The Alt-Right View of ‘Free Speech’ isn’t Even Simplistic

The slow coalescence of various species of online misogyny and trolling into the modern crypto-fascist ‘Alt-Right’ has been entangled with a more general appeal for ‘free speech’ in odd circumstances. These kinds of appeals were often directed at internet comments sections and forums as arguments against community guidelines or in defence of those arguing for active discrimination or even violence against various groups. As appeals went, their purpose was primarily aimed at trying to fool liberals and conservatives into not taking action against people who were actively trying to disrupt online communities, harass vulnerable people or shout down opposing views – indeed actions that themselves were inimical to free speech.

It is why I call this view of ‘not even simplistic’ – it had no real coherent argument behind it or any sustainable principles that could be rationally applied to online communities or even IRrationally applied to online communities. For those who watched the Sad Puppy kerfuffle from 2015 or prior, you may have noted that initially many Sad Puppy websites would even pride themselves on their ‘free speech’ credentials and proudly declare how they never ban comments except in dire circumstances. By 2016 such policies were pretty much dead and gone – once Sad Puppy websites found they had people commenting who had contrary arguments, their tolerance for dissenting views rapidly diminished.

Of course just because ‘freeze peach’ was not, in general, a genuine appeal to the principles of others does not mean that many in the wider cloud of those adjacent to the Alt Right didn’t attempt to implement some kind of internet corporate-space notion of ‘free speech’ no matter how incoherent the notion was. And this is where our story starts in truth with Gab.

For those of you who don’t know, Gab is a kind of alternate Twitter, established for the express purpose of providing an alternative service for those (such as Milo Yianopoulos) banned by Twitter for breach of community guidelines. Pretty much immediately Gab discovered that ‘free speech’ is an almost empty phrase and enacted guidelines that necessarily restrict what people can say:

“Gab’s mission is to put people and free speech first. We believe that the only valid form of censorship is an individual’s own choice to opt-out. Gab empowers users to filter and remove unwanted followers, words, phrases, and topics they do not want to see in their feeds. However, we do take steps to protect ourselves and our users from illegal activity, spam, and abuse.”

So, yes, Gab has rules (just like everybody else) that allows them to remove comments and ban users because of what they say. ‘Free speech’ here really means that they will tolerate *some* kinds of abusive comments or behaviour regardless of whether that impacts on how freely others feel they can speak.

It is an approach that can best be described as a bad idea. Communities of people naturally set up rules of behaviour and interaction – sometimes informal ones and sometimes formal ones. Gab is trying to keep those rules to a minimum and inevitable that means tears before bedtime because sooner or later…

Well, because sooner or later, letting people say what they like means that the big old mean bullies find themselves on the receiving end of nasty, defamatory, harassing comments that appear to be an attempt to silence them. In this case, our old ‘friend’ Vox Day is rightfully (if hypocritically) upset because of a trolling campaign against him by different factions of the alt-right calling him a ‘pedophile’.

Well, I doubt any of the readers of this blog feel much sympathy for Vox being hoist on his own petard but the enemy of your enemy is not actually your friend when it comes to inter-factional in-fighting. Still, that doesn’t mean we can’t all enjoy moments like this when Vox Day himself ends up saying:

“As a Gab supporter, I certainly don’t wish to harm Gab in any way; this sort of situation is precisely why I previously advised Andrew to adopt a ban-on-sight policy towards known trolls and troublemakers.”

I can’t think of any more clear an unambiguous endorsement of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America’s decision to expel Vox Day from their membership. Ban-on-sight known trolls and troublemakers – I’m a bit (but not a lot) more tolerant of trolls than that but then that’s because I actually care about people’s freedom to be able to express their views.


30 responses to “The Alt-Right View of ‘Free Speech’ isn’t Even Simplistic”

  1. I almost feel a strange stab of sympathy for Beale these days, as he seems to be increasingly aware on some level that he’s allied himself with truly reprehensible people for whom the sort of misogynistic, white supremacist claptrap he likes to play with isn’t just a sad sort of game, who don’t just want to have their followers email threats to people who cross them, but want to have their enemies fire-bombed, and who when they praise racist mass killers aren’t just doing it mostly to offend people.

    And then I read that egregious abuse of the word “Neo-Platonic” and it all passes.

    (To make it clear–if you ain’t talking about Plotinus and his philosophical disciples, it ain’t Neo-Platonism.)

    Liked by 1 person

      • He’s kind of got the worst of both, when you get down to it. Aristotle’s misogyny and ability to use pure logic to render a nonsensical argument so dense that you need to smash it with a hammer, coupled with Plato’s endless fondness for truly terrible ideas and conviction that the world is going to hell.

        Liked by 2 people

    • Don’t feel too bad, he’s mad because he thinks they’re being dumb by being too overt instead of doing what he does and dog whistling while using terms that he believes allow him to cleverly turn the situation around on those who make complaints with ‘but I never exactly said that, so you noticing it really makes you the racist/sexist/whatever, Aristotle!’. Can’t muster up much sympathy for someone whose mostly appears upset that at the bad publicity by people being too obvious in their hate speech.

      The multiple levels of schadenfreude going on there are amusing though.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, I know–as I said, it’s a stab of sympathy, not a deep well, and it doesn’t really take hold. Still, I’m getting more and more convinced that Beale doesn’t actually, really want to see people hurt and killed, he just is capable of convincing himself he does when he plays the Shitlord Supreme. As things start getting serious, and it gets harder to abstract the victims, he starts getting queasy, which he then explains away with his horrible attempts at jargon, because to do anything else would be to admit he was wrong about something, which he will never really do. None of which makes him in the least way admirable–at best, it makes him pathetic.


  2. Didn’t he leave Twitter because he’s a paranoid wreck of a man and was convinced they were censoring him? It seems like he’s fallen into that trap of believing only his speech is protected.

    Liked by 3 people

    • He left, but he didn’t quite–after stopping posting on Twitter for awhile, he started again, because Gab is pretty much a tiny niche imitation. Gab was still getting the lion’s share of new posts for a time after that, though it wouldn’t surprise me to discover that he’s shifted back to Twitter now.

      Liked by 1 person

    • The comments at VP seem to fall into a few categories:
      “Absolute free speech 4evar, sorry Vox” (at least they’ve got principles)
      “VD is our Dark Lord and is always right” (at least they’re consistent)
      “It’s all the leftists fault!” (wut?)
      “VD is a gamma snowflake lol” (pass the popcorn)

      Liked by 1 person

      • To be fair he’s including things like the Daily Stormer as “leftist” lately. With a definition that broad it almost certainly is always the leftists’ fault.

        This whole free speech/gab tantrum has gotten my reading VP again after months od abstinence, so uhh thanks for that Camestros. (And pass the popcorn)

        Liked by 1 person

      • All comments matter

        Or to put it antother way: Its only free speech, if I agree with it. The rest is “PC gone mad” or whatever.
        In Germany we have the saying: “Die größten Kritiker der Elche waren früher selber welche” (“Elch” used to be the German word for an Usenet troll and the saying means: The biggest critics of the trolls used to be ones themselves): Its all fun and games as long as you do the trolling, but if someoine trolls you, someone better put rules into place!

        Liked by 3 people

      • “To be fair he’s including things like the Daily Stormer as “leftist” lately. With a definition that broad it almost certainly is always the leftists’ fault.”

        Remember, they’re National SOCIALISTS! *dramatic music sting*

        But yes, watching the inevitable schisms is amusing. I think people are looking at the wrong nation and era when they draw historical analogies–this isn’t Weimar Germany, no matter how much people on both sides of the divide might like it to be, it’s the French Third Republic.


    • Look what I found in the trash filter! Here you go Phantom, you might get some blog hits.
      Anyway, we were actually talking about GAB and censorship more than Twitter and what happens when somebody tries to do social media that doesn’t take steps against harassment. Guess what? People get harassed and then pissed off. In this cas Vox gets actually defamed this time and his wife gets nasty harassment – and nope, not by evil SJWs or what not but by trolls that make up the alt-right.


      • I can’t believe he’s still yelling into the spam filter. I’m sure that’s a metaphor for something…


            • Absolutely! I’ve said to him elsewhere that the quickest way to get comments out of the filters is to be INTERESTING or at least entertaining. I’ve no interest in boring people to death.


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