Who Gets To Decide What “Acceptable Political Views” are?
The Stop Funding Hate group’s campaigns against right wing newspapers over their horrible rhetoric is raising some uncomfortable questions.
Take a look at the video below. It’s from the Stop Funding Hate Facebook page where the uncomfortable questions are being asked.
If you’re not quite getting it (right-on lefties have a filter that screens out common sense) here’s the tweet that turned that trickle of concern I felt into a flood:
What is an acceptable political view?
I’m basically conservative and cherish traditional institutions and values and I believe in the power of community. It is on the community that the nation either stands or falls. We the people make it work — or not. The power of the community, of people working together to effect change must never be underestimated. It can work for good or for evil depending on where that energy is directed — and how. Which, in the light of Stop Funding Hate’s success in getting Lego to pull their ads from the Daily Mail, raises the question of whether or not it is ethical to use collective action to suppress the freedom of speech.
But hate speech is bad!
Yes it is. Remember how the left went crazy over the Queen’s Nazi salute when she was a small child? They had completely forgotten how she did her share in the war against Hitler driving vehicles for the army. Today I saw a tweet from a lefty complaining that they’re never in harm’s way during wars but he’d forgotten that Buckingham Palace was bombed and suffered a great deal of damage during World War II. He also forgot that the Royals have a history of serving in the armed forces. If “hate speech” means “speech that casts the targets in a negative light with a view to turning others against them” then the Left is as guilty as hell of fomenting the same kind of demonising, generalising, rabble-rousing hatred and loathing for the targets of their choice as the media outlets they are trying to defund. This is not a “tu quoque” logical fallacy, it’s a fact. And now it’s a problem.
Could the right wing press be muted or silenced?
There’s a part of me that likes the idea of bullying the Daily Mail et al into telling the truth for a change instead of making stuff up. That’s because I was taught not to tell lies as a child so I still have the idea that liars should be punished. However, that’s a simplistic view to take in this day and age and I acknowledge that.
Is it right to shut up liars?
Tim O’Reilly is calling for Facebook to put some kind of truth filter into the system to weed out the untruthful news stories the political partisans are passing around. Oh, Tim! Remember how they went nuts last time they believed their news was being censored? In an age where truth is in the eye of the beholder (don’t get me started!) any attempt to “inform” right-wingers against their wills will result in a backlash.
What about defunding them?
Aye, there’s the rub. You see, more than 50% of national newspapers are owned by two billionaires. Think about that. They get to firehose their news and views while we trickle ours. They shout while we are barely audible. Yes, this is a demand-side problem but it’s also an information problem; the people can’t choose otherwise if they don’t know what’s happening. Enter Stop Funding Hate, whose innocently noble plan is to discourage hate speech in the press by convincing advertisers to stop buying ad space in right wing newspapers. It’s working; Specsavers won’t be working with the Daily Express any more and Gary Lineker is asking Walkers to stop placing ads in The Sun (fair enough, The Sun tried to get him sacked from Match of the Day). I love the irony: suppressing speech for trying to suppress speech.
What about the internet?
Even on the internet the algorithms that push content to users according to their general preferences tend to reinforce the toxic echo chamber mentality that builds up around identity and hot button issue politics. The problem is more with people than with the outlets but it is a vicious circle that can only be broken by exerting the force of will; admit to your personal biases and insist on fact-checking your news. Few of us can be bothered to do that, though. So back we go to how to balance the books where freedom to speak is concerned.
What can we do to ensure freedom for all?
I can see now what a chilling effect these campaigns will have on UK journalism but be careful what you wish for: the Right can also organise, people.
How free should speech be?
People keep forgetting that a firehose of hate or the fear of being targeted and harassed as a result of just existing can and does suppress the speech of targeted people. Counter-speech is often trotted out as a solution but unless that speech is equally popular, good luck with that. In our divided society, personal freedom is imperative if we’re going to build the bridges we need to heal the wounds cause by Brexit and the Trump win. We’ve got to let people speak even if we disagree with them, lest they shut us up when we want to say something. It’s not like we’re obliged to listen, or anything.
So what do we do about the hate peddlers?
To be honest, encouraging like-minded people to shop elsewhere if they agree that they’re not happy with the company’s advertising policy is one thing but to aggressively work to defund newspapers in order to force them to change their editorial policy seems wrong to me. I don’t like the thought of having my news “fact-checked” and fed to me by the Left, the Liberals, the Right, or whoever. I certainly don’t want it to be dictated by pressure groups, and that’s what is happening here. You can argue that it’s counter-speech and that defunding the papers brings cuts them down to size but I do find the element of coercion troubling. What do you think?