In a move only shocking to those who live under a rock, the world’s largest social media network banned white nationalism and white separatism on its platform Tuesday, as well as Instagram. After deliberating with a panel of “race relations experts,” the SPLC and university professors (the de facto moralists of our times), Facebook decided that white nationalism and white separatism are essentially the same as white supremacism, and that the views shared by their followers are hate-speech.
Facebook will now be directing users who attempt to post content believed to be associated with those ideologies to a nonprofit website that convinces people to leave alleged hate groups.
“We’ve had conversations with more than 20 members of civil society, academics, in some cases these were civil rights organizations, experts in race relations from around the world,” Brian Fishman, policy director of counterterrorism at Facebook, told Motherboard in a phone interview. “We decided that the overlap between white nationalism, [white] separatism, and white supremacy is so extensive we really can’t make a meaningful distinction between them. And that’s because the language and the rhetoric that is used and the ideology that it represents overlaps to a degree that it is not a meaningful distinction.”
The decision was formally reached at Facebook’s Content Standards Forum on Tuesday, a meeting comprised of representatives from Facebook departments in charge of content moderation policies. Fishman told Motherboard that Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg had been involved in creating the new policy, though roughly three dozen Facebook employees worked on it.
Keegan Hankes, a research analyst for the SPLC’s Intelligence Project, isn’t satisfied with Facebook’s latest censorship policy. Hankes stated “One thing that continually surprises me about Facebook, is this unwillingness to recognize that even if content is not explicitly racist and violent outright, it [needs] to think about how their audience is receiving that message.” What Hankes is trying to say without actually saying it is, any speech the SPLC deems inappropriate, whether it is “explicitly racist” or not, should be censored.
The term “hate-speech” is, like the term “white supremacist,” a modern linguistic abstract, and is an integral part of the new political crusade “against hate.”
The term first appeared in the United States back in the late 1930s, in a newspaper article covering a speech by Adolf Hitler. It became current in the 1980s as an umbrella term to refer to speech or written material which is deemed to be inciting hatred or intolerance, with special preference always granted to a specific ethnicity or to a religious belief or to a sexual preference. As to its definition and use, what is important is the fact that the speech being labelled hateful is assumed or believed by someone to incite hatred or intolerance, and that this assumption or belief by some is projected onto or imposed on others.
Whomever holds the greatest social leverage and the loudest outrage mob becomes the person whose personal perspective, with all its inherent biases, is granted the title “expert opinion.” Expert opinion. That’s a term I’ve always found entertaining. There is nothing expert about an opinion, no matter the source. It is simply an assumption dressed as wisdom.
As with the more to the point term “racism,” implicit in the abstraction “hate-speech” is a moral judgment, a political belief, held by special interest (pressure) groups or by politicians that “hate-speech” isn’t just offensive, it’s very existence has to be destroyed and forgotten. That there is or there should be a dialectical conflict between those who are deemed guilty of hate-speech or intolerance and those who crusade “against hate,” with the State and corporations taking upon themselves the moral duty to manufacture laws and policies which punish not only those deemed guilty of this outlawed speech, but also those who are believed to have, or are judged to have, intended such hate-speech.
The result is conflict, ideological, political, and practical; the projection of the denotata “hate-speech” onto words spoken and written; demands for punishment of those deemed to be the offenders; and dehumanizing propaganda in the media and elsewhere about those alleged offenders.
As with every crusade before it, the problem with “defeating hate-speech” is the crusaders assume they are the righteous ones and represent the moral high ground, just as every victor has assumed while standing above a vanquished foe. Human language is complex. It’s nuanced, and relies heavily on context for its true meaning to be understood. The notion of policing speech and, more fundamentally, of banning ideas, is as arrogant as it is absurd. If you disagree with an idea, no matter how mundane or morally repugnant, you can only defeat that idea with better ideas. The answer to hate-speech isn’t censorship, it’s more speech.