lunatic twitter fascists

I have seen the absolute worst side of liberal activism, and its name is Twitter.

If the dark side of conservatism in extremis is xenophobia and radical selfishness, then the dark side of liberalism is crusading ethical imperialism and moral fascism.  No matter which side of the political spectrum you inhabit, you have the capacity to be completely unaware of your own assumptions about the world and completely insensitive to the fact that others may disagree.  On the liberal side, this manifests in the form of nonsense like the utterly-failed (thank goodness) “Twitter Boycott” last week.

First, let’s look at a straight-forward description of what it was about, as reported in the Huffington Post:

Users of the social media site are planning a Twitter boycott to protest the company’s new ability to censor tweets on a country-by-country basis.  Twitter announced Thursday that it can now block tweets, as well as individual accounts, from appearing to users in specific countries, and that it may use the feature to comply with governments’ request to censor information.

Let’s make this clear, in very simple terms:

  1. Not all countries have “freedom of speech”. There are many countries where certain types of speech are illegal
  2. Twitter would like to operate in those countries
  3. Therefore, Twitter is implementing a way that it can comply with the laws while operating in those countries.

What is the argument of the twitter protesters? It’s not disguised at all, and it should be absolutely abhorrent to any true liberal. Their message is this:

We think we should be able to impose our laws in your country. We demand the right to break whatever laws you have in your country that we disagree with. We think that our laws are better than yours, and we aren’t happy with just living by a different set of rules: we demand that you live by our rules, too. And any company that does not agree with those demands, we will protest against.

It is outright moral imperialism. It is disgusting.  And these people dare to call themselves “liberal.”

The way that they justify it is by waving the banner of “freedom.” Isn’t it terrible that these people in these other countries don’t have the freedom of speech? Aren’t they awfully oppressed? Isn’t it our moral duty to go in and save them???  These are the arguments I hear in defense of the protest movement.

But this is the raw fact that liberals in extremis do not want to face: not everyone agrees on the moral imperatives. Not every culture agrees on the moral imperatives.  You sit there, ensconced in your self-righteous view of the world, and assume that any country that doesn’t have “freedom of speech” must be suffering under terrible oppression.

But let’s imagine, for a moment, the scenario the other way around.

Imagine a rich and powerful country that values respect for history and religion above all else. They have a strong and powerful cultural tradition that has always believed that overall social good and social order are more important than individual selfish concerns. This ideology is deeply believed by most people in the culture.  Thus, this ideology is enshrined in their laws: it is illegal to speak out against religion, and it is illegal to broadcast calls-to-action that will upset the social order. These are seen as important moral values that help to preserve your society.

How would you feel if these people come along and say: “You know what? You reckless Americans are destroying yourself, allowing people to say any old thing any old time they want. We need to help you. We need to free you from the chaos of your misguided and immoral laws. So we will do everything that we can to censor you.  It doesn’t matter to us if this breaks your laws about freedom of speech, because we think your laws are wrong. We know what is really best for you.”

Think about that for a moment.  Let that sink in.  When you go and say, “I demand that Twitter breaks the laws in other countries because I think that our ideals about freedom of speech are more important than your laws,” you are doing exactly the same thing to them.  Go and read that previous paragraph again, and tell me how it makes you feel.

Activism is fine, but you’ve got to remember that medieval Christian crusaders thought of themselves as “activists” too. They thought that they were “helping” people, as well. With their own superior morality. You’ve got to get a grip on yourselves, when it comes to forcing your own morality on other people. You are losing sight of yourselves.


5 views shared on this article. Join in...

  1. Emerson Collins says:

    “Cultural tradition” is the principal most often used throughout history and the modern world used to deny equality, the advancement of rights and the protection of minorities. I don’t disagree completely with your caution about imposing other world views, but I also don’t think your reversal scenario is completely applicable. Going on a tangent, stick with me for a second. It is rather uncommon for an individual to easily comprehend a world that looks completely different from the world they are raised in without first being exposed to it. The revolutionary visionaries through history who began campaigns for a truly different world, upending the cultural and historical traditions of their society are few and far between, and the strife they caused was immeasurable. Imagining a world without slavery. Imagining a society where women could inherit property or vote. Imagining a world where gay people are not criminals. Imagining a world where religious minorities are protected no matter how distasteful their beliefs are to the majority. It would be easier for me to respect many other societies preference if they were choosing it based on an understanding of all of the possibly choices for their society rather than as a defense of the status quo and what they have known. For those beyond the imaginative few who can simply conceive of a different world, it is exposure to other worlds that causes them to agitate for freedom. Regardless of the society or tradition, in almost all of history when people groups are given the option of more freedom, that is the direction they choose. I don’t believe that pushing to allow freedom of information so that other people’s of the world can make informed decisions about their society is from a western moral superiority complex. It seems more that the west has been working through this for the past several hundred years while much of the east has not. With modern technology it is making it possible for other societies to consider the possibilities of individual freedom much more quickly and with the odd addition of the rest of the world looking on. If they become fully informed and then choose to continue in the model for society they currently have, that is a very different result, though it looks the same, than the current scenario in many places where something different is hard, if not impossible, for most to imagine. In all of that, I think Twitter is making the right decision in complying with local authority, it should not be Twitter itself that agitates for considering change, but it also should not be dismissed that it is Twitter and other social media that is making those within these cultures who do not agree with the status quo a voice to say something different. When the laws and intentions are designed to silence internal opposition to these societies that choose their rich history and tradition, it seems hard to see them as equal but different as your arguement suggests.

  2. virtualjustin says:

    Horrified to realize that when I wrote “ethnocentric” I should have written “cultural relativistic.” Somewhere a professor of international relations just experienced a heart attack.

    Anyway, it’s been ages since I had to bone up on this stuff but I’m almost positive that something like 98% of the world’s countries have signed and ratified the ICCPR. The only one that comes to mind is Burma but I could be mistaken and too lazy to even Google it.

    Countries impose limits for practical reasons (see Schenck v. United States) but in theory, all humans have the “right” to express themselves however they choose. I suppose it comes down to your interpretation of individual liberty and freedom. Should hegemony dictate what is acceptable? Should we not as individuals, capable of speaking up without fear of repression, act as advocates for those who cannot?

    • Greg Stevens says:

      This is where my own cultural relativism starts to make me feel uncomfortable, though. You say “should hegemony dictate what is acceptable” but you are also automatically assuming the worst of any culture that embraces censorship. You are so wrapped up in your Western model of thinking about “rights” that you assume that censorship can only be something that is imposed by a small government that is forcably doind it in defiance of the will of “the people.”

      All I’m saying is that, that is a very culturally biased assumption to make. There are cultures that have a long and established tradition that values certain things–be they religion or stability or whatever–more highly than personal freedom. Come to think of it, as recently as 200-300 years ago, there were prominent philosophers in Europe who argued VEHEMENTLY and intelligently and articulately against the notion of the “natural human right of freedom of speech.” (look up “Jeremy Bentham”). So if there is a culture where the people WANT their government to be based on religion, and they WANT their laws to be based on absolutely devout religious practices, then it makes sense of them to demand a government that also censors against blasphemy.

      In that case, there isn’t “oppression” going on by a small hegemony, there is a matter of cultural VALUES. Who the heck are we to tell them that their values are wrong?

  3. virtualjustin says:

    I understand your point of frustration with the limousine liberal, borderline ethnocentric notions of “freedom,” but I would also point out that the right to freedom of expression is recognized as a human right under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recognized in international human rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). These are documents that all countries have signed and ratified. Couldn’t fit that into a 140-character tweet. 😛

    • Greg Stevens says:

      Thanks for your comment!

      Is it true that ALL of the country with which Twitter has transactions have signed on to the ICCPR? If so, I didn’t realize that.

      Hypocrisy, of course, is bad. But the fact is, Germany has laws against holocaust denial. Many Islamic countries have laws against blaspheming against Allah. And you can’t just say that this is de facto a sign of oppressive governments: they have their own logic, their own values, and their own motivations for having these laws. It’s the ultimate of arrogance to come in and say that just because our laws in the US are different, we have a right to overturn THEIR values and laws.

      So how about those specific examples? Let’s take blasphemy against Allah. If their own culture and country says that they do not think that kind of speech should be allowed, under what moral logic do we have the right to tell them otherwise?