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Free Speech Isn’t What Elon Musk Thinks It Is

Free speech
Courtesy of NVIDIA Corporation (Flickr CC0)

Elon Musk is planning to free all of the banned accounts on Twitter. The consequences of this increased the use of the N-word by 500%. He says he did this as a tribute and with the thought of “free speech.” His understanding of free speech is inherently flawed. Judging by his actions, Musk believes that free speech is about letting anyone say anything everywhere. This perspective is called free speech absolutism. The consequence of free speech absolutism in any place is that the bigoted are free to do and say whatever they want.

The Immediate Consequences

Moreover, one must think about the reason why these people were banned in the first place. The obvious answer is bigotry. Twitter is a company that recognizes the fact that it isn’t profitable to allow bigotry on its platform. So they set up their terms of service in a way that lets you know that you will be banned for using “hate speech.” What constitutes hate speech is a contentious topic that will be discussed later.

However, for now, it must be reiterated that the people who were banned on Twitter signed the terms of service and conditions when they signed up for the platform and that they aren’t being “ censored.” They simply aren’t following the rules. Those rules were placed so that more people could use the platform, which translates to more money for Twitter. Twitter is not a beacon of morality or anything like that, it is a social media company with a profit motive.

Paradox of Tolerance

What usually happens in these sorts of “free speech absolutist” experiments is that the bigots that were previously suppressed come out in droves to spread their bigotry. Bigots love to show people they are bigots because they love how much it upsets people.

Those people they are upsetting are usually marginalized people that have centuries of oppression that they have to deal with daily. The unearthing of all the banned accounts on Twitter could produce a similar reality on a wider scale. The usage of the n-word jumped 500% after the implementation of this new policy, according to The Washington Post.

Furthermore, if Elon Musk had understood what is known as “ the paradox of tolerance” this may not have happened in the first place. The paradox of tolerance is the proposition that the tolerant must be intolerant to the intolerant to maintain tolerance. Put simply, if people want to keep racism out of society, they have to make their society actively anti-racist. There can be no centrist positions taken on the matter of race. The reason why is that if people don’t take the position on the side of the oppressed they have chosen the side of the oppressor. So when Twitter decided to take a centrist position on speech, they chose the side of the bigots.

The Power of Free Speech

Speech has power, and so people can use its power for revolutionary or reactionary purposes. Most liberation-based organizers used a speech to liberate their people. Many of them are killed for it, and the ones that are left alive either begin to use reactionary speech or stop using speech altogether. Furthermore, reactionary people use speech as a weapon to maintain oppression and the status quo.

Moreover, the status quo in America is one of oppression. Almost every racial group and social class can tell you about a time they were oppressed by American policy or American foreign policy. People that use speech to point this out are usually suppressed. Additionally, one must remember that oppression is highly profitable. Free speech isn’t free. It is a tool, and it can either be used for revolutionary or reactionary purposes. The American state values one over another which is why channels like Fox news run every night, and all the leaders of the Black Panther party are dead.

Twitter needs to get itself together. Hate speech and bigotry are being spewed left and right. It isn’t safe for marginalized people on Twitter right now. There are always Black-owned social media platforms like, the cookout, B heard, Melanin People, and Truso.

Written by Kenneth Mazerat

Sources

The Washington Post: Racist tweets quickly surface after Musk closes Twitter deal by Drew Harwel, Taylor Lorenz, and Cat Zakrzewski

Forbes: Not Just Trump: Here Are The Other Notorious Names—Jones, Shkreli, Yiannopoulos Included—Who Could Be Unbanned On Twitter by Siladitya Ray

CNN: Elon Musk, Twitter’s new owner, tweets conspiracy theory about attack on Paul Pelosi by   and 

Featured and Top Image Courtesy of NVIDIA Corporation’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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