Hate Speech and Foreign Policy: the Case of Steven Anderson and Donald Trump in US-South African Ties

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with Bola A. Akinterinwa Telephone : 0807-688-2846 e-mail: bolyttag@yahoo.com

Steven Anderson is an American pastor and leader of the Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Arizona, United States. He commended the killing of dozens of gay people at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. As reported, Anderson said: ‘the good news (about the massacre) is that there’s 50 less pedophiles in this world, because … these homosexuals are a bunch of disgusting perverts and pedophiles. He therefore wants the US government to execute homosexuals by firing squad as commanded by the Holy Bible.

Last week, Pastor Anderson planned an overseas ‘soul-winning trip’ to South Africa but the South African government declared him a person non-grata. As explained by the Home Affairs Minister, Malusi Gigaba, the Immigration Act of 2002 not only ‘prohibits the admission of foreigners likely to promote hate speech or advocate social violence,’ but also that ‘South Africa has to work towards reaching its constitutional goals… it is a constitutional imperative for organs of state and society at large to protect and jealously defend the rights of all people.’

More importantly, Gigaba noted that he had identified Steven Anderson and members or associates of his church as undesirable people and that he had ‘withdrawn their visa exemption status enjoyed by all Americans’ on the consideration that he was quite certain they would promote hate speech as well as advocate social violence. Pastor Anderson in his reaction says he is ‘sorry for people who live in South Africa, but thank God, we still have a wide open door in Botswana.’ In other words, he would be heading to Botswana in lieu.

What should also be noted here is that the British Government similarly banned Pastor Anderson from entering or passing through the UK. In this case again, is the problem really hate speech or Pastor Anderson’s homophobic views?

Donald Trump is the US Republican presidential candidate in the forthcoming November elections in the US. He was born on June 14, 1943 to a German-American father, Fred, and a Scottish mother, Elisabeth. The blood running in his veins and capillaries appears to be of hate in all ramifications. He probably inherited this from his father, Fred Trump, who is one of the biggest property developers in New York. Fred Trump refused to rent out flats to African-Americans and had to be arrested at a Ku Klux Klan (KKK) rally and sued by the US Justice Department for refusing to accommodate African-American people on the basis of racial and ethnic discrimination.

Donald Trump appears to still have the German mentality of superiority of the Aryan Race and therefore is unnecessarily wrapped up in self-glorification and condemnation of all others. His hate speeches during his campaigns are a pointer. He declared, for instance, ‘I will build a great wall and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I will build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our Southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.’

Additionally, Donald Trump also has it that ‘Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’ve been bringing those problems with (sic) us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crimes. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.’ In fact, when he was responding to the issue of racially-motivated violence, Donald Trump stated as follows: ‘are they saying Black lives should matter more than white lives or Asian lives? If black lives matter, then go back to Africa. We’ll see how much they matter there.’

Thus, Donald Trump’s hate speech has more serious implications than that of Pastor Anderson. While the focus of attention of Pastor Anderson is a group of pedophiles, that of Donald Trump is the whole people of Mexico, regardless of a few he assumed might not be involved. Donald Trump’s hate speech is directly renewing the Nazi mentality of non-equality with others, and unnecessarily dividing the people of America along racial and ethnic lines. Most disturbingly, he is directly working against the international values of equality, freedom, peaceful coexistence and particularly the civil and political rights provided for in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

International Conventions and Hate Speech

Apart from Article 19 of the December 10 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which stipulates that ‘everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression,’ there are three main conventions dealing directly and indirectly with hate speech: the ICCPR, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). In all the three conventions, freedom of expression is guaranteed but always subject to some conditions. For instance, the ECHR in its Article 10 guarantees free expression to all but subject to ‘the protection of the reputation and rights of others.’ The CERD requires all its signatories to criminalise ‘all dissemination of ideas based on racial superiority or hatred.’

Perhaps more interestingly, The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted and opened for signature the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Resolution 2200A (XXI) on 16 December, 1966. The Covenant came into force on 23rd March, 1976 in accordance with the provision of its Article 49 which required entry into force of three months after the thirty-fifth instrument of ratification. Article 19, paragraphs (1) and (2) of the ICCPR provide that ‘everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference’ and, ‘everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this freedom shall include freedom to seek , receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice,’ respectively.

However, the enjoyment of the foregoing provisions is subject to paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 20 which say that ‘any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law’ and ‘any advocacy or national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.’

A review of many national and regional legislations also clearly show that freedom of expression does not exist in a vacuum. It is always subject to the respect of some other values. In France, Section 24 of the Press Law of 1881 punishes any incitement to racial discrimination, hatred or violence on the basis of one’s origin or membership or non-membership in an ethnic, national, racial or religious group. Expressing and spreading racial hatred in Denmark which threatens or vilifies, or uses insulting language the general public or group of persons is criminalised by Article 266 (b) of the Danish Criminal Code. In The Netherlands, Articles 137(c) and 137(d) of the Dutch Criminal Code sanction public intentional insults and engagement in verbal, written, or illustrated incitement to hatred, on account of one’s race, religion, sexual orientation, or personal convictions.

In the UK, the Public Order Act of 1986 provides in its Section 18(1) that ‘a person who uses threatening abusive, or insulting words or behaviour, or displays any written material which is threatening, abusive, or insulting, is guilty of an offence if : a) he intends to thereby stir up racial hatred, or b) having regard to all the circumstances racial, hatred is likely to be stirred up thereby.’

Two points are noteworthy about the foregoing. First, the restrictions to the enjoyment of freedom of speech that border on hate speech is the emphasis on incitement to, and threats of, violence, as well as use of abusive language, and particularly on the basis of religion and race. The extent to which the case of abuse of pedophiles can, by definition, fall under hate speech is quite arguable. In the context of the law in The Netherlands, mention is made of sexual orientation and personal convictions. Homosexualism not only raises the issue of sexual orientation but also personal convictions. Pastor Anderson cannot but be found guilty if he were to be The Netherlands.

The second point is the position of the American Convention on Human Rights regarding hate speech. Article 13 of the convention guarantees the right ‘to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds,’ but subject to paragraph 5 of the same article which says ‘any propaganda for war and any advocacy of national, racial, or religious hatred that constitutes incitements to lawless violence or to any other similar action against any person or group of persons on any grounds, including those of race, colour, religion, language or national origin shall be considered offenses punishable by law.’

In spite of this provision, it is useful to also note that in the joint statement of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights at the Organisation of American States and the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, for hate speech to be in accordance with international and regional law, ‘no one should be penalised for statements which are true’ and ‘no one should be penalised for the dissemination of hate speech unless it has been shown that they did so with the intention of inciting discrimination, hostility or violence.’

In the context of Pastor Anderson, didn’t he speak the truth in the statement he made? If he spoke the truth, what is the legitimate basis for seeking to sanction him? He can be guilty of sympathy for the killing of some homosexuals but he cannot be said to be guilty of hate speech per se. In fact, there is no common rule on hate speech in the US. In his contribution to the Washington Post of May 07, 2015 Eugene Volokh of the UCLA Law School, said that there is ‘no hate speech exception to the First Amendment. One is free to condemn Islam – or Muslims, or Jews, or Blacks, or Whites, or illegal aliens, or native-born citizens -as one is to condemn capitalism or Socialists or Democrats or Republicans.’

In the same vein, the many hate speeches made by Donald Trump may after all not be a big deal in the context of the American world. However, they do outside of America. Hate speeches were a major dynamic of the First and Second World Wars. They still constitute major agents of misunderstandings, and therefore, major threats to the maintenance of international peace and security as at today. Hate speeches are essentially about incitement to commit crimes against humanity, particularly genocide. Different efforts have been made to prevent genocide but there is nothing to suggest that another genocide will not be in the making in some parts of the world with the increasing hate speeches. The genocide in Bosnia and Rwanda in the 1990s should not be quickly forgotten.

Perhaps more disturbing are the new dimensions to the management of hate speeches in international relations, especially at the level of United States and South African relations which have the potential to seriously undermine the maintenance of international peace and security in the world beginning with Africa.

The Dimensions

The first dimension is the introduction of condemnation of homosexuals as an element of hate speech. In many parts of the US, any condemnation of homosexual activities is still considered as falling under freedom of speech. In other countries, the story may be different as it is with South Africa. The South African government declared Pastor Anderson persona non-grata in the belief that he had made a hate speech in the US and in the stronger belief that if he had done so in his own country, it is also very likely he would do the same, bearing in mind that South Africa is another terra cognita for homosexuals and gay marriages.

Explained differently, the problem at stake is stricto sensu not hate speech. There is nothing hateful in any speech beyond the interpretation that whoever is engaged in the act of interpretation wants to give it. The truth is that Pastor Anderson is vehemently against homosexuals. True, he condemned the killing of some homosexuals and even called for their execution by firing squad. The sanctionary measure taken by South Africa against Pastor Anderson is likely to backfire in the foreseeable future because of the implications for the whole of Africa. South Africa condones homosexuals while most African countries do not. Nothing prevents most African countries from similarly preventing perceived homosexuals from South Africa and their supporters from entering their countries, not necessarily in terms of reciprocity but largely in defence of their policy of non-acceptance of homosexual culture.

Secondly, it is also very likely that in countries where homosexuals have rights of existence and establishment, citizens of countries that are hostile to homosexuals can be denied entry visas without being told. The case of Pastor Anderson is public knowledge because there is visa waiver for Americans travelling to South Africa. Denial of visa to him cannot but therefore raise eye brows if it is not transparently managed.

Thirdly, on June 28, 2016 the New York Senate passed a bill prohibiting universities from providing funding to student groups that ‘encourage hate speech.’ The bill, number S8017, co-sponsored by Senator Jack Martins and Todd Kaminsky, says universities must ‘adopt rules that any student group that receives funding from the university that directly or indirectly promotes, encourages, or permits discrimination, intolerance, hate speech or boycotts against a person or group based on race, class, gender, nationality, ethnic origin or religion, shall be ineligible for funding.’

In other words, the menace of hate speech is such that it now has to be tackled from the angle of non-funding, which is different from visa denial or putting exception to the privilege of visa waiver enjoyed by the generality of the American people. In this regard, it should be noted that the bill negates the First Amendment which ‘precludes public universities from denying student organisations access to school-sponsored forums because of the groups’ viewpoints.’ Besides, the restriction of free speech on campus is outlawed in Arizona.

Therefore the challenges that Africa faces in the near future is that if the American people make the mistake of electing Donald Trump, serious constraints must be expected in US-Africa relations. First, Donald Trump should never dream of visiting Africa in whatever capacity as he is unwanted. Secondly, cooperation with the US Government should be expected to be drastically reduced so that Americans can be allowed to become a new island unto itself. Thirdly, and perhaps more significantly, hate speech versus homosexualism is likely to become a controversial issue in Africa’s relations with the homosexual countries in the near future because efforts are currently being made through South Africa to fight anti-gay policies. The UK, a liberal country, is on record to have connived with South Africa in denying Pastor Anderson entry visa.