Many years ago (in 2003) a man drove his truck up the steps of the main entrance of the Canadian Parliament buildings. CBC just happened to be there. He was wrestled to the ground as he shouted: “you are all a bunch of Satan worshippers!” . I heard him say this on CBC news, and I thought to myself, how did that slip through the censorship? How had he guessed? Who had told him?
So when I heard that the basic premise of the evolving doctrines of the QAnon conspiracy was that an elite of pederastic or hebephile Satan worshippers is running the United States, I thought – nothing new here. That it was being run out of some pizza joint somewhere just adds that piquant touch of pseudo-facticity that lends credence to nonsense on stilts. Do they not know it is being run out the Council on Foreign Relations?
There has always been wickedness in high places, to cite St Paul. Always will be.
Thus I was interested to read on Unherd that “Facebook is radicalising your parents“. As the avergae age of users of Facebook rises, the kinds of concerns expressed naturally reflect the concerns of middle-aged and older people. (This usage pattern reflects the gradual ageing of the population, as births have crashed since the 1970s)
I quote: “The most shared news pieces on the site are increasingly on the Right. On 20 July of this year, for instance, the top-performing Facebook link posts by US pages were:
1. Fox News
2. Fox News
3. Occupy Democrats
4. Fox News
5. Ben Shapiro
6. Ben Shapiro
7. Ben Shapiro
9. Blue Lives Matter
10. Dan Bongino”.
In possible accordance with this concern for radicalization of the elderly and the stated concern for spread of the dangerous ideology of QAnon, FaceBook announced the following:
“On October 6, we announced that we will begin removing any Facebook Pages, Groups and Instagram accounts representing QAnon, even if they contain no violent content, in line with our expanded Dangerous Individuals and Organizations Policy.”
Naturally I was interested in what the policy said. Under the “Dangerous Individuals and Organizations Policy’, Facebook has announced the following on its webpages:
In an effort to prevent and disrupt real-world harm, we do not allow any organizations or individuals that proclaim a violent mission or are engaged in violence to have a presence on Facebook. This includes organizations or individuals involved in the following:
- Terrorist activity
- Organized hate
- Mass murder (including attempts) or multiple murder
- Human trafficking
- Organized violence or criminal activity
We also remove content that expresses support or praise for groups, leaders, or individuals involved in these activities. Learn more about our work to fight terrorism online here.
Terrorist organizations and terrorists, which include:
Any non-state actor that:
- Engages in, advocates, or lends substantial support to purposive and planned acts of violence,
- Which causes or attempts to cause death, injury or serious harm to civilians, or any other person not taking direct part in the hostilities in a situation of armed conflict, and/or significant damage to property linked to death, serious injury or serious harm to civilians
- With the intent to coerce, intimidate and/or influence a civilian population, government, or international organization
- In order to achieve a political, religious, or ideological aim.
Hate organizations and their leaders and prominent members
A hate organization is defined as:
Mass and multiple murderers (including attempts)
Human trafficking groups and their leaders
Human trafficking groups are organizations responsible for any of the following:
Criminal organizations and their leaders and prominent members
A criminal organization is defined as:
Any association of three or more people that is united under a name, color(s), hand gesture(s) or recognized indicia, that has engaged in or threatens to engage in criminal activity, including (but not limited to)
We do not allow symbols that represent any of the above organizations or individuals to be shared on our platform without context that condemns or neutrally discusses the content.
We do not allow content that praises any of the above organizations or individuals or any acts committed by them.
We do not allow coordination of support for any of the above organizations or individuals or any acts committed by them.
We do not allow content that praises, supports, or represents events that Facebook designates as terrorist attacks, hate events, mass murders or attempted mass murders, serial murders, hate crimes and violating events.
There you have it. Without appeal or means of address to the decision makers, your collection of 3 friends may be designated supporters of ‘hate events’, without any actual event having taken place.
It is really much more pernicious than it appears.
Suppose for instance I became convinced that cousin marriages should not be allowed. (The case is made in Joseph Henrich’s “The WEIRDest people in the world” that the abolition of cousin marriage has marked the character of the people of western Europe profoundly, and in a positive direction for the emergence of modernity). Then I pointed out that in many societies of the world, mainly though not exclusively Muslim, cousin marriages are encouraged. If I pointed out that the suppression of cousin marriages was a necessary condition for the emergence of broadly based non-kinship societies, as Henrich’s book does, and that the secret of success of Western European societies was the suppression of cousin marriages, would I be banned from FaceBook as a hate group, if three of us decided it was an important idea to agree upon and promote?
Now a lawyer might quibble, but you know the answer. You betcha. Some social justice warrior kid would ban you in a flash if he or she thought that a discussion of the negative effects of cousin marriages was aimed at Muslims. Or even if it was not aimed at Muslims but Muslims complained.
We are inventing the new Office of the Inquisition. It is being done before our eyes. It is being done for all the right reasons, as long as you believe harm results from speech.
The least that could be done was what they did about the Inquisition in Portugal in the 1750s. No penalty imposed by the Inquisition was effective unless ratified by the state. That sharply reduced its power. If we cannot avoid the creation of these new Offices of the Inquisition, we should limit their jurisdiction and effectiveness.
A calm inquiry into the nature of beliefs about time, space, law and God is conducted in the 1700s. Are we there again?