Years after "geek culture" has supposedly taken over the world, with popular culture obsessing over Star Wars, Star Trek, comics, and video games, a UK-based psychologist appearing on Britain Today claimed this morning that using "nerd" as a pejorative should be considered hate speech comparable to using racial slurs and gendered insults. Dr. Sonja Falck refers to "high-IQ individuals" as a distinct minority group who have experiences and abuses unique to them, comparing the experiences to those faced by women, racial minorities, and the LGBTQ+ community. The remarks got pushback even on the live programme, from another guest (a self-professed "geek" and person of color) objected.
Bobby Seagull, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Numbers, told Falck that to classify such an insult as a "hate crime" would diminish the experiences of other traditionally-oppressed people. Commenters on a related Twitter thread are somewhat mixed on the issue.
The short clip was posted to the show's Twitter account. You can check on it below.
Should branding someone a 'nerd' be made a hate crime?
Dr Sonja Falck thinks 'divisive and humiliating' anti-IQ insults can have negative effects that last a lifetime, while @Bobby_Seagull says the move would trivialise actual 'hate crimes' based on disability, race and gender. pic.twitter.com/4woAjRFJWf— Good Morning Britain (@GMB) December 19, 2019
While it is technically true that extremely high-IQ people represent a small minority of people in society, simply being outnumbered is not always enough to make a group a protected category for the purposes of hate speech and hate crimes. Billionaires are a minority group, but nobody is trying to jail Aerosmith for recording and performing "Eat the Rich," since society already gives the extremely wealthy an outsized amount of power and cultural/political clout.
It's also true that even things considered to be racist, sexist, and ableist slurs are rarely (if ever) prosecuted for hate speech. In the wake of the Charlottesville protests that grew violent and ended in the murder of an anti-fascist protester, no one from any of the various white nationalist and white pride groups who attended the event was arrested for their use of racial slurs.
Seagull seems to be enjoying his fifteen minutes of viral fame, with a Twitter display name that identifies him as a "proud geek."
Good Morning Britain also has an established history of milking scenarios like this for all their viral worth. Football player Stan Collymore accused the program of "institutional racism" earlier this year after a game where British fans directed racist abuse at Bulgarian players. He complained that in 20 years in the sport, he had never been called upon to speak about his career or the game, but when hosts needed a "token black," they called on him.
Disclosure: ComicBook is owned by CBS Interactive, a division of ViacomCBS.