A Reminder: You Don’t Have To Propagate Right-Wing Talking Points.

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 6.03% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

The election’s over, and in the weeks to come you’ll see lots of dubious, right-wing takes on election “fraud.” And if those folks come at you in your comments, let me remind you of two things:

  • Your space is a platform, wherein you grant people the right to speak to the folks who follow you.
  • The insidious thing about bullshit is that it if you don’t know the facts, bullshit sounds plausible. If you have one person arguing that the Earth revolves around the sun, and you have another person arguing that the sun revolves around the earth, to someone who doesn’t know any better, both sides look like they have a point.

Refuting right-wing propaganda seems like a good thing – you’re participating in the free market of ideas! – but like all free markets, the marketplace of ideas needs a little regulation.

Because in many cases, lending credence to an idea by debating it gives the impression that there’s actually a controversy. It doesn’t matter how outlandish the idea is – Mr. Rogers was actually a secret assassin for the Yakuza – if you have two people debating it hotly in national headlines, eventually some people will become convinced that “Mr. Rogers, silent slaughterhouse” is a fact, and those who weren’t familiar with Mr. Rogers’ past will actually think, “Does anyone really know?”

The answer is yes. Yes, we do know. Mr. Rogers was not an assassin, he was a robot who learned to love.

Point is, if you control a space – your Twitter account, a blog, your Facebook, even a FetLife account – you allowing someone to blather on about unsupported inconsistencies in the election lends them your plausibility to anyone who’s not in possession of actual facts. You’re not refuting them, you’re giving them oxygen.

And you’re not obligated to. If someone’s talking absolute bullshit, then shut them down. If the marketplace of ideas really led to only the truth being disseminated, we wouldn’t have jamooks peddling the same hoary, long-disproven, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. They will, of course, speak in other places, but those places can be made smaller so they don’t rope in new converts.

Is that you being afraid of free speech? Well, the debate rages on, but it’s certainly you doing your part not to host irresponsible speech. Facts should matter, and if some whackadoodle is pushing some skewed world view that’s divorced from reality, you need to realize that those skewed world views can sound plausible to the ignorant.

I myself believe that “free speech” involves more than letting any accusations flow unceasingly. You have to back them up with facts – not just layers of bullshit designed to confuse, but facts. And once someone has failed a certain number of times to present facts, it’s not wrong to say “I have standards here, and you have failed to meet them.”

(And if you’re a conservative complaining that we should all allow different viewpoints to post, talk to me when Fox news clutters their airwaves with constant debates about Universal Basic Income’s effectiveness and whether a significant amount of police are spousal abusers. They don’t. And they know why.)

Feel free to post your own truth, of course. I’m not saying never to post a Snopes link, or some deconstruction of Qanon. But if there’s someone spewing BS in your personal internet space, recognize that’s a hook to potentially lure someone else in.

You should feel no compunctions about shutting that down.

1 Comment

  1. dellstories
    Nov 8, 2020


    Freedom of Speech refers to GOVERNMENT regulation

    The government has no right to to stop me from saying Fred Rogers is a robot

    But you don’t have to let me post that on your site

    BTW, Mr. Rogers was an amazing human being. A Right-winger trying to insult Biden by calling him Mr. Rogers speaks volumes


  1. I Am, Regrettably, Declining To Debate You: Here’s Why. | Ferrett Steinmetz - […] discussed this before in my essay A Reminder: You Don’t Have To Propagate Right-Wing Talking Points… but there’s this…

All Comments Will Be Moderated. Comments From Fake Or Throwaway Accounts Will Never Be approved.