toxicity of ideas

I’m not sure what’s turned the tide for me, but I now believe there are limits to free speech. It turns out that some ideas are toxic, as in, people get sucked into them, are too stubborn/whatever to admit they were wrong, and become rabid believers of nonsense.

Witness the adherents to the flat earth society or those that stringently don’t believe we landed on the moon, never the Googler’s sexist manifesto. Anti-semitic screeds like “the Jews run the banks and this is why you’re poor!” frequently leak into open comment sections of your local news’ website, or YouTube comments.

They’re called echo chambers for a reason - semi-public forums become echo chambers because people won’t seek out forums where people stringently disagree with them, they’ll find supportive or semi-supportive forums, but in some cases those forums are stormfront or 4chan (where copying and pasting n-gger a million times passes for insightful). See also: HN’s poor response to the Googler’s firing. made an infographic about Twitter echo chanbers, courtesy of MIT’s media lab. Or any reports that certain groups of people have a single news channel exclusively as their news outlet (no matter what that channel is).

From before the time of social media, we see the same patterns in the past as we do today. Fun fact: Rosa Parks not the first person to stay seated at the front of the bus, but she had the unimpeachable character to deflect ad hominem attacks. It took a pre-organized movement just waiting for someone like Rosa Parks to refuse to move in order to catalyze change; homeless people, prostitutes, and drug addicts arrested for sitting at the front of the bus need not apply. We see this today, with Colin Kaepernick protesting “wrong” and that we would all support Occupy Wallstreet/Black Lives Matter/Antifa if only they weren’t protesting wrong.

When Twitter pretends to be powerless to do anything about death/rape threats to women journalists, the light of civilization is dimmed, ever so slightly. When entire classes of people disengage from mainstream discourse because they are being threatened by bodily harm, maybe it is possible that it is disingenuous to pre-conclude that anything possibly resembling censorship will result in a dystopian police state where African Americans are still denied the right to vote.