mfioretti: freedom of speech*

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  1. "This felt and functioned like freedom, but it was always a commercial simulation"

    You could be forgiven for seeing this as a turning point for these sites, away from a hands-off approach to the communities they host and toward something with more oversight and regulation. An inside-out version of this analysis has been embraced by right-wing users, who have wasted no time declaring these bans a violation of their free speech. But this is an incomplete accounting of what happened and one that serves two parties and two parties alone: the companies themselves and the people they’ve just banned.
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    Pepe the Frog Cartoonist Stops Distribution of Children’s Book
    AUG 30
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    AUG 30
    It Was an Uneasy Time for Immigrants in Texas. Then the Rains Came.
    AUG 29
    Illinois Attorney General Sues Chicago Over Police Practices
    AUG 29
    Charlottesville Beating Suspect Is Arrested in Georgia
    AUG 29

    See More »

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    The recent rise of all-encompassing internet platforms promised something unprecedented and invigorating: venues that unite all manner of actors — politicians, media, lobbyists, citizens, experts, corporations — under one roof. These companies promised something that no previous vision of the public sphere could offer: real, billion-strong mass participation; a means for affinity groups to find one another and mobilize, gain visibility and influence. This felt and functioned like freedom, but it was always a commercial simulation.

    A community of trolls on an internet platform is, in political terms, not totally unlike a fascist movement in a weak liberal democracy: It engages with and uses the rules and protections of the system it inhabits with the intent of subverting it and eventually remaking it in their image or, if that fails, merely destroying it.

    But what gave these trolls power on platforms wasn’t just their willingness to act in bad faith and to break the rules and norms of their environment. It was their understanding that the rules and norms of platforms were self-serving and cynical in the first place. After all, these platforms draw arbitrary boundaries constantly and with much less controversy — against spammers, concerning profanity or in response to government demands. These fringe groups saw an opportunity in the gap between the platforms’ strained public dedication to discourse stewardship and their actual existence as profit-driven entities, free to do as they please. Despite their participatory rhetoric, social platforms are closer to authoritarian spaces than democratic ones. It makes some sense that people with authoritarian tendencies would have an intuitive understanding of how they work and how to take advantage of them.

    This was also a moment these hate groups were anticipating; getting banned in an opaque, unilateral fashion was always the way out and, to some degree, it suits them. In the last year, hard-right communities on social platforms have cultivated a pre-emptive identity as platform refugees and victims of censorship.

    There are alternative fund-raising sites in the mold of GoFundMe or Kickstarter; there’s an alternative to Patreon called Hatreon. Like most of these new alternatives, it has cynically borrowed a cause — it calls itself a site that ‘‘stands for free speech absolutism’’ — that the more mainstream platforms borrowed first. Their persecution narrative, which is the most useful narrative they have, and one that will help spread their cause beyond the fringes, was written for them years ago by the same companies that helped give them a voice.
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  2. Not all ideas are the same, and not all conversations about ideas even have basic legitimacy

    I need to be very clear here: not only was nearly everything you said in that document wrong, the fact that you did that has caused significant harm to people across this company, and to the company’s entire ability to function. And being aware of that kind of consequence is also part of your job, as in fact it would be at pretty much any other job. I am no longer even at the company and I’ve had to spend half of the past day talking to people and cleaning up the mess you’ve made. I can’t even imagine how much time and emotional energy has been sunk into this, not to mention reputational harm more broadly.

    And as for its impact on you: Do you understand that at this point, I could not in good conscience assign anyone to work with you? I certainly couldn’t assign any women to deal with this, a good number of the people you might have to work with may simply punch you in the face, and even if there were a group of like-minded individuals I could put you with, nobody would be able to collaborate with them. You have just created a textbook hostile workplace environment.

    If you hadn’t written this manifesto, then maybe we’d be having a conversation about the skills you need to learn to not be blocked in your career — which are precisely the ones you described as “female skills.” But we are having a totally different conversation now. It doesn’t matter how good you are at writing code; there are plenty of other people who can do that. The negative impact on your colleagues you have created by your actions outweighs that tremendously.

    You talked about a need for discussion about ideas; you need to learn the difference between “I think we should adopt Go as our primary language” and “I think one-third of my colleagues are either biologically unsuited to do their jobs, or if not are exceptions and should be suspected of such until they can prove otherwise to each and every person’s satisfaction.” Not all ideas are the same, and not all conversations about ideas even have basic legitimacy.
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  3. a concerted legal campaign by a powerful man to force a publisher to spend all its money on legal fees explicitly because that man wants to drive that publisher out of business deserves as much scorn when done by a tech mogul as when done by racist officials who embodied one of the more tragic aspects of our history.
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  4. “Universities are unlike other institutions in that they absolutely require that people challenge each other so that the truth can emerge from limited, biased, flawed individuals,” he says. “If they lose intellectual diversity, or if they develop norms of ‘safety’ that trump challenge, they die. And this is what has been happening since the 1990s.”

    it’s important to have a frank discussion on campuses about ideological diversity. To me, this seems a liberal blind spot.

    I’ve been thinking about this because on Facebook recently I wondered aloud whether universities stigmatize conservatives and undermine intellectual diversity. The scornful reaction from my fellow liberals proved the point.

    “Much of the ‘conservative’ worldview consists of ideas that are known empirically to be false,” said Carmi.

    “The truth has a liberal slant,” wrote Michelle.

    “Why stop there?” asked Steven. “How about we make faculties more diverse by hiring idiots?”
    Continue reading the main story

    To me, the conversation illuminated primarily liberal arrogance — the implication that conservatives don’t have anything significant to add to the discussion. My Facebook followers have incredible compassion for war victims in South Sudan, for kids who have been trafficked, even for abused chickens, but no obvious empathy for conservative scholars facing discrimination.

    The stakes involve not just fairness to conservatives or evangelical Christians, not just whether progressives will be true to their own values, not just the benefits that come from diversity (and diversity of thought is arguably among the most important kinds), but also the quality of education itself. When perspectives are unrepresented in discussions, when some kinds of thinkers aren’t at the table, classrooms become echo chambers rather than sounding boards — and we all lose.

    Four studies found that the proportion of professors in the humanities who are Republicans ranges between 6 and 11 percent, and in the social sciences
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  5. I have had so many conversations or email exchanges with students in the last few years wherein I anger them by indicating that simply saying, "This is my opinion" does not preclude a connected statement from being dead wrong. It still baffles me that some feel those four words somehow give them carte blanche to spout batshit oratory or prose. And it really scares me that some of those students think education that challenges their ideas is equivalent to an attack on their beliefs.

    No, the fact that you believed it doesn’t make it any more valid or worthwhile, and nobody owes your viewpoint any respect simply because it is yours.
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  6. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing the majority opinion, said the court now holds that same-sex couples may “exercise the fundamental right to marry.” He characterized this as a liberty that had been denied to them.

    Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito dissented and, in an unusual step, each wrote separate opinions.

    “The majority's decision is an act of will, not legal judgment,” Roberts said. “The right it announces has no basis in the Constitution or this court's precedent.”

    “Five lawyers have closed the debate and enacted their own vision of marriage as a matter of constitutional law,” he said.

    Justice Antonin Scalia characterized the decision as a “threat to American democracy,” “hubris” and a “judicial putsch.”

    Justice Thomas said the decision means that conflict between the recognition of same-sex marriage and religious liberty appears “all but inevitable” as individuals and churches face demands to participate and endorse in these marriages. The use of the judicial process “short circuits” the political process that could consider religious freedom implications, “with potentially ruinous consequences for religious liberty.”

    Similarly, Justice Alito said the decision “will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy.” He objected to the majority’s comparison of traditional marriage laws to laws that denied equal treatment for African-Americans and women, saying this analogy’s implications “will be fully exploited by those who are determined to stamp out every vestige of dissent.”

    Parents in some school districts have faced difficulty in exempting their children from classes voicing approval of same-sex relationships, while small businesses with moral reservations about participating in same-sex ceremonies have faced discrimination lawsuits. Catholic-run adoption agencies have been forced to close because the law would require them to place children with same-sex couples against their religious beliefs.

    Those who supported efforts to defend marriage have also faced professional retaliation. In 2014 Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich was forced to leave the company he co-founded after activist groups and media publicized that he had donated to support California’s Proposition 8.
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  7. The issue of gay marriage is not one that generally comes up when talking about a pizzeria. Neither is straight marriage, for that matter. Local pizza joints aren’t generally hotbeds of wedding receptions. Yet, Marino found herself wandering into Memories Pizza to get the unsuspecting owners to weigh in on an emotional issue which has never come up in the course of the business’s nearly 10 year existence.

    When owner Crystal O’Connor told Marino, “If a gay couple came in and wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have to say no,” she had to know she’d struck gold.

    Marino had her headline, “RFRA: Michiana business wouldn’t cater a gay wedding.” O’Connor’s quote was in paragraph three. The chyron on the screen for the report read, “Restaurant denies some services to same-sex couples.”
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  8. Non possiamo dire che i fanatici dell’ISIS o i due fratelli che hanno sterminato a colpi di kalashnikov la redazione di Charlie Hebdo siano pochi pazzi isolati: e non solo per l’evidente capacità organizzativa che c’è dietro, ma anche, e soprattutto, perché nella gran parte dei Paesi a maggioranza islamica le vignette di Charlie Hebdo sarebbero punite con la morte. Così come il proselitismo, qualora voi voleste provare a ragionare e a convincerli a convertirsi ad altra religione, o l’apostasia, se li convinceste e dichiarassero di non essere più musulmani. Non sono “pochi pazzi isolati”: sono persone che applicano le loro leggi, mettono in pratica ciò che nella loro cultura giuridica è normale e ovvio. I Fenici erano un grande popolo di inventori e commercianti. Nessuno ne può negare l’importanza storica e culturale. Tuttavia avevano anche il costume di sacrificare bambini agli dei Baal e Astarte. Furono i Siracusani che, dopo la vittoria di Imera, imposero ai nemici, come condizione di pace, che smettessero di praticare quella crudele usanza. Venne meno così una tradizione secolare, ma fu forse un male? Montesquieu, nel suo “Lo spirito delle leggi” lo definisce “Il più bel trattato di pace della storia”, E gli Inglesi, che certamente occuparono l’India in modo cruento, imposero ai locali di cessare la pratica di bruciare vive le vedove perché non sopravvivessero ai mariti. Questa era una pratica considerata di grande valore religioso, ma la sua scomparsa non ha poi impedito agli indiani di continuare a essere indù. Non stiamo lottando per il diritto di satira, ma per quello a non essere condannati a morte per blasfemia. Forse l’Occidente avrebbe dovuto cominciare a lottare trent’anni fa, quando aveva il coltello dalla parte del manico, per diffondere la libertà di opinione e di religione, anziché considerarla una questione di affari interni ai singoli stati. Sarebbe stato un bel vedere avanti.
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  9. Charlie Hebdo, for all its vaunted anarchism, has been a member of the establishment for a very long time.

    Or at least this is how the magazine is viewed out in the banlieues — the enormous and often wretched suburbs that surround all major French cities and that are home to a huge immigrant population, mainly from former French colonies in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. What is seen in the center of Paris as tweaking the nose of authority — religious or political — is seen out in the banlieues as the arrogance of those in power who can mock what they like, including deeply held religious beliefs, perhaps the only part of personal identity that has not been crushed or assimilated into mainstream French society.
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  10. Desolanti i paradossi: gli xenofobi nostrani che adesso gridano alla libertà di satira sono gli stessi che contribuirono a cacciarmi dalla Rai; mentre chi parla di civiltà arretrate non si rende conto del fatto che, nel Villaggio Globale, sono gli integralisti a essere i più moderni: i media elettronici infatti rendono tutti più reazionari, e questo spiega tanto dei tempi attuali. Si pensi al dibattito sulle cellule staminali, un esempio perfetto di come il mondo si stia dividendo in religioso e non-religioso. C’è chi vorrebbe mettere da parte la ricerca scientifica e affidare il futuro al pensiero magico. Perché non la divinazione sulle interiora di pollo, allora?
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