TheTriggering. Or, how a bunch of online douchecanoes inspired me to use content notices.

CN: triggering, people being terrible on purpose. Also: I guarantee you that there is all sorts of awful in the links here.

Welcome to The Triggering.

Today, a bunch of self-identified shitlords have decided to strike a blow to defend freedom of speech.

Defend it against who, you ask? Attempts to censor scientists who publish research that conflicts with government policy, and to suppress workers’ right to protest? Banning student unions from engaging in boycotts the government doesn’t like? Throwing bloggers, journalists and human rights activists in prison?

Of course not.

Speaking out against those real threats takes courage. Do you know what doesn’t take any courage at all? Say, spending a day saying the most offensive things that you can think of, just because you can. Calling it ‘freedom of speech’ without having the smallest clue about what that actually is, or why it’s important.

Freedom of Speech: it’s not all about being a dickhead

Do you remember the first time you heard about ‘freedom of speech’? I was a kid. I’d gotten my hands on a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Since I was a kid, the first thing I did was try to find an article I could use to do what I wanted. Say what I wanted. Avoid cleaning my room, get out of homework. (I also pored though the Declaration on the Rights of the Child. There was nothing about chores. I was disgusted.)

I was insufferable for a while.  Of course I was. I was a kid. I had heard of human rights abuses, but I didn’t understand what they really meant. The distinction between fantasy and real life is blurry at that age. When, like me, you grew up with a gaggle of aunties, uncles and adopted mums keeping an eye on you when you were away from your parents? The idea that someone wouldn’t always be there to right wrongs never truly sunk in .

Then I grew up. I realised that people didn’t fight for freedom of speech so that I could shout rude words in the middle of the street any time I liked. Sure, I can do that. But the point of freedom of speech? Is that speech is powerful. Speech can determine the course of history. Speech is how we connect with each other and see each others humanity. It’s how we’re persuaded to follow one political direction over another. It’s how we inform one another of discoveries that change how we see the world.

Do you know why we don’t have to defend the freedom to say mean things to people who have no political power over us? Because we’ve always had that freedom. When Galileo was confined to house arrest by the Inquisition, I’ll bet there was someone outside calling someone else the 17th century equivalent of a douchecanoe. Continue reading “TheTriggering. Or, how a bunch of online douchecanoes inspired me to use content notices.”

TheTriggering. Or, how a bunch of online douchecanoes inspired me to use content notices.