Why Twitter's Alt-Right Banning Campaign Will Become The Alt-Right's Best Recruitment Tool

from the control-alt-delete dept

If there are two points worth hammering home on matters of free speech, they are that defenders of free speech must be willing to defend speech they don't like and that the solution to bad speech is more good speech. I would argue that Western democracy as a whole can be defined as a political version of the Socratic Method, by which the electorate engages in public debate, constantly questioning the other side, in order to produce the most optimal thoughts. For those that value this method of discourse, it's instantly recognized that it only works if you have opposing views. To that end, it's imperative that we not only allow, but feverishly welcome, different points of view.

But this kind of thinking is currently under assault in America, and from both sides. The latest example of this is Twitter's recent decision to carpet-ban an entire slew of accounts linked to the so-called "alt-right" movement.

The social media platform has suspended accounts of several high-profile users associated with the alt-right movement, CBSNews.com reported Wednesday. These include Richard Spencer, Paul Town, Pax Dickinson, Ricky Vaughn and John Rivers.

Spencer, among those suspended this week, has been a leader in the alt-right movement since creating a website for it in 2010. He's president of the National Policy Institute, which describes itself as "dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of people of European descent in the United States," and has been described as a white supremacist.

Let's get some caveats out of the way. First, Twitter is a private entity and can refuse participants in this manner if it likes. Nothing about this violates any kind of law. Second, many of the accounts in question did give voice to speech and ideas that are the most putrid form of racism and identity politics. This is not optimal thinking or speech. And, where accounts were used to actually harrass and abuse others, we can leave our outrage at the door.

But that isn't the case with all of these accounts. Even Spencer, a leader of this racially-charged speech, has not been found to do any sort of harrassing. Yet his account and that of his website were banned as well. In other words, many of these bans appear to be motivated primarily, if not solely, by idealogy as opposed to any actionable abuse. And that's a bad idea for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, it legitimizes one of the main claims of the alt-right movement: that it suffers censorship within the marketplace of ideas.

It’s precisely the perception of arbitrary and one-sided speech policing that drives so many young men toward radical, illiberal politics. On campus especially, but also in the corporate world—and now on social media—they perceive that wild and wacky things can be said by some people, but not by others. By useful comparison: On the very same day that Twitter suspended the accounts of some alt-right users, DePaul University forbade a scheduled appearance by the broadcaster and writer Ben Shapiro. Shapiro is not an alt-rightist; in fact, the Anti-Defamation League reported last month that Shapiro is Twitter's single most frequently targeted victim of anti-Semitic abuse by alt-rightists. But Shapiro is a scathing polemicist and provocateur—an alumnus of the same Bannon-Breitbart empire that incubated Milo Yiannopoulos—and DePaul expressed worry that his appearance on campus might provoke violence.

The culture of offense-taking, platform-denying, and heckler-vetoing—now spreading ever outward from the campuses—lets loudmouths and thugs present themselves as heroes of free thought. They do not deserve this opportunity.

Bad ideas, if they are indeed bad, are susceptible to attack from good ideas. Unless we now think that American culture as a majority would line up with alt-right thinking, the only weapon needed against such thinking is a better alternative line of thinking. If we instead take Twitter's lead and simply try to put a lid on speech we don't like, it will only serve to solidify the feeling of victimization amongst those speakers, while leading others to seek them out to find out what all the fuss is about. Strangely, it might be Americans' natural tendency to want to stick up for victims of injustice that lead some to join the ranks of those that would spread injustice to others. And this would be supercharged by companies like Twitter leaning on censorship, achieving the opposite result of its intention. That's not a good strategy.

The other problem is that it's difficult to cease going down this censorship road once you've begun. And if the arguments of small-"l" liberalism are so weak that they cannot combat ideas we think are bad, then our arguments are bad and we should think up new ones. But trying to silence others isn't the answer. Look at every major step forward on matters of social justice, be it the end of slavery, economic progress, secularism or LBGT rights, and you will find they all have something in common: an opposition. It's already been proven that good speech can defeat bad speech, and that good ideas can defeat bad ideas. That's all we need. We don't need to be coddled by our social media networks and we cannot win a fight we never are able to have.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2016 @ 12:12pm

    Part of the problem is that we have unrealistic expectations of these so-called social media platforms. They exist to surveil and make money from their users. Anything resembling a place for discourse is an illusion.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2016 @ 12:30pm

    I really wish that Twitter kept up the accounts for those banned and just prevented any future activity instead of effectively deleting the profiles.

    That way future hiring managers could know exactly who they are getting as an employee.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2016 @ 12:36pm

    "Bad speech" is vulnerable to "good speech"? Hmm... this reminds me of something else I read this week.

    https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20161113/00431436029/let-them-eat-facts-why-fact-checking-is- mostly-useless-convincing-voters.shtml

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    • icon
      Dark Helmet (profile), 17 Nov 2016 @ 12:41pm

      Re:

      Did you manage to read the entire post, particularly the culminating paragraph? Because specifically, and correctly, pointed out that minds are changed through detailed and elongated conversation, as opposed to quick citation of facts. That I'm in this comment pointing out a fact may prove his point, should you be unable to recognize your error....

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  • icon
    seedeevee (profile), 17 Nov 2016 @ 12:44pm

    The "C" Word

    It's still not censorship. Right?

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    • icon
      art guerrilla (profile), 17 Nov 2016 @ 1:45pm

      Re: The "C" Word

      i will swim against the tide on this one, as i find far too often that FAR too many people aver that ONLY gummint entities are capable of censorship, but i totally disagree with that...
      state censorship may be one of the most egregious forms, and may have legal protections (at least theoretically), but private, 'legal' censorship is still censorship...
      in fact, i will maintain that the censorship-lite practiced here with flagging posts which are superficially hidden IS a form of censorship, albeit crowd-sourced and about as mild as censorship can get... regardless of whether it is done by popular acclaimation, it is still a form of censorship...
      (AND about the only form of censorship i dont get too upset about since the content is still available...)
      worst and most insidious of all, is the self-censorship we all engage in for this hysterical, uber-PC era...
      EXACTLY WHY i go 'overboard' in many of my posts: i am both staking a claim to say whatever fucked up shit i want to say, which gives YOU ALL the space to voice your not-so-fucked-up shit... further, this crazy person from crazytown advocating for -say- stringing up ALL the politicians, gives room for less extreme people to carve out a reasonable landing spot... otherwise, WHAT incentive is there for politicians to have a change of heart ? ? ?
      no, you milquetoasts need a crazy person to provide the impetus your ineffectual voting and sternly worded letters to the editor wiil NEVER accomplish...
      you're welcome...

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2016 @ 12:44pm

    The left could learn this lesson

    "But trying to silence others isn't the answer" and "good ideas can defeat bad ideas"

    If the left would stop the name calling and labeling and come to the table ready to discuss policy and ideas, this country might get somewhere. It is the person who can't defend their ideas who use these tactics.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Dark Helmet (profile), 17 Nov 2016 @ 12:47pm

      Re: The left could learn this lesson

      I think you're certainly right about this, but I don't think it's limited to a single party, or even to questions about policy or politics. There is an epidemic of identity association in this country right now, where assumptions are made strictly by perceived affiliations that get shouted all over the place. Not only is this counterproductive, it's truly stupid.

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      • identicon
        PRMan, 17 Nov 2016 @ 1:47pm

        Re: Re: The left could learn this lesson

        I disagree. It's the left that got a CEO fired for quietly supporting Proposition 8.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Vaultnode (profile), 17 Nov 2016 @ 2:32pm

          Re: Re: Re: The left could learn this lesson

          And "the Right" got a Nintendo PR representative fired for the content of her (distasteful) thesis in college.

          Both "sides" are guilty of having outrage mobs that got people fired. Identity politics is pure idiocy and hurts everyone, regardless of political policy learnings.

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          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2016 @ 3:02pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: The left could learn this lesson

            >>>And "the Right" got a Nintendo PR representative fired for the content of her (distasteful) thesis in college.

            Oh, you mean the one that was a huge asshole to Nintendo customers and was moonlighting a second job that was extremely bad for Nintendo's "family friendly" image and broke company policy?

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2016 @ 4:58pm

          Re: Re: Re: The left could learn this lesson

          Oh cool, you came up with one anecdote that has no bearing on what you claim to disagree with!

          I think you're just proving his point.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2016 @ 12:49pm

      Re: The left could learn this lesson

      I would broadly agree. Ad-hominems are the refuge of the lazy.

      On the other hand, the blame seems kind of curious; if views could so easily be refuted with a little bit of research and critical thinking, are the ones who hold them guilty of similar kinds of laziness for falling for them?

      Whose responsibility is it to be aware of the details of a matter in question?

      ...which is an entirely unrelated issue, admittedly.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2016 @ 1:04pm

      Re: The left could learn this lesson

      You expect a bunch of America hating, dirty, tree-hugging, lefty, socialist hippies to come to a table to actually discuss something? Good luck with that. The only way you'll get them to come to a table is if there's bong on it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2016 @ 1:27pm

      Re: The left could learn this lesson

      "The left".........

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2016 @ 1:56pm

      Re: The left could learn this lesson

      Pot. Meet kettle.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      MunkiLord (profile), 17 Nov 2016 @ 4:10pm

      Re: The left could learn this lesson

      The left doesn't have much reason to come to the table on social issues. Young people are clearly more liberal on such things compared to previous generations. So worst case all we have to do is wait for baby boomers, America's failed generation, to start dying in larger numbers. Which is just around the corner.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2016 @ 5:53pm

        Re: Re: The left could learn this lesson

        Really? Last I saw the alt-right was in large proportion made up of young people disenchanted with the left's censorious identitarian bullshit.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          MunkiLord (profile), 17 Nov 2016 @ 8:11pm

          Re: Re: Re: The left could learn this lesson

          But they are a significant minority.

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          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2016 @ 4:10am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: The left could learn this lesson

            Are you sure? It's not like you can take a head count by seeing how many of them get to voice their opinions online.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Eponymous Coward (profile), 18 Nov 2016 @ 8:33am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: The left could learn this lesson

            "they are a significant minority"

            I recall a recent instance where a supposed minority was actually a majority (electorally speaking) who just kept quiet until the polls opened.

            I realize that alt-right is not "the right", but when presented with the binary choices we have on election day they stand as a part of the ruling majority, and as such can't easily be marginalized.

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  • identicon
    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 17 Nov 2016 @ 12:45pm

    “the alt-right movement: ... suffers censorship within the marketplace of ideas”

    Don’t the alt-righters believe in competition? Why does there only have to be one “marketplace of ideas”? Can’t they set up their own alt-marketplace? And if their alt-ideology is so superior, won’t the punters flock to it?

    I think their fear, and quite a justified one, is that they would end up talking to themselves. Any open, competitive communication channel, where a range of viewpoints gets represented, inevitably takes on what they label as a “liberal bias”.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2016 @ 1:15pm

      Re: “the alt-right movement: ... suffers censorship within the marketplace of ideas”

      There are already many alt-right message boards and such (Iron March for example). I believe the issue lies more in the refusal to accept that some of us have a differing point of view, and instead of at least "putting up" with our existence, instead choose to shut us out of society completely. Many of us start out with much more shallow beliefs, but are quickly shooed away or silenced, which in turn causes us to realize that those who told us we would be censored in the first place may have been right. Then we become community, our ideals further edging away from your societal views, further being oppressed and labeled as "too radical". It is not that we fear talking to ourselves. Everyone else just seems to hate talking to us.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2016 @ 12:47pm

    The further underground that such opinions are driven, the easier it is for a leader to use that to unify what would be otherwise arguing factions. We are being suppressed can be a powerful rallying call and reason for cooperation to defeat the common enemy.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2016 @ 12:49pm

    Let's at least be clear about terminology

    "alt-right" is merely a modern synonym for Nazi.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Dark Helmet (profile), 17 Nov 2016 @ 12:52pm

      Re: Let's at least be clear about terminology

      Even if that were true, Nazis too deserve their voice, and to be rebuffed by other voices, in our society. Better to have the argument in the open than to allow those voices to echo with one another, reverberating and growing....

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    • icon
      TexasAndroid (profile), 17 Nov 2016 @ 1:32pm

      Re: Let's at least be clear about terminology

      Invoking Godwin's law in 3...2...1...

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2016 @ 5:54pm

      Re: Let's at least be clear about terminology

      You are why the people elected Trump.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2016 @ 4:15am

        Re: Re: Let's at least be clear about terminology

        No the alt-right are a bunch of Nazis, it's just that most of the people who voted for Trump aren't Nazis, they were just portrayed that way by progressives, and their voices in the media, like HuffPo.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Cho Seung Hui, 17 Nov 2016 @ 10:24pm

      Re: Let's at least be clear about terminology

      Funny thing is to see how leftist turned in the same behavior (and viceversa), specially those funded by USA organizations.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      DNY (profile), 18 Nov 2016 @ 8:09pm

      Re: Let's at least be clear about terminology

      Indeed. And like "Nazi" it's used both as an accurate descriptor of some people's tyranny-promoting ideology, and as a pejorative to silence those the left deems to be beyond the pale.

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  • icon
    Vaultnode (profile), 17 Nov 2016 @ 12:57pm

    Good lord this media craze about the alt-Right is the epitome of stupid.

    Geigner - did you listen to the D.C. press conference Richard Spencer gave a few months ago after Hillary put a spotlight on the neckbeard neo-Nazis known as the alt-Right? If so - how can you possibly take them seriously? He spent almost an hour memeing off at a crowd of D.C. political staffers, military officials, balding reporters, and Think Tank members. He literally tried to explain to them how important "dank memes" are. He explained to them a trollish political interpretation of "don't be a cuck".

    He created a logo for the alt-Right that was a mix of KKK hoods, an Illuminati reference, and shitty retro wannabe cyberpunk style synthwave

    There is nothing about him that should be taken seriously. Nothing about the alt-right should be taken seriously by anyone.

    In fact, continuing to take them seriously will end up convincing them that their theatrically racist speech has actual political merit. That would be the worst conceivable outcome as it'd create actual bigots out of memeing trolls.

    ----

    For everyone calling the alt-Right the "alt-Reich" or Nazis - stop. It's the equivalent of pillowtalk to them. They dozens of memes idolizing Hitler is the theatrically provocative manner common to imageboards.

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    • icon
      Dark Helmet (profile), 17 Nov 2016 @ 1:18pm

      Re:

      "There is nothing about him that should be taken seriously. Nothing about the alt-right should be taken seriously by anyone."

      Quite a suggestion about a group that had a heavy hand in electing our soon-to-be President....

      "In fact, continuing to take them seriously will end up convincing them that their theatrically racist speech has actual political merit. That would be the worst conceivable outcome as it'd create actual bigots out of memeing trolls."

      What I'm advocating for is the allowance of a public rebuke to them. Scorn is a wonderful antidote to idiocy, but we can't levy our scorn if the alt-right is disappeared from our conversations....

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      • icon
        Vaultnode (profile), 17 Nov 2016 @ 2:05pm

        Re: Re:

        "Quite a suggestion about a group that had a heavy hand in electing our soon-to-be President...."

        Did they? Before Hillary gave a /pol/ meme a national platform, they were a primarily obscure Internet subculture content with nihilism and provocation on social media.

        Hell, rumor is that Buzzfeed blackmailed m00t into banning them from 4chan. If true, Buzzfeed is in part responsible for forcing a containment board leakage onto the rest of the Internet.

        Bannon isn't alt-right - he's just a neo-nazi that embraced the alt-right for exposure vs blindly hating them like Stormfront hates The Daily Stormer.

        Bannon isn't spouting off a bunch of Internet memes for one thing. Instead, he unironically believes in topics that trolls ironically pretend to believe in.

        Even before Hillary's mistake of feeding the biggest piece of sustenance ever fed to trolls in the history of the Internet, troll king Andrew Aurenheimer was continually expressing disbelief at how insane 2016 (a.k.a. (current year)) has been and how trivial it's been to troll mainstream media outlets into printing false stories of IRL events based on nothing more than a few tweets.

        "What I'm advocating for is the allowance of a public rebuke to them. Scorn is a wonderful antidote to idiocy, but we can't levy our scorn if the alt-right is disappeared from our conversations...."

        Agreed. Within the alt-right, there is a form of much milder (but still worrying) unironic racial identity politics. It would be healthy to argue them away from believing in that....

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2016 @ 12:57pm

    Which leaves Twitter tacitly approving of what's left.

    If twitter removes ideology it disagrees with, then that implies that it agrees with it doesn't remove.

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    • icon
      TheLoot (profile), 17 Nov 2016 @ 3:06pm

      Re: Which leaves Twitter tacitly approving of what's left.

      Damn, that's a good way to put it.

      Now if anyone on the Left ever took responsibility for the hateful, hypocritical stuff they say, something might happen, but no, they'll ignore it and Twitter won't have to do a damn thing.

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  • identicon
    Wscotgrey, 17 Nov 2016 @ 1:37pm

    There is a better way

    While I agree that free speech is paramount, and the Streisand effect obvious, I don't agree that the use of Twitter and Facebook by the alt-right could be considered speech. Analyzing my own use of social media, an under-employed family man (meaning I have a lot of time for such things) shows that my own output on my most Tweetastic days is only about 10% of what the alt-right Tweetstormers can put out. This cottage industry resembles more of a DDOS attack. Between companion tweets and retweets, very quickly these guys can amass a ferocious level of output that can overwhelm the feed of their target. Shutting down speech is something we're supposed to protect people from right?

    So instead of Twitter's I'll-conceived idea of playing whack-a-mole, let's approach this through the lens of a DDOS. There should be a three tiered system for getting shut down, and it can be automated.
    1. Any account that outputs beyond the acceptable mean would initialize attention.
    2. This account would then be scanned for hate-speech, or repetitive keywords through retweets. The accounts that are retweeted, then would also enter analysis, then add to the loop.
    3. Finally, if the account meets the pattern of the first two, it is subject to arbitration and can argue for return of service. If it is unable or uninterested in the return of service, the associated accounts would then be scanned for attempts to re inflate a new account that this (likely) account is replaced with.

    This will allow speech, but not tweet farms in Macedonia or otherwise. The alt-right gets to remain at the table, but only if they're civilized.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2016 @ 1:45pm

    Brawndo has electrolytes

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Gail, 17 Nov 2016 @ 1:52pm

    When do services such as twitter become utilities? And therefore no longer private entities.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Richard (profile), 17 Nov 2016 @ 2:45pm

    Bakeries

    First, Twitter is a private entity and can refuse participants in this manner if it likes.

    If Twitter were a bakery it wouldn't be allowed to do that!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2016 @ 3:07pm

    Wait, why is censorship an undesirable thing in all cases except "harassment"? Once you start splitting hairs about what speech should be allowed and what speech shouldn't, it's only a matter of time until the "shouldn't" category grows and grows. Why, to you, does the theory about good speech driving out bad speech apply everywhere except where "harassment" is concerned?

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    • icon
      Dark Helmet (profile), 18 Nov 2016 @ 6:19am

      Re:

      "Wait, why is censorship an undesirable thing in all cases except "harassment"? Once you start splitting hairs about what speech should be allowed and what speech shouldn't, it's only a matter of time until the "shouldn't" category grows and grows. Why, to you, does the theory about good speech driving out bad speech apply everywhere except where "harassment" is concerned?"

      I believe you misunderstood me. I didn't say that all speech that is labeled harassment is bad speech. What I said was that if Twitter decided to limit the bans to accounts it could clearly demonstrate were harassing other Twitter users, we could leave our outrage at the door. At some point, we must concede that Twitter is a company designed to incorporate as many users as it can. If a Twitter user is harassing others and causing them to cease using the service, particularly if the language used is threatening or violent, I can completely understand why Twitter would want to ban that person to foster the staying of the other users.

      Bans over pure ideology, on the other hand, are a whole different animal.

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  • identicon
    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 17 Nov 2016 @ 3:14pm

    If The Alt-Right Gets A Reboot ...

    ... does it become the Ctrl-Alt-Right?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    MunkiLord (profile), 17 Nov 2016 @ 4:07pm

    Eh

    It's my understanding Disney walked away from a potential purchase because of unchecked harassment and Twitter's poor reputation for allowing trolls and hate speech. This move appears to be in Twitter's best business interests.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2016 @ 6:56pm

    "unless"? NO. "especially if"!

    Bad ideas, if they are indeed bad, are susceptible to attack from good ideas.

    Well put.

    Unless we now think that American culture as a majority would line up with alt-right thinking, the only weapon needed against such thinking is a better alternative line of thinking. [emphasis mine]

    I completely disagree with your caveat.

    The more popular the sentiment that you oppose becomes, the more important it is to oppose censoring it, as with all censorship.

    Otherwise it may not be long before it is you yourself (or your more radical allies) who are the target of that very censorship you were, in desperation, trying to wield in your favor.

    You might think this would be an obvious principle. Perhaps it is somewhat less-than-obvious because people tend not to enjoy exploring the consequences of failure, even when (especially when?) failure is imminent.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2016 @ 7:11pm

      Re: "unless"? NO. "especially if"!

      Sigh.

      I neglected to notice that comments don't obey html markup.

      So, one more time:

      Bad ideas, if they are indeed bad, are susceptible to attack from good ideas.

      Well put.

      Unless we now think that American culture as a majority would line up with alt-right thinking, the only weapon needed against such thinking is a better alternative line of thinking. [emphasis mine]

      I completely disagree with your caveat.

      The more popular the sentiment that you oppose becomes, the more important it is to oppose censoring it, as with all censorship.

      Otherwise it may not be long before it is you yourself (or your more radical allies) who are the target of that very censorship you were, in desperation, trying to wield in your favor. You might think this would be an obvious principle. Perhaps it is somewhat less-than-obvious because people tend not to enjoy exploring the consequences of failure, even when (especially when?) failure is imminent.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Dark Helmet (profile), 18 Nov 2016 @ 6:25am

      Re: "unless"? NO. "especially if"!

      "I completely disagree with your caveat.

      The more popular the sentiment that you oppose becomes, the more important it is to oppose censoring it, as with all censorship."

      I didn't put the passage you're responding to as well as I could have. The point I was trying to make is that true alt-right thinking is still a tiny minority in the country, and there's no reason we can't combat it with speech and win. It might be different if 98% of the country was goose-stepping around. The fight might take different forms if that was the case, but I still wouldn't be advocating for censorship.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2016 @ 11:51am

        Re: Re: "unless"? NO. "especially if"!

        I didn't put the passage you're responding to as well as I could have.

        Your intended (and now clarified) meaning looks perfectly clear as it stands.

        I initially failed to grasp, somehow, that the toolkit might hold many more than two tools, and that censorship needn't be among them.

        Catastrophic reading comprehension failure on my part. All better now.

        "Dude, self, come on. Did you even read the first paragraph?"

        "…I think so…?"

        "How about the last paragraph? Did you read that one? What did you think it was supposed to mean?"

        "…"

        Anyways, thank you for administering an extra clue.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Wendy Cockcroft, 22 Nov 2016 @ 2:29am

        Re: Re: "unless"? NO. "especially if"!

        In theory, combatting it with speech could win but you've got to be as noisy and dedicated as they are to be effective as many of their views are becoming considered mainstream. I mean, how many times have I been called a liberal socialist, or variant thereof, for holding moderate views? I've lost count.

        I don't consider that harassment or anything (although it's damn rude!) but when these people take it into their heads to go after someone it's not pretty and there seems to be little in the way of counter-speech on their behalves. Meanwhile, the hateful messages they're spewing become normalised because "everybody" is repeating it.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    McFortner (profile), 17 Nov 2016 @ 7:04pm

    History repeats?

    Acts like this drive us closer to a modern version of the Night of the Long Knives. Which side pulls the trigger first is up in the air, but both sides are primed and it only takes one idiot from either side to pull the trigger and we spiral down a path that could destroy our nation.

    And before you go accusing the Conseratives/Right Wing of the only ones who would do that, remember that NAZI stood for the National Socialist German Workers' Party. To quote Wikipedia, "Initially, Nazi political strategy focused on anti-big business, anti-bourgeois, and anti-capitalist rhetoric, although such aspects were later downplayed in order to gain the support of industrial entities, and in the 1930s the party's focus shifted to anti-Semitic and anti-Marxist themes."

    Even today we see the beginnings of anti-Semetic thought in the Democratic Party fringe. Before you say it's the fringe and not the mainstream, remember before he took control of the Party, Hitler was in the fringe as well. History can and often repeats itself in the most unsuspected places.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Matthew A. Sawtell, 18 Nov 2016 @ 5:54am

    He who strikes the first blow admits he's lost the argument.

    In a modern sense, that occurs when the 'ban hammer' is applied to someone that not disobeyed explicit rules.

    Yet, when we look at the rules that most companies/organizations/groups/individual people employ to police the various Electronic Bulletin Boards of our age - how many of them are truly 'explicit'? Heck, from what I have experienced over the years - most are merely a series of sandboxes... http://blog.chinadaily.com.cn/blog-135031-35735.html ... to which I need to put on a variety of tutus to visit and interact with.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Wendy Cockcroft, 21 Nov 2016 @ 6:04am

    Freedom for whom?

    I get what you're saying here, Tim:

    //If there are two points worth hammering home on matters of free speech, they are that defenders of free speech must be willing to defend speech they don't like and that the solution to bad speech is more good speech.//

    but the "more good speech" solution only actually works if there's enough of it to counter the bad speech. In practice, people get targeted and harassed until they're successfully censored by people who are often more noisy, obnoxious, and committed to making such speech than the targets are.

    Nobody should have to devote large chunks of their time to countering abusive gits telling lies and spreading muck. Is that really the only solution to horrible speech?

    To be a target is to be alone, and unless we are willing to band together to support individuals and groups being battered online your sentiments will only ever be sentiments; they have no practical value. There's also the echo chamber problem to be addressed; what happens when you're not part of an echo chamber and not considered a protected individual or group? You're on your own, aren't you?

    I've seen people pushed offline because few if any of the valiant free speech defenders were willing to come to their aid. It's not on, Tim. There has to be another way. If counter-speech is the answer, shouldn't there be some kind of service to provide it on behalf of those who are being drowned out by the volume of noise from their abusers?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Nov 2016 @ 7:48am

      Re: Freedom for whom?

      >but the "more good speech" solution only actually works if there's enough of it to counter the bad speech.

      There is another effect of free speech, it allows more people on the fringes of extreme views to participate, this often leads to fragmentation of extremist views. Suppression of a viewpoint usually leads to a smaller but more organized and dedicated group supporting a viewpoint.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Wendy Cockcroft, 22 Nov 2016 @ 2:25am

        Re: Re: Freedom for whom?

        Yes, I've seen that. And the dedication can be ugly to behold. I've seen people driven offline altogether, effectively censored by these people.

        In one case, a staff writer for National Review was driven offline because he'd adopted an African child and the alt-right didn't like it. They went after him, his wife, and the rest of his family. How utterly deplorable!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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