anonymous dunces

The 'Non-Wisdom' of Crowds

We received an email recently criticizing our previous feature, "Hipster Vigilantism and the New Populist Attack On Free Speech Anonymous' Decidedly Illiberal Campaign To Silence Us"
both Joe Power and I wanted to address some of the issues raised by
his criticisms and did so in the following, separate, responses:

a response by Eric Tazelaar

"You forced me to hit you because you said things I disagreed with!"

That, in effect, is the logic of one email writer in his angry retort to last week's piece.

Apparently, he believes that we are free to speak only so long as we don't say things Anonymous finds offensive and, once we do, then we invite - through our words - whatever act of vandalism that collectivist mob wish to commit against us.  

Not only that but, apparently, their imagination, alone, forms the only limits of punishment which they might wish to inflict upon us. Additionally, they appear to believe that we should have no legal recourse or remedy as a result of their arbitrary and capricious attacks nor should those vigilantes be made to suffer any criminal sanctions by their actions.

He was genuinely angry that we would have dared to criticize Anonymous for exercising what he clearly identified as their legitimate right to attack our website!

According to him, Anonymous has got quite an extraordinary amount of power to do as they please!

But of course, he's quite wrong!

He goes on to say that we are "ignorant" in claiming that our "first amendment rights" were under attack by arguing that the Bill of Rights protects us from government, not from individuals or bands of ignorant and malicious vigilantes (okay, my words, not his). He might have an arguable point, had we actually said that, but we did not. 

What we do have is the right to lawfully conduct our organization - as we do - and to express our views through our own resources (in this case, our website) without interference from government or, for that matter, malicious criminals.

In this instance, our property rights are important in safeguarding our speech rights which he, in any case, does not have a right to impede unless he owns the means of conveying or reproducing that speech.

But he does not since we own our server and we pay for our access to the Internet. He doesn't. Without that property right then we are effectively denied our speech rights, too!

I hadn't thought it necessary to mention property rights in my earlier piece since I thought that was sort of obvious. I had forgotten that people such as those found within Anonymous are not likely to have any particular knowledge or regard for property rights since they tend to cling to ideologies more consistent with those of Stalin, Hitler, Mao and Pol Pot.

Here's some more of his appallingly ignorant rant, italicized, with my comments bolded (and not italicized):

"Free speech" DOES NOT equate to freedom of the consequences of your free speech. WHAT CONSEQUENCES? Consequences of us stating our views?  Anyone in society also has the freedom to knock you down a peg and to thwart and oppose you for the free speech you exercise, especially since you advocate the torment and abuse of children." 

Anyone in society has a right to SAY whatever they want to about us (within the constraints of libel laws which we reserve the right to seek remedy within) so long as they do not infringe upon our rights which includes the right to our property (in this case our webserver) and other rights, such as freedom of expression, which are contingent upon property rights.

He does not, however, have the "freedom" to "knock us down a peg" or to "thwart"the exercise of our free speech if, by "knocking us down" or "thwarting", he means illegally attacking our servers or otherwise denying us the use of our property or committing any other illegal act against us.

And if the angry email writer had bothered to read any of our freely available content on our website, he would have found that we have never  - at any time - advocated for the "torment and abuse of children". His insisting that we do simply reveals him to be an ignorant fool who knows only that which he has learned from other ignorant fools. 

***
Some observations about vigilante mobs

Mobs aren't evil because the individuals who comprise them think of themselves as evil. In most cases, I believe their constituent members believe themselves to be moral beings carrying out morally useful and justifiable violence.

Mobs - and the individuals who comprise them - are, instead, evil for the acts they commit. Their violence is particularly insidious: individuals tend to do things when they are part of a mob which they wouldn't ordinarily do as individuals. They acquire a false sense of legitimacy for their actions simply through their aggregation into mobs. And, above all, as with the stoning of women or men by entire communities for crimes of adultery, no one individual is solely responsible for the violence they commit. Instead, their responsibility is borne by the abstract construction of the whole while its constituent parts remain blameless. Blameless and mutually congratulated.

Denial of service attacks are hardly comparable to, say, Kristallnacht, but I think that it is obvious that if vigilantes had the means and the ability to get away with it, they would readily inflict far greater damage, confident in their self-righteous fury and their arrogance.

"Give a man a mask, and you'll
see what he's hiding". 

- an adaptation of a quote from Oscar Wilde

a response by Joe Power

The kind of misunderstanding presented in your email is all too common in a society that uncritically approves the squelching of unpopular opinions.

You seem to be under the impression that Congress alone has the ability to violate free speech and therefore Congress alone is enjoined from doing so. The Bill of Rights is an explicit list of things the government is enjoined from doing added to the Constitution in order to gain the support for its ratification by some anti-federalists who feared that without it the government would grow tyrannical. It did not speak to the actions of non-governmental actors.

When Anonymous launches a DDoS attack they are acting in the tradition of church and state (going back centuries) as censors. You seem to be confusing censorship with editorial discretion - You have the right to publish what you will (accepting the legal consequences of what you publish) and SO DO WE.

Neither of us has the right to deny this to the other. As Robert Heinlein said:

"When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects,'This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know,' the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives. Mighty little force is needed to control a man whose mind has been hoodwinked; contrariwise, no amount of force can control a free man, a man whose mind is free. No, not the rack, not fission bombs, not anything - you can't
conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him."

You find your misapprehension of our message (which is actually that society's approach to sexuality is pathological, that the extreme segregation of clades by age flies in the face of thousands of years of human history, and that depriving young people of their rights to protect them works about as well as it did for women, blacks & Indians) to be odious.

Fine. Proclaim it to the four corners of the world. We'll be happy to engage in reasoned debate that may well improve both sides' arguments. We are prepared to defend our position.

Apparently Anonymous isn't if all they can do is resort to shouting down anyone they disagree with by launching a DDoS attack.

You say that we cannot defend our speech properly, but surely you can see the absurdity of that when we are prevented from speaking in the first place.

In the past voices against slavery, teaching the Bible in school as literal truth, prohibition, males-only suffrage and many other positions were suppressed. Positions that later came to be embraced. Drowning out dissent drowns out the possibility of progress.

Anyone is free to believe that an opinion is silly, unworkable or otherwise not worthwhile, but can you really predict which ones? Are you aware that only recently the theory of plate tectonics or the idea that ulcers were caused by a bacterium were also once ridiculed but now proven correct?

Centuries ago the Inquisition forced Galileo Galilei to recant the notion that the Earth went around the Sun instead of the reverse. To challenge Geocentrism was to challenge what the vast majority of society believed (and what people could see with their own eyes). It could not be allowed.

"Eppur si muove" ("And yet it moves")

(PS – Galileo was a boy lover!)

 

For those who care, following is the email writer's full message. We have removed his name to save him, what would have to be, humiliation and embarrassment.

Saw your post where you were complaining that your "free speech" was "violated" by Anonymous, thought I'd point a few things out to you.

1) Anonymous is NOT the government. If you bother to read the United States Constitution, Amendment I says: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

So unless you think "Anonymous" is "Congress," then none of your rights to free speech were violated.

2) "Free speech" DOES NOT equate to freedom of the consequences of your free speech. Anyone in society also has the freedom to knock you down a peg and to thwart and oppose you for the free speech you exercise, especially since you advocate the torment and abuse of children.

3) You think your "free speech" is somehow sacrosanct and above criticism or consequences. This shows the world that your "free speech" is based on faulty, indefensible, illogical thinking. You cannot defend your speech properly, so you must rely entirely on the cries of "FREE SPEECH!" as the only basis of support your arguments have.

I hope you suitably alter your writing posted on your webpage to reflect the inaccuracies you originally wrote into it, unless you want to add an addendum stating you think "Anonymous" is "Congress" that is. I am not a member of anonymous, just a concerned citizen who would exercise my rights to free speech to tear down any arguments you or your members would ever make in public. It would be shameful and embarrassing for you, you'd walk away looking foolish to the extreme. So you better hope I never meet any of you.

 



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