After launching our #DebateWithoutHate campaign a Facebook post about the campaign received a number of problematic comments. We documented some of these comments and explained why they were problematic in our first article of hate examples from this debate. This second article looks at comments from one person which have gone so far cross the line we are not just removing the comments but banning the user from our page.

Under our “no platform policy” we ban on sight anyone who we notice is a supporters of hate pages or groups on Facebook. The reasons for this approach and a full explanation of the policy can be seen in this post from 2015. The person discussed in this article would be banned from the Online Hate Prevention Institute’s Facebook page even without the comments below as they are a supporter of the following pages: Reclaim Australia Rally, Canadian Patriots, Stop the mosque in Melbourne, Boycott Halal Certification in Australia,  BAN THE BURQA,  Anti Islam – Australia,  Britain First,  PDLA Patriots Defence League – Australia,  Stop The Mosque, etc.

Framing hate as questions doesn’t make it ok

In their first post they as: “Is asking questions about the possible consequences of changing the law, deemed to be hateful?
Why are those who dare to ask questions about the long term agenda of changing the marriage act, classed as hateful, homophobic right wing extremists?
Is it 
hateful or divisive to simply ask an opinion whether a change in the Marriage Act might give rise to the legality of pedophilia, bestiality, child marriage, polygamy or other acts previously considered to be barbaric or illegal?
Why is it NOT considered hateful and divisive to criticise and attack those who ask the above questions?”

Let’s break this down.

Is asking questions about the possible consequences of changing the law, deemed to be hateful?” No. This is a legitimate question and the answer is very straight forward. It will in the first instance mean civil marriage will be possible between people of the same gender. There are a range of legal implications which follow but these can vary according to state law. Some examples including presumptions which are made if one partner dies without leaving a will, the right to adopt (the Northern Territory only allows married couples to adopt), the right for the non-biological partner to be legally considered a parent if a child is conceived (e.g. through IVF), etc. These are all issues which are deeply personal and largely private matters. 

“Why are those who dare to ask questions about the long term agenda of changing the marriage act, classed as hateful, homophobic right wing extremists?” This person clearly has a thing about being called a “hateful, homophobic right wing extremists”. Perhaps it happens to them a lot. A quick review of their Facebook profile quickly explains why this might be happening to them. It is a specific issue for them and not for people who are asking questions.

If you want to express hate filled views and argue freedom of expression means you should be allowed to do this,  then other people have an equal right to use their freedom of expression to call you out for it. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from the consequences of that speech. This is the American approach and it relies on negative consequences from the public as be deterrent rather than the use of state power. This is expressed as the market place of ideas and those who support it would argue that being a bigot is bad for ones reputation, career, social life etc and this deterrent enough. Events in the US recently are perhaps causing some to rethink whether it really is sufficient. In Australia we take a different view and instead use the law to prohibit various forms of hate. We believe the state has a role in setting societal expectations and creating an inclusive society.

“Is it hateful or divisive to simply ask an opinion whether a change in the Marriage Act might give rise to the legality of pedophilia, bestiality, child marriage, polygamy or other acts previously considered to be barbaric or illegal?” That is not “simply asking a question”. It is using a logical fallacy to advance a slippery slope argument and induce fear.  

The Safe Zone Manual from the University of Kansas explains, “Being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender is neither synonymous with, nor indicative of, any tendency toward pedophilia, child abuse, sexual abuse, bestiality, bigamy, polygamy, adultery and/or incest. Such claims, innuendoes and associations often are used to insinuate that LGBT people pose a threat to society, to families, and to children in particular. Such assertions and insinuations are defamatory and should be avoided, except in direct quotes that clearly reveal the bias of the person quoted.”

Why is it NOT considered hateful and divisive to criticise and attack those who ask the above questions? The last question in particular is highly bigoted and abusive. In society we don’t treat the arsonist and the firefighter the same. If you are going to promote hate, you are going to be called out for it and any consequences that come from that, provided they occur through legal means, are of your own making.

Tracy Rowan has a blog post worth reading on this. She makes the distinction between “non-justifiable”  and “justifiable” hate.  She writes, “there is justifiable hate of the sort we feel for those who consciously and with malice, cause harm or incite to cause harm. In this group I put Nazis, white supremacists, members of the KKK, or anyone who engages in malicious speech or behavior against a person or group, because of race, religion, or country of origin; because of what they look like, who they love, how they gender-identify, or their physical or cognitive abilities… Why? Because Nazis, white supremacists, the KKK and their ilk all indulge in the non-justifiable sort of hate. Sorry, no, you’ve got no business hating me because I’m a fat old woman, or my friends because they’re black, or Jewish, or gay. To put it more succinctly, if you hate someone because of the color of his skin, you’re a dick. If that person hates you because you call him the N word, you’ve got it coming.”

The Online Hate Prevention Institute aims to reduce the risk of harm to individuals as a result of online hate. That can include a disproportionate response of “justifiable hate” directed against a bigot. This is why we redact the names of people when we share their hateful content. Instead, for the most serious content we encounter, for example content inciting violence, we refer the content to the proper authorities such as the police. We also ban those who promote hate from our page. This reduced the effort we need to spend on moderation, creates a safer environment for everyone else, and prevent the bigot using our page in a manner that may lead to an excessive public response against them. 

Attacking the left and demanding those attacked “suck it up”

A second comment from the same person reads, “Gotcha loud and clear. Obviously you left wing uneducated idiots will only accept ONE opinion. If you don’t agree with it, you are incapable of discussing or debating. Your only ability is to rant and rave like a 3 year old who doesn’t get its way.
Suck it up buttercup.”

This is an example of a post that attacks a group calling them “left wing uneducated idiots”. It’s fall back to name calling and promoting the idea that the (far) right are more intelligent. This goes back to the roots of classic racism on the far right.

The final comment “Suck it up buttercup” highlights the privilege many of the bigots feel they have. They believe it is their right to abuse others and those others are supposed to just take it. Note how badly this clashes with the complaint in the previous post “Why is it NOT considered hateful and divisive to criticise and attack those who ask the above questions?” It amounts to freedom of speech, but only when the poster agrees with the views expressed… exactly what he is accusing Green of doing.

Now it’s apparently all a Muslim Conspiracy

In this third comment our far-right visitor writes, “Typically, you missed the point mate. I never said that ‘gay folk’ will then demand other things. You assume too much. What you need to understand is that even some Muslims (who hate homosexuality with a fever) are intending to vote YES because they know that a change will enable them to then push for legalised bestiality (as they did in canada), polygamy, child marriage and more. You also fail to understand that apart from the Muslim community, there are many other groups (pedophiles) watching from the sidelines. But then again, we realise that many supporters of change are more than a little one-eyed.”

In this post he has turned his attention to religious vilification, attacking the Muslim community. The slippery slope argument is advanced again, this time more explicitly and with the idea it isn’t a gay conspiracy but now a Muslim, pedophile and “other groups” conspiracy to change the nature of society. It is the “supporters of change” and indeed “change” itself that he is against. Our posted is an ultra conservative opposed to progressive ideas or change within society.

Who is this person?

At first glance this person appear to be a member of the far-right, given the pages they support. A deeper look at their posts, however, suggests “ultra conservative” would be a better description. They are Australian, an active atheist and describe themselves in a post on our page as “a straight married guy with a son who CHOSE to be homosexual and a lesbian sis in law ‘married’ (as far as everyone is concerned) to a lovely trans guy/lady, both in their 50s.” Their insistence that their son “chose to be homosexual” is a whole separate topic.

What’s clear is that this person is concerned with change and willing to lash out against a range of minorities they see threatening their privileged position in society. This is not someone engaging in debate so they can make a more informed decision. They have the right to their own views, but we have the right to say those hateful bigoted views has no place on the Online Hate Prevention Institute Facebook page. The person is now banned from our page.

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