I have nothing but contempt for Lewis “Termite” Farrakhan. I have nothing but contempt for anti-Semitism and all antisemitic peddlers of hate, regardless of race, religion, nationality, or collegiate ranking. But I do not approve of Facebook banning him.
The only reason I’m singling out Lewis Farrakhan in connection with the Facebook ban is because I’ve never had the misfortune to stumble over any of the writing or speeches or ugliness of Alex Jones, Milo Yiannopoulos, Paul Nehlen, Paul Joseph Watson, Laura Loomer, or anyone else banned by Facebook, but I suspect I would have nothing but contempt for them too, albeit possibly for different and varied reasons. In fact, I’d never even heard of the last three until Facebook decided to ban them, and no, I have no interest in looking them up or reading anything they might have to say. There’s too much hatred and ugliness in the social-media world and it’s too easy to come across, so I’d rather spend my time in other pursuits. But I do not approve of Facebook banning them, either.
Actually, to sum it up and put it as concisely as possible, I believe the only thing that should be banned is banning.
Certain self-proclaimed deeper thinkers like Keith Olbermann, Michael Moore, Connecticut Governor Daniel Malloy, and other people whose “deeper” thought processes are measured in millimeters, not fathoms, have called the NRA a terrorist organization. The Irish in me admits to a certain swaggering pride in being labeled a terrorist, but I would be madder than an overly moisturized Gallus gallus domesticus if Facebook or any other company decided to “ban” me or my writing or possibly my long-ago work as an actor simply because they happen to believe in gun control and I do not.
Without beating the obvious freedom of speech drum too much or too hard, there is a reason why both the Federal government and the Supreme Court have historically been very cautious about banning any nonviolent form of expression. Who gets to decide what hate speech is? If some white-supremacist wingnut rails against blacks and uses the N-word, that is deeply offensive, but to ban that is the first step to banning Huckleberry Finn or the book I reviewed a few weeks ago under its American title of The Children of the Sea (http://readjamesonparker.com/archives/4493). If the Federal government and the Supreme Court are reluctant to ban the obviously offensive, how does anyone expect a progressively liberal private company to rush in where angels fear to tread? Hell, I’d be willing to bet most of the employees of Facebook haven’t ever even read Huckleberry Finn, let alone The Children of the Sea. Do you want them telling you what you may read?
Beyond all that, there are two other very good reasons for not banning the people mentioned above or anyone else other than the truly evil ones expressly advocating murder and violence.
“Know your enemy” is the first rule of warfare, and the more you know what he is thinking or planning, the more you can stymie him. Also, if you know him and what he thinks, you can engage him in dialogue and possibly change what passes for his mind, or at least open it to consideration.
And if that doesn’t work, you can always amuse yourself and diminish him with mockery. Think of the great Mel Brooks’ Springtime for Hitler.
Banning is controlling what people read or say, and controlling what people read or say is controlling what people think, and that is the antithesis of freedom. If we allow America, government or private industry, to devolve down to that stage, we’re no better than ISIS or any other fundamentalist tin-pot dictatorship.
I wonder what the North Koreans make of Animal Farm or Nineteen Eighty-Four?