December 11, 2011

Fighting the Family Friendly Fiends of Internet Hate

It's not exactly headline news that there's a lot of hate on the Internet. But have you ever stopped to consider the different kinds -- the different types -- of hateful sites, and the vastly different sorts of impacts that they have on our lives?

Ironically, the types of sites that politicians love to rail against and demand be somehow censored (technical realities be damned!) probably have among the least real-world negative impacts.

Whether they promote international terrorism or white supremacy, war against Iran, war against Israel, or war against the poor, these misguided lovers of hate appeal mainly to persons already predisposed to such foolhardy ventures, who would find their hate fix in other ways even if those sites did not exist. And as we've seen in the case of many would-be terrorists -- these sites tend to attract incompetent amateurs who would usually never even get past the daydreaming stage without elaborate law enforcement entrapment assistance.

But there are other forms of Internet hate that are less obvious, but often far more effective at enacting their agendas.

Foreign governments demand that Google remove search results and YouTube videos that those countries find offensive. The U.S. attempts to impose its view of economic priorities on the entire globe via SOPA/PIPA-based censorship of search and the outrageously U.S.-leveraged Domain Name System (DNS). These sorts of attacks tend to impact the availability of information, knowledge, and speech around the world, affecting billions of people.

And there's yet another kind of Internet hate -- perhaps more insidious than all the others I've mentioned up to now. These are the province of bigoted, racist, hate-engorged monsters parading under banners of religious purity, and using tactics of economic and propagandistic blackmail in systematic attempts to destroy the lives of innocent parties.

An example of these kinds of horrific parasites is the FFA - the Florida Family Association (I refuse to provide them with "search juice" -- so I'm not providing a direct link).

A visit to this group's website quickly reveals their agenda -- a vast program of blackmailing enormous numbers of companies and advertisers -- via threats of economic boycotts -- into pulling support from any programs or events that FFA doesn't approve.

The most recent example of their success in this approach (loudly trumpeted on their site) is the announcement by the Lowe's chain that they were pulling their ads from the Discovery Channel/TLC's All-American Muslim series.

All-American Muslim features programs following the lives of ordinary people in Dearborn, Michigan, and showing that they're just ordinary folks living ordinary lives, not the caricatures that FFA and other anti-Muslim fetishists divisively want us to falsely believe.

This comes as no surprise to me. My corner of suburban L.A. is deeply multicultural, and includes a large mosque and Muslim community, among virtually every other ethnic group and nationality on the planet, from Iranian to Australian to Nigerian. To actually know people as individuals is to realize that our similarities vastly outweigh our relatively trivial differences.

But it's in the interests of groups like FFA to keep such knowledge suppressed, and to encourage the promulgation of lying stereotypes that undermine individuals actually meeting and understanding each other. We can also stipulate here that there are many governments that are similarly engaged in trying to make sure that their populations are constrained in the interests of promoting hate.

It would be a terrible mistake to assume that organizations like FFA are not extremely Internet savvy. A look at their domain information reveals that they originally registered back in 1997 -- quite long ago in Internet time.

Of course it always takes two to tango. FFA and its ilk spew hate and threats, but their partners in these abominations are the firms -- like Lowe's and many others -- who humiliate themselves (and anger the vast majority of their customers) by slavishly kowtowing to the demands of these disgusting hatemongers, who represent only a small and putrid percentage of the population.

Since I oppose censorship, I would never call for such repulsive and repugnant hate sites to be shuttered, even if it were technically possible.

But I can call for such sites and the groups behind them to be scorned and shunned, to be ignored by the Internet community and the commercial targets of these groups' economic threats alike.

We cannot -- indeed should not -- have the ability to control speech by banning sites from the Net.

Yet we do have the ability, both individually and collectively, to control how we react to sites and the messages that they broadcast for good or ill.

Therein resides our power, our prerogative, our right to loudly and firmly say NO to the purveyors of hate who would malevolently cleave the world asunder.

If we choose not to wield this power appropriately against hate, both on and off the Internet, we'll indeed have nobody to blame but ourselves.


Posted by Lauren at December 11, 2011 10:51 AM | Permalink
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