Thursday, May 30, 2013


Many of you have seen the infamous “Geography of Hate” map that plots out hateful tweets on an interactive Google map of the United States. The data was provided by California’s Humboldt State University whose team of undergraduate researchers combed through 150,000“hateful” Twitter rants posted over an eleven month period. Each tweet was manually screened for context to eliminate false positives and the keywords were broadly categorized as homophobic, racist, or prejudice against those with a disability. The map then weighted the total volume of tweets from that county in relation to the number of contextually hateful tweets and created a heat-map. 
Anti-Cripple Tweets

Of course, only users who allow geotagging of their posts could be sampled and that currently is less than 1% of all registered Tweeters. The other issue is that one could author racist tweets without using any of the keywords sought by the researchers. Shortcomings aside, here is what I found playing with the map:

1.      There is a surprising amount of anger toward “cripples” along the North Dakota / Montana border.

In fact, the amount per capita hatred toward disabled individuals far eclipsed any other area in the United States. The resentment is so prominent that I would be worried that any handicapped parking spaces along Highway 201 are simply staging areas for an ambush. It is unclear how widespread this animosity is since there cannot be that many geotagging Twitter users in eastern Montana. Perhaps the only person in the entire area with a Twitter account and an iPhone happens to have a personal beef with the co-owner of The Scooter Store or was asked to leave the Special Olympics.

2.      There is a surprising amount of anger toward “niggers” in North Dakota.

While use of the often quoted racial slur occurred in wide swaths throughout the southeast, I was again surprised by the localized intensity in the upper mid-west. It would appear that the only thing more dangerous that being a handicapped motorist in North Dakota is being a black handicapped motorist in North Dakota. It is too bad that the study didn’t ascertain how North Dakota residents felt about dwarfism or we might have scored the intolerance trifecta.

3.      There is a palatable dislike of lesbianism in Virginia.

When the researchers isolated tweets negatively utilizing the word “dyke” this commonwealth was at the top of the list. This is even more puzzling since they barely register in the use of the other four homophobic slurs analyzed. While I am not familiar enough with Virginians to explain this dichotomy, I would advise any visitors to the area to avoid Indigo Girls concerts and openly discussing season 2 of The L Word.

While the prevalence of intolerance does not surprise me, the number of intolerant people that chose to publicly espouse their views while divulging their geographical location does. Most people have the common decency to dislike African-America paraplegics or Asian lesbians in the privacy of their own home, but it is indicative of this country’s moral decline that we now feel comfortable hash-tagging it next to our GPS coordinates. Perhaps for their next study, the university will correlate the number of registered Facebook users who regularly exercise with the number of Facebook users who are unable to regularly exercise without announcing to other Facebook users that they regularly exercise.

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