LONG READ *Disclaimer - I'm not sure I should give one. People may have an issue with my thoughts here, but the internet is a place for discourse, so if you don't like them, comment and disagree. Debate should be what progresses conversations and thoughts.
I have been thinking a lot about non platforming recently and my views have changed. Do we have the right to be offended by someone's words? Absolutely. Do we have the right to vehemently disagree with someone's thoughts and how they express them? Of course.
But, do we have the right, and should we have the right to stop them speaking? No. I don't think we should. Free speech, provided that it is not inciting and encouraging violence, is something that, in the Western world at least, we are all afforded and should be celebrated.
As the internet has grown over the years, people's voices have grown louder. Whether you are left, right, centrist; man, woman or child; feminist, anti feminist, MRA or just your garden variety troll; we have all gained a platform to speak. Whether it be spouting a mini rant on Facebook, 140 characters of your thoughts on Twitter, a lengthy blog post or an hour longYoutube video; there has never been a time in history such as now where we can air our thoughts to the world to such a degree.
My question is, what right do we have to censor speech? From the point of view I have come to believe, no we don't. Inciting violence or encouraging violence against others always needs to be dealt with appropriately, but should we stop people from talking about things we don't agree with?
Censorship, non platforming, banning people from social media and places where people can talk openly about their views, only drives those views underground. The supporters grow in numbers, incensed by the censorship. Their words grow stronger, get more validation (from those who believe their words) and their voices are amplified, not muted.
There are many people that I disagree with in terms of their views. Germaine fucking Greer for one. How can someone who wrote The Female Eunuch become someone who decades later, decide that rape isn't that bad and women should basically put up and deal with it?
That is my point about non platforming. I should be able to hear her thoughts on this, if only to solidify my view that she has turned into a fucking monster.
There are many, many people in the world who have views and thoughts a thousand times worse than Germaine Greer. But my thoughts lately are that those voices need to be heard. Not because we agree with them or advocate what they say; but because we need to realise that these people exist, they have followers who believe unequivocally what they say and we NEED to be aware of it. Those views exist whether we agree with them or not and banning them, I believe, only escalates and elevates those views.
We cannot bubble wrap ourselves against words and thoughts that we do not disagree with. We need to hear them, sometimes in order to protect ourselves.
Non platforming for me needs to be dealt with on a case by case basis and viewed in terms of, is this inciting violence or do we just disagree with them.
For me for example, Alex Jones, crossed the line between free speech that we completely disagree with and find despicable (his views on Sandy Hook) and his recent speech telling his supporters to get their battle rifles ready against Antifa and the mainstream media.
I, of course, am completely against his views on Sandy Hook. But thoughts on a something, however unbelievable and abhorrent we think of them, versus an active "call to arms" is different. That is actively inciting violence. He deserved to be banned, in my opinion, for his call to arms. His views and conspiracy theories on Sandy Hook, don't cross the line on free speech; but what it does highlight and publicise what an utter asshole he is, as it does for those who believe in what he said.
What started my thinking about free speech and non platforming is something that someone said to me recently. At the moment, we live, in the Western world, in a fairly left thinking world. We non platform hate speech. But the far right, as we are seeing more and more, is picking up speed in a frightening fast pace.
Think about it. The wannabe neo Nazis. The people who support the man who killed Jo Cox or the guy who drove into a crowd of Muslims who were leaving a mosque with the defence of "revenge". Revenge for what? Do we blame every Catholic for the thousands of boys raped by priests? For the thousands of women imprisoned for decades in the Magadelene laundries? I digress.
The people who think like Katie Hopkins that refugees are cockroaches. The people who think that rights to a woman's body should be legislated by a man. Those who believe that white people are better than others. Those who think that The Handmaid's Tale isn't necessarily a bad thing. The incels who want to kill women who won't sleep with them. The list goes on and on and on and they all exist.
Now imagine, and it isn't hard to do given the current climes, that people like this got into power. Suddenly the people talking about left wing views, pro immigration, pro choice etc are the ones getting banned, non platformed and their voices shut down. Their justification? You did it to us. That is all that they would need.
For me, ultimately, on my last, very long point here, is that we need to hear all opinions, all thoughts (unless as I said before, they actively are inciting violence), in order to formulate our own thoughts, disagree with them, actively speak against them and sometimes, laugh at them for what they think because their thoughts are so far from our own that their views become laughable.
If we lose our right to free speech, we lose everything.