Gavin McInnes, Republican Gang 'Proud Boys' Axed Off Facebook. A Little Late.
On Tuesday, Facebook and Instagram announced that they had banned several accounts related to the Proud Boys and Gavin McInnes, citing their "policies against hate organizations and figures." The Proud Boys, as you are surely aware by now, are a Republican street gang known for brutally assaulting leftwing protestors, reenacting political assassinations, and being able to name five brands of cereal while being beaten up by members of the group.
"Our team continues to study trends in organized hate and hate speech and works with partners to better understand hate organizations as they evolve," a Facebook spokesperson told BuzzFeed News. "We ban these organizations and individuals from our platforms and also remove all praise and support when we become aware of it. We will continue to review content, Pages, and people that violate our policies, take action against hate speech and hate organizations to help keep our community safe."
Facebook says it hasn't gotten to banning all of the groups associated with the Proud Boys just yet, because there are a lot of them, but has assured Buzzfeed that the purge will continue.
Here, for the record, is McInnes talking about how much he loves violence:
Gavin McInnes In His Own Words: Proud Boys Engage In Violence For Fun www.youtube.com
Naturally, supporters of the group are going to try to make this about "free speech," but this isn't about "free speech." It's not even about "hate speech." People can have all the free speech they want, but there is a difference between expressing that "free speech" on the street standing on a soapbox or in one's own living room and doing it in someone else's living room. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other forms of social media are, technically, "someone else's living room." They are not the "public square." They are not "public utilities," and if you think that's what a public utility is, I don't want to see your gas bill.
Think about it this way -- if I were to have a bunch of people over to my house to discuss a bomb plot, I would be arrested as a co-conspirator whether I was involved or not. Giving platforms or comfort to people who are doing fucked up shit means being complicit in that fucked up shit.
The real issue here, however, is not just that they are going around saying fucked up shit -- it's radicalization. I've seen it firsthand. Angry men get into these groups online and they become acclimated to extremism, to the point that extremism soon seems extremely normal and reasonable to them. They get so into it that they end up trying to take that act on the road and are summarily told to fuck right off by everyone they know and love because they are now going around acting like assholes. They then become even more isolated, which leads to them becoming radicalized even further, because no one else can stand them. Then they start doing shit like chasing people down the street in order to reenact the worst scenes from A Clockwork Orange.
People are malleable; isolated people desperate for acceptance even moreso. It's not hard to understand, especially for anyone who has ever felt this way. If you feel shitty about yourself, and a group of people comes along telling you that they fully accept you, that they want you, that is going to be extremely enticing. Sometimes that can be a good thing, like if you're just a teenage weirdo and you meet other teenage weirdos, but it can also be dangerous. Like with cults. Banning extremist groups from social media platforms decreases the chances that they will become someone's whole world.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse