• Freezing Peaches on Facebook

    A few weeks back, I argued against a narrow conception of free speech which is unduly restricted to government interference alone, with no regard given to the innumerable non-governmental entities which mediate, influence, and control our speech on a daily basis. Today, I bring you yet another example of a non-government actor shutting down speech: Facebook.

    You can read more details on Reddit:

    The basic upshot here is that someone has taken to abusing an automated system to in order to shut down someone else’s speech, even though that speech was well within the parameters of Facebook’s stated Terms of Service. This is not a government issue in any sense, but it is plainly unethical behavior nonetheless. If such lighthearted criticism of religion can be so easily removed from Facebook, every other unapologetically anti-theistic page is endangered, including our own.

    Here is the archive link to The Thinking Atheist page, which as of this writing remains offline.

    Category: EthicsPhilosophy

    Article by: Damion Reinhardt

    Former fundie finds freethought fairly fab.
    • Possibly relevant, certainly worth reading: https://twitter.com/EndingPop/status/721165817489068032

    • Frances Prevas

      It’s back now

    • Ann

      It can’t be helped.
      Any attempt to prevent things like this would end up being much worse than the current problem.

      Never forget that protesting speech, interrupting speech, shouting it down, drowning it out, refusing to listen or read it, tearing up paper or setting it on fire, demonstrating against the speaker or the speech — all these and much more are ALSO FREE SPEECH, just as wearing an American flag patch on the seat of your pants is free speech, or burning the flag..

      So far, it is no crime to stifle someone else’s speech. The Constitution prohibits the government from doing that, as it prohibits the government from doing other things. The entire Constitution is a statement of what the government must and must not do.

      But it makes no reference to the behavior of individuals. It does not contain any laws prohibiting or requiring any person to do or not do anything — there is no law in the Constitution against murder or any law requiring military service (to name two examples.)

      So in order to prevent (try to prevent) absurd outrages like this FB attack, we would need to pass federal laws against it.

      What would such a law say? What would it prohibit? How would it be expressed?
      How could we finesse a law that disallows shutting down one person’s speech but at the same time protects the free speech of the protester?

      We don’t need to bring this down on ourselves just to see what it would be like to have laws that describe what kind of speech and counter speech is allowed. We can look at other nations for examples:

      For example, there are more than a few places where counter speech against religion earns government retaliation.

      “Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said that [murdered atheist blogger] Samad’s writings “needed to be scrutinized to see whether he wrote anything objectionable about religion.”

      “[Bangladeshi Prime Minister] Hasina said it is not at all acceptable to write something hurting religious sentiments of others. “But, if anyone writes filthy words against our religion, why should we tolerate that?”

      “She said nowadays it has become a fashion to write something against religion as part of free thinking. “But, I consider such writings as not free thinking but filthy words. Why anyone would write such things? It’s not at all acceptable if anyone writes against our [prophet] or other religions. This is a characteristic fault, expression of distorted or filthy mindset. I hope no one would write such filthy things.“

      So is speaking against religion free speech, free counter speech, filthy speech, prohibited speech, or what? Does the one who protests religious speech have a right to do so? Should people be allowed to shout down the KKK or the Westboro Baptist Church (“God hates fags”)?

      You cannot shut down any speech, no matter how disagreeable or unfair.
      These things have a terrible way of turning on their sponsors.
      It is too dangerous to unleash prohibitions of speech or counterspeech.

      • I really do not think we should stop at a constitutional legal analysis, if we hope to maximize the free exchange of ideas in the world. What is legal is not necessarily moral.

      • Ann

        Hi, Damion ~

        I’m not sure what you mean by stopping “at a constitutional legal analysis.”


        But I would like to say this about “What is legal is not necessarily moral.”

        1) That is perfectly true, but as a rule of conduct for society, “behaving morally” has the following defects:

        > What constitutes “moral behavior” is no more than everyone’s (differing) personal opinions, so it ends up being “no rule of conduct at all.”

        > “Legal immorality” is unenforceable, so that even if various people themselves think that it is immoral for them to do (whatever), there is nothing that anyone can do about it.

        As a result of being both indefinable (indescribable) and unenforceable, the desire that everyone should behave “morally” is futile, just sort of evaporating into a wistful sigh.


        Regarding your desire to “maximize the free exchange of ideas in the world:”
        There is nothing more certain than this: The only way to maximize the free exchange of ideas in the world is to refrain from prohibiting them.
        Nothing could be more certain, more clear from history, and nothing has been demonstrated so often by governments that the most well-meaning efforts to suppress speech and symbolic speech is a disaster for the free exchange of ideas.

        This prinicple is so strong that “suppressing the suppression” of speech is not excepted from this rule.

        EVERY and ANY restriction on speech (or counterspeech, or disrupting speech,or “stifling the speech of others” speech) is restricting the free exchange of ideas in the world.

        It is frustrating when someone you agree with cannot get a platform, but it isn’t really possible to obstruct the dissemination of the ideas. One way or another — as long as free speech is unhindered by law — people will find ways to promulgate their ideas. A few clicks through the internet should convince you of that.

        I always feel proud (and safe!) when I read or hear speech whose content makes me shudder. It is the best demonstration that our country is still doing what the Founders hoped and trusted we would do.

      • Otto T. Goat

        You’re confused about “interrupting speech, shouting it down, drowning it out”, in most places disturbing lawful assemblies is illegal.

      • Ann

        The speaker is welcome to sic the riot police on demonstrators.
        If the demonstrators were protesting a KKK rally, that might make the police less popular with the general public than they already are.

        Of course, the disruptive ones might be shouting down not the KKK but rather Bernie Sanders. Some people might enjoy watching them being beaten and dragged away by the police. But Bernie might cringe.

        We have already seen police suppression of protest speech and disruptive demonstrations.

      • These claims don’t jibe with each other.

        Never forget that protesting speech, interrupting speech, shouting it down, drowning it out . . . are ALSO FREE SPEECH

        The speaker is welcome to sic the riot police on demonstrators.

        Either it’s an act of protected free speech, or else it’s okay for the cops to intervene. Surely not both.

      • Ann

        Yes, that’s correct.

        1) I wanted to respond directly to the point that the previous post made — that protesters are behaving illegally.

        2) I don’t know when they are behaving legally or when they are not.
        I don’t know the distinction between “disturbing the peace” and “Constitutionally-protected speech.”

        3) The police sometimes act against demonstrators who are behaving legally, but I presume that a judge merely dismisses these cases. (This actually happened to one of my friends.) The police perform a kind of “public order” function, without too much regard for the Constitutionality of the disorder, leaving it up to a judge to sort it out or determine the degree of culpability.
        In short, it is “one or the other” in principle, but not in practice.
        In practice, the police arrest people all the time who are in fact not guilty. That’s why there are trials and judges, not just arrests, as the last word in guilt.