What happens to a civil society, discourse itself, when thoughts and ideas expressed are so easily categorized? More importantly, the people behind the same? I just read a good piece from Paul Joseph Watson, over at Human Events, that may be a good indicator of where society as a whole is headed, if we’re not already there. It’s an emotional piece, for sure, but then if I were labeled as dangerous or an extremist, I too might become a little (little?) emotional myself. But that’s where we seem to be, labeling thoughts, ideas, we dislike, possibly even those that would seem reprehensible to most people, and instead of standing and refuting those ideas, silence those that express them.
Jews as termites or abortion is murder, depending, may be considered extreme views. I know some are going to be shocked when I said may, but Louis Farrakhan, who said as much about Jews, had millions of followers on Facebook and other platforms. An extreme position? I think so, but should any of his views be excluded from the public square? Many people believe that yes, abortion is in fact, murder, at any time during a pregnancy. Many consider that an extreme viewpoint but it’s held by tens of millions of people. We’re often informed, by those much less informed, that this is a view held by those that have extreme religious views, mostly, Christian. Not everyone that holds this position though is necessarily religious, in fact, I know atheists that believe exactly that, and still there are some that think that this view is inappropriate in some way and should also be excluded from any reasonable debate.
It’s not always harmful to use labels when describing an idea; Someone espousing racist or anti-semitic themes may rightfully be exposed as such, but does that mean those ideas may not be expressed and debated or do we just ban all speech that may be considered harmful to anyone? Labels have their place, but suppressing ideas by labeling them in ways that suggest the idea itself, or the person expressing it, is somehow abhorrent to the social construct, leads further down the road where many people may not wish to travel. How far does that road go? It’s easy in our world today to label any ideas which we disagree, with a pejorative simply because, acknowledging it may mean it needs to be debated, or at least discussed, and that those opposed may have to defend their resistance to a proposition instead of determining that, whatever’s expressed is not worth the time or space.
By not allowing someone access to the public square, and yes, social media platforms are just that, as are auditoriums where a proposition may be openly and honestly debated, often will have the opposite effect from the desired: the idea, no matter how it’s labeled, may actually become more popular, simply because of its suppression, or the label attached to it. Another Twitter user, conservative commentator and writer David Horowitz was recently suspended without receiving any notification concerning any specific tweet that violated Twitter’s terms or standards. Later that evening, his account was restored, (Update: Trying to link the Twitter account showed no such account and upon further investigation appears to have been suspended again.) with Twitter offering it’s standard apology that it made a mistake, which as everyone knows is really a non-apology. I’ve read Horowitz in the past, and have even watched videos from speaking engagements. I don’t always agree with his ideas, and it’s not always the idea itself, but the way those ideas are occasionally expressed. I know many that view him as an extremist, but is he really, or just someone that is passionate about his beliefs? Why I mention this is because, before his suspension, he had just over sixty thousand followers. A few hours after his account was restored, his number of followers was approaching eighty thousand.
What an extreme viewpoint may be to one person, may not be to the next and labeling ideas, speech, as extreme or dangerous, or those that propose the same as such, does nothing to advance any conversation on anything that may be controversial. What constitutes a controversial idea? Too many times we are encouraged to believe something may be out of the mainstream (whatever that is) simply because those that are more knowledgeable on the subject tell us that certain ideas are unjustifiable. Some may be, but others may not be and because someone claims authoritative knowledge may only be exposing their bias.
It appears that most people make their determination concerning ideas or people based on what they’re told, simply because they are comfortable with the person telling them is someone they may be ideological attached to and therefore, any in disagreement would be labeled the same as the person or idea being labeled, possibly disenfranchised. I know there may be someone reading this that find what I’m writing unacceptable in one way or another. I do find some people and even ideas offensive (See what I just did there?), the difference is I am not opposed to those same people or ideas being presented publicly for everyone to see and discuss, and not assume a label is all I need to know about either to determine the legitimacy of either.