- Mar 13, 2017
I am not sure if people appreciate how important freedom of speech is, and how quickly and easily it can be taken away. Whether or not we agree with each other on anything else, we must agree on this.
Censorship happens in the blink of an eye
Two weeks ago, I tweeted a triptych that read: “How censorship happens: a story in three parts.” The first image was of a recent Vice headline stating that Facebook was moving to ban white nationalism and white separatism. The second was a tweet by left-wing activist Anthony Watson referring to Quillette as a “right-wing, white-nationalist website.” The third was a tweet thread in which two Canadian academics speak about monitoring and making a list of Canadians who dared to publish with Quillette.
Censorship happens as quickly as one can construct a false syllogism. And right now would be a very good time for us to start paying attention to where and how it’s happening.
Facebook’s founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg penned a recent op-ed in the Washington Post in which he advocated for a laws against what he refers to as “harmful content” as well as international laws to monitor and regulate the internet. “It’s time to update these rules [of the internet] to define clear responsibilities for people,” Zuckerberg said.
Of course, big tech is not waiting for the laws they crave to take action. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube have all deplatformed controversial figures such as Alex Jones, Faith Goldy, and Milo Yiannopoulos. These precedents have then been used to ban perfectly mainstream and reasonable figures like Meghan Murphy, a feminist who committed the high crime of “misgendering” on Twitter. She’s not the only one. Gender critical voices are routinely banned on Twitter, while their opposition is free to libel and level threats of violence with no administrative consequences.
It seems that the rush to censor coincides with major tragedies in the world. Or, perhaps the censors among us exploit tragedies in order to achieve their goals of making our culture antiseptic. The desires of speech-denying ideologues line up perfectly with big tech companies, who are primarily interested in manifesting their dominance in marketplaces worldwide, not adhering to ethical standards.
As the regressive censors continue to dance with their corporate partners, it’s never been clearer that we need more speech and more platforms.
Take, for instance, the rush to smear conservative commentator Ben Shapiro in the wake of the Notre Dame Cathedral tragedy. Shapiro tweeted: “Absolutely heartbreaking. A magnificent monument to Western civilization collapsing” He added a few follow-up tweets stressing the importance of God and Judeo-Christian tradition.
As a result, Washington Post contributor Talia Levin spat out an incoherent hot take claiming that Shapiro was stoking racial tensions: “Given the already-raging rumors about potential Muslim involvement, these tweets evoked the specter of a war between Islam and the West that is already part of numerous far-right narratives,” she wrote.
When Shapiro punched back on Twitter, Media Matters got involved. For those who aren’t aware, Media Matters is the powerful woke-scold organization that regularly boycotts and slimes prominent conservatives in the name of progress.
Fuck you and the burro you rode in on
“Fuck you and the burro you rode on.” There it is. These are the words of the “prestigious” organization that wants to keep us safe from dangerous language. The tweet was properly ratioed, and the Washington Post smear backfired this time, but if Levin had her way, the “trust and safety” teams of big tech would be holding meetings to figure out how to get Shapiro off of their platforms.
After the New Zealand mosque shooting, a major bookstore banned Jordan Peterson’s self-help book, 12 Rules for Life, in a completely ill-advised attempt to to keep their culture safe. Of course, the irony was that Peterson’s work is specifically effective in helping young men sort out their lives and avoid the pitfalls of radicalization. Thanks to the voices of reasonable people, Peterson’s book was reinstated.
The censors among us start out by targeting Alex Jones or Faith Goldy or whoever they feel they can safely say is a conspiracy theorist or a white supremacist. But they don’t stop there. If they had their way, they would never stop. They simply need those people for precedent. Did you develop an appreciation of Western civilization by listening to Ben Shapiro? You’re a white supremacist. Did you clean your room and straighten out your life thanks to Dr. Peterson’s book? You’re a white supremacist. Did you publish an essay with Quillette? You’re a white supremacist.
We can all clearly see the game that they’re playing, and we can’t let them win. We need to speak out while we still can.