ANTIFA, the decentralized activist gang notorious for inflicting political violence, have set their sights on a reactionary-biased free speech event hosting a panel on political violence. In a new report from The Post Millenial, a right-wing site with a factual reporting record, the Minds IRL organizers announced their event will still take place later this year despite a forced change in venue due to the group’s overt harassment tactics.
“We are currently in the process of modifying contracts and the event will still take place next Saturday 8/31 as scheduled in the Pitman, New Jersey area,” stated Minds CEO Bill Ottman, the scheduled moderator for the targetted political violence discussion. “We will have an update for ticket holders in the next couple of days with a permanent venue.” For understandable reasons, the event’s current location remains undisclosed to the public until closer to the date.
The panel, “Ending Racism, Violence, and Authoritarianism”, claims to “bring together a diverse group of people with differing viewpoints — people who often have combative and unproductive discussions online, behind their screens — and have them discuss their opinions and beliefs face-to-face, where each person can see the humanity of those whose viewpoints he or she disagrees with”, according to the organization’s website. Oh, if only it were so simple.
The panel on violence, for example, doesn’t actually honor this promise to host a diverse set of views given the guests are limited to Ottman, YouTube commentator Tim Pool and Quillette’s co-editor Andy Ngo. Yes, the famous victim of punches, robbery and milkshake dunkings by anonymous anti-fascist counter-protesters in Portland, Oregon in July. This scandal, keep in mind, came about despite Ngo’s prior tweets indicating his attendance would result in political violence via his own negligent agitation, thus making the violence a self-fulfilling prophecy albeit wrong to ignore.
Considering there’s no counter-representative to these actors, which agree on the topic and are notorious for obfuscating the brunt of political violence away from fascists, it’s almost no surprise ANTIFA members flip the board and decided to play social tyrant seeking to shut down the echo chamber. What was their solution, however? Typical coward tactics of hacking the account of the Pitman theatre until it “agrees to cancel… hosting racist, transphobic, holocaust denying speakers” linked to the event, in addition to threats of bombarding the premises “locking them in and lighting a fire”, such as the deleted tweet from ANTIFA-supporting user @BreadAndRoses. It’s unclear whether Twitter or law enforcement have looked into the threat as credible, though organizers suggest it played a role in the theatre’s disassociation.
For broader context, these speakers likely refer to Carl Benjamin (the failed political candidate who pushed alt-right conspiracies about Charlottesville and “satirical” sexual harassment against a British MP), BlazeTV host Lauren Chen (an uncritical host to white nationalists and their sympathizers the likes of Richard Spencer and Stefan Molyneux), anti-trans feminist pundit Meghan Murphy (banned from Twitter for intentional harassment via misgendering), professional e-begging thot Aydin Paladin (who denies her own historical denials regarding the Holocaust’s “quote death camps” and whether the Christchurch massacre was a “false flag… SYOP”), among several others.
If there was ever a “basket of deplorables” the leftist radicals would view as high-value targets, this would certainly be it. And while vitriolic actors do make for a vitriolic self-fulfilling prophecy, which should come as no surprise, this isn’t to say peaceful protest hasn’t also taken place (albeit through a harassment-esque means). The leftist group “No Hate NJ”, for example, launched a telephone and social media campaign urging the theatre to cancel the event based on these fascistic grounds, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports, linking users to publicly available emails to urge reconsideration.
The planned one-day conference, sponsored by Minds.com, a cryptocurrency social networking site promoting freedom of speech, could result in a Streisand effect due to the conjured controversy. “There are some who want to shut down free speech and others who want to open the conversation,” said Ottman, a frequent critic of deplatforming, failing to back up his proceeding claims. “All peer-reviewed studies disagree with the course of action taken by this group. We are still in conversations with the theatre. [The theatre’s] Twitter was hacked, which I believe is illegal. I would be curious to see what data they would use to justify their course of action. ”
This depends on whether we’re judging the methods, the consequences or the principles of censorship. Despite limited research on the topic of deplatforming, current findings suggests it does work within the toxic of social media. According to a study published by researchers at Georgia Tech and highlighted by Vice News, results suggest banning toxic subreddits resulted in reduced hate speech elsewhere on the site, “especially from the people who were active on those subreddits”. In fairness, we should ask how much of that content seeped down into the digital black market, leaving 4chan, 8chan and other crypto-sites pick up what big tech exiled, and how different the reach is.
Angelo Carusone, the president of Media Matters, argues “anecdotes are what makes a difference here — each individual, when you add them up, you get a net effect. You don’t need much data behind it to point out that with Milo, he lost Twitter, and the result was he lost a lot. He lost his ability to be influential or at least to project a veneer of influence.” Apply the same standard to these events, taking the digital public space into the real world, it’s natural to assume people will lose interest in radical voices in limited supply, which is a significant factor to their success in the highly-profitable world of reactionary “hate agent” content.
“We’ve been running a research project over last year, and when someone relatively famous gets "no-platformed" by Facebook or Twitter or YouTube, there’s an initial flashpoint, where some of their audience will move with them” added Joan Donovan, the research lead of Data and Society’s new platform accountability research team, “but generally, the falloff is pretty significant and they don’t gain the same amplification power they had prior to the moment they were taken off these bigger platforms.”
Given these figures trickle down into smaller platforms like Minds, which admits to having trouble in securing leftist guests, it’s no surprise they’re feeling the brunt of social stigmatization. In principle, Minds is left in a precarious spot where of claiming it promotes open dialogue — a principle that’s fine with ethical consideration — without adhering to the leg work of hosting honest argumentation, whether based on bad social reputation or difficult economic circumstances.
Whatever the case, reforms must be made before lending credence to this event, ignoring the fallacy that if ANTIFA is angry therefore reactionaries must be doing something wrong. No. When you leave leftists without the ability or reason to speak truth to injustice, it lends itself to (unjust) violence against the unjust dialogue. In its current state, Minds IRL is only a danger to the discourse, enlisting and stacking its panel in heavy support of its reactionary base (which likely comprises the majority of its 400 ticket sales).
This doesn’t justify predatory tactics, of course, but we should ask whether Minds IRL can justify itself as anything more than reactionary pandering worthy of a milkshake and rolled eyes. “People that spread these kinds of ideologies, that radicalize people online into these ideologies, we feel, giving them a platform is a threat to our collective community well-being,” concluded Adam Sheridan, an activist for the anti-fascist group Cooper River Indivisible, in a statement to Whyy. “We feel like these are not the people we need to be having debates with, that there are limits to free discourse in terms of what’s a useful use of our time as far as debating. [Nevertheless], we will chase them pretty much wherever they go.”