A Modern Day Fahrenheit 451

Classic dystopians have been seeing a revival lately. Oh, not the kind where people are interested in that sort of literature. No, it’s a revival in that they are being used as instruction manuals for modern day living. Or at least in some circles anyway.

Sept 24-30th is Banned Book week, which brings to light the practice of having books removed from mainly school libraries. When bookstores, public libraries, publishers don’t stock or publish a book, the book isn’t “banned”. But when a parent objects to soft porn being one of the few options that their child has for say doing a book report…it’s a ban. Go figure.

Honestly, I think places where children are captive audiences should have higher standards than Amazon.com or the public library.

Of course, this is coming from someone who was reading adult historical romance by the time I was in junior high. There were teachers very concerned that I was allowed to read such books, but had no power to do anything about it, since the books didn’t come from the school library. I either got them from the public library or bought them myself. And they were never read for the purposes of book reports.

But, I digress.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and The Product by Marina Fontaine feel like fitting books for this week. Thankfully, neither are likely to come true, at least in the form of government censorship anyway.

The modern day censorship as we’re starting to see is coming via social media bans and mob attacks. It’s rather pointless today to go around burning books since ebooks don’t burn very well.

 

While technically, there is nothing illegal about a company giving a platform for some and not others, it is concerning. It’s certainly in their best interest to ban someone who makes viable threats against other persons or someone conducting illegal activity using their services.

But, that’s not what is happening. The companies have decided to use their platforms to control the speech of those using the service. It wouldn’t be a problem if there were a diverse array of platforms to use and one could easily move to another platform.

However, there are limited platforms and they all seem to lean one direction. Those with icky opinions are quickly being shunned from all of the major platforms.

For example:

Facebook for some time now been heavy handed with opinions and ideas that are not PC. People on the “wrong” side (libertarian, conservative, right wing) have had their accounts revoked, posts removed, put in Facebook jail for the same offenses that those on the liberal side get no punishment for at all.

Twitter has been banning and shadow banning speakers with opinions they don’t like based on very vague conduct standards, while letting those they agree with harrass and threaten others all they like.

Google and Youtube have gotten into this game as well with banning and/or blacklisting speech they don’t like.

I suspect this will get worse as more sites jump on the bandwagon to signal how “diverse” and “tolerant” they are of their own opinions.

Yes, I can hear you, person without any skin in the game. If they didn’t say offensive stuff there wouldn’t be a problem. Offensive stuff shouldn’t be tolerated. 

These platforms are very much like the public square. People gather there and talk, argue, and debate. In the US anyway, anyone can go to the public square and spout off their crazy ideas (as long as it’s within legal limits) without concern for getting kicked out of the square. They might get others taking issue with their ideas, but the opportunity to change another’s mind is still available.

When companies who create an environment very much like a public square start censoring people they disagree with, it creates an environment very much like one where government is doing the censoring. Without access to the public square, speech is stifled.

 

There is hope, though.

New “public squares” such as Gab and MeWe are cropping up for those who have been kicked out or want to leave the censored platforms.

Publishers like Superversive Press, Silver Empire and Castalia House are opening up the doors to books that present stories that used to be mainstream, but are now unwanted by the Big 5 because they don’t promote society destroying ideas.

It’s going to take a while to get the infrastructure in place, but it will get there. The recent attacks on speech by corporate giants have been a wakeup call to many that there need to be places for all voices, not just the select few.