Destructive Messages

How Hate Speech Paves the Way For Harmful Social Movements

246 pages

August, 2002

ISBN: 9780814782729



Also available in



Part of the Critical America series


Alexander Tsesis is Assistant Professor at at the Loyola University School of Law, Chicago.

All books by Alexander Tsesis

Destructive Messages argues that hate speech is dangerous not only when it poses an immediate threat of harm. It is also dangerous when it is systematically developed over time, becoming part of a culturally acceptable dialogue which can foster the persecution of minorities.

Tsesis traces a causal link between racist and biased rhetoric and injustices like genocide and slavery. He shows that hate speech and propaganda, when left unregulated, can weave animosity into the social fabric to such a great extent that it can cultivate an environment supportive of the commission of hate crimes. Tsesis uses historical examples to illuminate the central role racist speech played in encouraging attitudes that led to human rights violations against German Jews, Native Americans, and African Americans, and also discusses the dangers posed by hate speech spread on the Internet today. He also offers an examination of the psychology of scapegoating.

Destructive Messages argues that when hate speech is systematically developed over time it poses an even greater threat than when it creates an immediate clear and present danger. Tsesis offers concrete suggestions concerning how to reform current law in order to protect the rights of all citizens.


  • "Tsesis lays out theoretical foundations that he argues should be intrinsic to a representative democracy . . . an important contribution to the literature about civil liberties and human rights."


  • "The genuine accomplishment of Tsesis's to focus the hate speech debate on explicitly normative issues."

    Michigan Law Review

  • "[A] comprehensive and brilliant book from both a historical and analytical perspective. Drawing from the lessons of history, Alexander Tsesis shows persuasively the relevance of the Thirteenth Amendment to a wide range of the social and economic issues currently facing America, and he offers highly creative arguments that support the use of congressional power under the Thirteenth Amendment as a potent and effective means of meeting and resolving these issues."

    —G. Sidney Buchanan, Baker & Botts Chaired Professor of Law, University of Houston Law Center

  • "Tsesis vigorously presents a set of arguments that are rarely found in the conventional legal literature. . . . An interesting and challenging book."

    —Sanford V. Levinson, W. St. John Garwood and W. St. John Garwood, Jr. , Centennial Chair in Law and Professor of Government, University of Texas at Austin School of Law