Tuesday, August 6, 2019

On the Recent Shootings... (Part Two)

[Part One here]

Continuing with my thoughts related (sometimes tangentially) to the recent shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.

For this installment, I'm going to explore the importance of Free Speech, and how social media giants' de-listing, censoring, blacklisting, and banning of certain kinds of speech may contribute to politically-motivated attacks. Just like the last post, this NOT intended IN ANY WAY to excuse or diminish the heinousness of the attacks; rather, it's an attempt to explain how various environmental factors might lead an individual to believing his/her violent actions are justified.

After the shootings, President Trump gave a speech in which he said (among other things, not all of which I agree with*), "In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry, and white supremacy. These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America. Hatred warps the mind, ravages the heart and devours the soul."

He's on the right track here, but he's not taking it far enough. Hateful ideology must be condemned, but it also must be confronted and challenged. However, as we'll see, that doesn't always happen as it should.

A few years ago we covered how so-called "hate speech" is and must be protected under the First Amendment (link goes to the first of a four-part series — I encourage you to read all four, and not just because I wrote them). My beliefs on that have not changed: The best cure — possibly the only cure — for "hate speech" is not censorship; it's more speech.

In other words, the best and only way to end "hate speech", hateful ideology, and bigotry (including white supremacy), is to challenge them in the marketplace of ideas. Call it an "arena of discussion" if you like, in which conflicting viewpoints are tested on their respective merits, and the most reasoned, logical, and fact-based wins. This is how minds are opened and opinions get changed.


What happens if the biggest, most commonly-used platforms for discussion censor and/or limit exposure of "offensive" ideas?

What happens if "violent rhetoric" is banned from the open marketplace of ideas — where it might be challenged and proven wrong — and instead is relegated to a corner of the Internet where someone finds like-minded individuals, similarly banned from the mainstream?

What happens if, instead of encountering level-headed people to refute the violent rhetoric and show the individual how his ideas are incorrect, he finds a niche discussion board filled with people who say, "You're right"...

... and then follow that up with, "You should do something about that."

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and every other major social media site have actively and documentedly been censoring certain kinds of political speech for years. They mostly target inflammatory individuals and groups on the conservative side, but anyone talking about politically-motivated violence (and who isn't Leftist or Islamic) is forced to remove their post. The problem is, that leaves questions unanswered, in a vacuum of information.

As we all know, nature abhors a vacuum. The human mind similarly abhors unanswered questions.

That vacuum will be filled, and the questions will be answered. Where it could have — and should have — been addressed in a public setting by level-headed people with facts, it will instead be fed in private by other hate-filled people with more violent rhetoric.

I don't intend this to be an accusation against social media conglomerates (okay, maybe I do, just a little), and I don't believe they are willfully complicit in the attacks. My intent is merely to point out how censorship — especially of controversial or "offensive" topics — tends to produce the exact opposite of what it tries to limit. Banning hateful speech from a platform is a "NIMBY" (Not In My Back Yard) approach; it's fundamentally no different from posting a "Gun Free Zone" sign to prevent violence, and works about as effectively.

Just as banning guns removes the ability and opportunity for law-abiding citizens to defend themselves and stop crime, banning "hate speech" removes the ability and opportunity for rational people to engage and defeat hateful ideology on its merits. Unless and until the ideology is defeated, it will fester and metastasize, and when paired with the inflammatory political rhetoric I wrote about last post, we will see more attacks like these.

This is why, on questions of "liberty vs. safety", I will always side with liberty. Freedom is not the problem — it's not guns, or social media, or even video games — and so limiting freedom cannot be a valid solution.

The real problem is hateful ideas and beliefs, and the solution is to counter them with truth.

More ideas and speech, not less. Debate and discussion, not censorship.

President Trump said that racism, bigotry, and white supremacy must be condemned. He's half right; it must be condemned, but it also must be challenged and defeated. And that can only happen when and where freedom of speech allows the discussion.

I welcome all readers to share your thoughts in the comments. I'd love to read what you all think.

And as always, stay safe.
* - He also said, "Mental illness and hatred pulled the trigger, not the gun," which enraged anti-gun Leftists, but he has that exactly right, too. Where he is wrong is in calling for restrictions on video games — which are another form of free speech — and advocating "Universal Background Checks" for firearm purchases, which last I checked, both shooters passed.

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