Course blames hate speech on ‘right-wing extremism’

The University of North Carolina offers a communications course about the dangers of hate speech, which the course’s professor openly blames on the political right.

The class, titled “Hate Speech” and designated by the course number COMM 624, is taught by Dr. Michael S. Waltman, who has written and co-authored several books about hate speech, including The Communication of Hate, which “examines the strategic manipulation of hatred in [Americans’] everyday lives by politicians, political operatives, and media personalities.”

According to the course catalog, the class was designed “to expose students to the nature of hate in American life . . . [that] is sustained through the imposition of racist, sexist, and heterosexist ideologies that privilege Whiteness, maleness, and heterosexuality.”

The description states that hate may “be resisted through communication” involving respect and tolerance, a term the course adopted from the Southern Poverty Law Center. Students are taught how to recognize hate so that “knowledge of the essence of hate will place students in a position to fight hate when they encounter it in their own lives.”

UNC’s Undergraduate Student Services confirmed to Campus Reform that the class has been listed on the course catalog since the spring of 2010, but may have been offered before then, since the university switched to a new online cataloging system at the start of that year. Waltman also taught an “Honors Hate Speech” course in 2008.

UNC offers the class exclusively at its flagship Chapel Hill campus, offering one section during the spring semester of every year that is open to students of all majors. The class is not mandatory for students in any discipline, but does fulfill a course requirement for students taking certain concentrations.

Waltman’s most recent book, Hate Speech on the Right, explores various examples of hate speech allegedly delivered by the political right. Published in 2014, the book focuses on “right-wing extremism” in films and novels, such as White Apocalypse and Atlas Shrugged, as well as within advocacy organizations like the National Rifle Association.

The book analyzes “whether much of the discourse on the political right . . . is hate speech” and claims that racist, political, Christian, and paramilitary right-wing groups use hate speech as “a common frame of reference when confronting social and political challenges.”

Dr. Waltman has been an associate professor at the University of North Carolina since 1992 and has garnered a number of awards for his articles and publications on hate speech and the political right, many of which focus on “white supremacist terrorism” and responding to hate from the right.

Online registrar records show that during the 2016 spring semester, the class enrolled 39 students and had five added to the wait-list. Undergraduate Student Services told Campus Reform that 31 students were enrolled the year before, explaining that although the class is technically capped at 30 students, Dr. Waltman maintains the discretion to make exceptions for additional students.

The university told Campus Reform that the course is not required for communication majors, but students pursuing the Interpersonal and Organizational Communication concentration may choose to take the class to satisfy graduation requirements. Non-major students may apply to enroll after communication majors, according to the course catalog.

Waltman did not respond by press time to Campus Reform’s request for comment.

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