Snap Shot|Opinion

As, the events of El Paso and Dayton dominated the news cycle there has been calls for censorship of racist and radical speech on the internet. Website 8chan is in the spotlight because of content posted related to the El Paso shooter. It has been reported through major news outlets that Crusius’s left his 2,365 word manifesto on a 8chan post before his deadly rampage. 

Yesterday afternoon, the New York Times released and article in which the creator of 8chan Fredrick Brennan states to, “Shut down the site. It’s not doing the world any good. It’s a complete negative to everybody except the users that are there. And you know what? It’s a negative to them, too. They just don’t realize it.” 

With this news cycle politicians, political pundits, and political commentators are calling for websites like 8chan to be removed. Certain influential demographics with in American news and political landscape believe censorship of this speech is a necessity to save likes and stop these mass shootings. 

They believe that removing access and availability to bigoted, racist, and hateful content will stop the radicalization of individuals with these ideologies. They believe by censoring the platform that allow these ideas to fester and evolve is the method to potentially reduce these acts of violence.

Censorship is not the answer to this violence. In this great nation of ours freedom of speech and press is protected by first ten amendments of the Bill of Rights that is apart of the U. S. Constitution. 

Freedom of speech was one of the fundamental rights the founders of this nation wanted to protect. Our founding fathers believed that freedom of speech and press was a way to hold elected officials accountable without fear of reprisal from the government, to be a voice against tyranny, and empower the people. There is a excellent quote by Benjamin Franklin that highlights the importance of freedom of speech. 

He states, “Without freedom of thought there can be no such thing as wisdom; and no such thing as public liberty, without freedom of speech. 

I can point to many other American politicians, judges, and writers who discuss the importance of freedom of speech and press.

Supreme Court Justice William Douglass states, “ Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is one un-American act that could most easily defeat us.”

These quotes from Benjamin Franklin and Supreme Court Justice Douglass highlight why we need to protect free speech in this country. We must be deliberate and principled when we  discuss the escalating violence in this country. Censorship of free speech is not the solution to this dynamic and complex problem of violence. 

Censorship of free speech no matter how dark, disgusting, and abhorrent it maybe it should not be censored in this nation. Censorship of free speech is an authoritarian tool that has been used by dictators and totalitarian governments throughout history. Censorship is used to control the political and social narrative of a nation. The power of censorship is used to manipulate the population shape and controlled what they should believe a society and a nation should be. To keep there reign of power indefinite and the submission of their people permanent. Censorship is the authoritarians tool to repress  its people’s thoughts, creativity and freedom while maintaining absolute power.  

If we need example we can look no further than North Korea and China’s repressive governments when it comes to free speech. These governments strictly control social and political narratives within their countries. Any dissent or disagreement with the official narrative can lead to your harassment, detainment, and interrogation by the government. All, because of your political beliefs, thoughts, and ideas that are considered to be poisonous to the social cohesion of the nation. That your ideas and beliefs can change minds and subvert their control of the nation which is not allowed. 

Only thing censorship of websites like 8chan will bring is animosity and push people further into the fringes of these ideologies. By censoring this bigoted, racist, and hateful content it only  pushes these demographic further into the darkness of those ideas.

If we ban 8chan and other websites like 8chan will show up and produce similar content. You cannot stop people on the internet from finding another way to produce and digest this content. The internet is too vast to try and censor and mediate every website with content of this nature. What it turns into is a game of cat and mouse where the mouse will always be steps ahead. 

What is created  by this forced censorship is an echo chamber for these ideas to persist. Allowing for users to create, consume, and disseminate information of the same ideologies without a difference of opinion to drive discord. Allowing for people to have a safe haven to their content and ideas. Which could potential motivate someone to take extreme actions.

We do not need to push this demographic further into the dark corners of the internet. We need to bring these controversial and divisive content to the forefront and challenges these ideas. 

We need an open and public online platform for public discourse in this nation. We cannot ban or censor an idea we don’t agree with. It is our responsibility to engage with those dissenting ideas. By engaging with those ideas and working to change people’s mind is through challenging their ideas in a form of public discourse. Pushing them into the shadows of internet does nothing but, potentially breed more potential violence and deepens the divide in this country. A public discourse is needed in this nation not further divisions. 

In this nation we have faced situations that where just as contentious as the times are now. During the civil rights movement. Black men and women along with whites fought the oppression, inequality, and injustice of segregation and Jim Crow laws. 

Civil Rights leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr and Rose Parks protested non-violently to the injustices of this nation. The Montgomery Bus Boycotts, the sit-ins at white only restaurant, and the peaceful protests to the oppression enacted upon the black community. Many of these protests and boycotts where met with resistance and violence because the black community wished to change the status quo of American society. In the face of that violence they engaged with southern whites who didn’t want change. The civil rights activists and leaders engage in a public discourse to change people’s minds on what is right and just. It was a long, hard, and sometimes violent but, changed occurred.

As, a nation we must meet these ideas head on and challenge them. If we stand upon political lines nothing will change and the status quo will persist in this nation. We must not and cannot force these ideas further into the shadows of the internet. We must create a national discourse and confront this ideas head on. It might be long, hard, and violent struggle. It is a discourse the American people need to have and our freedom of speech and ideas are the foundation of that discourse.

Censorship  in an authoritarian tool used by dictators and totalitarian governments. Banning and censoring content of this nature will not solve the complex problem of violence in this nation, it will potential add to it.

The answer to this violence is intricate and multi-tiered. There is no easy answer to this problem. No, quick fix. The answer is as intricate and complex as the problem we are trying to answer. As, a nation we always want an easy answer to a complex problem. Complex societal issues scares us as Americans because we have to go beyond the superficial solution. We will have to take responsibility for our failed cultural ideas and policies we believed would create a more cohesive and united America. We have to accept and take ownership of those potential failures so we can work together to create a solution to these extreme acts of violence against the American public. Only then can meaningful discussions happen allowing change to occur.

We should not be censoring any voice at this moment in our country. We need to be engaging in the national discourse and challenging these ideas held by certain individuals. Now, is a time to speak with a voice of passion,peace, and truth and confront the divisive rhetoric that is circulating in our news cycle. By confronting those controversial ideas we can work to change Americans minds and work together as nation to solve the problems that face us today and in the future. 

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