August 20, 2014

Censorship Is Perfectly Unnatural

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What is the issue?

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“When you tear out a man’s tongue, you are not proving him a liar, you’re only telling the world that you fear what he might say.” -Tyrion Lannister

If there’s one thing that I’ll never understand, it’s the desire to suppress speech instead of allowing it to be aired and judged for itself in the great American marketplace of ideas.  One recent case that should be familiar to Thought Catalog readers is that of Gavin McInnes, who is currently on an indefinite leave of absence after tolerance lynch mobs relentlessly attacked him for his Thought Catalog article “Transphobia Is Perfectly Natural“, which has now been hidden behind a warning due to its “abusive” content.  Now, I’m not defending Gavin’s article (I won’t comment on it one way or the other), but what, exactly, is accomplished by this censorship?

Censors typically censor speech because they fear what is being said – in this case, one can presume that the PC brigade fears that the article will turn its readers into “transphobes”.  But, if the article is truly as disgusting and hateful and outrageous as its critics have claimed, then wouldn’t it actually have the opposite effect on readers?  Wouldn’t it actually turn them against “transphobia”, thus making it in their best interests not to censor it, but to instead ensure that it’s seen by a large audience?

Another recent case that demonstrates this point quite well is the case of a Times of Israel blog posting titled “When Genocide is Permissible” by Yochanan Gordon, which was immediately pulled after it was posted and sparked a huge outrage, particularly on Twitter, where it briefly trended.  Palestinian activists are known to frequently accuse Israel of committing genocide, yet, when an Israeli writer comes out and flat-out advocates for genocide in Gaza, they’re eager to censor him and shut him up.  Why?  If anything, they should consider it a blessing – it’s hard to imagine anything helping their side more than an Israeli writer vindicating their point so well by writing a pro-genocide editorial.  With his column, Gordon effectively turned people against Israel far better than any black propaganda ever could.  If pro-Palestinian activists were using any sort of common sense and/or logic here, they would be loudly encouraging pro-Israeli activists to advocate genocide blatantly and frequently.

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I am well aware of the fact that the First Amendment only protects against government censorship and not against private censorship, but this does not change the fact that private censorship tends to be utterly senseless and counter-intuitive in and of itself (the Australian imbecile in the screenshot above ironically demonstrates the failure of censorship in the first section of his pro-censorship tirade).  If a writer whom I despised wrote an article foaming at the mouth about how all Jews should be exterminated, the last thing that I’d want to do would be to censor that writer.  To the contrary, in fact – I would spread the article far and wide and encourage the writer to put out more articles just like it (perhaps even more offensive ones).  Nothing else would do more damage to the writer – and to anti-Semitism in general – than to have their outrageous views heard by a large audience.  Alex Linder certainly hasn’t done any favors to the neo-Nazi movement with his frequent, explicit calls for violence and genocide, and there’s a reason why FBI informants like Hal Turner often use such over-the-top rhetoric when posing as white supremacists: it discredits the racist movement, makes racists look bad, and even drives away people who would otherwise be perfectly comfortable with open racism.

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People are not braindead, glassy-eyed automatons who mindlessly accept absolutely everything that they read or hear without even thinking about it.  People respond positively to well-thought-out, persuasive, and reasonable arguments – not to crude, obnoxious, and offensive vitriol.  Why encourage people that you hate to express views that you loathe in a civil and reasonable way rather than in a crass and despicable way?  On top of that, attempting to silence speech does not get rid of the viewpoint being expressed – if anything, it has the exact opposite effect, as both Gavin McInnes and Yochanan Gordon have gotten infinitely more exposure than they ever would have had if not for the outraged online mobs hounding them.  In addition, McInnes has now been transformed into something of a martyr figure, thus strengthening the “transphobic” views of those who may be drawn to sympathize with him.  If you want to defeat someone’s speech, defeat it with speech of your own.  Attempting to forcibly silence it only demonstrates to the public that you can’t defeat it and are thus trying to prevent people from hearing it lest they be convinced by it.  Censorship always helps the censored, and it’s about time for people to learn that.  Censorship is perfectly unnatural. TC mark

featured image – Flickr Commons – zharth
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