Monday, October 08, 2012

We Must Not Normalise Hate Speech By Inaction

In this model, known as operant conditioning, random behaviour is “shaped” as desired through a system that rewards the desired behaviour. For instance, a child who randomly gives up his seat for an elder and is rewarded with praise or a gift is more likely to engage in similar behaviour than one who does the same thing and is either ignored or punished for it. This is a fundamental principle in learning and is used in homes, schools, prisons and institutions in which certain behaviours are expected and others frowned upon. This brings us to the matter of hate speech and how we have been handling it in this country. In January 2008, at the height of the post-election violence, I observed in the Daily Nation that: “... use of ethnic stereotypes must be deemed taboo whether in public or in private. Use of insulting language targeting whole communities must be discouraged whether on the campaign platform or in the privacy of our homes.” These observations were made in the context of preventing future eruptions of a similar nature, in the hope that Kenyans would learn their lesson and adopt behaviour that would minimise the risk of violence and encourage behaviour that promotes peaceful coexistence of all peoples. Unfortunately, it appears that our social behaviour has not changed, probably due to the wrong schedule of operant reinforcement. more

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