Friday, February 13, 2015

I disapprove of what you say...

"... but I will defend to the death your right to say it" – Evelyn Beatrice Hall

This is, I posit, one of the core tenets of a free democratic society, and I subscribe to this principle almost religiously. (Granted, I might be too much of a coward to literally sacrifice my life to defend someone's free speech, but I do fully subscribe to the sentiment in the metaphorical sense.)

At places like YouTube you encounter all kinds of people with all kinds of opinions, some of which are outright abhorrent. I have had, for example, a neonazi respond to a YouTube comment thread I started, spewing the most vile and bigoted hate speech against jews, and admiration of Adolf Hitler. This angered me quite a lot, but I still did not remove that comment or even marked it as "spam" even though I could have. I responded to this person with pretty much the above sentiment (although using significantly harsher words.) In other words, I expressed how utterly sick his opinions were, and that I'm most definitely not interested in his hate speech, but I would not remove or mark his comments because I value the principle of freedom of expression over my hurt feelings. It would be hypocritical of me to subscribe to the principle and then censor someone's opinion, no matter how hurtful that opinion might be. He does have the right to express his opinion, and I will defend his right to do so, even if I don't defend the content.

This principle, however, is not something that everybody adheres to. And I'm not talking about some religious sects or some fringe political movements. I'm talking about so-called social justice warriors, especially certain branches of neo-feminism.

Not all of them, of course, but way too many feminists are all too happy to censor, remove comments, disable comments, and block and ban users. In fact, some of them even go so far as to actively go after critics by abusing technological and legal means (the most common form of this being, obviously, filing spurious and false DMCA claims to have videos removed and YouTube channels closed.) Many of them don't even limit this behavior to trolls and actual hate speech, but even to civil criticism of what they are saying. When questioned about this practice, they will invariably resort to playing the victim card, and also to hypocritically claim that they are not interfering with anybody's free speech because "they can express themselves somewhere else."

Yet even that excuse sounds quite hollow when you watch their behavior. Sure, some of them are content to have their personal church pulpit where they can preach to the choir and have the choir praise them back, and not having to hear any dissenting opinions, with dissenters being expelled from the church to where they don't have to be heard. However, others are not content with this. Instead, they are more active; they go outside their churches and try to silence the criticism wherever it's being presented. They will disrupt meetings, sometimes even breaking the law to do so (such as illegally pulling fire alarms for the sole reason to disrupt a meeting; real cases), they will do their best to shout over any discussion, they will file false (and thus illegal) DMCA claims, they will engage in smearing campaigns and character assassination both online and offline... (And if the excuse is "well, they do it too!", then shouldn't the feminists be better than their opposition? Shouldn't they be the ones with the higher moral ground and the higher standards? Shouldn't they be the ones fighting for equality and freedom?)

And before you say "hey, this, this and this vocal feminist does none of that, and is quite happy to allow conversation of any kind", I'm not saying that every single feminist is like that. What I'm saying is that too many of them are like that, many of them really vocal and influential, and that they are quite hypocritical in doing that.

This is not restricted to feminists, of course, but all kinds of social justice warriors (although most of them would classify themselves as feminist, if asked.)

The obnoxious thing about this is that these people are supposed to rally for a free equal democratic society where human rights are upheld and are the highest standard that defines our society, yet these people, by their actions, clearly do not subscribe to the principle of free speech. They are all too happy to silence, censor, harass and disrupt the expression of free speech, both within their own circles and elsewhere. And this behavior is not just from trolls and fringe extremists, but from well-known and respected people in the movement.

I seldom see this kind of behavior from well-known respected people on the critical side. Sure, there might be an example or two out there, but I have yet to encounter one. (And sure, there are and will always be trolls and extremists on all sides, but I'm talking here about serious people, not about internet trolls.)

If I wanted to pick a side, I would pick the side that subscribes to the principle at the beginning of this article, because I personally subscribe to it. I do not censor nor silence people just because they are expressing their opinion, and regardless of how hurtful that opinion might be, and I strongly oppose any such censorship and attempts at silencing. I strongly think that this kind of censorship is abhorrent.

And if you think I'm exaggerating, then you haven't seen enough feminist discourse. Just as a small quick example, make a google search for "no platform policy".

No comments:

Post a Comment