Hate Speech and Intensifying Social Media Censorship

Hate Speech and Intensifying Social Media Censorship

In case you haven’t noticed, hate speech is a hot-button issue.

Also, hate speech is usually stupid. It’s often the final vestige of an individual who’s either losing an argument or is too mentally deficient to parse out the factors that make certain groups of people do certain things.

The definition of hate speech, however, can get a little murky. Many people construe generalizations on a bell-curve or any assumptions about any groups of people whatsoever as hate speech (or racism, sexism, what have you). Here’s the actual definition as elucidated by two of the world’s leading dictionaries:

Merriam Webster:

Speech expressing hatred of a particular group of people

Cambridge Dictionary:

Public speech that expresses hate or encourages violence towards a person or group based on something such as race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation.

Not to mention any names here (that’d be hateful) but there is a certain book from 1300 years ago that many, many people read and believe in, and that book calls for the murder of non-believers of that book, and many of the people wishing to rid the internet of hate speech see no problems whatsoever with such a book… but I digress.

Often, labeling an argument as hate speech serves as a catch-all to demonize opposition without actually replying to that argument with logic. This devolution is usually the mark of a well-known and overused logical fallacy: Ad Hominem, or the personal attack.

However, instead of attacking the person directly and with one of their personal flaws, ‘anti-hate-speech’ pundits have managed to give Ad Hominem a pass in general society so long as you’re calling the person racist, sexist, fascist, or anything else that’s been drawing the ire of the nation’s variegated PC crusaders.

He’s coming for your Tweets

It’s a convenient attempt to shut someone down without actually being smart enough to generate a conclusion that doesn’t resort to stagnating and platitudinous monikers that are increasingly being applied to wider and wider berths of argumentation.

‘Hate Speech’ and the Internet

I salute and pay credence to the fact that this article about criminalizing hate speech was allowed to appear in the Washington Post. It gets better: it’s ranked third on Google when you type in ‘hate speech’.

One interesting quirk about the first amendment (and one that people often miss) is that people can criticize that amendment as they see fit. Authors can rail against freedom of speech and the press with all the polemic their frail hearts desire and then private companies can sell those opinions to you on the front page of their websites.

This is fine. Most people aren’t listening to the fanatics (and that’s what they are) who wish to criminalize speech that doesn’t directly incite violence (which is already illegal). There’s even been bipartisan pushback on what authors Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt have called The Coddling of the Amerian Mind.

Hate speech, not necessarily lumped into Lukianoff’s and Haidt’s list of grievances against American universities, is a buzzing phrase. Though constitutionally protected, many large social media platforms have strictures against it. Reddit, in particular, has updated its content policy with sweeping reforms to address and ban hate speech.

It’s clear to anyone who read the content policy updates on the day they were announced that Reddit attempted to go further. The admins slipped in the trojan horse of acceptable ‘hate speech’ by writing into the policy that such speech against people ‘in the majority’ would be tolerated under the updates.

This is a strange thing for an ‘international’ company to do. It seems the admins forgot that there exists a world outside of the USA where plenty of people have internet access and frequent their website. If they remembered that, then they just gave us the pass to bash Han Chinese people to our heart’s desire on Reddit as long as we leave other groups alone.

It’s clear what they really meant, though: attack white people with all the unmitigated hate speech you can muster and we’ll leave your attacks unmoderated (this honestly doesn’t bother me – people can blather on about the evils of white males all they want. Attack my race, sex, haircut, whatever – too many of us ‘majority’ whites complain about free speech while complaining about people complaining about white people. I get it, I’m a pasty patriarch. Anyways).

Stay classy, Reddit. They’ve since removed this stipulation, but the fact remains that they’ve now erased 20,000 subreddits for ‘hate speech’.

They’re not the only ones; in fact, it’s hard not to see this as a coordinated effort by large social media companies. According to The Verge:

“We have strict policies prohibiting hate speech on YouTube, and terminate any channel that repeatedly or egregiously violates those policies,” a YouTube spokesperson told The Verge. “After updating our guidelines to better address supremacist content, we saw a 5x spike in video removals and have terminated over 25,000 channels for violating our hate speech policies.”

It’s ironic that the free market has created a situation in which banning divisive and ‘hateful’ views become profitable. These corporations kowtow to the political left’s demand for the constriction of hate speech because that’s what’s most profitable. In a sad twist of fate, the political right has been outdone by their own policies of freer markets: these markets are moving to silence a large swath of right-wing voices.

Hate Speech and the Constitution

If you read the linked Washington Post article above, you’re now aware that hate speech is protected under the first amendment. The US is one of the few liberal democracies with no hate speech law whatsoever because of this amendment.

Private companies such as Google and Reddit, however, are beholden to no such law. I’ve heard a number of rebuttals to arguments that I started which go like this: these companies have every right to ban content as they see fit.

In this these people are correct. What I find ironic, however, is that many of these folks are political democrats who also support heavy-handed regulatory policies that stay the hand of businesses who work against the public good. Their argument reduces to staid legalism, i.e. it’s legally within their rights so there!

The supposed moral extrapolation that forms the brunt of many democrat arguments is here conspicuously absent, certainly because it simply doesn’t support their cause.

These arguments usually pay lip service to the first amendment by addressing the fact that they don’t want the constitutional right to free speech violated; corporations aren’t violating this by their very nature as non-governmental entities.

Another awkward contradiction arises here, though: the democrat, constitutional, legalist argument contradicts many of the issues democrats hold dear. You can’t be a staunch constitutionalist by cherry-picking. If you support the first amendment, then for the legal fecundity of the document to proliferate you must support the others.

The democratic party isn’t exactly fired up about the second amendment, recall. Resorting to the free-market constitutionalist argument to justify the moves of these social media companies puts them at odds with their other stated policies.

Conclusions about Hate Speech

Personally I believe companies have the right to censor their content. And I think they’re morally bankrupt, sellout, silica-level sensitive sleazeballs for doing as such, and that they should stop.

What people miss about the social media argument is that many of us are arguing on moral terms against them silencing ‘hate speech’. Think about it: if you can have someone spewing hate speech openly on a site like twitter, then you can have a cabal of well-reasoned individuals debunking that speech in the comments. The surest way to rid society of terrible arguments and ignorant viewpoints is to expose first and educate later.

Hate doesn’t derive from evil. Hatred, by definition, is intense dislike. People choose to like/dislike emotionally first, and only process logically later (if at all).

I’d argue (and likely see contentious backlash for such an argument) that bigotry is not the result of evil, moral badness, destitution of character, or the like. It’s the result of ignorance. Reality doesn’t mesh with prejudice on every occasion and thus prejudice is not logically sound. Those who accept the precepts of things that aren’t logically sound are usually, you guessed it, ignorant.

What do we do with the ignorant? Wash them away to another social media channel that serves as naught but an echo chamber for bigotry? Because that’s what happens when you ban people spewing ‘hate speech’ in a liberal democracy without a hate speech law.

You channel all the vitriolic voices to the fewer and fewer places they’re tolerated and they all rally to support each other in those spaces, compounding the bigotry. Mass bans on big platforms literally serve to create the neaderthalic ‘safe space’ for bigotry. I don’t give a damn about trash-talk on the internet.

It’s far better to put all the evil, narcissistic, terrible hate speech you can imagine on a public forum where other members of the forum can logically dissuade the people listening or posting from such views. If their argument is superior, no harm no foul beside a few hurt feelings.

And feelings will recover.

This is not to mention all the ridiculous things that are being labeled as hate speech these days. I’m here making the argument for giving the worst of the worst a voice on public forums.

Stay tuned for future articles deriding the ever-expanding definitions of hate speech, racism, sexism, and the like. If you’ve like to go down the rabbit hole before these posts go up, start here with a Harper’s Open Letter on Justice and Debate and witness the backlash from left-wing media.

Yup: they’re bashing the ever-loving hell out of an open letter on the importance of justice and open debate. Before we know it, I may have to pen a defense not only of the worst speech on the internet but any speech that the left can’t get behind.

It’s coming, folks. When leftists try to use the free-market and constitution to justify social media and corporate censorship, push back and remind them of their contradictions.

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