Archive

Posts Tagged ‘government officials’

Censoring Speech on Internet is Always a Bad Idea: Aug 21, 2017

August 21, 2017 22 comments

Over the previous few days, many short-sighted idiots.. I mean people.. of varying fame on the internet and various social media platforms have been supporting attempts by various corporate monopolies and oligopolies to deplatform people and organisations with connections to the so-called ‘alt-right’. Let us, for a moment, ignore that the so-called ‘alt-right’ is actually a bunch of different groups with overlap in some parts of their individual ideologies but large (and often irreconcilable) differences in other parts. Let us, instead, focus on the far more important question which is as follows:

Should corporations, with or without state support, be allowed to censor speech on the internet?

In my opinion, giving corporations (of any type) such power, whether implicitly or explicitly, is a very bad idea. Now some of you might say- but.. but they are trying to censor Nazis. What is wrong with bending rules to marginalize Nazis or people who profess to believe in that ideology? The short answer is that censorship of speech is always a bad idea, even if the groups or individuals you are trying to censor are vile and loathsome. Furthermore, censorship of free speech or similar instance of rules and regulations based on extreme cases are almost always counterproductive in the longer run in more ways than one.

The longer answer requires us to first consider the context and history of such demands and the almost certain negative and counterproductive consequences of such actions.

1] Many famous or credentialed morons.. I mean experts.. like to claim that free speech never “actually existed” are in the same ideological basket as those who defend slavery and Jim Crow because “that is how people used to do things”. I could show you the stupidity of that logic by asking them why those credentialed sophists why they prefer to use functional flush toilets and drink purified and treated water when neither of those have existed for most of human history. The nature of what is possible and justifiable has more to do with feasibility rather than selective interpretations of tradition. For example- the majority of people in USA are now OK with gay marriage largely because conservative opponents of gay marriage tried to couch their opposition in terms of appeals to thoroughly discredited traditional norms surrounding marriage.

2] Any half-decent analysis of history suggests that attempts to suppress ideas because they clash with dominant culture of the day often results in those ideas gaining more exposure and respectability. As some of you know, a number of ideologies from Christianity in the Roman Empire to Nazism in Wiemer-era Germany were able gain significant public interest because of persistent attempts by the prevailing establishment to shut them down and persecute their members. Sites such as the Daily Stormer, Rebel Media and many right-wing internet forums and social media recently gained tons of public attention because of the many attempts of internet oligopolies to shut them down. Moreover, trying to censor the content on such sites is problematic because it is quickly reproduced on many others.

3] Why would any person with basic critical thinking skills trust large corporations or government officials- both of whom have no worthwhile public accountability to make subjective decisions that are impartial? Why would they? What motivation do they have to be fair and reasonable? Do you really think that the legal precedent gained by censoring these neo-Nazis won’t be used to censor anybody else who they do not like? Do you think that social movements from such as BLM and various labor unions will somehow never be subject to high-handed censorship? Also do you trust the law enforcement apparatus in USA will not misuse such precedent to further their abuse of groups which they already like to murder and imprison? If you still trust large corporations, government officials and law enforcement to behave ethically, I have a bridge to sell you.

4] Laws criminalizing explicit violent threats and intentional libel have been around for a very long time. Therefore, we do not require new laws and regulations to prosecute those who commit such acts, either in real life or on the internet. What is most troubling about attempts by internet oligopolies to censor unpopular online speech by hiding behind the “Nazi exception” is that they are going after ideas and ideologies which by themselves are not innately violent or libelous. For example- a racist shitbag who opines that whites are the “master race” is just stating what he or she believes. As long as the person in question is not making an explicit violent threat, he or she is just being an asshole. And one person’s asshole could be an other person’s philosopher.

5] Right-wing ideologies such Nazism and similar ethno-nationalistic movements tend to gain most of their support from those who feel disenfranchised by the established socio-political system of that day. There is a very good why Mussolini became successful in the chaos of post-WW1 Italy or why Hitler rocketed in popularity after the great depression caused mass unemployment in 1930-era Germany. Similarly the rise of right-wing fascistic movements in west-European countries during the late 1920s-1930s was due to a combination of mass unemployment, unresolved nationalism and entrenched political establishments who did not want to change the unsustainable status quo.

In other words, the rise of neo-Nazis and similar right-wing movements in USA is a symptom of people losing their faith in the system and elites who are currently running them. You cannot treat a serious systemic disease by addressing a few of its minor symptoms. I would go so far as to say that the current interest in censoring unpopular free speech is basically an admission by the establishment that they are either unwilling or unable to fix the larger problems of socio-economic inequality. It is the policy equivalent of trying to patch up a banged up car with duct tape because you cannot afford to, or are unwilling to, repair it.

To summarize: Attempts to censor free speech (especially the unpopular kind) by large corporations and government officials are, at best, short-sighted and futile attempts to address minor symptoms of much larger socio-economic problems. At worst, they will make those assholes more popular and respectable while simultaneously abusing resultant legal precedents against a variety of relatively peaceful social movements and individuals. Therefore, in my opinion, it is far better for us a society to let a few assholes say what they want, even if they end up trying to test the boundaries of such freedoms. Large corporations, government officials, and “law enforcement” pose far larger risks and threats for the well-being and future of most people than a few idiots in office-cuck attires parading around some city with citronella-scented tiki torches.

Will write more on this topic in a future post, depending on your replies to this one.

What do you think? Comments?