Throughout this module, we have explored some of the reasons for why people might use or sustain hate speech. We have also considered how individual instances of hate speech form part of a much broader social landscape.
The SELMA project short definition of hate speech is:
“Any online content targeting someone based on protected characteristics with the intent or likely effect of inciting, spreading or promoting hatred or other forms of discrimination.”
These two activities: the hacking hate theatre activity and the media coverage activity, are a fun and engaging way for you and your pupils to explore the reasons why people create and/or sustain hate speech. If you have the time and are feeling ambitious, run both activities. If that’s not possible, or you’d prefer to focus on just one area, pick any of the two activities to run. Each activity works just as well independently.
Activity 1: Theatre piece
Note: Works best with a group of at least 10 learners.
1a. Theatre scenarios
What you will need:
- Begin by reminding learners that hate speech is speech that targets individuals or groups of individuals on the basis of their protected characteristics (such as race or nationality, religious belief, disability, sexual orientation and transgender identity). Hate speech enables or encourages discrimination and violence against individuals with protected characteristics and certain forms of hate speech are illegal.
- Explain to learners that, as part of efforts to address hate speech, they are going to be participating in an activity designed to encourage reflection on why people might use or sustain hate speech.
- It’s important that learners feel safe, comfortable and warmed up before participating in an activity. Check out our handy “How to” guide for general recommendations on how to introduce the peer-mentoring activities.
- Ask four learners to volunteer to act out four individual theatre scenarios.
- Once you have your four volunteers, give them each their theatre scenario (keep the follow-up questions slide for each scenario to yourself). The activity works best if the four learners are lined up next to each other and each scenario is acted out in turn, for around 30 seconds each. Explain that the scenarios are simple, and it’s entirely up to the actors how elaborate to make the theatre piece. Encourage learners to get creative! Can they create some props?
- The rest of the learners will form the audience. Ask them to divide themselves into groups. The size and number of groups is completely up to you. Explain to the audience that they will be given five minutes to answer a set of questions after each scenario, as a group.
- After each scenario is acted out, present the audience with the corresponding “Follow-up questions” slide. If you don’t have access to a screen, you might want to print out the slide and hang it up somewhere. Give the teams in the audience five minutes to work through the follow-up questions and then come back together as a whole group to discuss your answers. While learners are working through the questions, you should walk around the room to see if they have any questions. Use the below prompts to support learners who might be unclear about some of the questions or who are stuck. You can also use the prompts when discussing as a whole group at the end of the activity, to stimulate more ideas and contributions from learners.
- Once you have completed the activity (acted out all four scenarios and completed the follow-up questions work), close the activity with the “Key takeaways” to make sure that learners really take away the most important lessons from this activity.
Prompts for each scenario:
- How do you think a Xenovian reading Kelsie’s post would feel? Do they think they would feel welcome in Kelsie’s country?
- Do you think Kelsie was feeling sad/angry/afraid? Why do you think that?
- (Depending on answer to 2 above), why do you think someone might feel angry towards or afraid of a group of individuals coming to their country from elsewhere?
- Do you think it was because Sam felt convinced by Kelsie’s argument? Do you think Sam wanted to befriend Kelsie? Or maybe he didn’t really think very much about it at all?
- Do you think passively “liking” something makes any impact? After all, you’re not the one who has written the offensive post. If you think it does make an impact to passively like something offensive, what impact do you think it makes?
- Based on their message, what do you think they are trying to get out of Sam? Do you think it’s just a friendly chat they want?
- Of all the people online, why do you think they singled out Sam to contact? Think back to what Sam did in the previous scenario. (Make sure learners understand that Sam was contacted because he “liked” Kelsie’s post).
- What are you basing your advice on? What if Sam went for the chat just to learn more about Xenov-Hate, and didn’t make any promises? If you think that Sam should not continue to engage with this person, do you think it’s enough to ignore them, or should Sam report them?
- What message do you think the post sends to people seeing it?
- An election is round the corner. What do you think Ms Green might gain from sharing this post?
- How do you think it will make them feel about the future of their country, and how do you think it would make them feel towards Ms Green?
- If you think there is a difference between Ms Green and Sam posting this kind of post, why do you think there is a difference? Do you think politicians have a special responsibility not to use hateful speech? Why or why not?
- People use hate speech with different motivations. Some may be afraid of another group (the “out-group”) or feel a sense of anger about a perceived injustice which they project onto another group. They may also do this to form part of an “in-group” that uses similar hate speech, which gives them a sense of security.
- Some people actively use hate speech (like Kelsie), and others may passively support it or do nothing to discourage it (like Sam). While actively using hate speech is clearly always wrong, passive support also has serious consequences - as Sam discovered when he was contacted by the Xenov-Hate admin. Hate is spread through a combination of people actively using it and others passively accepting or not challenging it.
- Hate speech always has serious consequences, but the words of some individuals, such as politicians, may be particularly serious, because of the influence they have over wider society.
1b. Theatre scenarios: Bringing it all together
What you will need:
- One printed copy of the scenario slides from activity 1a, for each of the participating groups.
- One printed copy of the first slide of the “Theatre activity: Bringing it together” resource, with each of the four squares cut out, for each of the participating groups.
- Eight printed copies of the second slide of the “Theatre activity: Bringing it all together” resource.
- A pair of scissors and a pen for each participating team.
- Remind learners that they have just watched and discussed four scenarios.
- Explain how, in this theatre activity, you have thought about each case as a relatively isolated scenario.
- However, with some further reflection, it’s possible to see connections between the scenarios.
- Explain that, in this next activity, you will be thinking about the connections between the scenarios.
- Explain that groups should remain seated as they were. Ask the acting volunteers to join the groups in order to participate in the activity.
- Make sure that each group has the resources described in the “What you will need” section above.
- Explain to the groups that they will have five minutes to think about how each apparently isolated scenario could connect to another one, using the arrows and printed graphics.
- Use the below prompts to stimulate discussion:
- Look at Sam and Ms Green, for example. Do you think there could be any connection between their behaviour?
- What or who might Xenov-Hate be influenced by?
- Is Ms Green reacting to speech by someone like Kelsie, or influencing her, or is it a bit of both?
- While learners are working through the questions, you should walk around the room to see if they have any questions. Use the above prompts to support learners who might be unclear about the activity or who are stuck.
- Once you have completed the activity (including the whole group discussion), close the activity with the “Key takeaways” to make sure that learners really take away the most important lessons from this activity.
- Individual cases of hate speech may seem harmless, but they form part of a bigger picture and have a ripple effect.
- Hateful words and behaviour of influential people legitimise hateful words and behaviour by individuals or groups.
- Groups promoting hatred are formed of individuals with a variety of motivations and are sometimes legitimised by powerful people with their own motivations. Be aware of this larger picture when you encounter individual instances of hate speech.
Activity 2: Media coverage
What you will need:
- If learners have just completed Activity 1, remind them that in Activity 1 learners looked at a range of scenarios which included politician Ms Green sharing a social media post about Xenovians.
- If learners have not completed Activity 1, briefly talk them through the scenario slides, paying special attention to Scenario 4 which is Ms Green’s post.
- Explain that in this next activity, you will be thinking about how the media reports on posts such as Ms Green’s and what impact this might have.
- Ask learners to divide themselves into pairs.
- Give each pair of learners a copy of the Activity 1a - Scenario 4 slide (Ms Green’s social media post) and a printed copy of the Media coverage resource.
- Explain that the Media coverage resource consists of two articles on two separate newspapers that are each covering the same social media post by Ms Green.
- Ask learners to spend 30 seconds - 1 minute individually reading through the two articles, and then spend five minutes responding to the Follow-up questions as a pair.
- While learners are working through the questions, you should walk around the room to see if they have any questions. Use the below prompts to support learners who might be unclear about the activity or who are stuck.
- Bring learners back together for a whole-group discussion. Use this as an opportunity to ask learners whether they think that today’s media acts responsibly when it comes to hate speech?
- Once you have completed the activity (including the whole group discussion), close the activity with the Key takeaways to make sure that learners really take away the most important lessons from this activity.
- Look at the picture and kind of language used, and think about how Ms Green’s post is reported on. Are views other than Ms Green’s brought into the article? Why do you think those views are included? Do you think it’s helpful to include facts and statistics in the article, or do you think the human quote is more effective? Why?
- The media has a responsibility to report on offensive speech in an appropriate way, challenging it and not simply repeating it to a wider audience.
- Studies show that human stories and emotive language can sometimes be more compelling than facts and statistics. This doesn’t mean that we should ignore facts and statistics when challenging bias and misinformation; on the contrary, they are incredibly important! It does mean, however, that we need to come up with creative and engaging ways to present those facts and statistics for maximum impact.
- While human stories and emotive language may seem more attractive and engaging, be careful. A single story does not “prove” a wider case, and your emotions can also be manipulated. Be critical of what you read.
Consider a number of possible motivations behind people creating and sustaining hate speech. Appreciate the role of media framing techniques in encouraging or discouraging potentially hateful viewpoints.