I’ve been avoiding writing opinion pieces, commentaries, and putting down on virtual paper my observations of the world around me. It taxes me, and as Jayne would say, damages my calm. Yesterday something happened that spurred me to expend some energy toward both thinking about things, and writing about them; damaging my calm, if you will.
I was censored. I expressed an opinion on a FaceBook page, and the comment was removed. I should not feel too privileged or offended; I was not the only one.
One of the administrators of the page, an earnest woman whom I now hold in very low regard, wrote the following.
“This page was not set up as a debate or discussion board. That being said, if people genuinely question our mission, they should have and could have taken the time to educate themselves before coming here and starting arguments. They should read the Petitions and why this is important. They should Google about holocaust denial, free speech, survivors, etc. They should know the difference between what a private company, such as face book, can do, and government action. In other words they should do homework and take the time to educate themselves before coming onto this page and confronting me or anyone else. The manner in which they presented themselves was distasteful and disruptive.“
The page she is referring to is soliciting signatures to ban other pages set up by Holocaust Deniers. For those who do not know about Holocaust Deniers, don’t feel bad. Holocaust Deniers are ignorant, bigoted, and woefully uninformed people who maintain the Holocaust never happened. Some are fiercely anti-semitic, holding the Jews responsible for everything that is going wrong in the world, but especially their pathetic and meaningless lives.
Before I go on, I should quote the petition:
“Why we need your signature: Holocaust denial is one of the most insidious forms of hate speech. It targets a religious group in that it is based on the claim that either the Holocaust never happened, or that it was exaggerated by Jews in order to advance their own political and economic interests. Evidence of the Holocaust is well documented. Most people who join a Holocaust Denial or Holohoax group are not there to have an honest debate regarding its occurrence, or to study history. That is a pretext. Rather, they are there to distort the truth, to push an agenda of anti-Semitism, and to find like-minded people.
Facebook is a private company with terms of service to which all of its members agreed. Facebook has set its own standards regarding allowable forms of speech on its site and has banned many types of speech that may otherwise be allowed under the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Facebook does not allow pictures of nudity or graphic violence, comments that harass, annoy, or target an individual, or hate speech. The latter includes comments that target an ethnic, racial or religious group.
Therefore, by its own standards, and in keeping with the majority of international opinion where in many countries Holocaust Denial is a crime, Facebook can and should ban Holocaust Denial pages and groups as a form of hate speech.“
There is a similar petition at Change.org, another organization that is slowly making its way to the lower rungs of my ladder of respect.
So, what was my distasteful and disruptive manner in which I conducted myself? I questioned whether getting them banned is the best way to handle Holocaust Deniers. I also questioned a directive by said woman calling for the removal of all comments not in agreement.
I could show you the comment I wrote, show you it was civil, not antagonistic, and rather mild compared to what I am writing now. I could show it to you had it not been almost immediately removed.
Let me be absolutely clear about this. I have seen the documentaries, the captured footage, pictures of corpses, malnourished humans who resembled walking skeletons. I’ve read personal accounts from both sides of Hitler’s war on the Jews. I have no doubts about the Holocaust having happened. I have cried watching an early 1980’s documentary I forced myself to record and watch (and still have), and it is forever burned in my memory as one of the most egregious examples of man’s inhumanity toward other men.
Anyone who would deny the history of the Holocaust is considered in my book as no more than a waste of flesh. That might sound too strong a statement, but, as the misguided woman states in her justification for behaving like an idiot, the evidence is overwhelming and readily available. Deniers have either switched off what little brain they posses, or are willfully ignoring the evidence to promote personal agendas.
But that is exactly my point. You are not going to convert the hard-core deniers. The fight, the battle we must wage, is for the minds and hearts of those who are exposed to those messages, and are engaged in a struggle, sometime a feeble struggle, to reason their way onto one side of the argument or the other.
Those are the person who need to be shown the Deniers for what they are, who need to hear a point-by-point counter-argument, who are to be courted toward the side of reason.
To that end, banning those pages will do nothing but remove the discourse from the public square, and drive the deniers to less traveled venues, where fewer – if any- dissenting voices are going to be heard. You want to fight anti-semetism?
First you have to engage it. Debate it, marginalize it, expose it for what it is. Of course, that’s just my opinion, but I know I cannot fight a foe I cannot see. I want to know of the threat, who they are, their strength in numbers, and how close they are.
I want to know so I can respond appropriately. I cannot hope to change minds, affect attitudes, and challenge lies if they are swept underground. Closed communities are never a good thing.
The great strides made in the 60’s and 70’s toward changing a population’s attitude with regards to the race issue were made in part because arguments were aired in an open forum, and those who held bigoted and prejudiced opinions were ultimately shown to inhabit the lowest rungs of human honor and decency. They were allowed to make their case, on the radio, on TV, and in newspapers . . . they were allowed to expose their grotesque and distasteful masks to the extent that decent people, regular people, did not want to wear any part of said masks.
The same battle is being waged right now with respect to gay rights, and the result will be the same . . . at some future time people will recognize bigoted and hateful views, exposed for all to see, for what they are . . . hideous and distasteful, and not worthy of the ideals we strive to. Progress may be slow, but it is progress nonetheless.
But there is a bigger issue at stake. That of censorship. I don’t care what the subject is, I prefer to let someone have their say. If it’s objectionable I will raise my voice to it, and expect others to also do so.
In that regards, the Facebook page for the petition is to me a much bigger threat than that posed by the Holocaust Deniers. Idiots extolling their bigotry are easily countered, can be marginalized and ridiculed. But well-intentioned zealots calling for censoring content are a much bigger and more dangerous threat.
Sure, they have a right to their opinion, but so do the deniers. And Facebook does have the right to ban people for behavior they deem counter to their terms of service. The thing is, who gets to decide what is hate speech? What is the gauge they use in making the determination? A poll? The loudest person? The one who is most offended?
I ask because I have a long list of pages I want shut down. Consider religious pages, both christian and islamic (the two religions with the most vitriolic and rabid “defenders” on the Internet).
I can pick one at random, and can read threats made against me and other non-believers. Threats of suffering and torture for eternity. They are delusional, calling to imaginary beings, but they no less believe in what they wish for to be in store for me. To them the utterance of eternal damnation is as real as if they were to pick up a shovel and beat me to death with it.
And make no mistake; they do wish it so; maybe not all, but enough. All I have to do is ask questions, and the threats come forth with practiced quotations from their books of fables.
I have friends and family who believe I am to burn for eternity, flames continuously searing my flesh. They have no problem with that, and they have no problem praying, adoring, and overtly worshiping the entity that would condemn me so.
How is that not hate speech? How is that not violating Facebook’s terms of service?
Not the same, you say?
Hear this; buy into the idea of censorship, and it will eventually be used to censor you. Worse yet, it will eventually be used to censor something you really should hear.
That is an aspect of censorship that is best explained in a great video by Christopher Hitchens (click HERE to watch the 9min. video). Paraphrasing, you need to hear those deniers, because it forces you to explore the subject. It forces your understanding on why you believe one thing or another, and that is very important.
Moreover, Hitchens makes another point; not only do the deniers have the right to present their arguments, but you also have a right to hear those arguments, and should object to anyone wanting to limit that right.
It’s a very subtle point; a point too subtle for the the misguided people running that Facebook page. The point is that censorship interferes with both the rights of the speaker and the rights of the listener. They are not just trampling on the rights of the Holocaust Deniers; they are trampling my rights as well.
I do not trust those who advocate censorship . . . they are ultimately the ones who will abuse that power, and in the process cause harm to both you and the community you live in. If you don’t believe that, read some history . . . before they censor it.
Note: to those who may click on “like”, or rate the post; if you do not personally hear from me, know that I am sincerely appreciative, and I thank you for noticing what I do.
. . . my FP ward . . . chieken shit.