Censorship vs Banning

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I feel a little sorry for Mark Zuckerberg these days.

Wait, what? Mark Zuckerberg, the emotionless guy whose Facebook has a creepy knowledge of what I’ve just shopped for? Mark Zuckerberg, whose Facebook was one of the tools the Russians used to post fake news and interfere with our election?

Yep, that Mark Zuckerberg.

Whatever you may think of Facebook, I do think they’re trying. I’m just not sure they’re going about it the right way. I saw an article recently in which Facebook had banned certain individuals considered dangerous: Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, InfoWars publisher Alex Jones, and right-wing agitator and human worm Milo Yiannopoulos. They say these people promote violence and hate.

Some people would applaud this move.

I’m not sure I do. And that makes me feel sorry for Mark Zuckerberg, because, despite his efforts, I still am not happy with what Facebook is doing about this issue.

Please understand, I hate everything that these men stand for and I have no desire to ever read another thing that they have written. And the thought of them whipping their supporters up into some kind of violent frenzy makes me sick.

I feel the same way when I see marchers waving a Confederate flag here in Charleston, South Carolina, where the flag means hate and slavery and ugliness to many, if not most, of us here. Or when I see footage of neo-Nazis. It all makes me sick; I don’t want these horrible people (and no, there are NOT nice people on both sides!) to have a platform. I just want them to go crawl back beneath whatever slime-covered rock released them in the first place.

But.

As I was reading about the whole Facebook thing, I saw a quote from Milo Yiannopoulos. Now, this is the guy who supports white supremacy, who was named grand marshal of Boston’s stupid Straight Pride Parade, and who has written in support of pedophilia. So, I’m not likely to listen to anything this guy has to say.

But this was his quote:

“Censorship doesn’t stop at the fringes. You’re next.”

And, shockingly, I found myself nodding in agreement with Milo Yiannopoulos, of all people.

Because, as much as I hate everything he stands for, I love the First Amendment. Freedom of speech. Freedom of the press.

Since so many probably have not read the Constitution since civics class, let me refresh your memory. The First Amendment says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Nothing in there about whether the speech or the peaceable assembly is worthy, or disturbing, or even disgusting.

There’s been a whole lot of press lately about colleges and universities dis-inviting controversial figures from speeches. Believe it or not, there’s a database of the people who have been disinvited. There have been 13 so far this year. And, according to the database, the dis-invites have come predominantly from the Left – seven to two, with five of the other disinvites being apolitical because of criminal conduct or some other reason.

But a recent think piece did an analysis of where the most suppression is coming from and college students are still big advocates of free speech. It’s the older people who are more likely to want intervention to stop speech that offends.

I am one of those older people.

And that made me wonder if the very best reaction to the next offensive demonstration is to just ignore it. Old-fashioned shunning. They want attention? Don’t give it to them. Don’t cover it in the media, don’t counter-demonstrate, just ignore.

And maybe that’s the approach Facebook and other social media should take. If we ignore the hate speech, if we refuse to be provoked by the provocations, if we treat these people the same way we would treat a toddler about to melt down into tantrum – by de-escalation – do we strip them of their power?

Getting back to that quote that caught my attention.

If society shifts to the authoritarian more than it has, and my views that everyone should have rights, regardless of sexuality, gender, race or whatever – what if that view becomes the controversial one? Do I really want them to shut me up?

 

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