On Hitler comparisons, Alex Jones, and the evil of social media

The problem with saying “So-and-so is the next Hitler” is that because killing Nazis (and especially Hitler himself) was clearly in American interests, if So-and-so is basically Hitler reincarnated, then it must also be in America’s interest to kill So-and-so and his followers. In that way, a Hitler comparison constitutes a threat of violence.

Apparently Alex Jones was simultaneously banned from several major social media websites recently, on the grounds that his speech advocated hatred and violence. A survey of Jones’s speech will likely not turn up any hatred or violence, but rather a lot of kooky conspiracy theories about covered-up attempts by the government to turn everyone gay with chemicals in the drinking water, to create a protected race of superhuman transsexuals, or interdemensional portals through which child molesters travel, or some such thing.

Being charitable, what I think these social media websites meant but failed to say is that if Jones’s claims are to believed, then violence (against the government, transsexuals, etc.) is in order. Since Jones’s claims are not to be believed, but some people believe them, Jones’s claims constitute a threat of violence. But again, that’s if I’m being charitable. I don’t think reality is as charitable.

I don’t care about Alex Jones being singled out by the admins who work for social media websites. I’d be just as happy in an alternative reality with no Alex Jones in it. But it is menacing that these websites, used by so many people in the developed world, are administered so opaquely. The official terms of conduct are just there as theatre; your ability to use the website really depends on whether they decide they feel like silencing you for whatever reason. When your livelihood depends on using those websites (as I assume Alex Jones’s does to a significant degree), that gives them a lot of unconditional power over your life.

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