The Gift of Gab

Amanda Hess's article in The New York Times on social network site Gab, titled, 'The Far Right Has a New Digital Safe Space,' concludes with this foreboding sentiment and its accompanied bizarre simile:

'It’s the next logical step after all the blocking and muting on Twitter and filtering and unfollowing on Facebook split America into two social media realities. Where there once was a bubble, now there’s a wall.'

As far as those who have not been kicked off any of culture's dying platforms and also have a Gab account as well, the article takes for granted that whatever wall has been created by this divide has doors, which Hess either denies or downright ignores, when she says earlier in the article, 'some on the right have found their postelection online oasis in the invitation-only Gab.'

While the site might have been invitation-only at some point in its beta phase, at the time the article was written I had an account with Gab for two months. All I did was sign up. Either the composition of the article took place during the beta version of the site and Hess didn't follow up on the site's progress months later or the composition took longer than the duration of that beta phase, after which Hess still wouldn't have checked up on the site's progress or, if she did, trusted that no one else would.

Hess also says, 'When I asked why the site leans conservative, Mr. Sanduja denied that Gab had any ideological bent.' The easier answer would have been that the site leans conservative because its members do.

It's unlikely that anyone on Gab will feel the sting of the outdated one-two punch that Hess seems to think she is employing when she refers so often, an pejoratively so, to the 'far right,' which means that the article is only meant to preach to the only choir who will accept this as a pejorative, thus helping perpetuate the dividing of the two cultures of which the article accuses Gab.

Incongruously giving Richard Spencer free press with a dapper photograph at the top of the article and a slim quote when little of the article deals with him, the rest of the piece launches every guilt-by-association piece of burning tar, which too much resembles the argument that a pub's drinks are bad because it's patrons are cretins.

But here we deal not with a product, but a sequence of themes. The biggest sore thumbs, and most easily exploitable, are the anti-Semites.

'Part of the reason that Gab’s anti-anti-harassment rules work so well, so far, is that most people agree with one another. And one of those points of agreement is that anti-Semitism is tolerable, if not exactly preferred. On Twitter, anti-Semitic and racist trolls prowl around, pouncing on users while dodging the site’s moderators. But on Gab, anti-Jewish rhetoric is slung casually and liberally.'

I'll refer to anecdotal evidence again: I have several Jewish followers and follow several Jewish people. I would certainly have all my work ahead of me if I hoped for this to prove that there is no anti-Semitism on the network (there is). But if anti-Semites are tolerated, it is only because not much is not tolerated. However , I don't see very many groups backing away from the platform for the sake of another group...save for liberals, who are either few in number and troll for provocation or, in some admitted cases, set up fake profiles to hunt for anti-Semitism they will undoubtedly find as they deliberately seek it out. As a matter of fact, I've remained impressed at the variety of people on the platform, though Trump support does seem to be a standard feature of the various communities.

The term 'anti-anti-harassment' is double-speak for 'free speech.'

Hess laments that Gab 'bans illegal activities — child pornography, threats of violence, terrorism — and not much else.' Surely, we're meant to swoon and faint over the enormous blind spot which is that 'much else,' but the question remains, outside of child pornography, threats of violence and terrorism (terrorism doesn't exist on the internet and could have just as well been included in a previous category: threats of violence) what exactly in the way of crime, save theft, is there left to carry out on the internet? I suppose now is where many writers in the mainstream press would call the very nature of justice into question, and align themselves to a broader definition which puts the very intentions of a person's heart at the center of things, which can only manifest through words, which says little more than that certain ideas and even words themselves should be outlawed for the sake of one's feelings.

Even if we were to concede that certain feelings and ideas should not be had (which this writer most certainly cannot concede), there still remains the matter of registering an adequate scale of gradation by which one could possibly determine which ideas are not good and which feelings are worth protecting by law. Certainly, if someone doesn't feel safe after a death threat, they are in an infinitely worse position than any person suffering from whatever phantom circumstances belong to Hess's 'much else.'

'And since its debut in August,' Hess says, 'it has emerged as a digital safe space for the far right, where white nationalists, conspiracy-theorist YouTubers, and minivan majority moms can gather without liberal interference.'

Her concern about white nationalists is hurt more by the way she designates 'minivan majority moms' than helped by it. In America, the left has been calling the right Nazis for so long that, when faced with actual white nationalists, they are beside themselves with spasmatic excitement to imagine a pejorative more horrible than what might disappointingly qualify as a mere accurate description. When a groundless insult has been chanted at every turn like a drumbeat in a regal marching band, there is little left to do after the point has been long made than to, in the fashion of all tyrants in history, create a list of ideological traitors to the one accepted state creed. The only thing that white nationalism and 'minivan majority moms' have in common is an all too vague relation to a family ideal--white nationalism representing a sort of extreme statist family unit while minivan moms are often some of the usual suspects in leftist anti-Capitalist diatribes which, for lack of economic research, simply target yuppies and urban consumers.

Should it surprise anyone that those with marginal opinions have been pushed to the margins? The information one retrieves from the internet says more about the way one engages with it than it does about the platforms. We need not enlist prize-winning logicians to understand that one marginal opinion is not necessarily the same as another marginal opinion for its marginality alone. To say that each person with a marginal opinion 'tolerates' another person with a marginal opinion is an equal mistake. It may not occur to Hess or most of the mainstream media that there are those of us who don't mind listening to those with opinions different from ours no matter how heinous we consider them. How else does the mainstream media suppose that we will be able to properly engage with them and even defend ourselves against whatever violence that they might be capable of?

Let those who consider white nationalists a threat understand their enemy, without the false aid of 'anti-harassment.' History has shown just what one's reward is for enlisting the help of a Stalin to defeat a Hitler.

When assured by someone on Gab's staff that Gab welcomes all but will naturally draw the right wing, Hess says, 'But that’s the trick, isn’t it? You can’t sell a social destination where conservatives are free from liberal pestering and expect the pitch to resonate across the spectrum. Even the idea that harassment rules are oppressive — instead of protective of the vulnerable — is itself a pointed worldview. I suspect that any concern about inclusion will be assuaged by the comfort of chatting with people who think and talk the same way.'

The same way as who? One another or the reader? It is also unclear as to whether or not Hess is giving a whack at a scathing critique of both Gab members and other social media websites for not being diverse enough, or if she's offering a scathing critique of a social media site which has made a point to welcome everyone. If it isn't scathing but merely snarky, it's more than puzzling to read into her words and just how far their final conclusions reach. To suppose that communities of any kind should be formed between anyone BUT those who 'chat and think the same way,' is more than a mildly curious suggestion; it speaks to the bizarre epistemological break between racism proper and this emotional leftist version of racism that, in the realm of their concern, could not exist if it was not, in fact, everywhere; on buses, in movies, on the job, in the media, at the university, and even lying oh so surreptitiously in the hearts of men who are so certain and confident in their cocky non-racism. Their version of racism is when race is considered, quite simply, AS A DISTINCTION PERIOD; in other words, a conceived sameness between two likes is bigotry. Take it beyond race and one only then begins to satiate one's curiosity as to why such a common feature of social interaction as one's affinity with another might be considered so reprehensible by the left. Diversity, to them, is taken in totally, completely, every one of its possible meanings swallowed up in the meaning which most grammatically bulldozes over every other other: That diversity doesn't allow a single repetition, or repeat in pattern. It is not simply borders they don't believe in, it is every line, every measured angle, everything in matter which rises from a single indistinguishable plain.

One could attribute it to good old fashioned hypocrisy to say that the ones I excluded are excluding me now because they won't include me for the very reason I excluded them, but the degree of the hypocrisy determines the level of conviction. One has to admire the sense of propriety with which Hess justifies the administrative excommunication of many Twitter members while simultaneously scolding members of Gab, quite simply, for being fellow travelers on some issues. Ideology is a toxin that runs deep. It makes one excitable, insatiable in one's need to draw its perimeters in relation to the rest of the world, accepting no sustenance but its own waste. It appropriates every triumph and evil, defines them strictly in terms of one another and confuses their origins, since it doesn't see beyond its own origin; doesn't understand that the ideology did not create the concept.

That Hess sets that 'concern for inclusion' one feels when approaching a community apart from the very features which determine that act of inclusion says to me just how far her own concern for her favored type of disclusion runs: she actually considers her favored brand a justifiable punishment for a very real crime.

The whole article identifies the criminal, imprisons the criminal and then makes it a crime to be a prisoner.