A lot of social media companies use anti-racism and anti-violence policies as an excuse to censor people. Even though these policies are always way more far-reaching than originally planned, and most speech being censored just ends up being “anything that isn’t the current mainstream narrative”, it’s likely that many of the people working in these companies once believed they were doing something good when they first instituted these policies.
Many people like myself who argue against censorship (I’m a free-speech absolutist), would say that this is an inevitable slippery slope. That good intentions lead to bad outcomes. But today I realized that even if there was some way to constrain the censorship genie, keep it in its confining bottle of good intentions and only censor truly hateful racists (or whatever it is that you want to censor) – even in that case, the outcomes would still be negative.
In other words, it’s possible to argue against censorship even without using the slippery slope argument, and by appealing to the (presumed) good intentions of the censors.
Let’s take the example of a child. Let’s say your kid is angry and frustrated. Maybe they feel like something is deeply unfair (they really wanted that candy), and they’re shouting and cussing to express their anger. What’s the path forward? How do you de-escalate the situation? Do you:
- Talk to your kid, hear them out, try to negotiate a win-win, and then de-escalate? or
- Lock them in a room where nobody else can hear them and leave?
I think it should be pretty clear what the solution is. If you locked them in a room and didn’t let them express their anger with their voice, what do you think would happen next? Well, they might bottle up their anger (act in) and resent you more, eroding trust in you and leading to them being less receptive to conversations with you in the future. Or, if they have a propensity for it, they could start to be violent (act out), maybe they’ll bang on the door, or break something in the room.
In any case, their anger will escalate until they feel like they’re going to be heard. That’s what everyone does – not just children. It takes significant self-knowledge and self-control to stop this process of escalation yourself – typically, most unconscious people (and that’s most of us, most of the time), will just escalate until they’re heard.
So let’s say you’ve got an angry racist who constantly spouts racist garbage on social media, on the comments sections in news articles, etc. What’s the solution?
Well, the long-term solution, though it requires more work, is likely to try to listen to this person and figure out what’s really going on for them. It’s likely that they hate their own lives and this anger is a way of redirecting from their own failures as a human being. In other words, they probably need therapy and self-knowledge.
Many immature people in this situation might think that simply banning them from social media is a reasonable solution. But that’s the equivalent of locking an angry child in a room and throwing away the key. The anger doesn’t just stop because you can’t hear it anymore – it escalates and grows.
In time, they’ll find other outlets for their anger. They’ll go to rallies or protests, they’ll find like-minded angry people who have also been censored, and then they’ll (likely) get violent.
Another example is censoring people who believe in conspiracies. When Alex Jones (who I am not a big fan of) went around telling everyone that big tech was going to censor him, was shadow banning him, etc., and then he was censored from multiple platforms on the same day, and it had turned out that employees from those platforms had literally met in secret at night (i.e. conspired!) against him to do this, what do you think that does to a paranoid person? It feeds and validates their paranoia! You haven’t diffused the situation, you just validated his worst fears and fed the fire.
When I was thinking about this today, it seemed kind of obvious to me. Of course silencing people is not a good way of handling their complaints. Of course people act out, especially angry and immature ones. So if these things are obvious, what’s the chance that some of this censorship is being done deliberately to foment violence? What if the censors are hoping the racists, or whoever else they’re censoring, start acting out? What if the censorship is just bait?
2 thoughts on “Censorship leads to violence”
I don’t mind private property such as TV company and social media if it has no government interference. I don’t think every thing needs to be heard. You have to have self control. Though I do mind when the government does it because they have no property rights. By that thinking people could scream things about the way people look that is insulting in a store such as being overweight or things that shouldn’t matter. I would like to know what you think about that.
I agree that people need to have self-control and be kind to each other. In real life, offline interactions, most people are at least civil, if not friendly to each other. I’ve very rarely encountered someone publicly being racist, or calling someone fat or anything like that.
Being online doesn’t seem to trigger the same kind of embarrassment or empathetic response or whatever it is that stops people from staying stuff like that in person, so online comments tend to be far more hateful and aggressive, which is unfortunate.
I do believe in moderation, but not by the platforms themselves – I think creators and other viewers should moderate. For instance, if you notice a hateful comment on a video, you can block that user – both as a creator and a viewer. That’s the equivalent of a speaker at a meeting asking a disruptive person to leave.
On the other hand, platforms themselves doing the censorship is a far more centralized approach that leads to bias and fewer voices being heard.
Unfortunately, these so-called private “platforms” are actually acting like publishers at this point, moderating content, curating feeds and recommendations, etc. But they have liability protections given to them by the U.S. government as if they were still platforms – on top of the limited legal liability shield all corporations already have. In that sense I don’t really consider them to be private entities anymore. Once you curry favor with the government, get special exemptions, and collaborate with intelligence agencies to censor people, you’re not a corporation anymore, you’re just a rebranded extension of the government.
Plus, companies like Facebook and Google received seed funding from government intelligence agencies from the very beginning (from companies such as In-Q-Tel, a CIA venture capital firm). They were captured by government from their very creation. The U.S. economy has far more fascism than free markets at this point.