Threat vs narrative | HBR Talk 58
Two incidents within a few days of each other have the public vigorously debating the value and validity of one of America’s most basic civil rights, a central pillar upholding the citizen’s human right to liberty; freedom of speech, and in particular, the right to express disparaging opinions, especially those that are widely offensive because they are politically incorrect. The first incident was blatantly stupid, and it’s not the topic of this particular discussion. The second, also caused by stupidity, is shocking, horrifying, and tragic. 

Yeah, I called it stupidity. The jewish conspiracy theory is a mess of bad logic and bigotry. It is a dehumanizing, apex-fallacy-based threat narrative that is virtually identical to feminism’s patriarchy theory and its proponents defend it with the same degree of emotional outrage when it is questioned. That said, the jewish identity of the shooter’s targets is not the reason that any of the victims, either the dead or the grieving, deserve compassion and respect for their ordeal. They deserve those considerations because they are human beings subjected to a tragic nightmare in a place that was sacred to them, dedicated to love and fellowship. Our hearts go out to the victims, their loved ones, and their community because of the horrific nature of what has been done to them. 

The horrifying nature of any mass murder is not because of who was targeted or why, but because of the senseless, deadly violence itself... and every time this happens it terrorizes the victims, their community, and their nation. The motive, while relevant to establish intent, is morally irrelevant. It should go without saying… but every motive for murder is wrong! 

It’s also horrifying because it reminds us that within our population, the most monstrous people can go mostly unnoticed… can be, as this shooter’s neighbors described him, entirely forgettable… until they go off and commit an atrocity. Then it often becomes obvious in hindsight that “monster within” didn’t go unnoticed because there were no red flags, but because of our human tendency to turn away from disturbing behavior, to insulate ourselves from it, and pretend it is not there. If you want relevance for the motive, it’s that it demonstrates that we as a society need to change that. Disturbing behavior can be predictive, and sweeping it under the rug doesn’t make it go away. And while the perpetrator is not criminally insane and therefore can be held fully responsible for his actions, he is nuts for having decided to do what he did. While he managed to terrorize a community, he re-ignited a nation’s passionate opposition to his own brand of bigotry. Not that it was ever going to become a popular idea, but he just increased the degree to which the views he espoused are reviled by rest of the population. 

That combination of dysfunctional avoidance and present outrage has made the general public vulnerable to a very sneaky, underhanded political attack. He couldn’t have created a more effective shield for that attack if he’d had doing so as his goal.

Censorship proponents who have been targeting platforms with demands that they silence politically incorrect speech in general, especially dissent against identity politics, have seized on the Pittsburgh Synagogue massacre, exploiting the public’s still-raw horror and sympathy as a weapon. They immediately took to the internet to use their free speech rights to demand that platforms open to the public take action against everyone else’s free speech rights in the name of protecting the public from having to witness antisemitism. 

Why? Because the social network Gab, upon learning that the shooter had been a user of their forum, did the opposite of other social networks. They preserved the evidence and handed it right over to the FBI. The transparency of a platform that does not censor, even to cover the asses of its administrators, made it possible to trace at least part of the perpetrator’s communication history and prove his mentality and his intent. In other words, because he was not censored, we have a trail of evidence that will make him easier to prosecute and which leaves no doubt in the minds of the public regarding his motive. 

That trail of evidence is also highly effective fodder for appeals to emotion, because most Americans are outraged and ashamed that such a hateful, stupid motive for violence could exist here. In the height of the public’s shock and grief over this terrible crime, it’s easier to slip fearmongering past people’s knowledge that bigotry and other hatred, irrational conspiracy theories, mass murder and genocide all long predate the internet, that for as long as there have been online forums, there have been uncensored ones, and that expressions of bigotry exist because of the speaker’s underlying bigoted attitude, not the other way around. With those things not in mind, it’s easy to get way too many people to accept the very same logic used by authoritarian dictators to silence political dissenters - the treatment of speech itself as a threat. Censorship proponents essentially claim that the absence of censorship on Gab is more responsible for the shooter’s lucidly premeditated actions than the shooter himself is. 

That makes it easy to then slip another tactic past the radar: Reversing the burden of justification when promoting limitations on a citizen’s autonomous exercise of a civil right. Remember from our past discussions, we pointed out:

Human rights considerations define the nature and boundaries of individual human autonomy within society. The most basic iteration of this is in the adage, “Your rights end where my nose begins.”

Civil rights considerations define the boundaries between citizen autonomy and authority, and the government’s combined responsibility and authority. They are the limitations which protect citizens from oppression at the hands of government entities which would abuse authority, often under the guise of said responsibility, using it as a means by which to imply justification for infringement on the citizen’s rightful autonomy. 

I want to restate that last bit for emphasis, let’s make it a little more personal.

Your civil rights are the limitations which protect you from oppression at the hands of government entities which would abuse authority, often under the guise of responsibility, using it as a means by which to imply justification for infringement on your rightful autonomy. 

Why is that so important to this discussion?

Because your right to free political speech… your right to openly criticize not just your government, but individual and group narratives that inform law and policy in ways that affect your lives - THAT political speech - is being falsely pitted against the security of an identity group. 

Sound familiar?

It should.

The same political factions that stoke the fires of resentment for past misdeeds or conditions to justify tokenism, economic co-dependency, and attacks on due process rights in the name of all women are stoking the fear of even appearing to be antisemitic to justify attacks on freedom of speech, and on the reputations of anyone who gets in their way.

I have been personally, publicly threatened with this… not bluntly, but in that same underhanded way, with the assertion that if I defend freedom of speech in the face of the attack on Gab, the men’s rights movement itself will be labeled antisemitic. The implication: Get out of the angry mob’s way and do nothing to stop the wrong it is about to do, or it’ll take you out, too. 

Logic has no influence with this mob.

When pressed for evidence that silencing public expressions of bigotry prevents violence, censorship proponents turn to shaming tactics that should be pretty familiar to the men’s human rights movement… charges of cowardice, irascibility, fanaticism, and endangerment are lobbed in place of any real evidence or logic… in fact, sometimes flying right in the face of logic itself. 

How dare you question the link between political censorship and safety! You must be one of those misogynistic, antisemitic white supremacist alt-right joospiratards too! If you don’t agree with my suggestion that privately owned forums should have to censor speech to my specifications, you agree with every terrible thing the shooter and other antisemites have ever said! You’re just bitter over the challenge to your own ability to say politically incorrect things! You’re clearly just covering your own ass. 

And last but not least, as I was told on Sunday night: You’re afraid of losing your own freedom of speech. 

Well on that last note, you’re goddamn right I am. My detractor clearly had no idea how much, or why, I value my freedom of speech. It’s hard to understand that value when you’re not educated enough to realize there’s a common thread to how censorship has been used to protect other human rights violations throughout history, and how relational aggression exactly like today’s censorship proponents are using factors into those abuses.

The activism of the men’s human rights movement is necessary because exceptions to men’s basic civil rights have been carved out where feminists have said women’s interests are concerned. There have been compromises made to due process rights. The right to equal treatment under the law has been butchered. Bodily autonomy? Ask any man who has been ordered by a judge to earn more money so he can meet a child support obligation based on imputed income… even when it means he has to change to a more dangerous job, work more hours or move away from his child’s residence. And where women are concerned, men’s speech is so heavily policed that a man can get fired from his job because a woman overheard him talking to another man outside the workplace and didn’t like her own interpretation of their conversation. Women as an identity group have been deemed so special and preferred that demands made in women’s name outweigh men’s constitutionally protected civil rights, their autonomy... even their children’s rights to their family relationships. 

The only chance we have at righting that wrong is our right, as a political movement, to criticize these infringements and discuss reform. That right hinges on the condition that women as an identity group are not so privileged that the interests of those who claim to speak for us outweigh the citizen’s right to free political speech.

If we make ANY group that special and preferred, for any reason, that will be the beginning of the end of all civil rights. A group’s preferential status will become reason enough why no citizen can oppose any government action that can be associated with that group. It wouldn’t matter how the group was defined… only how protected that group was, and how a particular government action could be deemed “for their benefit.” It wouldn’t matter how much of an infringement on other citizens’ civil rights that action might create, either… only that it could be justified in the interests of the protected group. In fact, challenging the merits of infringing any other group’s rights for the benefit of the protected group would be a condemned act, treated as evidence of prejudice or other wrongthink, and likely punished.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s been done before. It’s exactly the kind of tactic used by authoritarian dictators to silence their critics, discourage civil unrest, and keep their grip on their power as they abuse their citizens. That includes the perpetrators of the atrocities that are referenced as part of the claim that opposition to antisemitism should be justification enough to convince you to give up your right to a platform that doesn’t censor antifeminist speech.

Remember what I told you about anyone who pitches their political ideology on the claim that it’s their burden to decide what is or is not good for the public because “people can’t take care of themselves?” That person is not your friend. That person is trying to establish enough control to keep you from questioning their justification for violating your human rights.

That knowledge applies here, too. A person’s horrifying, reprehensible, deadly violence, does not change what constitutes a human right, what constitutes a civil right, or how important it is for neither one to be compromised. No ideology actually justifies mass murder… but outrage over mass murder does not justify mass-censorship, either. It doesn’t justify the creation of a thought-police force, whether governmental, or vigilante mob. Claiming it’s “for public protection” doesn’t change that. It just shows you what mask totalitarianism has chosen to wear this time around.

Song at beginning:


Hush, little citizen, listen to me
Everything brings out the NPCs

If things you say are disapproved
Thought police gonna come for you

So keep your head down, don’t speak out
Don’t make a single snowflake start to pout

Cause if that snowflake should complain
It’s back to the gulag for you again

Hush little citizen don’t say a word
Never know when you could be overheard