When Banning and De-Platforming Becomes Censorship

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Image courtesy of Bill Kerr via Flickr

I always get some blow back when I post anything political on this blog, and I’ve been actively trying to avoid it for the past several days (which is why I have twitter and Facebook). However, I was very impressed by an article published by “The Federalist” (yes, they’re conservative) I read today titled The Stigma Against My Conservative Politics Is Worse Than The Stigma Of Being Gay written by Chad Felix Greene. In my opinion, Greene successfully compared his being bullied when he came out as gay at age 16, and how he is sometimes harassed online now that he’s adult and his political views have become increasingly conservative.

You can click the link I provided above to read the whole article, but I want to focus on one thing he brought up. Greene quoted from a story published on “Vox” (which is heavily biased left and not considered all that accurate) called Milo Yiannopoulos’s collapse shows that no-platforming can work. Now before anyone gets upset, I have no use whatsoever for Yiannopoulous. When I first heard about him and the various panic attacks being experienced on college campuses where he had spoken or wanted to speak, I looked up some of his content, and the guy is way over the top.

news source biasHowever, as “Vox” reports, removing all of Yiannopoulous’s online support essentially sank his career, and therein lies the tale.

There’s quite a bit of buzz in certain conservative circles about content bias against conservatives on social network and crowdfunding platforms. Yes, they all have “Right of Use” policies, and if you legitimately violate said-policies, your account can either be temporarily suspended or permanently banned. However, are those policies always applied impartially?

At “Business Insider,” I found an article called A top Patreon creator deleted his account, accusing the crowdfunding membership platform of ‘political bias’ after it purged conservative accounts it said were associated with hate groups. Highly successful liberal, atheist author and podcaster Sam Harris deleted his very lucrative Patreon account (nearly 9000 paying patrons) because he said the platform unfairly discriminated against conservative creators. That earns him “hero of the month” in my book. Too few people are willing (including me sometimes) to look past their politics to see that if it’s unfair, it’s unfair no matter if you do it to a conservative or a liberal.

However, the problem is much worse than what we might see on the surface. I found the BI article on Facebook, and a responding comment said:

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Should We Burn Ray Bradbury’s Books?

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Book cover for Ray Bradbury’s novel “Fahrenheit 451.”

I just read an essay by Katie Naum at the Electric Lit website called The New ‘Fahrenheit 451’ Movie Fails to Reckon with Bradbury’s Racism.

First of all, I had no idea HBO had remade the film adaptation of Bradbury’s classic novel (I have seen the 1966 film version, and of course I’ve read the novel a number of times). Secondly, Ms. Naum and I seem to have read very different novels titled Fahrenheit 451 and authored by Ray Bradbury.

Here’s what I mean, quoting from Naum’s essay:

I still have that same copy of Fahrenheit 451 — a trade paperback edition printed circa 1993, whose creased cover and flammable pages are already yellowed and crumbling. I reread it prior to watching the new film version, starring Michael B. Jordan as protagonist Guy Montag, and Michael Shannon as his boss — and ultimately, the bad guy — Captain Beatty. The novel was largely as I remembered it, until I got to the end. At the back of the book, there are a few pages Bradbury wrote decades later, in 1979, where he gets into what he thinks the real threat to literature is. I’d forgotten that reading this coda as a child always left me feeling uncomfortable, in a way I couldn’t fully interpret yet.

He is angry at a “solemn young Vassar lady” who asked whether he might write more female characters. He is angry at other readers who disapprove of how he wrote “the blacks” in one of his stories. He is angry at “the Irish,” “the Chicano intellectuals,” at “every minority” that has some perspective on his stories at variance with his. In his own words, every last one of them “feels it has the will, the right, the duty to douse the kerosene, light the fuse…. Fire-Captain Beatty, in my novel Fahrenheit 451, described how the books were burned first by minorities, each ripping a page or a paragraph from this book, then that, until the day came when the books were empty and the minds shut and the libraries closed forever.”

Sorry for the lengthy quote, but I wanted to provide enough specific information to convey the issue at hand.

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The Last Warrior

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Sir Alec Guinness as Obi Wan Kenobi from Star Wars (1977)

He was the last of his kind and he was old. Once, there had been millions like him, roaming the nation and the wild lands, defending the faith, upholding righteousness, protecting the innocent.

But that was a long time ago.

His companions were not defeated by the sword or the lance, but by indifference and betrayal. Betrayed by the very populace they so cherished.

The leaders became corrupt and arrogant, they paid off the scribes to write untruths, the town criers cried lies, even the ballads sung in the taverns became twisted and perverted. Truth became falsehoods and outrageous slander became truth.

The nation’s heroes were branded cowards while cowards became heroes.

One by one, his comrades fell, lost, devalued, and finally crushed.

The last warrior endured. He fought back. He stood his ground, even when everyone turned against him, even when those who had once stood beside him became his enemies in the name of their new “justice” and “righteousness.”

The old warrior could not even take solace in the faith for it too had been perverted. Long held truths and principles of righteousness, justice, and peace were turned upside down by clergy who, being all too human, learned to believe the lies they were told by corrupt Kings and Queens who controlled the scribes and who silenced the warriors.

The sermons by preachers of the faith now differed little, if at all, from the propaganda of the scribes and town criers, for the ever-enduring word of the Creator was “progressively” interpreted to mean what it had never meant before.

One by one the other warriors fell, or just gave up to an intractable enemy, the nation, the populace, their friends and neighbors. One by one door upon door was closed to the last warrior. He had few friends left, and even those were embarrassed to be seen in his company, lest they be accused by association, of what the scribes and holy men now called heresy.

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