1. Twitter has expanded its “hate speech” prohibitions, and not, I assume, for the last time.
Twitter announced that it has expanded its “hate speech’ policies to include tweets that make “dehumanizing remarks,” defined as remarks that treat “others as less than human,” on the basis of age, disability, or disease. These additions further enlarge on the company’s polices made last July that said Twitter would remove tweets that dehumanize religious groups. Before that, in 2018 , Twitter issued a broad ban on “dehumanizing speech” to compliment its existing hate speech policies that cover protected classes like race and gender.
This is the nose of a very dangerous camel entering the metaphorical tent. As always, the problem with “hate speech” prohibitions is that the “hate” is always matter of subjective judgment. Censorship of any kind constrains expression, and as we head into a political campaign, Twitter’s creeping policing of words and metaphors is ominous. You cannot trust these people to be even-handed, to make close calls, or to avoid acting on bias.
2. The threat is made worse because social media platforms allow both parties to “work the umpire,” encouraging them to demand that Twitter, YouTube and Facebook take down tweets and posts that one or the other doesn’t like.
An example: After initially letting it stand, Facebook labeled a video shared by President Trump’s campaign that showed Joe Biden stammering as “partly false information” after the Biden campaign protested.
While having one of his patented babbling attacks, the former VP said, “Because we can not get re-elect, we can not win this re-election. Excuse me, we can only re-elect Donald Trump.” Twitter labeled the video clip as “manipulated media,” because it cut off before Biden corrected himself, clarifying what he meant to say. The Biden campaign attacked the video as deceptively edited misinformation on the basis that it left the impression that Biden had endorsed the President’s re-election. That, of course, wasn’t the point of the video, which was designed to show Biden’s ongoing confusion. THAT’s 100% accurate. Facebook finally capitulated too, and labeled the video as “partly false information.”
3. Then we have the networks deliberately engaging in false representations and partisan spin to the benefit of one political party.
Biden was touring a Fiat Chrysler assembly plant yesterday. One of the workers confronted Biden about his proposed ban on semi-automatic weapons, telling the candidate, “You are actively trying to end our Second Amendment right and take away our guns.” Biden’s measured, respectful response to an argument: “You’re full of shit!”
The worker accurately noted that Biden’s intent to take away guns is a matter of record (which it is), but Biden dismissed it as a lie, and this was the resulting exchange:
Man: “This is not OK, alright?”
Biden: “Don’t tell me that, pal, or I’m going to go out and slap you in the face.”
Man: “You’re working for me, man!”
Biden: “I’m not working for you! Don’t be such a horse’s ass.”
I’d call this news, wouldn’t you? Not to play the “imagine the media coverage if Trump spoke to a citizen that way” game, but imagine the media coverage if Trump spoke to a citizen that way. Yet on MSNBC, Andrea Mitchell reported on Biden’s appearance while omitting the entire exchange from the video, and falsely reported that Biden had said “You’re full of it!”
Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias!
Over at CNN, they showed the clip but did Biden’s spinning for him. John King led a panel commenting on the exchange by saying, “Some people see that as charming that a candidate is willing to air it out face-to-face with a guy on the floor. Some people say, Woah, you can choose different words, couldn’t you?”
Why yes! Some people say it’s charming who are the same people who say that the President’s rhetoric increases division and disgraces the office, which it does.
Washington Post White House reporter Toluse Olorunnipa then said, “I think for his campaign they pushed it out and said this shows Biden’s authenticity. The ‘no malarkey’ part of the Biden approach to politics. It is interesting to see these unscripted moments,.”
One reason I find it interesting is that the candidate who is being packaged as a “nice guy” keeps insulting and threatening members of the public at campaign stops.
CNN commentator Jackie Kucinich added, “Though I don’t think that hurts Joe Biden,” That shows him pushing back on an issue that is a significant issue.”
This echoed the reaction of an extremist Facebook friend, who wrote yesterday that there was nothing wrong with Biden’s ugly and threatening response to a “gun nut.” This is Rationalization #2 A. Sicilian Ethics, or “They had it coming.“
Finally, King’s panel resorted to more fatuous rationalizations, specifically #3, Consequentialism, #8, The Trivial Trap (“No harm no foul!”), and # 8A. The Dead Horse-Beater’s Dodge, or “This can’t make things any worse.”
“Probably not a Biden voter there, any way,” senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny said. King added. “Didn’t appear to be a Sanders or a Biden voter.”
Yes, these are the organizations and the people who will be informing the public on the upcoming campaigns.
4. Just an aside: Would calling a person a “horse’s ass” be dehumanizing and hate speech under Twitter’s rules?