Be the content moderation you want to see in the world
I care about your mental health. I care about you. The modern world is uniquely absurd, which leads to a lot of stress, and this stress makes people do stupid things.
Don’t let it affect you.
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You use the internet. You will be subject to a lot of great stuff, but also a lot of stuff you don’t like. There will even be a fair load of insanity, inanity, and just plain bizarre rantings by the mentally ill. That’s not even including the stuff hurled your way by people who hate you!
So naturally, there are calls for various platforms and providers to moderate content. However, this proposed content moderation, far from upholding societal standards of decency in an attempt to stem toxic behavior,1 always only flows one way.
The better approach, then, is to take things into your own hands. Be an adult. Block people.
We shouldn’t let people who hate us be censors: this is the true “One Ring” of power that no one in our ruling class, or who sympathizes with them, should be trusted with. Those who wish to wield it are truly the worst, most small-souled, unintellectual, coarse, cold-hearted, hypocritical, immoral, bloodthirsty, venal, and hateful people ever in American history. And those are their good points!
It always starts with an ostensibly well-meaning desire to purge the discourse of actual bad people with toxic ideas, but it never stops there. I’ve seen this movie before. I’m old enough to remember when Mitt Romney was being called a Nazi. Mitt Romney! Now, Mitt Romney sucks and should be kept away from the levers of power, but a Nazi he is not.2 Nazis suck, and Mitt Romney sucks, but everyone who sucks isn’t a Nazi. But they may be Mitt Romney. I think.
It’s weird, but never forget that the real aim of all this isn’t to prevent the recrudescence of the Third Reich, but to punish people who vote for bad orange man.3 Or anybody who threatens the status quo.
Aside from the obvious political reasons for calling people you disagree with “Nazis” and trying to get them deplatformed everywhere, there’s also a moral dimension to such behavior. Human beings are moral beings. We do things not for reasons but for “reasons.” Some might classify morality itself as “irrational.”4 Obviously, morality very often overlaps with what is rational: Murder is bad and killing, even for good reason, is regrettable; rape is evil and wrong; don’t abuse children; don’t steal that which is not yours; don’t lie; and so on. You know, that outdated Biblical stuff that makes functional civilization possible.
Doing good makes us feel good, and doing bad makes us feel bad. This is true regardless of one’s level of religious belief.5 People generally want to be in the “good” side, not the “right” one. We sort of have to leave aside whose version of “good” we’re using in this example, because I default to the Christian one, since that’s the one I’m most familiar with, but your mileage may vary.
It’s a good thing that morality and rightness overlap! In fact, the Venn diagram is pretty much a single circle. If it’s not, then something is misaligned. And don’t kid yourselves—morality always comes into play, and all laws are legislated morality. Here’s a way I had the tension between morality and rightness explained to me many moons ago: It might be the most logical or rational position that does the most good, to solve poverty by killing the poor, but we don’t do that it’s immoral.6 Which brings us to the baby Hitler conundrum.
You know the drill: If you could go back in time to Braunau am Inn, Austria, on April 20, 1889, would you kill baby Hitler to save the world from the terror of the Nazis? Of course you would. You’re a good person right?
Forgive the World War II overkill, but humanity, being what it is, very often has trouble with making sense of things absent abstract ideological frameworks. And here in the modern West, the only such abstract ideological framework we have is World War II, albeit a pop culture version. The danger comes from the fact that some people’s desire to never let anything like Nazi Germany happen again, they equate anyone they dislike as a potential baby Hitler who deserves to be strangled in the crib. Maybe they just deplatform you, dox you, get you fired, render you unemployable, and drive you despair and may be even suicide; sure that’s not technically killing, but speaking of never forgetting, never forget that these people laugh at every bad thing that happens to you.
Given that this is most people’s perspective on just about any issue, you’re going to have it inflicted upon you when you engage with such individuals on the internet. Whether they are coming at you rationally (possible but unlikely) or in a frothing, box-wine-and-SSRI-indicted rage (both probable and likely), the best thing to do if you don’t like what they have to say is to block them.
In the early days of social media, blocking was seen as a sign of weakness, and being blocked a badge of honor. That’s kind of dumb! Nobody is entitled to your time or attention, and this includes your feed. It’s your digital house! In your real world existence, you don’t let any asshole into your home, or even your personal space: if it’s someone you find highly disagreeable or dangerous, you exclude them from your life. This is analog blocking. So just do it digitally.
Blocking is an act of love. It informed the recipient that maybe they should change their ways. Or maybe it’s just a clear signal that you aren’t interested in what they have to offer. They are not entitled to your space. If they don’t like it, too bad. We’re all supposed to be adults. Act like it. Block and pray for them. The nutters and evil weirdos online really need divine help.
This is the only content moderation any platform needs, not some nanny wagging their finger. Aside from the bits that a lot of other platforms fail to enforce, such as illegal activity like child p*rn, doxxing, etc., you are the moderation you want to see in the world.
Substack is but one platform that seems to be taking this to heart. And good for them! Once you let the scolds get even a sliver of power, they never let go. They ruin everything and then move on to the next thing. This is why we have to overreact to any attempt they make to weaponized their supposed decency. Yes, decency—these are the same people who hate the derided “moral majority.” The truth was they just hated that particular morality and don’t want that enforced; they just would rather enforce their morality on you.
That’s how democracy goes! So oppose your enemies and reward your friends. Turnabout or fair play, and game theory tells us that one of the only way to stop your enemy from doing something to you is to do it to them repeatedly, and harder, until they stop. “They started it!” is actually wisdom.
Until the nags stop trying to shut you up for the sin of disagreeing with them about politics, push back. Block, block, and then block some more. Shut them up. Let them be crazy over there. We can rock out over here.
As defined by only one particular segment of the body politic.
And now the regime loves him; funny how you’re a Nazi when you’re a threat but you’re rehabilitated when you play along. Reminds me of another awful 20th century regime we can’t seem to stop talking about.
Obligatory “I’m not even a MAGA guy, but I can see the writing on the wall” disclaimer.
Some political philosophies view any kind of altruistic behavior as insanity. Indeed, some misinterpret the idea of altruism and self-sacrifice; see e.g., http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/altruism.html
Some, like me, view this as yet more proof we are created beings, but that’s a discussion for a separate post.
I suppose this is a form of utilitarian thought.