I’m going to go straight to the best arguments for #FreeMilo. Yes, Twitter isn’t just one bakery that can choose who it serves without much consequence. There are real-world ramifications to who Twitter chooses to ban. Also, it would be deleterious to open dialog should Twitter be banning trolls from only one side of the ideological divide.
However, it’s pretty clear that Milo will be fine, maybe better, without Twitter. He has millions of channels through which he can call up the hordes to descend upon women for being black, being women, and daring to have some professional success.
None other than Brendan O’Neill:
No one who believes in racial equality and basic human decency could fail to be moved by her pained tweet following two days of relentless racial slurs: ‘I feel like I’m in personal hell. I didn’t do anything to deserve this. It’s just too much. It shouldn’t be like this. So hurt right now.’ For any black person to be subjected to racist abuse is horrific; for it to happen to a woman whose only ‘crime’ was to land a breakthrough role in a female-oriented summer blockbuster is particularly despicable. Ms Jones hits the big time and is instantly bombarded with racist smears — awful.
Here’s the thing. These people DON’T believe in racial equality and basic human decency. They don’t believe in free speech either.
Witness your free-speech king Milo deleting comments on his Facebook page from a man who just wanted to remind Milo what he himself had said about internet censorship in 2012.
And then you’ve got people saying “If you put yourself out there online, you’re going to get hate. Deal with it or remove yourself from the Internet. ?#?freemilo?”
First, when did it become libertarian to oppose freedom of association? If the alt right (and their “libertarian” supporters) were principled freedom of association defenders they’d support the Twitter Milo ban. But they ONLY support freedom of association when it’s racist or homophobic.
Second, as Jeremy McLellan pointed out:
I don’t know if there’s a name for this, but there’s a very strange and toxic thing people do when they use advice to victims as a way to diminish crimes. For example, “if women want to stay safe, they shouldn’t get blackout drunk at parties where they don’t know anyone or walk alone at night without carrying a weapon.” I’ve heard women give other women that exact advice. However, saying that exact same thing to defend a rapist changes it completely. There’s a bunch of things like this. “If you don’t want to get shot, don’t resist a cop,” “if you post your jokes online, they’ll probably get stolen,” or “if you’re a public figure, expect to get harassed by trolls” function very differently coming from black parents, fellow comedians, or friends than they do coming from cop-lovers, joke thieves, or trolls. Not sure if there’s a term for it, but it’s a mistake I see a lot of people making.
But then OF COURSE a Milo supporter is going to misogynistically victim-blame.
Because none of this is really about speech. If it were, they’d be consistent. They’d complain about the RNC porn ban. They wouldn’t delete comments. They’d stand up for all speech.
If you support racist, sexist harassment on social media, support it. But don’t hide behind free speech. And don’t claim racist harassment is funny. Or that it’s “no big deal.” It’s a big deal. It matters.
If it didn’t matter you wouldn’t go to the mat to defend it. You know it matters. You know it works. You know it silences marginalized people who value their privacy and safety.
You can go to the mat to defend racist, sexist harassment on social media. I will fight to the death for your legal right to do so. But private companies HAVE TO make social media usable for people who aren’t engaging in that bullshit. And I support their right to do so.
But if you’re going to go to the mat to defend racist, sexist harassment on social media, at least have the human decency to admit who you are and what you’re doing, and stop hiding behind principles you don’t believe in and refuse to support consistently.