In light of the recent controversy surrounding Milo Yiannopoulos’ review of the new Ghostbusters movie, and the storm that has ensued between Milo, Leslie Jones, and a number of Milo’s racist knuckle-dragging followers, who tweeted gorilla pictures and other rancid and racist tweets at Leslie, the issue of “free speech” on social media has become a hot-button issue. I put free speech in quotation marks because it is but it really isn’t a free speech issue, technically speaking. I mean, the #FreeMilo hashtag, unlike the #FreeRaifBadawi hashtag, isn’t circulating like wildfire because Milo has been imprisoned for expressing his opinions. Perhaps social media censorship is a better way to frame this issue. Many have pointed to apparent double standards employed by Twitter and Facebook when it comes to who the moderators of these social media forums target for account termination and suspension. Generally speaking, it seems as if those who are expressing views deemed by my fellow liberal brothers and sisters to be unsavory, controversial, and even blasphemous are more frequently suspended from social media. Now, I could raise the 125,000 ISIS (fascist) accounts shut down by Twitter and other similar examples, but these accounts too, for obvious reasons, infringe upon the sentiments held dear by my hypersensitive comrades on the left.
Ex-Muslim accounts appear to be a vigorously targeted demographic on social media. This strikes me as being an absurd irony. If the reasoning behind the left’s censoring of conservative and controversial opinions is the result of a desire to protect minorities, why would they target some of the most egregiously disenfranchised minorities on the planet? It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever! If you are going to care about victims of oppression and violence, why not care about victims of oppression and violence? Why is it deemed appropriate for liberals to directly and indirectly persecute minorities from and in the Muslim world? Do certain brown and black lives not matter? Do they only matter when they are being oppressed by white people? Why not care about all minority groups equally, regardless of religion and nationality? As a liberal myself who outwardly supports Black Lives Matter and who speaks about White Privilege (Yes, it exists), I feel it is my duty to criticize barbaric and fascist Islamic theocracies because they openly oppress minorities and members of socially vulnerable demographics (women, LGBTQ, religious minorities, etc…) – just as I feel it is my obligation to speak out against racism and bigotry in the west. It would be inconsistent, apathetic and completely hypocritical of me to advocate minority rights in the west and yet assist in the oppression of minorities from all other parts of the world, simply because of a misconceived notion that criticizing the religion of Islam makes one a bigoted “Islamophobe”. I think this bigotry from the left, and it is bigotry to disregard and assist in the infringement of the human rights of minorities simply because they are not ‘your’ minorities, comes from a place of well-meaning yet self-contradicting and self-defeating identity-politics. Anyway, I just wanted to slip those semi-related issues into this post to raise a little awareness for some of my disenfranchised brothers and sisters in and from the Muslim world. Now, back to the central point concerning Twitter’s banning of Milo.
I personally believe Milo should not have been banned. I do understand the issue wasn’t so much what he said, but what he did. He was permanently suspended for harassing Leslie and “inciting” his followers to troll her. Having examined the (Milo’s) offending tweets, there appears to be no evidence that Milo directly incited any of his followers to troll Leslie. Yes, he said childish and idiotic things to Leslie, and there is the fact that he would have more than likely known that his followers would troll her (perhaps not in the extremely horrible and inexcusable manner in which some did) but his comments to her were neither defamatory nor overly offensive. Another factor to take into account is the size of the respective accounts, as this determines balance of ‘troll power’ and ‘troll defense’ for both parties. Their accounts were fairly evenly matched. Leslie has about 288,000 followers and Milo had about 338,000. So in this social media forum both parties were relatively even in size. Another factor to be taken into consideration is who the respective parties had in their corners. Amy Schumer and other celebrities with large followings showed their support for Leslie, which was lovely, but the point here is that Leslie was not just some unknown and relatively unconnected person. I should add, it pains me that I have come down on this side of the issue, because I do love Leslie’s comedy and think that she was horrendously and unforgivably attacked by a moronic army of ignorant and hateful racists – but I also believe that we are beginning to see the emergence of a frighteningly Orwellian form of liberalism that gags rather than intellectually engages.
In late June, celebrity rapper Talib Kweli and I had a disagreement that began over the issue of criticizing Islam. What followed, if we are to use Twitter’s reasoning for banning Milo, was nothing short of gross and defamatory harassment on Talib’s part. This was also a little saddening as I have listened to Talib’s music for years now and agree with him on numerous social issues. However, as you’ll see below, I was trolled by Talib, who has over a million followers. He erroneously smeared me as both a Nazi supporter and a white supremacist. As an aside, maliciously labeling someone a white supremacist in this present social climate is not merely irresponsible, it is dangerous – although I do concede that it seems to be far more dangerous to be a black person in America with a driver’s licence, or wallet in your hand. Talib is notorious for smearing both whites and blacks on Twitter with derogatory epithets, and his reasoning capabilities and critical thinking skills have been shown on this forum to be akin to that of a severely brain damaged child with chronic ADHD. Anyway, my point being, Talib’s unfounded and ill-contrived attacks against me were far more inflammatory than Milo’s inane attacks on Leslie. However, as someone who has established a career criticizing society’s most cherished institution (religion), I am accustomed to receiving hate mail and angry messages, so I’m not phased by Talib’s teenage-like angst, nor do I wish to have Talib’s account permanently suspended. I think it is important to give everyone a forum in which to express their views, even morons and people with whom we may disagree. Let bigots and idiots speak, that way we can ensure freedom of expression for everyone and have a good laugh at the same time. It’s really a win win situation to give all non-violent people a voice.
Here are just a few of Talib’s offending tweets:
I won’t bore you with the plethora of tweets I have tweeted about the important distinction between criticizing a set of beliefs and being a bigoted anti-Muslim misanthrope.
I’ve published 6 books to date. Approximately 85% focus on criticizing Christianity, but….
The biggest problem I have with the kind of misguided ‘social justicing’ that Talib has engaged in with me and others over social media is that he and morons like him misuse labels like ‘racist’ and ‘white supremacist’ so frequently and inaccurately that it transforms these words into meaningless memes – when the inherent virtue, quality and power of these words needs to be zealously guarded so that we may accurately employ them to guard against social diseases like racism and white supremacy, which do exist and are in desperate need of eradicating.
Finally, I do wonder if I were to report Talib for harassment, would his libelous and defamatory conduct be sanctioned in the same manner in which Milo’s conduct was? I don’t possess the malice to find out, but I’m sure many of you have opinions on the issue.
Thanks for reading.