As columns go, this will probably be hated more than most of mine. It will get panned by social media, ignored by mainstream media, and even most conservatives will distance themselves from it. But after seeing the sharp increase in censorship around the internet, particularly on social media, I feel compelled to tell the “vulnerable” that they should be insulted by any company’s attempt to shield them from other people’s thoughts.
Before I get into why nobody needs protection from opinions, it’s important to note what should count as unacceptable on social media, in comments, and pretty much everywhere else online. There are the obvious ones such as real threats, doxxing, and calls for criminal activity to be perpetrated against any person, group, or organization. This falls under the same basic tenets of free speech in the real world. Anything that can lead to harm of others should not be protected.
True hate speech should be grounds for censorship. This is where we get into gray area. So much has been labeled as “hate speech” that it’s almost impossible to recognize sometimes. Racial slurs are considered hate speech, yet they’re okay when used in movies, art, and song lyrics. They might force a warning or a particular rating to inform parents, but they’re accepted otherwise.
I know it’ll never happen, but I would be okay with allowing this type of hate speech. I would never invoke bigotry myself; I’ve never used a racial slur in my life. As a legal immigrant and minority, I realize this would open me up to racist insults. That’s okay with me for one reason: Racist comments used towards me are not a reflection of me. They’re reflections of the bigots speaking against me.
Is it wrong? Of course. But I think we’d be surprised by the self-policing that would come from it. For every idiot who used a slur referencing my Asian-American heritage on social media, dozens of others would come to my defense and berate the bigoted attack. I don’t need Twitter or Facebook to ban a bigot on my behalf. Maybe they’ll learn something when I explain why their racial arguments are a sign of ignorance.
No, I’m not condoning hate speech. All I’m suggesting is we can and should be able to take care of ourselves. It’s not just about racism, though. I see a future where everything becomes so tightly controlled that we’re not only prohibited from the obvious types of hate speech, but we also have to be careful about anything that might offend anyone for any reason.
Is it hateful to tell someone they’re ugly? Yes. Eventually, that won’t be allowed.
Is it hateful to tell someone their shirt in a picture they post is ugly? Maybe, maybe not. Eventually, that won’t be allowed.
Is it hateful to tell someone their shirt in a picture they post would match better if they wore jeans instead of trousers? No. As hard as it is to believe today, eventually, that won’t be allowed. Why? Because somebody’s going to get offended, and when people get offended, social media companies start changing their rules.
To be clear, companies like Twitter and Facebook have every right to censor anyone for any reason. When they censor or even ban people, as they did recently with Meghan Murphy and Laura Loomer, people often invoke “free speech” as an argument against these companies. As long as they’re referring to the concept and/or human right of free speech, the argument is sound. If they’re referring to the 1st Amendment, they’re missing the point. These are private companies. They can ban or censor anyone they wish.
It’s important to understand that because I’m definitely not calling on government to interfere in this at all. I can imagine some well-meaning politician crafting the “Free Speech in Social Media Act of 2019” or something like that. Please don’t. The people, the users, we’re the ones who must pull these social media sites back from the brink of rampant censorship due to overbearing rules.
I do not condone hate speech. Anyone who reads this article and comes away with that conclusion completely missed the point and that’s likely my fault. But I don’t believe social media sites need to protect us from it. That should be on us.
Sticks and stones may break my bones…
…but opinions will never hurt me
I appreciate getting words of encouragement in comments on my articles or social media posts, but what really gets me pumped up is when someone doesn’t agree. I’m not the argumentative type, though my wife would disagree. I’m a discourse guy. Any disagreement is an opportunity to teach something, learn something, or both.
I had a mini rant on Twitter that got the wheels turning in my head prior to writing this article.
I sincerely hope nobody is ever banned from Twitter for "abusing" me. As a minority, I guess I'm "protected." But I don't need Twitter fighting my battles. If anyone wants to express bigotry towards me, have at it. I won't report it. I'll just prove your idiocy and we'll move on.
— JD Rucker (@JDRucker) November 25, 2018
Not surprisingly, there were very few comments at any of the social sites on which I posted this rant. Our society as it’s reflected through social media has become so accustomed to finding reasons for others to be banned that we rarely consider the possibility that they shouldn’t have been banned even if their words were hateful.
People don’t need protections dished out by social media companies. If they need any support at all, it should come from their piers. I believe most people don’t need support at all when hate speech is used against them. They can be offended. They can argue back. They can block people, repost the remarks made against them to highlight the idiocy of the person attacking them, or simply ignore them altogether. Bigots don’t learn from being banned. They’ll learn from being ridiculed. They’ll learn from other people pointing out the foolishness of the hatred they espouse.
With all the protections and rules being made by social media companies, it’s no wonder we’re seeing a young generation of snowflakes emerge. They don’t handle bigotry themselves or with friends. They just get people banned. It might make them feel good, but it does nothing to help them in the real world if they’re ever face-to-face with bigotry.
Racist comments used towards me are not a reflection of me. They’re reflections of the bigots speaking against me.
My perspective would probably be different if I didn’t foresee this turning into a debacle if it’s not reined in now. If I thought the hate-speech-label could be limited to only the most blatant, I could understand wanting to keep those rules in place for the the sake of civility. But we’re already seeing valid opinions being labeled as hate speech.
- You can’t ask why a transgender woman isn’t a man.
- You can’t make a joke about election day being on Wednesday.
- You can’t say sharia law is an offense to women, homosexuals, and minorities.
- You can’t say anything about George Soros.
- You can’t refer to someone using a pronoun they don’t claim as theirs.
- You can’t speak out against vaccines.
- You can’t call climate change a hoax.
- You can’t say people who cross the border illegally are illegal immigrants.
The thought police are manifesting faster in social media than anywhere else. I oppose true hate speech, but the definition of the term is a moving target now. Soon, we’ll only be entitled to opinions that fall within a very narrow scope set by idiots.
Image via Mr Fish at Truthdig.