Saturday, June 1, 2013

We Can't Be Associated With You

I've mentioned before that I get barred from a lot of online forums. I am a pedophile who doesn't see anything wrong with my sexual orientation, and I am a vocal and unapologetic advocate for the rights of young people.

Quite often, the ban comes in the form of a fairly obvious and unapologetic expression of disgust at my views, positions, and/or existence. The runners of said sites establishing themselves as effectively declared enemies, and acting on the sincere belief that I'm evil and need to be silenced. In a strange way, they're some of the most respectable sorts who act to silence me, since their intentions are clear and displayed in the open for all to see. So certain of the righteousness of their position, they often hold no fear of leaving what I've already said as a matter of public record, and allow that record to speak for itself, which suits me just fine.

Slightly less often, legalistic loopholes are used to justify the bans, citing some rule or another that's been deliberately written in vague language for the sake of later selective enforcement. These are the sites that pretend to uphold a standard of free speech and pretend that censorship isn't a part of their ideology or mission statement. These are the places that tend to have drawn out exit processes, since almost no one on the internet has thought to prohibit the sorts of things I want to say. As a result, most of that overbroad language isn't actually broad enough on a simple reading, and the staff at such places is very reluctant to actually invoke and use the "we can ban anyone for any reason" clauses that are always a part of the boilerplate. They recognize that censoring me is admitting that they can't defeat my ideas in a free marketplace, and so a ban is an admission of failure on their part. These are actually some of the most satisfying notes to leave on, since typically by the time they've rewritten their rules for the purpose of getting rid of me, I've emboldened others who'd previously stayed silent.

It's only in recent years that I've encountered a peculiar third group of censors. This one actually seems to understand how public relations works, and as such, I've come to the conclusion the are the most threatening and insidious of the lot. They communicate via emails and private messages, away from the public eye, that they are oh so sympathetic to what I'm saying, but that they can't risk the public blowback of being associated with me or my ideas, before imposing secret restrictions on my posting or jumping straight to a ban outright.

In a sense, it's easy to empathize. After all, I know full well what the risks are of being associated with me. I am me, after all. Merely by letting me speak, when so many places engage in outright bans, does come across as a tacit endorsement of my words in the eyes of some idiotic members of the public, so one can see what they would have to fear.

The problem is that they're liars.

I take no issue with forums where the subjects I care about are censored entirely. Where the entire conversation simply is not allowed to happen, and anyone bringing it up is told to knock it off and/or banned. That is not what happens with those sites who utilize this friendly public relations tactic.

When you censor only one side of an argument, and allow the other free reign, that is what an actual endorsement of a viewpoint looks like. Just because the site runners and administrators don't join in on the pile-on doesn't change the fact that they've taken a side and acted as an enemy. What makes them different and worse than the first group is that they've chosen not to declare hostilities, preferring to pretend to their readership that the site is actually an open forum and that the apparent homogeneity of opinion is a fact of life rather than a product of their censorship.

These are the sites who will most often retroactively wipe away the record of any argument that didn't go their way, while leaving dozens of threads where they believe their preferred viewpoint came off better intact.

The fact of the matter is that even at my most aggressive, I don't go where I'm not invited. I never bring up pedophilia or youth rights subjects in a space where no one had breached the topic first. I do care about, and respect the fact that not every space is appropriate for this conversation. But when the conversation is happening, when someone has brought up the subject, and it's continuing, someone needs to step in and say something, speak unapologetically for the opposing point of view. The risk otherwise is that those who thoughtlessly follow the crowd will leave the mainstream viewpoint unexamined, and those who fear reprisal will be cowed into silence, creating the illusion of consensus when the truth is anything but.

I don't recall if I've said this before in one of these posts, but I care as much as I do about putting forward the idea that there is nothing wrong with pedophiles because when I was younger and figuring out my sexuality, I desperately needed to hear it. I needed to have the point that pedophiles are not the same thing as child molesters stated loudly and unapologetically, because I was afraid of what I was feeling and what the cultural gestalt told me that meant was coming. When I saw someone stand up to the crowd, that helped me, and since then, I've tried to become that voice for the next person who needs to hear it.