Thursday, 14 February 2019

Freedom of speech doesn't mean we're obligated to give extreme-right fanatics a platform


As regular Another Angry Voice readers will know from all the extreme-right trolls who infest my Facebook comments, I've got very strong anti-censorship views.

In the 8 years I've been running the AAV page I've blocked fewer than two dozen accounts from commenting, which is incredibly low for a page with 335,000+ followers. It works out at about 3 a year, or 1 in every 14,600 followers. So just 0.0068% of people are depraved enough to get themselves thrown off my page. I defy you to find me a page with a lower block rate than that.

The only time I block people is when they do stuff like post calls for ethnic genocide, repeatedly spread defamatory accusations, bully and threaten other people in the comments, and/or hijack my page to post links to stuff like extreme-right hate groups and anti-Semitic conspiracy sites. Behaviour that is not only vile and outrageous, but that could also end up getting my page shut down if I didn't remove it.

Whenever I do block people or remove comments I take the very unusual step of informing the group what I've done, which stands in total contrast to extreme-right social media pages that routinely ban anyone who dares express a dissenting opinion in the closed ideology hate chambers they're curating (just try asking about all the white paedophiles in the EDL on a Tommy Robinson fan page and see how long your comment lasts).

But whenever I inform the group about the removal of extreme-right content from my page, I always get extreme-right fanatics crying "see, look at the terrible lefty censorship".

Aside from the grotesque hypocrisy of extreme-right propagandists decrying the open and transparent moderation of content by a left-leaning page when they absolutely don't give a shit about the industrial scale deletion of dissenting opinions on extreme-right pages, this kind of extreme-right victim complex snowflakery betrays a crucial misunderstanding of the concept of free speech.

Yes, everyone has the right to say whatever they like (within the constraints of the law), but nobody has the right to force other people to actively promote their hate speech.

In Britain it's not actually a criminal offence to glorify the Nazi party, praise Adolf Hitler, or deny the Holocaust, but it's also not obligatory for others to promote these views when they come across them.

Consider these examples:
  • Should a Jewish baker be forced to fulfil the order of a neo-Nazi who comes into his shop to demand a cake with Nazi Swastikas, Hitler's face, and a message saying the Holocaust didn't happen?
  • Should the World Wildlife Fund be forced to host adverts on their website from gun safari operations that arrange for mega-rich people to go out shooting endangered wild animals in Africa?
  • Should a black civil rights magazine be forced to accept article submissions from white supremacists promoting ethnic cleansing and the formation of a white ethno-state in their country?
  • Should atheists or secularists be forced to promote content from terrorist-supporting Islamist extremists or civil rights-opposing Christian fundamentalists on their social media accounts?
  • Should environmental charities like Greenpeace be forced to host climate change denier propaganda paid for by shady fossil fuel industry lobbying outfits?
Of course they shouldn't. So why should a left-leaning Facebook page be forced to allow extreme-right fanatics to hijack their page in order to promote neo-fascism, anti-Semitism, and white supremacism to their audience.

Yes these far-right extremists have a legal right to spread their hateful ideology in their own online spaces (as long as they avoid breaking the law by inciting terrorism or whatever), but they absolutely don't have a right to force other people to promote their dangerous ideology for them.

We may have to listen to their depraved extremist ranting every so often, but we have absolutely no obligation to hand them a megaphone.

In fact we actually have a duty not to. If allow our online platforms to be used to actually help these people spread their fanatical extreme-right ideas into mainstream political discourse, we're actually complicit in what they're doing.

So when the BBC give a ridiculous soft ball interview to an extreme-right hate preacher on the very day one of his acolytes was jailed for carrying out a deadly extreme-right terrorist attack, they're actively complicit in the spreading of dangerous extreme-right fanaticism into the mainstream.

Of course the state broadcaster giving vast dollops of free publicity to terrorism-inspiring extreme-right hate preachers is much more problematic than ordinary people or relatively small independent media pages inadvertently allowing their comments threads to be hijacked by neo-Nazis, but it's all part of the same problem.

The extreme-right continually invoke "free speech" and present themselves as poor innocent victims whenever anyone refuses to give them a platform to spread their hateful ideology (just like the Nazis did in the 1930s), but:

Why should left-wing, liberal, and progressive people tolerate them posting their extremist views on our pages when they routinely delete all of our views off theirs? 
Why should those who actually believe in free speech be forced to amplify the reach of those who would ruthlessly destroy the very freedom of speech they use in order to demand that we provide them a platform? 
Why should left-wingers allow neo-Nazis to hijack our platforms with their propaganda when we know that if they ever actually achieved political power the very first people to be herded into their death chambers would be us?
The answer to all of these questions of course is that we shouldn't. 


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7 comments:

Anonymous said...

You are 100% correct.
In addition I feel giving them a platform somehow legitimizes their view, so as all decent people would, continue to explain their vile ideology and show them up to be the clowns that they are, and when the likes of the bbc and itv have far-right guests it provides them with Oxygen.

I'm cancelling my tv licence, I've had enough of the B(iased) B(roadcasting for the) C(onservatives)

Anonymous said...

To be honest, I dont think I have seen much in the way of "extreme right-wing views" here on AAV. I've seen middle of the road Tory voters and people towards the "centre" express their views - but I cant recall seeing any neo-nazi type comments.

Anonymous said...

Middle of the road tories and 'centrists' still support colonial policies which are extreme when you are on the receiveing end.

Anonymous said...

Im not clear what you mean?(commenter at 15 Feb 2019. 10.37 above)

Are you suggesting that, in the blog post, the author's use of terms such as "extreme hard-right" means, basically, anyone that isn't Corbyn supporter?

Unknown said...

Should a Christian baker be forced to make a wedding cake for a gay couple?

Anonymous said...

How many false equivalencies are you going to make? Christians not accepting gay marriage isn't the same as swatista waving Nazis you twit. And many women will never accept killing babies as a "right". It's fucking Nazi eugenics. Fuck feminazism. Women should be held to the same standards as men. Fuck you.

Anonymous said...

"In Britain it's not actually a criminal offence to glorify the Nazi party, praise Adolf Hitler, or deny the Holocaust, but it's also not obligatory for others to promote these views when they come across them."

Yes it is, the current hate speech laws specify that if this offends someone then they can be prosecuted. Thomas has even written about the Count Dankula case (which I believe he thinks Meecham was sincerely insighting anti semitic hatred I unless I'm mistaken).

Also: Three thousand people being arrested last year: For Tweets.

Thomas getting it wrong again.