A basic pillar of contemporary social justice campaigning is deplatforming, which entails collectively piling complaints, economic pressure, or threats of non-violent reprisal against a venue that is hosting a speaker whom an interest group opposes. It’s effective, because venues depend upon punters for their livelihood.
Each deplatforming cyborg is a network of concerned individuals brought together to engage in a power struggle against another cyborg - the venue (it’s staff, building, and technology) and an individual, who is being deplatformed. In this match up, the deplatforming cyborg network has the insurmountable advantage on the political battlefield. A brave university official might just stand up for free speech and resist the pressure being mounted; a commercial venue will almost always fold. Deplatforming is thus a powerful tool for silencing individuals we disagree with. Perhaps the question ought to be: should we be silencing those we disagree with?
I have called ‘cybervirtue’ those positive qualities we possess when we become part of a technological network. Alas, the deplatforming cyborg is not and cannot be cybervirtuous (which is not the same as claiming that this course of action is not permitted). The behaviour deplatforming encourages is ‘not listening’ i.e. censorship, and the only reason this even appears just to proponents of deplatforming is that the people being censored are those whose ideas are deemed so offensive that censoring them is judged the only acceptable course of action. The argument in favour of deplatforming is therefore the necessity of halting evil, not that doing it will make us good people. In other words, the ends justify the means - and we ought to be very careful about anything that relies upon this principle, since the goodness of ends cannot justify the immorality of means.
The term ‘fascist’ is bandied about far too liberally these days - pun intended - but few regimes today are as brutal and oppressive as Mussolini’s fascists. A key part of the fascist ideology, however, was the forcible suppression of opposing ideas. It should cause us at least some pause when we realise that deplatforming is in no way guaranteed to be used for causes we deem just, and indeed is tailor-made for the kind of fascism-light that is popular today in the nations that once stood for liberty. I have already witnessed from afar figures from all corners of the political spectrum being deplatformed by those on both the left and the right. If tolerance is a virtue we value, we cannot foster it by deplatforming. We must allow those we disagree with to speak, else how can we challenge those ideas we wish to overcome, such as the ideologies of the bigot in myriad forms, both liberal and conservative? I fear deplatforming has empowered bigotry far more than it has done good in the world, and even if you do not cherish freedom of speech as much as I do, I encourage you to reflect upon whether a world where no outrageous suggestions may be voiced is a good world.
A Hundred Cyborgs, #92