later turned to violent
action against minority groups, such as the recent shooting at a Sikh temple.
The Internet, however, has been the most powerful medium for hate groups.
Groups have been pioneers in developing websites and message boards to reach millions.
Kay told the audience "the web is the greatest thing that happened to hate as it allows
messages to spread far beyond even TV and radio. The anonymity of the Internet has
meant those interested in broadcasting or receiving a message of hate can pursue their
interest without fear of being discovered, embarrassed or punished.
Hate groups have invested heavily in the web and have developed highly
interactive and engaging sites, fall of well-packaged misinformation about the history
of race, religion, and the Holocaust Unlike more conventional historical or religious
websites, hate groups have proven able to create web experiences that draw their viewer in
and keep attention through blaring music and cascading images.
Kay sees education — starting early — as the only way to counteract the
messages of hate speech. He believe it is only if people can recognize how words, images
and music are being used to spread hateful messages that there is any hope of keeping that
message from winning more converts.

Russ Olwell is an EMU professor of History and director of its Gear
Up program. He can be reached at rolwell@emich.edu .

ADVERTISEMENT

1779130

44 September 13 • 2012

H

aid at Eastern Michigan
University's Executive
Director Clara Silver was
selected as one of 15 mid-career cam-

pus professionals from all over the
world to participate in the ground-
breaking Hartman Fellowship for
Campus Professionals.
The new year-
long fellowship
was created by the
Shalom Hartman
Institute, based in
Jerusalem, in part-
nership with Hillel:
The Foundation
Clara Silver
for Jewish Campus
Life, based in
Washington, D.C., to begin a values-
based relationship between Israel and
young Jewish adults.
"This unprecedented opportunity
to learn from esteemed Hartman
scholars will lead to a significant
and long overdue paradigm shift in
how we engage emerging adults with
Israel and Jewish life in general,"
Silver said.
The Shalom Hartman Institute,
known for its nondenominational
rabbinical study and leadership pro-
grams, is a center for transformative
thinking that seeks to elevate the
quality of Jewish life across denomi-
national and national lines. Hartman
Institute launched the fellowship in
July with a week of intensive study in
Jerusalem.
Based on Hartman's "iEngage"
curriculum, originally intended to
inspire North American Jews to move
from a crisis relationship with Israel
to one of values and aspirations, the
Fellowship cohort explored ideas
that included Israel beyond the crisis
narrative, ideas of power and pow-
erlessness, democracy and Jewish
statehood, renewed Jewish content in
Israeli popular music, different ideas
of Jewish Peoplehood, and Israel's

value to the Jewish world.

"Both on campus and in the broad-
er Jewish world, Israel has become
a great source of anxiety and some-
times division," Silver said. "At one
time a crisis narrative may have been
necessary for Israel's initial survival,
but now this is an outdated idea and
beside the point. I see Jewish young
adults with a strong national identity
who believe in democratic values,
so they struggle to relate to an Israel
that is only about survival, either of
Jews living outside Israel or Jews liv-
ing inside Israel."
The Hartman Fellowship parallels
Hillel at EMU's local efforts to find
innovative pathways for Jews and
non-Jews to explore Israel as a com-
plex, multicultural society with all
the usual challenges of a democracy,
plus the added challenge of being the
only Jewish nation in its own neigh-
borhood and the world, Silver said.
Each Fellow was selected to be a
thought-leader and change-agent in
their local communities and on their
campuses, focusing on the complex-
ity and challenges of the relationship
with Israel and on other major issues
facing the Jewish people.
"As far as I'm aware, this is the first
time such distinguished educators
from the Jewish world have come
together with those of us work-
ing directly with a broad section of
Jewish young adults in a long-term
endeavor," Silver said. "I am incred-
ibly excited to be part of the process
that will articulate a 21st century
vision for Jews outside Israel to build
relationships with her."
In addition to the week in Israel,
the cohort met at Hillel Institute in
St. Louis in August and will continue
biweekly webinars throughout the
academic year, will meet in person
in North America in January, and
conclude with a weeklong intensive
seminar in Jerusalem in July 2013. ❑

-

BackStage Pass Seeks Applicants

BackStage Pass is a special four-
year program that starts in 11th-
grade that gives teens access to
the exciting things happening in
Detroit and the important people
making them happen, leading up to
a great college internship.

For applications for Cohort III
or additional information, visit
www.BackStagePassDetroit.org .
Applications are due by Friday, Oct.
12. Email Joshua Goldberg at josh@
communityNXT.com with any
questions. ❑

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