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The line between inciting hate or violence and informing others about that hate and violence is being blurred.

Facebook’s recent heavy-handed actions against Caldron Pool, and Caldron Pool contributor, Evelyn Rae, suggest that the social media platform is happy to unfairly conflate reporting or fair criticism of an event with endorsement of that event. Rae was given a 13 day ban, restricting posts from her Facebook page appearing in newsfeeds because she shared a screenshot of another person’s tweet for people to comment on. Caldron Pool experienced similar censorship after posting an article reporting on ‘Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram, who had executed two Christian aid workers.’ The post was removed. Then restored on appeal, but the restrictions we left in place.

There’s a difference between advocacy and commentary.

If we apply descriptive and prescriptive linguistics to how news worthy events or commentary are presented, we can see that companies like Facebook will inevitably hurt their customer base, because they continue to blur the descriptive and the prescriptive, rather than hold them in tension.

Descriptive is freelance, risky. Prescriptive tells everyone exactly what to do and when. The failure to determine who is saying what, and why, will mean that the prescriptive parameters of speech shut down all descriptive aspects of speech and vice versa. In short, this failure kills freedom of speech and with it constitutional democracy.

Rather than being a paradox of contrasting terms, the descriptive and prescriptive can be viewed as dialectical. There is a relationship between the two. Think of it as a dynamic, dialectic linguistic muscle which moves the limbs of thought and communication forward. This relational dialectic is exemplified by feedback.

Feedback consists of both positive and negative communication. Each serves a unique purpose in evaluating information and data. Without the positive and negative, feedback is pointless. Likewise, without the descriptive process there is no freedom to communicate. Without the prescriptive process, we have no idea how to communicate.

Without the working connectivity of this relational dialectic, conflicting viewpoints have no platform. Feedback has no real role to play other than what it is allowed to be channelled into cheap echo chambers. As a result, freedom of speech either ends up adrift in a sea of discordant noise, or it becomes stuck in the paralysing quagmire of political correctness and identity politics.

We end up with what Chantal Mouffe, in The Democratic Paradox (2005), called a ‘third way’, a ‘one dimensional world’ where the ‘blurring of the frontiers between Left and Right, jeopardise the future of democracy’. This is because of an aversion to freedom of thought and freedom of speech. An aversion played out through a fear of losing, a fear of conflict, fear of people being able to discriminate and choose between two competing ideas. This would include a fear of free speech because of insecurity, and the overbearing, unachievable quest for absolute equality.

Political opponents are no longer friendly adversaries, but are pitted against each other as bitter enemies.

Constitutional Democracy ends up like a ship that’s lost its ability to move – fodder for jagged rocks; the play toy of manipulative propagandists, the progenitors of totalitarianism, and their progeny: lies, confusion and powerlessness.

There is no push and pull; no dialectic muscle to empower Mouffe’s idea of classical liberal democracy, where friendly adversaries negotiate, disagree, are diplomatic, and apply temporary compromise under the banner of unity in diversity.

According to Mouffe, the future of ‘modern democracy lies in the recognition and legitimation of conflict, along with the refusal to suppress it by imposing an authoritarian order. It’s strength lies in its ability to replace antagonism (intense dislike and deep seated hostility) with agonism (positive struggle; constructive conflict).’

For Mouffe, ‘conflict need not involve the identification of an enemy whom one wants to destroy; conflict between adversaries who may disagree can exist, but ultimately they respect one another’s right to exist.’ Bitter political enemies are ‘no longer perceived as an enemy to be destroyed, but as an ‘adversary’, that is somebody whose ideas we combat but whose right to defend those ideas we do not put into question.’ [i]

The dialectic muscle that is push and pull, allows us to hear different perspectives, formulate an opinion for ourselves, and freely communicate that opinion in a way that others can understand it. This dialectic muscle is a vital muscle for the body politic. Communication as descriptive and prescriptive dialectic, are good for constitutional democracy. They are the ingredients necessary for freedom of speech to function properly.

Social media platforms must embrace this relational dialectic by seeing that there’s a difference between describing and prescribing; the difference between commenting on events or ideas, and using those events or ideas to ‘incite violence or risk imminent harm.

Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg broke with the norm this week. Standing up and speaking out in favour of freedom of speech, the CEO outlined how one of his biggest challenges at Facebook was finding an answer to policing freedom of expression, while ensuring such an action doesn’t hurt freedom of expression.

Describing how difficult this is, he said “some people think our policies don’t prohibit content they think qualifies as hate, while others think what we take down should be a protected form of expression. This area is one of the hardest to get right.”

He expressed concern about ‘polarization’, saying that Facebook ‘has an important role in designing their systems to show a diversity of ideas and not encourage polarizing content.’

Zuckerberg believes that Facebook has two responsibilities in this regard: First, ‘to remove content when it could cause real danger as effectively as we can, and second, to fight to uphold as wide a definition of freedom of expression as possible — and not allow the definition of what is considered dangerous to expand beyond what is absolutely necessary.’

He said that he believed “people should be able to use our services to discuss issues they feel strongly about — from religion and immigration to foreign policy and crime. You should even be able to be critical of groups without dehumanizing them.” He also admitted that Facebook makes “enforcement mistakes” because judging who is saying what and why, “isn’t always straight-forward.”

Pointing to precedents in the United States, the Facebook CEO said, he wants to uphold broad speech rights, stating: “I know many people disagree, but, in general, I don’t think it’s right for a private company to censor politicians or the news in a democracy.”

Zuckerberg rightly stated that “while he worries about an erosion of truth, and that he doesn’t think most people want to live in a world where you can only post things that tech companies judge to be 100% true.”

His quest is to leave a legacy that protects freedom of speech. In doing so he said part of the process is keeping Facebook free of fake accounts, malicious entities exploiting the platform with dubious money making scams, and removing deliberate misinformation that could lead to someone taking hazardous advice.

Part of his concern is the increasing restrictions on free speech in other countries. For example, China’s exporting of their vision of the internet, which suppresses dissent, monitors users speech and determines what kind of speech is allowed.

For me, outside his reliance on the term hate speech and polarization, Zuckerberg’s speech hit the right notes. He says a lot of the right things when it comes to putting in place protections for freedom of speech on the platform, but as with a lot of promising talk, actions speak louder than words.

I was both impressed and surprised by his stance on China, and encouraged by how he acknowledged the importance of preserving freedom of speech and its important role in a vibrant constitutional democracy.

Mennonite theologian, John Howard Yoder wrote, ‘democracy, with its judicial and constitutional processes can be essentially defined as communication.’ [ii]

The danger to constitutional democracy is the undermining of this ability to communicate freely. Free speech is let down through a failure to recognise the distinction between advocacy and commentary; the failure to acknowledge the relational push and pull dialectic of prescriptive and descriptive.

Failure to acknowledge the relational dialectic undermines free speech by emphasising prescriptive speech over the descriptive, or vice versa. This happens through the quest to control others by imposing new cultural laws on the body politic, such as anything not viewed as politically correct, being far too easily hated on, as hate speech.

We’re already see this when political groups, a lot like China’s vision for the internet, prescribe politically correct speech as the only legitimate speech. Nowhere is this more powerfully seen than in forced speech laws regarding Islam, transgenderism, or the LGBT religion in general.

The relational dialectic of push and pull has the power to preserve constitutional democracy, through agreement and disagreement. Just as tension in a muscle is necessary to ensure motion, so is the necessity to have a platform or open forum, where ideas can be aired, challenged and either adopted or reasonably rejected. All of which is built on mutual respect, not necessarily on an obligation to mutual agreement.

Zuckerberg’s concern about polarization places him in agreement with Mouffe’s argument. The preservation of constitutional democracy lies with an effort to utilise constitutional democracy’s capacity to replace antagonism (intense dislike and deep seated hostility) with agonism (positive struggle; constructive conflict).

Freedom of speech is the great relational dialectic muscle of constitutional democracy. Its push and pull gives constitutional democracy momentum. Only through its preservation, and the exercise of it, will we be able to move forward, while also preserving healthy tradition, freedom, rights and responsibilities.

 


References:

[i] Mouffe, C. 2005. The Democratic Paradox, Verso

[ii] Yoder, J.H. 1964, The Christian Witness to the State, Herald Press.

Full transcript of Mark Zuckerberg’s Speech

First published on Caldron Pool, 23rd October 2019 & also featured on The Spectator Australia, 24th October 2019.

Photo by Alex Haney on Unsplash

©Rod Lampard, 2019

I largely agree with Ben Shapiro’s consistent criticism of Donald Trump’s ‘fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants’ approach to foreign policy. Trump appears to ride roughshod, giving the impression of impulsiveness, or worse that he hasn’t considered the law of unintended consequences. However, a lot of recent criticism coming from both sides of politics, concerning the Trump administration’s decision to “withdraw” U.S Troops from Syria, ignore the plight of refugees, and push aside the fact that Turkey is still an official ally of the United States. As signatories of NATO they are strategic partners.

The recent advance of the Turks into northern Syria wasn’t a spur of the moment decision. The Turkish plan, as outlined by Carlotta Gall from the New York Times in September, is twofold. First, to create a buffer zone between Turkey and the Kurds, second, to repatriate over one million Syrian Refugees, currently in Turkey. The goal being to relocate some of the 3.6 million refugees Turkey has given refuge to, by moving them back into ‘Syrian territory controlled by the United States and its Kurdish allies.’

While it would be fair to ask whether Turkish regime leader, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was using refugees as an excuse to attack and suppress the Kurds, the question ignores the current needs of Syrian refugees, and it pushes aside the question about who is going to take responsibility for over 10,000 ISIS prisoners.

In addition, Gall reported that not everyone involved in Syria is on board with the plan. This didn’t stop Erdogan, who appeared to give an ultimatum in response. Either give Turkey access to the area, or ‘he would “open the gates” for large numbers of refugees to head into Europe as they did in 2015.’

Though Trump’s approach to foreign policy appears impulsive, the U.S. “withdrawal from Northern Syria” isn’t an absolute fiat accompli. Trump’s decision is better described as a strategic repositioning, rather than a withdrawal of U.S Forces. As James Laporta of Newsweek clarified, ‘current rules of engagement for U.S. forces continue to be centered around self-defense and that no order has been issued by the Pentagon for a complete withdraw from Syria.’

Claims about a withdrawal come from the decision to reposition 50-100 special operations forces. This was done, according to Military Times, ahead of the Turkish operation in order to ‘protect U.S. troops and keep them out of the crossfire.’

It’s also worth acknowledging that this strategic repositioning didn’t come without a warning to Turkey’s leaders.  Trump has made it clear that he does not support the initiative and urged Turkish authorities to avoid triggering another humanitarian crisis in the region. To back this up the United States ceased sharing of tactical reconnaissance information with Turkey, to prevent them using their strategic partnership with the United States to pad advantage in any military operation, to make way for the relocation and resettlement of Syrian refugees back into Syria.

Trump’s warning also takes into consideration an obligation for Turkey not to renege on an agreement to take responsibility for the 11,000 ISIS fighters being held across the region. The onus of responsibility for preventing any reemergence of ISIS in the area is now solely on Turkey.

The strategic partnership between Europe, Turkey and the United States, means that NATO has political clout from which they can use to hold Turkey accountable, if the regime decides to decimate the Kurdish people or further attempt to wipe the Assyrian Christians. It would seem, by Trump’s remarks on his personal Twitter account, (ignoring the ridiculous ‘great and unmatched wisdom’ part), that he is banking on that connection to keep the Kurds and Assyrian Christians in the area safe.

What may seem to be a foolish move by the United States may, in time, prove to be a smart one. This isn’t about American isolationism. The long standing mutual obligation America has to its Turkish allies through NATO, alongside the question about what to do with ISIS prisoners, and Syrian refugees, all provide legitimate reasons for the United States to redefine its relationship with the Middle East, and with Turkey in particular.

Add to this reasoning the peripheral activity of far-left foreign fighters training with the Kurds, such as the self-described Antifa platoon, mixed in with the domestic headache, and potential domestic threat this poses to the internal stability of the United States, the rationale for Trump’s decision becomes clearer. Given the actions of Antifa, a far-left organization, over the past three years, surely insurgent combat training and combat experience is a recipe for disaster.

To sum up, America and Turkey are allies. Turkey is part of NATO. The United States is bound by that partnership, and has a responsibility to hold to it.

This also means that America is not left alone in holding Turkey accountable – it would be a United Nations effort, lead by all of NATO’s partners. As witnessed by NATO chief, Jens Stoltenber’s recent call for restraint.

Regardless of how we may feel as spectators, we aren’t privy to the kinds of sensitive information American Presidents have access to. The role back of a U.S military presence in Syria is a surgical response to a complex situation.  On one hand there is the possibility of the withdrawal having the same vacuous affect that Barrack Obama’s abysmal decision to withdraw completely from Iraq did, ripping apart a healing wound, only to see that wound fester into what would become the infectious abomination that is Islamic State (ISIS). If this eventuates, the decision could prove to be an avoidable disaster, not only for the Trump administration, but for NATO.

On the other hand, Trump’s decision could deescalate tensions, shining a spotlight on Turkey, making it hard for them avoid finding a diplomatic way to reach a settlement or agreement with their own partners in the region, that will include protections for the Kurds and Assyrian Christians. If this eventuates, the decision was humanitarian.

Either way, it’s likely to be the case that Trump is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. Donald Trump’s head, since Hilary Clinton lost the 2016 election, has been marked for the guillotine by the far-left. Any preventable loss of American life would have been on his hands, as would the escalation of U.S involvement through any military action to stop Turkey.

The same goes for Trump taking the more peaceable road. It’s a decision that could open the door for the potential slaughter of Kurds and further elimination of Assyrian Christians by the Turkish regime.

Despite this, the repositioning of U.S troops was a hard, but an important call.

There’s a difference between being dominate and domineering. To be dominant is to have influence and power. To be domineering is to force that influence and power over others in an arrogant way. America is a dominate force, Trumps knows this. His decision also suggests that he’s keen to see America not follow mistakes of the past by abusing that power and influence. This arrogance of power, as noted by Democrat senator, William J. Fullbright in 1966, has been the domineering historical flaw in American foreign policy.

The rejection of this arrogance of power sends a message to the world. One which says that the Trump administration are not what their enemies claim, and one that asserts Donald Trump’s ability to make unpopular decisions, if he has good reasons for doing so.

The U.S is caught between themselves and two Allies. On one side they have to hold to their mutual obligations under the NATO treaty. On the other side, they have an obligation to honour the effort of the Kurds in helping defeat ISIS. The United States also has an obligation to its own people. A large part of this is seeing to it that they don’t commit the mistakes of the past. This is a case of damned if they do, damned if they don’t. The best move in this scenario is a reluctant, cautious repositioning, because idleness is the devil’s playground.


First published on Caldron Pool, 11th October, 2019.

Photo by Stephen Radford on Unsplash

©Rod Lampard, 2019

March for The Babies is marking the 10th anniversary of their continuing stand against the Victorian Abortion Law Reform Act 2008.

Victoria’s abortion law passed 11 years ago. It defines abortion as ‘intentionally causing the termination of a woman’s pregnancy by – using an instrument; drug, combination of drugs or any other means.’

The law allows for this violent interruption of a pregnancy up to 24 weeks without question. It also allows for abortions past 24 weeks, if a Doctor ‘reasonably believes that the abortion is appropriate and has consulted at least one other medical practitioner who agrees’ with the assessment.

Much like the contentious NSW Abortion bill which was recently passed with few amendments to protect the life of the unborn, the ambiguous rubric for assessment post 24 weeks, includes taking into consideration ‘all relevant medical circumstances’ along with the mother’s ‘current and future physical, psychological and social circumstances.’

March for the Babies aims to advance awareness through remembrance and peaceful witness. They assert the civil rights of the unborn, while also providing assistance to women in crisis pregnancies. The pro-life group also supports the right for medical practitioners to withdraw from assisting or carrying out an abortion if it goes against their conscience.

Although Victorian abortion law makes room for conscientious objection, the law maintains that a medical “health” practitioner has a duty to perform or assist an abortion if the situation is determined to ‘be necessary in order to preserve the life of the pregnant woman.’

Similar to the New South Wales version of abortion law, the Victorian abortion law also has no amendments to prevent the trade in body parts from an aborted child.

March for the Babies gathers every October in order to create awareness about this unethical law and hold it to account.

This year’s march for the abolition of abortion will be held on Saturday, 12th October, at 1pm, beginning at Treasury Gardens, Spring Street East Melbourne. This year’s march will also mark 10 years of peaceful protests, featuring Daughters of the King Choir and a range of speakers.

The call for the abolition of abortion is the anti-slavery issue of our age.

As Victorian Liberal M.P. Bernie Finn said,

“11 years ago, the Victorian Parliament removed all legal protection for children before birth. Babies can be killed for any reason at any time right up until they would otherwise be born. Doctors and nurses are forced by law to participate or refer to a medico who will commit the abortion. Join us as we March for the Babies and reject these heinous laws!”

First published on Caldron Pool, 27th September, 2019.

 

Avi Yemini was banned from Twitter after a tweet addressed to climate change activist Greta Thunberg, was flagged as being in breach of Twitter’s EULA.

Yemini’s criticism wasn’t without merit. He was responding to Greta’s widely publicised, scripted speech, performed before the UN summit on Climate Change. Her performance appeared manufactured, and forced.

Emotionally distraught, Greta appeared to be intimidated and scared. She repeated the words ‘’How dare you” as part of her claim that the UN (aka the world) had “stolen her dreams and childhood with empty words”, and that “people are suffering, people are dying” and that “entire ecosystems are collapsing.”

Greta preached from the official socialist narrative on “climate justice.” The 16 year old passionately asserted that we’re “in the beginning of a mass extinction”; and that instead of inciting panic and forcing irrational change, all the UN does is “talk about money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth.”

Her shaky performance prompted Ryan Saavedra of The Daily Wire to point out that Greta comes from a family of talented performers. Citing The Washington Examiner, Saavedra explained that her parents are ‘stage-parents’. Her mother sang opera internationally, and her father and grandfather both gained fame through acting and directing.”

Matt Walsh chimed in saying that Greta Thunberg was a victim of child abuse:

‘If any grown up in Thunberg’s life really cared about her psychological and emotional well-being, they would sit her down and explain that climate change is not going to destroy human civilization. Yes, the climate is changing. Climates tend to do that. But whatever role humans play in that process, and to whatever degree, it is not going to result in the end of all life as we know it. Talk of a 10-year, or 12-year, or 20-year, timeline before planetary catastrophe is all an invention of politicians and media personalities. Scientists don’t speak this way.’

Walsh wasn’t the only person to show serious concern for the teenage activist. Social media feedback, both for and against, has #Greta mentioned in over 1.21 million tweets since her speech.

Avi Yemini was among them. It seems that someone behind the scenes took a dislike to his criticism and decided hit the big, red, shiny, hammer and sickle button. His alleged crime against the people’s republic of Twitter was “manipulation and spam.”

Given the large amount of voices on social media speaking out in concern for Greta’s role and how she is being treated by her handlers, Twitter’s beef, is apparently not so much with what was said, but who, and how they said it.

Yemini wrote:

“I hate the UN more than you could imagine, but they didn’t steal your dreams or childhood – your parents did. They should be jailed for the sickening child abuse they put you through. They’ve scared you into an extremist.”

TR news posted Avi’s Youtube response to the Twitter ban, where he accused the social media platform of concocting “an excuse to silence him.” Though the ban is now under review, Avi asked for support saying, “use hashtag #FreeAvi because whether you agree with me or not, this is a freedom of speech issue”, and if “they can come for me” on a bogus charge, “they will come for you.”

Earlier this year, Yemini was also permanently banned from Facebook, after Jim Jefferies had tried to set him up, using the dishonest journalistic practice of re-engineering interviews, through cut and paste sound bites to perpetuate a particular narrative. Yemini alleges it was an attempt to ‘brand him as far-right and somehow link him to the atrocities committed during the Christchurch shooting.’

Facebook banned Yemini for “hate speech” because he posted hidden video footage of Jim Jefferies, ‘mocking Mohammad and drawing him as a ‘wobbly ghost’.’

The Facebook ban coincided with Yemini being blocked from entering the United States back in April. His entry was stopped after Comedy Central reported him to American authorities, due to concerns they had about him walking into Comedy Central and ‘confronting producers’ An interview resurfaced around the time of the Christchurch shootings featuring Yemini, who had said that he only agreed to do the original interview with the ‘proviso they didn’t put him in the same story as neo-Nazis.’

Yemini told 10 Daily that his concern was due to Comedy Central not sticking to that arrangement, and instead, ‘editing and context were manipulated. Ergo he was planning to walk into Comedy Central and confront producers, [because they] weren’t responding online.’

Avi Yemini wasn’t wrong in showing concern for Greta. Nor was he wrong in his criticism of her handlers.

It’s important to note that Greta isn’t on trial, neither is science. What is on trial is the misuse and manipulation of science for political and financial gain, via a bandwagon fallacy. Apocalyptic climate change does violence to the scientific method, because it silences questions. It is a narrative built on fear and groupthink.

Greta’s speech shows us that kids are under immense psychological and emotional pressure to process what they’re being sold. All of which is generated by apocalyptic climate change extremists. That is why I disagreed with Tim Costello when he supported the climate strike calling it a Christian duty. Kids are being over-burdened with fears of the world ending. All based on an hypothesis, turned-vicious-dogma. Apocalyptic climate change is politics veiled as science. It’s immoral and unchristian to stand by and applaud such manipulation. It is child abuse.

Greta’s speech today proved that her handlers are the ones betraying her. Not Avi Yemini. Not the majority who join him in questioning the narrative of fear, used to push apocalyptic climate change, and the marketing package it’s encased in.

#bewaretheauctioneers

UPDATE: Twitter reinstated Avi’s account on the 26th September, after the review.


First published on Caldron Pool, 24th September, 2019

Photo by Kelli McClintock on Unsplash 

©Rod Lampard, 2019