About a decade ago, state and federal courts upheld The Boy Scouts of America right to deny membership to agnostics, atheists, and homosexuals.
I don’t agree with The Boy Scouts. Screw ‘em. You’re bastards. But I do agree with the courts.
The BSA is a private organization – romantically American, but private nonetheless. And while I do seriously question the BSA’s right to public funds and access to public lands, I do not question the Scout’s right to exclude anyone they want. (I also reserve my right to exclude them.)
And yet, something troubling bubbles to the surface.
Facebook (my new favorite topic) is a vast repository of interests and beliefs, not all of which register favorably with the social mainstream. One of those turbulent silos of belief is Holocaust deniers.
This isn’t a post debating the “truthiness” of the Holocaust. I mean, if you don’t believe that the Holocaust happened, then what strange realities flourish inside your head? Do you believe the moon is made of cheese? Do you question the existence of grass? Are you a Scientologist? What color are the unicorns in your world?
However, a movement has begun to expunge Holocaust denier group pages from Facebook. According to a recent CNN.com article, Attorney Brian Cuban, brother of Dallas Mavericks team owner Mark Cuban, has been trying since last year to have the pages of groups with such names as “Holocaust: A Series of Lies,” and “Holocaust is a Holohoax” removed from Facebook.
The fact is there are a lot of exclusionary, offensive, and dopey groups located on Facebook. One is the One Body of Christ Experiment (all Christians on Facebook). Here is a comment posted in a discussion group entitled “Gay Marriage and Incestous (sic) Marriage:”
“I compare Gay marriage to consentual incestous marriage (like a Brother marrying a sister, or Father marrying his daughter, or a Son marrying his mother).
Both consentual homosexuality and consentual incest are pathological behaviors, and a society that creates de novo, a right to homosexual and/or incestous marriage is pathological itself.”
If you’re gay, or if you married your sister, then you might find that comment offensive. That’s not all. Here’s a One Body member’s response to ‘Who Created Evil?’:
That’s either deep and profound on many levels, or it’s a cold dig at any religion who calls God “Allah.” I’m guessing the latter.
Despite the ignorance, One Body In Christ Experiment should be allowed to live on Facebook. We are a society of diverse beliefs and opinions, and we live in a country that promises to hear them all, even if they offend.
“There is no First Amendment right to free speech in the private realm,” Cuban said. “This isn’t a freedom-of-speech issue. Facebook is free to set the standard that they wish.”
Mr. Cuban is absolutely right. Facebook is free to set the standard, and it has the right to eject anyone from its digital empire. The only legitimate censor of material on Facebook is simply the material that offends Mr. Facebook.
It’s censorship – not government censorship – but it is censorship. When Wal-Mart deems a magazine or music CD as “too offensive for its customers,” it is much like the Chinese shutting down a blog for risk of inflaming public passions: One Monolithic Entity believes that its minions haven’t the mental fortitude to properly handle the material.
If government censorship is intolerable, where does corporate censorship fall on villainy’s totem pole?
Censorship is an act of the strong suppressing the weak. We attribute that kind of strength to governments, but in many areas, private enterprise eclipses the might of government. For example, the world’s #1 retailer for DVDs is Wal-Mart. When it decides that Showgirls or Fahrenheit 9/11** is not appropriate for its consumers, that forces movie studios to think twice before making those types of films.
Apologists will say, “Buy your seedy copy of 9 1/2 Weeks somewhere else, pervert.” But Wal-Mart’s censor has already affected the suits in Hollywood who don’t think beyond profit and loss. Hell, Wal-Mart requested that that the cover of Zack and Miri Make a Porno be “edited” so that the word “porno” is removed. We now have a retailer dictating art.
Wal-Mart has the right to sell what it wants, but it’s still censorship, Jack. And as corporations become larger and their competitors more scarce, we the consumer/citizen will endure more and more of it. Today, Wal-Mart thinks we can’t handle a few naked titties, the Boy Scouts think we can’t deal with a homosexual scout masters, and Mark Cuban’s brother thinks we can’t ignore morons on Facebook. Who’s to say what materials Starbucks, EXXON, and Verizon will dictate to us tomorrow?
Speaking of material, here’s another Facebook group that some people might find offensive: I Support the Israel Defense Forces In Preventing Terror Attacks From Gaza. The U.S. government publicly disavowed*** this military campaign, and news organizations like NPR exposed the high human toil paid by ordinary citizens of Gaza. I doubt if a woman who saw her kid blown to bits by an Israeli missile would appreciate the existence of such a group.
You see, Mr. Brother of Mark Cuban, one man’s belief is another man’s insult – whether it’s the belief that black people are inferior or the belief that marijuana be legalized. Ours is a society that must accept the full spectrum of opinion, or we no longer have a democratic society.
We have a Nazi state.
* Inventing facts is easy.
** These titles are not available at Wal Mart stores, but can be purchased online at Walmart.com
*** But privately, I imagine, Israel’s war with Hamas inspired awkward white-guy high-fives behind closed doors.