Saturday, 16 February 2013

The censorship fallacy

As you can probably imagine, I've come across quite a number of reactionary "thinkers" that have taken exception to things I've written, and retorted with a load of cognitive diarrhea. You know, the usual fallacious right-wing diatribes, using collective terms like "loonie leftie" to generalise about anyone that doesn't share their right-wing standpoint, using the word "socialist" as an insult without the faintest regard for what it actually means, using straw man arguments, utilising the ignore the evidence strategy and the countless other fallacious argument techniques that this column is dedicated to demolishing.

Probably the most infuriating fallacy of all arises after I take the time to demonstrate (with facts and analysis) why the original contribution of the right-wing reactionary is so wrong-headed. The response to being told that they are wrong is often to squeal "Waaaaah ... you're censoring me".

Now, anyone that is familiar with the Another Angry Voice Facebook page knows that I have an almost unbreakable No-Censorship stance. In the first two years I only ever banned one individual (a fake Facebook profile that was using my page as a platform to call for ethnic genocide against Arabs). On this single occasion I took the decision to inform the whole Another Angry Voice community of what I'd done in order to maintain complete transparency. 

On Facebook I have the power to delete any comment on my page and block any user I like. I very rarely use these powers at all, when I do it is to remove stuff like incitement to murder, bullying of other users, libelous comments, calls for ethnic genocide and blatant spam), never to remove comments simply because I disagree with them.

I don't use my powers to delete differing opinions because I actually really enjoy debating with those who are capable of offering differing political opinions in a civil manner, and because I believe in allowing the foul mouthed incoherence, fallacious reasoning and outright lies of many of my other opponents to speak for themselves.

If I did remove comments simply because I didn't like them, I'd end up becoming a left-wing version of the kind of closed ideology echo chambers like Britain First that I despise.

Given this No-Censorship policy, the argument that I'm guilty of censorship is demonstrably inaccurate. However there is more to this fallacy than their simply being wrong, the sheer scale of the faulty reasoning behind it is actually wonderous to behold.

I have been spuriously accused of censorship on countess occasions. This specific example was hurled at me during a long debate about whether the state should be allowed to sentence unemployed people to terms of mandatory unpaid labour after I criticised a number of people on the thread for spouting "scrounger narratives":
"This site is a joke....isn't it? You do not allow anyone to have a slightly differing view to your own."
When someone comes out with the "waaaaaah ... you're censoring me" fallacy, simply because I've criticised their use of absolutist generalisations that unemployed people are "scroungers" as justification for immoral, unlawful and economically illiterate attacks upon the labour rights of the unemployed, they are clearly demonstrating an abject misunderstanding of the concepts of censorship and free speech.

The "waaaaaah ... you're censoring me" fallacy relies on a particularly warped interpretation of free speech. The complainant isn't actually whining that they've been censored at all, they're whining because their views have been subjected to criticism.

To the reactionary thinker therefore, "freedom of speech" can be invoked, not only to protect their right to free expression, but also to decry anyone who uses their own free speech to counter their specious arguments.

This is an absurd fallacy because freedom of speech is the liberty to say whatever you like, not a freedom from criticism if the views you freely express happen to be ill thought out rubbish.

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