The Stochastic Terrorism Scam
Is that speech really dangerous or just speech you don't like?
Do you know who censors the free flow of information and opinions between adults in a society? For the most part, it’s cults, dictators, totalitarian states, and of course, liberals. Like the other people in that grouping, liberals do not have good motives for what they’re doing.
There are a lot of reasons the Left is okay with censorship. Liberals are typically very intolerant people. Their arguments don’t hold up well under scrutiny. Liberals treat their ideology like a religion and are okay with censoring “heretics.” Liberals don’t care very much about the rights of people they disagree with. Liberals have mostly given up on convincing people they’re right via persuasion. Liberals don’t care very much about the long-term ramifications of their actions. Liberals are so confident that they will forever be culturally dominant that they don’t ever believe that they will be treated the way they treat other people.
Of course, none of these things sound very good when you say them out loud, do they? So, just like the dictators who can’t just say, “I’m censoring you because it makes it easier to keep you under control and oppress you,” liberals can’t just come out and say why they really oppose free speech. They have to give flimsy excuses for it and the ones they seem to have settled lately on are “misinformation,” “hate speech” and their favorite new one, “stochastic terrorism.”
Let’s talk just a bit about the first two before we spend more time on the last one.
First of all, there’s certainly no shortage of “misinformation” in the social media era, but no objective, well-meaning person would ever try to address that issue the way social media websites have, by putting left-wing ideologues in charge of determining what’s true and what’s “misinformation” and then censoring people on that basis. As someone who has had lots of experience with “fact checkers” in writing for various conservative publications, I will freely admit that they do often get it right. They find mistakes, errors, and misquotes, which is commendable. However, they also often also get it wrong. They come up with bizarre justifications for things people on their side say while twisting themselves into a pretzel to declare that obviously true things said by conservatives are actually “false.” This is not an infrequent occurrence either. In fact, with some subjects like COVID, global warming or trans issues, conservative pages reliant on Facebook may avoid the subjects entirely because they can’t afford to get Facebook strikes and the fact-checkers are so ideologically driven that the truth is no defense. Ultimately, what it all comes down to is that the “fact-checking” system isn’t actually about “fact-checking,” it’s about censorship and the key factor isn’t “facts,” it’s who gets to decide the facts.
Liberals also love to talk about hate speech because it’s a similarly amorphous subject. For example, the closest thing we could come to a general agreement on as “hate speech” in our society would be racial slurs and/or outright hatred aimed at any race other than white people. But, why aren’t slurs against white people included? If comments like this one don’t count as “hate speech,” how does the concept have any meaning at all?
Once you go even further than that, the whole thing turns into one big blur. Just take a look at how the UN defines “hate speech”:
That’s a pretty broad brush, right? After all, “contemptuous” and “demeaning” speech are practically standard operating procedure for conversations about politics in America. Also, look at #3. Language, religion, ethnicity, health status – just about anything could conceivably be called hate speech, which is again, why liberals want to be the ones deciding what’s “hate speech” and what isn’t.
So, if you express concerns about radical Islam? That’s “hate speech,” but if a liberal talks about how much they hate Christians? Not “hate speech.” “Kill whitey?” Not hate speech. “It’s okay to be white?” Hate speech. “Men are part of an oppressive patriarchy that keeps women down.” Not hate speech! Saying “go make me a sandwich” to a woman? That’s ultra-hate speechy.
As you can see, this is all extremely arbitrary. Even racial slurs – are they really worse than the sort of things people say to each other every day on websites like Twitter? If you are insulting some stranger who doesn’t even know you exist and calling them a “piece of sh*t,” which somehow passes for normal discourse all over the Internet, how is that not hateful? By any reasonable standard, “hateful speech” is extremely common on the Internet, yet the vast majority of it doesn’t get labeled as hate speech. So when liberals start saying something is a problem because it’s “hate speech,” it’s nearly meaningless.
However, this column is really about the Left’s favorite new trope – that allowing conservatives to criticize them is actually DANGEROUS. Ilhan Omar and AOC love to play that game:
Libs of TikTok also gets accused of stochastic terrorism a lot for (*** checks notes ***) giving more publicity to left-wing public events and social media posts that liberals find embarrassing:
Along similar lines, Yoel Roth, Twitter’s ex-head of “Trust and Safety” who is happily no longer around now that Elon Musk has taken over, likes to play the “this is dangerous” card a lot:
You can’t report the names of people involved in moderation decisions because it puts those people in danger. A satire site like the Babylon Bee can’t be allowed to note the correct gender (misgender) of someone who is trans because it’s “dangerous.” Roth was “deeply terrified” by people who got angry at him because they disagreed with his decision to label Trump tweets as misinformation. Essentially, Roth thinks everything conservatives say is potentially dangerous. Meanwhile, here’s the attitude Twitter took about actual DEATH THREATS against conservatives when Roth was still around:
The good news is that attitude appears to be changing since Elon Musk took over Twitter:
This brings us to “stochastic terrorism.”
In theory, stochastic terrorism is:
“The public demonization of a person or group resulting in the incitement of a violent act, which is statistically probable but whose specifics cannot be predicted."
At first, it was hard to think of any concrete examples of stochastic terrorism in the United States. Certainly, liberal calls for protesting outside of people’s homes or confronting conservatives in public were designed to increase the chances of violence occurring, but that’s not because of “demonization,” so does it fit?
However, after further reflection, there was one thing that did come to mind. The way that liberals and Black Lives Matter created rioting and attacks on police officers in multiple cities across the country with their demonization of cops would seem to be a good example of stochastic terrorism.
Of course, even if that’s true, that begs the question; Now what? Should liberals and Black Lives Matter have been much more careful with their rhetoric? Unquestionably. They lied, demonized good cops that were just doing their jobs, and did everything they could to get people as angry as possible, even after it started leading to riots, looting, and arson. Billions of dollars in damages were done. Police officers were attacked. Real people DIED because of what they did… but, what’s the solution to that? Should we have made it illegal to criticize police officers? Should peaceful protests against cops have been outlawed? No.
If you believe that’s a real example of stochastic terrorism – and I certainly do – what’s the government remedy for it that doesn’t compromise the First Amendment? There just isn’t one. Sure, we can encourage people to be responsible, but we live in a society full of irresponsible people who aren’t necessarily going to heed that advice, so what can we do about it? From a constitutional standpoint, not much. Private enterprises could choose to take action against that sort of rhetoric in areas they control, but when they were actually confronted by stochastic terrorism, the mainstream media social media companies joined in and amplified those voices instead of clamping down on it, so the public certainly can’t trust them to deal with the issue either.
Of course, once again, the liberal concern about “stochastic terrorism” and “dangerous speech” really has little to do with either and a lot to do with who gets to DEFINE IT. Liberals want to be the ones doing that and coincidentally, they tend to think everything people like you say is DANGEROUS while the things people on their side say are generally harmless.
If that’s not the case, then as my friend Kurt Schlichter likes to say, “What is the rule?” What is the rule that we can all agree on beforehand that applies to both AOC and Marjorie Taylor Greene, Trump and Biden, conservatives and liberals? What you’ll find over and over again when it comes to the Left is that you can never actually pin them down on something like this because it’s really all about shutting up their political enemies. Limiting things to a genuinely neutral set of rules designed to prevent death threats, calls for violence, and potentially dangerous activities like protesting in front of people’s homes or confronting them in restaurants doesn’t further that goal, so they’re much more interested in the malleable terms they can twist around to censor their enemies:
If liberals ever want to genuinely come up with one set of standards of good behavior that apply to everyone on the Left and Right equally, I’m interested in having that conversation. On the other hand, if they just want a country where people with their views can’t be criticized, let them move to China. In the United States, no person, group, organization, or ideology should be beyond criticism.