The most recent hot topic du jour around the Internet seems to be, once again, censorship, and the application thereof. Thanks in no small part to the whinging of Vox’s Carlos Maza, a thin-skinned social activist masquerading as a journalist, YouTube has in recent days issued a cascade of demonitizations, channel strikes, suspensions, and channel deletions. The original move by YouTube/Google was to simply demonitize the videos of Steven Crowder, a loudmouthed, conservatively-minded comedian who had made something of a persistent target of Maza on his program, “Louder With Crowder”.
Maza presented himself to YouTube as the victim of overbearing bullying and ‘hateful speech’, both charges of which much focus has been made in the last few years. Citing instances of name-calling in Crowder’s videos, he lobbied YouTube to delete the offending videos. Thankfully, YouTube/Google informed Maza that no, they would not be removing the videos, in parts because A) Crowder and company did not violate any specific Terms of Service for uploading content, and B) as a journalist and public figure, Maza must be aware that he can and will be fairly targeted for any and all reasons. The sitting President of the United States is daily called an idiot, a shmuck, and a huckster, and a liar, all perfectly allowable critiques since he is a public figure.
That’s part of the agreement when you take on the mantle of a public figure, regardless of your profession or field- you are subject to scrutiny, critique, and, yes, even baseless insults. This has been the common understanding since the Roman Empire.
You think nobody penned a sharp and witty wax tablet calling Socrates a fey wimp? Think again.
The main issue around all of this is the floating definition of ‘Hate Speech’, itself a slippery concept that has been as ill-defined as it has been wielded like an uncontrolled flamethrower. For my part, I think a whole lot of harm could be mitigated by coming to a consensus on what constitutes ‘hate’ by itself.
Hate is an emotion. Everybody possesses a degree of hate, for a variety of things, and for a plethora of reasons. Don’t believe me? Just ask a random sampling of 8-year-olds how they feel about bath time.
“It’s not the same thing,” I hear you shriek, but tut-tut you whilst waggling my finger. It is precisely the same thing, and it evolves as we get older and develope ever greater layers of intellectual and emotional complexity. That is why and how we grow out of most of our simple, base hatreds.
You cannot ban an emotion, cannot regulate it through laws or terms of service. You can certainly ask people to try to keep a leash on it, but to ask people to deny its existence is to ask the impossible.
YouTube is certainly under no obligation to allow conduct or commentary that calls for violence or the removal of a person from society. But keep in mind that deplatforming someone, debanking them, and/or attempting to get them terminated from their employment is no less brutal or harmful than punching them in the face; it is a less direct and longer-acting form of assault. To some observers, it could be construed as even more vicious. The person struck in the face will heal and be able to go back to their lives. The person who is un-personed, though? They can get no help, and if forgiveness is never genuinely offered, they are doomed.
Which is the more hateful action: calling someone names, or removing their ability to speak and earn a living?
In the long run, I would like to submit the following as a candidate for a definition of ‘Hate Speech’-
Any statement, spoken or written, which directly calls for violence against an individual or members of a particular group, based on gender, sex, race, ethnicity, creed, sexual orientation, or socio-political stance. Additionally, any statement, or obvious to a reasonable person implication, spoken or written, which calls for or threatens the deplatforming, debanking, or termination of employment of any person or persons for making statements contrary to the perspectives or opinions of the speaker.
This may seem somewhat broadly worded, but it has the benefit of making sure that if someone is targeted by a mob mentality, they have some form of recourse against the person or persons trying to destroy them on a level beyond the physical. Abuse is more than attacking a person physically; it includes mental and emotional battering.
The mob should not be immune to charges of abuse just because they all happen to mostly agree and have the advantage of being in control of most digital spaces.