Cover image for Speaking Hatefully: Culture, Communication, and Political Action in Hungary By David Boromisza-Habashi

Speaking Hatefully

Culture, Communication, and Political Action in Hungary

David Boromisza-Habashi

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160 pages
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2013

Rhetoric and Democratic Deliberation

Speaking Hatefully

Culture, Communication, and Political Action in Hungary

David Boromisza-Habashi

“This book is interesting and provocative, not to say courageous. It takes a term that arouses intense passions in the United States and analyzes it in an alien cultural/political context in ways that go beyond the usual tenor of U.S. conversations on such topics, showing that even positions one may find odious have an internal ‘logic’ in local sociohistorical contexts. That alone is an important contribution to scholarship on political debate, which usually assumes competing ‘sides’ and, at least implicitly, privileges certain positions over others. In this way, the analysis poses provocative questions about scholars’ own potential ‘cultural’ biases and political engagements. (Whether scholars are ready to accept the challenge is another question.)”

 

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In Speaking Hatefully, David Boromisza-Habashi focuses on the use of the term “hate speech” as a window on the cultural logic of political and moral struggle in public deliberation. This empirical study of gyűlöletbeszéd, or "hate speech," in Hungary documents competing meanings of the term, the interpretive strategies used to generate those competing meanings, and the parallel moral systems that inspire political actors to question their opponents’ interpretations. In contrast to most existing treatments of the subject, Boromisza-Habashi’s argument does not rely on pre-existing definitions of "hate speech." Instead, he uses a combination of ethnographic and discourse analytic methods to map existing meanings and provide insight into the sociocultural life of those meanings in a troubled political environment.
“This book is interesting and provocative, not to say courageous. It takes a term that arouses intense passions in the United States and analyzes it in an alien cultural/political context in ways that go beyond the usual tenor of U.S. conversations on such topics, showing that even positions one may find odious have an internal ‘logic’ in local sociohistorical contexts. That alone is an important contribution to scholarship on political debate, which usually assumes competing ‘sides’ and, at least implicitly, privileges certain positions over others. In this way, the analysis poses provocative questions about scholars’ own potential ‘cultural’ biases and political engagements. (Whether scholars are ready to accept the challenge is another question.)”
“David Boromisza-Habashi’s book offers a fascinating cultural analysis of the highly charged public conversation that surrounded Hungarian ‘hate speech’ as a term for talk and a social problem at a particular juncture in the country’s history. It is an exemplary study of the way speakers breathe meaning and life into a cultural key symbol in contesting issues of identity, morality, and social action in an intensely divisive political context. While richly resonant with local Hungarian culture and history, this study addresses themes and concerns that many readers will find pertinent to their own cultural worlds. Intriguingly, the book makes a bold move by reaching beyond ethnographic interpretation and analysis towards a consideration of the potential social and activist uses of cultural discourse analysis as a form of ‘counsel.’ This book will be of great interest to communication scholars, anthropologists, political scientists, and students of law, among others.”
“This book joins an ethnographic examination of culture with public discourse in a profound and compelling account of Hungary’s struggles to forge shared meaning about ‘hate speech.’ Its relevance to the study of culturally situated communication practices extends beyond a particular nation and its historical moment, offering an important perspective on speech as action. It is also splendidly readable, both rich in careful detail and convincing in its wide-ranging theoretical implications.”
“Scholars interested in national identity, freedom of expression, and democratic deliberation will all find this book a useful addition to their libraries.”
“Boromisza-Habashi thoroughly displays the connection between public discourse and cultural knowledge in an accessible fashion, and examines key terms of the debate, such as content and tone, in depth. For practitioners, the text uncovers the nuances of culture as they inform political arguments. . . . Boromisza-Habashi offers a thorough accounting of the cultural discourses that compose a passionate public debate regarding hate speech in free societies.”

David Boromisza-Habashi is Assistant Professor of Communication at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Contents

Acknowledgments

Introduction: Cultural Thinking About Social Issues

1 History as Context

2 Diversity of Meaning

3 Interpretations: Tone Versus Content

4 Interpretations: How to Sanction “Hate Speech”

5 Rhetorical Resistance

6 From Cultural Knowledge to Political Action

Appendix: Theory and Methods

Notes

References

Index

Introduction:

Cultural Thinking About Social Issues

“Hate speech” is a social issue. There is no consensus about what the concept “hate speech” means. “Hate speech” is a term that points to a type of public expression. “Hate speech” is gyűlöletbeszéd in Hungarian.

This book investigates the relationships among these propositions, and asks what we can learn from those relationships. More generally speaking, this book is about the cultural foundations of public communication, and about how cultural thinking can be used to inform political action through public expression. My goal is to demonstrate to my readers—scholars and students interested in a cultural approach to public expression, political actors who wish to understand issues in their full complexity before they act, and others—that public communication and political action never happen in a cultural vacuum. The book is also an ethnographic study of the public life of the term “hate speech” (gyűlöletbeszéd, pronounced roughly as yoo-lo-let-beh-sayd) in Hungary during the heyday of the hate speech debates between 2000 and 2006.

As an ethnographer interested in public discourse, I have been observing the work of policy makers and political activists in the United States and Europe since 2004. I noticed that their admirable efforts seem to run into two common obstacles: although most people in their communities agree that hate speech is a social evil, there is only limited consensus about what constitutes hate speech and what should be done about it. I believe these obstacles can be best understood and addressed at the point where culture, public communication, and political action intersect.

Does this lack of consensus render political action impossible or pointless? Hardly. Political actors engage in productive political action every day in the name of hotly contested political concepts such as abortion, terrorism, or discrimination. Contestation seems to frustrate political action designed to address social issues when those who engage in political action do not recognize, or outright deny, that the concepts in the name of which they engage in political battles are indeed contested. Political actors who do not confront the contested nature of the concepts around which they organize their agendas tend to find themselves locked in endless confrontations over the “correct” definitions of elusive terms like democracy, fascism, or poverty. The meaning of hate speech has also been the subject of many hours and days of fruitless political wrangling in books, state institutions, and political campaigns. We hear the same questions repeated from country to country, from year to year: What groups can become the targets of hate speech? Can a member of an ethnic minority speak hate speech against the majority society? What particular utterances count as hate speech? Should a list of such utterances be created? Does it matter whether speakers of hate speech actually hate their targets? How, if at all, does hate speech injure the target? Is hate speech talk or action? If it is action, is it criminal action sanctionable by law?

<1>Cultural Thinking and Analysis

The quotation marks I occasionally attach to the term “hate speech” are a visual reminder that the term is not a simple window on reality. It is not to be regarded a transparent concept that we can glance through and see the sharp image of a pressing social issue. The quotation marks highlight a commitment to cultural thinking about hate speech that requires a careful examination of various local meanings of the term active in particular communities of speakers. My objective in this book is to introduce readers to a cultural mode of thinking they can use to explore these meanings and new types of creative, culturally informed political action by reflecting on the cultural foundations of public talk about social issues. A related objective is to illustrate how culture and political action are linked through, and interact in, public communication.

Cultural thinking about contested political concepts such as hate speech compels one to adopt a few basic assumptions. First, the meanings of political concepts can shape the meanings of the issues for which they stand. For example, in chapter 3 of this book I show how, in the context of a particular media event, the interpretation of gyűlöletbeszéd as a type of content led some Hungarians to worry about racism, and how their opponents, who interpreted gyűlöletbeszéd as a type of tone expressed concern about the vitriolic style of Hungarian public discourse. What follows from this assumption is that changing the meaning of a political concept can change the interpretation of the issue for which it stands.

Second, political concepts, and the issues they stand for, are the elements of language use. Our most sacred political ideals (such as equality, justice, or democratic participation) and the social evils we are concerned about (such as hate speech, discrimination, or poverty) exist in large part because people talk about them in the streets, in parliaments and courts around the world, and write newspaper articles, books, movies, and plays about them. The meanings of our political concepts and of the issues they denote are born, live, and die in language use. If we want to understand why political concepts and issues matter to people, and how people can be influenced to think and act differently about them, we must pay careful attention to how they are used.

Third, the contestation of political concepts is morally infused action. Simply put, people contest the meaning of political concepts because they care. Determining the meaning of hate speech is not an exercise in lexicography for many, but a matter of clean conscience and human dignity. This observation applies, as we will see in chapter 5, even to those who deny that hate speech is a type of observable public expression and are convinced that the whole hate speech agenda is a clever political ploy designed to silence certain types of political speech.

Fourth, cultural thinking requires us to accept that contestation involves the clash of equally coherent (although not equally acceptable) cultural logics. For a political actor to claim, in knee-jerk fashion, that one interpretation of a widely contested term like hate speech is wrongheaded or incoherent is to avoid cultural thinking. Political actors can benefit from carefully considering talk about social issues in groups whose political actions or stances they wish to change. For example, unfamiliar or downright strange ways of using political concepts can function as a window on alternative moral systems or cultural logics that serve as the motor of political action in a political group or constituency. Cultural thinking, in sum, can be used to form and extend political coalitions and pave the way toward joint action.

Finally, understanding competing cultural logics is a critical element of creative political action. The existence of multiple, partially overlapping, and partially incompatible cultural logics is a fact of life in multicultural societies. A cultural orientation toward these logics is a necessary political response to contemporary social reality. It is also a key element of political creativity—that is, the ability to gather elements of familiar political talk and recombine them into unfamiliar, intriguing, and persuasive forms of expression.

The view of culture I am adopting in this book is not the traditional view that sees culture as something exotic peoples have. I invite readers to think about culture not as a possession but as a way of looking at the everyday practices of a people they have trouble understanding, due to a lack of familiarity with the people themselves, their everyday lives, their language, or their history. Cultural thinking is preceded by a decision that one makes consciously or unconsciously, to always give a social (or political) group the benefit of the doubt. The decision requires the cultural observer to adopt the working assumption that there must be a way in which the seemingly exotic practices of the observed group make perfectly good common sense, and that the group’s common sense may not be identical with that of the observer. Observers using cultural thinking should also prepare themselves for the possibility that those practices of the observed group that seem to make immediate sense to the observer have an entirely different meaning from the perspective of the group.

Cultural thinking, however, is only the start. The assumptions listed above must be translated into analysis. This book demonstrates how that can be done.

“Hate Speech”

The difference between the cultural approach to hate speech and political action I am offering in this book and other influential scholarly work on the subject is that existing studies regard hate speech as a transparent concept that stands for a kind of talk with describable characteristics. Simply put, for the vast majority of scholars, hate speech is a distinct object with a singular meaning available for description and evaluation. In his groundbreaking book The Nature of Prejudice, the social psychologist Gordon Allport regards hate speech—or, as he calls it, antilocution—as the manifestation of an individual’s ethnic prejudice and as the first step toward violence. In Excitable Speech, the philosopher Judith Butler interrogates the source of the power of hate speech to injure its targets, and finds that source in linguistic performance. The linguist Robin Lakoff criticizes those who regard all forms of public speech free speech for denying that hate speech successfully fuses words with injurious action. In a similar manner, critical race theorists condemn free speech absolutists for turning a blind eye toward speech that causes actual harm to actual people. Discourse analysts warn that although we see fewer and fewer instances of outright racist and discriminatory expression, more subtle forms of hate speech continue to reproduce hierarchical social relations among racial and ethnic groups in Western societies. The work of these scholars shares the notion that hate speech is expression that consists of words, and that words powerfully shape social relations.

We learn little from this type of work about how hate speech itself had become an issue that people in Western societies started to pay attention to in the twentieth century. How did hate speech become an object of concern, one may ask, and how are notions about its existence and characteristics cultivated (or questioned) in contemporary Western democracies? The legal scholar Samuel Walker devoted an entire book to the question of why there are no laws restricting hate speech in the United States despite a long tradition of civil rights struggles. At first blush, the situation is indeed perplexing. If civil rights movements were able to inspire concern about hate speech in the American public, why did the country’s legal system not respond by creating appropriate sanctions against it? Walker says that the strong American commitment to free expression does not by itself resolve the conundrum. His theory of the lack of legal sanctions against hate speech in the United States “is fairly simple: ideas have no force in the world without advocates. Regardless of the merits of a particular idea, it has little practical effect without a person or organization to persuade others to support it, to bring and argue cases before courts of law, to propose legislation, and eventually to transform the idea into public policy.” The American Civil Liberties Union championed the protection of the First Amendment, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People stood up for the Fourteenth; the idea of imposing restrictions on hate speech and other kinds of offensive speech (such as Holocaust denial) did not have enough supporters in the United States. In Germany, France, Israel, Poland, and the Czech Republic, among other countries, it did.

Walker’s point is important from the perspective of the cultural thinking for which I am arguing. Social issues do not sustain their own significance; their degree of poignancy depends on the actions of politically and morally committed people. One significant aspect of such action is how we name and talk about our social issues.

The term “hate speech” does not only point to certain forms of public communication—it is an element of public communication. As such, its meaning lives in its everyday use, and that use is shaped by various, often competing, cultural logics and norms, even within societies that share the same language. To capture the complicated cultural life of hate speech, I reverse the course of existing research on the subject. Instead of proceeding from meaning toward doing (identifying the meaning of hate speech, and then locating examples of it in society), I proceed from doing to meaning (identifying examples of the public use of the term hate speech and then mapping its many local meanings).

As I discovered in the course of an ethnographic field study I conducted between 2004 and 2007 in Hungary, gyűlöletbeszéd can attain a life of its own. One night in early 2004 I was having dinner and drinks with some old friends in a restaurant in downtown Budapest. Multiple conversations were going on across the table, and one caught my attention. My friend Miki, a young Hungarian architect with a passion for Bauhaus, good beer, and the great outdoors, was explaining in a heated, bitter tone how he was “fed up” with gyűlöletbeszéd. I e-mailed him the next day and asked him what he meant. His disgruntled response came back fast: “I am not fed up with gyűlöletbeszéd itself, I am fed up with the word. Technically, it’s meaningless, its meaning can’t be defined, but all dumbass journalists throw it around constantly. By the way, you can’t definitely say that about any kind of talk [i.e., that it is hate speech] because the speaker and their captive audience would obviously disagree—to them, it is a natural feeling. The question is where we look at it from, on which side we stand.” Intrigued, I asked him what he meant by talk being a result of a “natural feeling.” He replied, “The zealous listeners of someone who expresses hatred for others will not describe that talk as incitement to hatred because they are already hateful . . . , they simply went to hear a like-minded speaker.”

It took me a long time to fully appreciate the cultural meaningfulness of Miki’s remarks. For many Hungarians, gyűlöletbeszéd is a problem of political and moral affiliation. The act of charging a public speaker with hate speech is much more than an act of description—it involves taking sides. The charge also posits an irreconcilable difference of opinion between the speaker evaluating another speaker’s talk as hate speech, and the alleged speaker of hate speech and their captive audience. Under no circumstances will a speaker (or their audience) agree that the utterances in question qualify as hate speech. The charge of hate speech inevitably comes from an external party, and it prompts disagreement with the same inevitability.

Miki’s remarks take us to the heart of the argument I develop in the following chapters. From a cultural perspective on communication, hate speech exists in a process of social interaction among three kinds of participants: alleged perpetrators (who are criticized for having performed hate speech), targets (who are in the position to be offended by hate speech), and judges (who link perpetrators’ utterances to the term “hate speech” and propose sanctions). This rather commonsensical observation has an important cultural implication: whether what someone says publicly counts as hate speech depends on not one but three parties, who will never agree. Alleged perpetrators will resist the judge’s judgment, judges will often use the perpetrator’s resistance as evidence of their guilt, and targets may or may not support the judge in their quest for social justice or political gain. (In fact, very often they are quite content being quiet observers.) The charge of hate speech is an act of evaluation, and evaluation implies not only a definition of hate speech but a moral stance as well. Where moral systems clash, definitions of morally charged political concepts are likely to abound.

Surveying the Cultural Terrain of Public Communication

Scholarly works with ethnographic interest in Hungarian public discourse are rare. The majority of scholarly work in Hungary concerned with communication as a social phenomenon is heavily theoretical and quantitative. The work closest to my area of research is done at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in the Center for Political Discourse Studies (CEPODS) where a group of scholars pursues compelling empirical analyses of Hungarian political phenomena such as civic radicalism, the discourses of the “political alien,” and of the right-wing conservative party Fidesz, among others. However, the scholars affiliated with the institute do not adopt a cultural view of public discourse.

As any ethnographer worth his or her salt would do, throughout my fieldwork in Hungary I followed the two basic principles of ethnography formulated by the anthropologist Mike Agar. First, I sought to identify cultural patterns in hate speech–related Hungarian communicative practices. To borrow a term from the father of the ethnography of communication, the late Dell Hymes, I was looking for ways of speaking associated with gyűlöletbeszéd. The notion of ways of speaking links observable communicative patterns to particular elements of their social context, such as physical setting, participants, their interactional goals, and the type of communicative event. The findings presented in this book detail the fundamental observation that certain kinds of people with certain moral and intellectual convictions can be expected to talk about hate speech in certain ways within a community of speakers. Second, the search for patterns in Hungary made it necessary to adopt the learning role of the student/child/apprentice in relation to Hungarian public talk. I attended public lectures organized by the Hungarian chapter of Blood and Honor, a pro-Nazi group, and the annual gathering of antifascists with the same desire to learn various cultural logics of public discourse. Before my reader accuses me of moral relativism, a charge frequently leveled at ethnographers, I hasten to add that the desire to learn and the desire to follow are two very different kinds of intellectual and moral impulse. The willingness to learn is best understood as a “working morality” on the part of the ethnographer—my personal moral stance toward hate speech will be elaborated in chapter 6. Readers with further interest in the theoretical and methodological underpinnings of the work presented in this book can turn to the appendix.

The goal of ethnography is to generate cultural knowledge; the goal of political action is to influence others’ conduct. What can someone interested or invested in political action learn from an ethnography of a concept? From one perspective, the contribution of ethnography to political action and advocacy is modest. An ethnography cannot tell political actors what to do about a social issue, simply because most ethnographers lack expertise in designing political action or policy that target social change. Most ethnographers, with the exception of a notable few, work in academic environments. Professional life in an academic department inspires plenty of locally relevant political action, but involvement in such action rarely prepares ethnographers to produce ethnographies capable of directly shaping political action. Ethnographers, however, are well prepared to explain how members of a social group believe the world works and how it should work. I describe and analyze the use of the concept “hate speech” in a particular setting—Hungary—at a particular historical moment—a decade and a half after the end of communist rule. Metaphorically speaking, I want to offer political actors a way of mapping the political landscape they are attempting to conquer. This map will have little to say about the number and size of political groups, their sources of funding, or the details of their political agendas. It will, however, have much to say about the political and social significance of gyűlöletbeszéd.

At a higher level of abstraction, this book may intrigue readers interested in the cultural logic of political action. This group of readers is likely to include intellectuals and political practitioners seeking to critically examine dominant ways of talking about pressing social issues, or who feel a need to understand social issues from all stakeholders’ perspectives. Using the case of hate speech in Hungary, the following chapters demonstrate how communication becomes the site where political action becomes related to, or grounded in, culture. More particularly, the book highlights four ways that public communication about social issues is founded on culture: through the (historical, economic, political, etc.) contexts communal members identify as relevant, the diversity of meanings (what meanings gyűlöletbeszéd has), competing interpretations (how public actors arrive at and promote a set of meanings over others), and competing moral systems (what norms inform public speech, and what cultural beliefs inform those values).

<1>Why Hungary?

The question is perfectly legitimate; after all, most readers of this book are likely to reside in the English-speaking part of the world, where hate speech has been a concern for at least two decades, particularly in the United States. Why not discuss the ongoing debate about the issue in the United States instead? After all, there can be no doubt that the debate over hate speech was, and continues to be, culturally significant. One only has to think of the campus speech codes controversy of the 1990s, or the recent legal case the father of the late U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Matthew A. Snyder brought against Westboro Baptist Church. U.S. debates, obviously, have cultural foundations of their own.

As ethnographers are fond of saying, ethnography makes the familiar strange and the strange familiar. I intend to make hate speech strange by locating it in a non-English-speaking cultural community and then making it familiar again by explaining the cultural logic motivating its use. We naturally tend to respond to social issues and controversies in our own communities by taking sides. We feel that these issues directly concern us as communal members, and therefore we feel compelled to adopt a position on the issue. Rushing to declare a position on an issue, however, undermines cultural thinking, which requires carefully listening to all members of a community of speakers. An influential advocate of cultural thinking, the anthropologist Clifford Geertz, reflected on the contribution of cultural anthropology to the world in this way: “It is from the . . . difficult achievement of seeing ourselves amongst others, as a local example of the forms human life has locally taken, a case among cases, a world among worlds, that the largeness of mind, without which objectivity is self-congratulation and tolerance a sham, comes.” Cultural interpretation, the practice of making sense of unfamiliar systems of meaning from the perspective of the people who rely on those systems for conducting their day-to-day lives, is a powerful mode of representation because it opens up the interplay of cultural differences and similarities to the reader. The ethnographic study of gyűlöletbeszéd in Hungary presented in this book is intended to provide precisely this type of intellectual experience. I am counting on my readers’ familiarity with hate speech as a social issue, and, at the same time, I am counting on their lack of familiarity with how the issue is meaningful in the Hungarian cultural context. It is in this tension between familiarity and the lack thereof, between the recognition of similarity and difference, where cultural thinking finds its inspiration. My hope is that this book will generate such inspiration, and that this inspiration will prompt some of my readers to rethink political action through public talk against hate speech in their own societies.

Structure of the Book

Chapter 1 provides the reader with a brief sketch of the troubled sociocultural context in which Hungarian public talk about hate speech occurs. The legal history of hate speech and its related terms shows that these took on special significance at times when Hungary entered a state of liminality, or sociocultural transition. I also offer a brief overview of a particular legal case (commonly referred to as the Hegedűs affair) with an allegation of hate speech at its center. One intended outcome of this chapter is to help the reader make the first step toward cultural thinking, the temporary suspension of the commonly held interpretation of hate speech as racist or sexist talk. Another goal is to create an opportunity for non-Hungarian readers to regard Hungarian hate speech as a term that acquires specific types of meanings in its particular cultural context.

Chapter 2 documents various competing meanings of hate speech active in the Hungarian context. I distinguish act-, event-, and style-level cultural interpretations of terms for communicative action to capture these meanings. Act-level interpretations make sense of hate speech as the act of an individual actor; event-level interpretations present hate speech as public communication involving a number of actors; style-level interpretations present a speaker’s use of hate speech as the outcome of a choice among various related forms of expression. In this chapter, I further elaborate the cultural model of hate speech as the result of an interaction among perpetrators, targets, and judges.

In chapter 3 I demonstrate the clash between two dominant interpretive strategies Hungarian speakers use as they identify acts of gyűlöletbeszéd. Proponents of the tone-based interpretation argue that one can tell hate speech by the hateful tone or style of public expression. In contrast, the content-based interpretation seeks to identify particular kinds of content as tokens of hate speech, such as racist utterances or Holocaust denial. The chapter is a study of a media event that began with a radio broadcast on the Budapest radio station Klub Rádió on September 2, 2004, and ended with the publication of the last of eleven articles in the Hungarian political and literary weekly Élet és Irodalom (Life and literature).

Chapter 4 shifts attention from various interpretations of hate speech to Hungarian politicians’ views of sanctions against it. In 2003, at the height of the hate speech controversy, three parliamentary standing committees were tasked with evaluating a controversial bill designed to revise the Hungarian criminal code and to turn hate speech into a criminal act. All MPs speaking at the meetings regarded hate speech as despicable but they disagreed vehemently about the value of legal sanctions. In this chapter I show that MPs’ opposing beliefs about the nature of a legally constituted person explains, at least in part, why they reached opposing conclusions about the bill.

The main concern of chapter 5 is political resistance. There are speakers on the Hungarian political scene who claim to detect hidden political agendas in dominant antiracist political talk about gyűlöletbeszéd. The chapter reconstructs four arguments against what I refer to as the hate speech agenda: that it is founded on the deliberate corruption of the Hungarian language; that it reveals that antiracists are pursuing an alien political utopia; that it is fraught with ideological inconsistency; and that antiracist proponents of the hate speech agenda are themselves filled with hatred. I also describe the underlying moral system that lends coherence to these arguments.

In the concluding chapter I discuss the possibility of using cultural knowledge to inform political action carried out through public expression. Cultural knowledge is available to the practitioner in three forms: as information, as counsel, and as a symbolic template for creative action. The chapters preceding chapter 6 are devoted to presenting cultural knowledge as information. In this chapter I develop particular recommendations for Hungarian public speakers who speak what I call the language of unity. Two locally relevant ways of authoring unity are discussed: the use of rhetoric and proposals for “dialogue” among relevant state or media institutions. The chapter ends with a call on practitioners to use local symbolic resources to design creative political action against derogatory public talk targeting historically disadvantaged minorities.

My reader may wonder about the extent to which the ethnographic findings presented in this book hold true today. Those who attempt to represent the ever-changing cultural life of a community are shooting at a moving target. I cannot guarantee that what I had learned about “hate speech” between 2004 and 2007 will apply to other cultural contexts, or that my findings and claims will fully explain the significance of derogatory talk about minorities and immigrants in today’s Hungarian public talk. Nevertheless, it is my hope that those who read this book will walk away from it convinced that culture and political action are related through communication, and that culturally informed political action is a promising possibility.

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