Editior’s Note: This commentary piece was written months ago by me during the aftermath and tragedy of the Wal-Mart El Paso Shooting and the Dayton Shooting. The purpose is to show the dangerous of censorship and how we should start a conversation with people of opposing ideas to hopeful change minds. I have tendency of writing about these issues and never publish them. It is very much a fire and forget type of situation. From now on I will make an effort to publish them here on the website to hopefully start the conversation.

The Dangers of Censorship

Banning guns is not the answer. Violence will persist and people who want to do these things will find a way. Censorship is not the answer to solve the conundrum of extreme acts of violence in our country. Restricting the individuals right from free speech will only add fuel to the flames. People will create alternatives to 8Chan that will create new echo chambers for these individuals and groups to persist. The restriction of this content doesn’t allow for open and honest discourse because they will only hear one opinion, which is their own. Censorship and banning of guns is not the answer.

As, the events of El Paso and Dayton have dominated the news cycle there have been calls for censorship of racist and radical speech on the internet. Website 8chan is in the spotlight because of content related to the El Paso shooter. It has been reported through major news outlets that Crusius (El Paso shooter) 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 he wants to, “shut down” the site. In the article he continues to say, “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 politicians, news pundits, and political commentators have called for websites like 8chan to be removed. Certain influential demographics within the news media and political sphere believe censorship of this hateful and vile speech is a necessity to save lives and stop these mass shootings.

They believe that removing access and availability to consume bigoted, racist, and hateful content will stop the radicalization of individuals ideologies. They believe by censoring the platform these ideas will not be able to fester and evolve. The censorship of content is a method to potentially reduce these acts of violence.

Censorship is not the answer to this type of violence. In this great nation our freedom of speech and press is protected by first amendment of the Bill of Rights within the U. S. Constitution.

Freedom of speech was one of the fundamental rights the founders of this nation wanted to protect. 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 too many other American politicians, judges, and writers discussing 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 have principled discussions about 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 nasty the speech maybe should not be censored in this nation. Censorship of free speech is an authoritarian concept that has been used by dictators and totalitarian governments throughout history. To control the political and social narrative of nations. To have the population shaped and controlled into what they 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 an example we can look no further than to North Korea and China. Their repressive governments block the people’s freedom of speech and limits their freedom of expression. These authoritarian governments strictly control social and political narratives within their respective countries. Any dissent or disagreement with the official narrative can lead to your harassment, detainment, and interrogation. All, because of your political beliefs, thoughts, and ideas are considered to be poisonous to the social cohesion of the nation. That their ideas and beliefs can change minds and subvert their control of the nation, which is not allowed.

The only thing censorship of websites like 8chan will bring is animosity and push people further into the fringes of these ideologies.

If we ban 8chan another website like 8chan will show up and produce similar content. You cannot stop people on the internet from finding another way to produce and digest the content they choose. The internet is too vast to try censor and mediate every website with content of this nature. What it turns into is a game of cat and mouse. 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 this content and ideas. Which could potential motivate someone to take extreme actions again.

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 changing people’s mind by 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 like 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 injustices enacted upon my people. Many of these protests and boycotts where met with resistance and violence because the black community wish 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 road 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. 

The answer to this violence is intricate and multi-tiered. There is no easy answer to this problem. There is no quick fix button to push. 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 failed cultural ideas and policies we believe would create a more cohesive and united America. Yet, 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.

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.

Thanks For Reading

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