The arguments in favor of outlawing “hate speech” are made with the passion and earnestness of a religious zealot, all in the name of protecting the marginalized and vulnerable from the “violence” of harsh words. That it’s impossible (not difficult, but impossible) to define “hate speech” is one obvious problem. That it violates the precepts of free speech is another, more easily wiped away by the high priestesses of wokeness who decide for the rest of us what speech has “value” and what does not.
But a third problem with this well-intended notion was raised via Cathy Young on the twitters. Cathy, for reasons I can’t fathom, has a thing for otters. It doesn’t involve eating them. She finds them adorable. Well, to each his own, right? And one person who regularly proffered otter-cuteness was “Otter Jesus.” Until Otter Jesus was suspended from twitter.
The account wasn’t just suspended, but banned.* This being twitter, there is no one to talk to, no one to explain to or argue with or challenge. Twitter says banned, and you’re banned. You can beg for restoration, but it’s entirely up to the twitter gods to decide whether to show mercy. Beyond that there’s nothing to do.
So what’s the big deal? Put aside whether you think being banned from the twitters matters, as your feelz on the subject aren’t relevant. Otter Jesus wanted very much to return to the twitter community. But there was one particular aspect of the person behind Otter Jesus that distinguished him, even if it wasn’t apparent from his twits.
Otter Jesus is autistic. What exactly that means isn’t easy to say, as autism is less a thing than a spectrum of behavioral deficits that vary from person to person. But the point here is that people with austism struggle with processing and comprehending the vagaries that others just gloss over.
Clear rules are easier to understand and follow. If the rule is don’t cross the yellow line, they know that crossing the yellow line will get them in trouble. If the rule is don’t engage in hate speech, they haven’t a clue. While others will find it facile to define the rule based on their own personal sensibilities, without grasping that their sense of what constitutes hate speech isn’t universal or objective, but merely some fuzzy feeling that popped into their narcissistic head, which they then take as a mandate to chastise, if not attack, others for violating a rule that exists only in their personal delusion.
It’s bad enough that the unduly passionate wipe away the definitional vagaries of what constitutes “hate speech,” even if they could overcome the free speech aspect of their adoration of censorship. But aren’t people with autism at least as vulnerable and marginalized as, say, a feminist writing for a significant soapbox with a few hundred thousand twitter followers? Or a country like, say, Britain?
Granted, the woke seem to be filled with empathy for themselves and occasionally others who are favored at any given moment, but because the trade-off requires that the elevation of the rights of one identity group comes at the expense of another, there will invariably be some other marginalized group who suffers for their rules.
But that’s not the end of the problem. For social media platforms, which are private and thus not subject to the First Amendment and allowed by law to be as arbitrary and capricious as they want to be, suspending and banning “hate speech” offenders is accomplished through “zero tolerance” algorithms. After all, it’s impossible for Jack Dorsey to look at every twit and determine whether it meets his definition of offensiveness. And algos are like people with autism, rule-based, except they are brutally cruel and absolute.
In Otter Jesus’ case, the word “exterminated” apparently ticked off the algo big time. Sure, there are uses and contexts for the word that are inoffensive, or at least should be since exterminating cockroaches, for example, tends to offend only cockroaches and their close friends.
Are the Inquisitors of hate speech prepared to sacrifice the Otter Jesuses, the people with austism, for the sake of their crusade against speech that might hurt their feelings? That’s the question Otter Jesus asks of Jack. So far, there has been no answer, no mercy, no acknowledgement that maybe this scheme doesn’t work.
But the broader message is that it will work just as poorly, just as harshly, in the broader world. It puts the lie to the cries that the eradication of “hate speech” is necessary to make the world a happier, less harmful place. It will, but only for those dictating whose speech lacks sufficient value and enforcing their feelings on others. The rest of us will be subject to their caprice and punishment.
Otter Jesus never meant to hurt anyone, but then, that’s no criteria for banning him from the twitters. More importantly, these vague and incomprehensible rules may be sufficiently clear to the woke (until they make an unintentional misstep themselves and find the mob has turned on them), but they do nothing to inform Otter Jesus of the “error” of his ways.
So burn the austistic? This puts the lie to the excuse that they’re protecting the vulnerable and marginalized. They’re protecting themselves, and tough nuggies for Otter Jesus. So what would Otter Jesus do? Suffer the wrath of the algo and the terminally offended, lest any hate word survive. He’s given no other option.
*The offending twit was intended as a joke, as so many offensive things are. It was taken as humor by those who followed Otter Jesus, but the algo disagreed. Algos have no sense of humor.