I’m thinking this morning about a friend who just got banned from Twitter for telling the operator of an ethnic-cleansing apologist account to go pleasure himself with a pineapple.
He’s one of a string of people recently who’ve encountered someone calling or the default-death-or-forced-relocation of whole populations of Amercians, going unchallenged, and told those people where to stick it… and found themselves punished by their platforms for saying mean words to a politely genocidal stranger.
It’s got me thinking about how, in the default moralities of online public spaces, Disturbing The Peace and Harassment are higher crimes than incitement to crimes-against-humanity. It’s a funny mechanism that emerges, wherever politeness is the only public morality, and where that politeness is defined by a majority group to whom said crimes-against-humanity are distasteful, but ultimately no threat to.
Platforms as simple moderators of manners, not gatekeepers of ideology SOUNDS TEMPTING. SOUNDS FAIR. SOUNDS EGALITARIAN AND BROADMINDED.
It’s not. And rallying support for / organizing EthnicCleansing is one of those areas where failing to oppose it tooth-and-claw constitutes a willingness to look the other way when it happens. If your platform then also moves to censure people who do what the platform won’t (make those organizers feel socially unwelcome) the platform is now actively protecting that endeavor, all while thinking all they’re doing is standing up for for decorum.
Decorum works funny, in climates where “politely go about your business” requires smiling and making nice with monsters who will kill people when they get enough support.
It’s the morality of groups who have nothing but their consciences at stake in discussions of ethnic cleansing.
There’s an incentive on the part of platform companies toward adoption of an Anti-Aggressor Bias, as the consensus morality. It’s a lowest-common-denominator every one can agree on thing. Nobody likes to be yelled at, but all the users of your platform want to be able to say whatever they want and feel validated for doing so.
And so massive evil Slow Steady Ideological threats to people’s lives and the wellbeing of whole population groups are relegated to the realm of acceptable political discourse…
Directly telling someone off or using “fighting words” and tangible belligerence, is an easier thing to police without feeling like you’re taking any kind of alienating or ideological stance as a platform.
“WE don’t involve ourselves in policing anyone’s beliefs, so long as they’re polite about them with the other participants on the platform” is a seductive ideology that FEELS like you’re balancing the moral with the practical while actually fostering soil for pro-majority insurgencies to thrive.
And we need to start having these conversations, before things get much further along.