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What constitutes ‘extremism’? It’s a term so vague as to be practically meaninglessness.



Extremism seemt to match up closely with an opinion that is opposite those in power.


And yet those in power are the ones who get to decide what the term means.


I'm going to take a swing at your argument from a different angle, so follow along for a second. How do you define an immigrant?

The reason why I bring this up is because I've often seen people embracing laws or actions targeting immigrants, but isn't this in effect the same slippery slope as attempting to define extremism when we talk about free speech? Especially as immigration law is often expanded over time, encroaching on the rights of 'citizen' (a term which is also eroded over time) as we define a secondary class of people of which your typical rights do not apply to.

If we want to play the definition game, the exact definition of the word 'immigrant' depends entirely on the ruling class, ergo makes laws affecting immigrants equally as likely to cause the slippery slope effect as laws that affect extremists.



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It is a slippery slope. For all intents and purposes we're accelerating down the slope.

The Orwellian nightmare you talk about already exists in countries like China. The naive presumption that the West will always support free expression is baseless. It will not unless it's vigilantly defended by Westerners. And once given up, liberty is not easily regained (see Venezuela, Cuba, USSR, East Germany, etc).

It's also worth noting that whoever holds power and is defending status quo (however benevolent or malevolent) determines what constitutes extremism.


Exactly. If we start censoring now, where's the Schelling Fence [0] between this and censoring mainstream political opinions? What logic used to censor things here won't be used to censor more things later?

0: https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/Kbm6QnJv9dgWsPHQP/schelling-...


Exactly. If we start censoring now, where's the Schelling Fence [0] between this and censoring mainstream political opinions?

I already see active attempts to re-define and re-label bog-standard Republican positions as "Far Right" and "Fascist." I've already encountered many people who want to throw the fact that such positions were mainstream, "down the memory hole."

What logic used to censor things here won't be used to censor more things later?

The effort to censor more things has already been ongoing.


All Western countries have governments and are states based on the rule of law, and all place some limits on speech and expression. Even the US doesn't allow certain forms of expression, such as libel, slander, falsehoods, terroristic threats, etc. The West has therefore never supported free expression, just as it has never supported free markets.

We are already on, and have always been on, that slope. Yet not all Western countries are like China or North Korea, odd.

It's almost as if that slope isn't as slippery as some would have us believe.


The US allows just about all expressions without prior restraint. Even shouting fire in a theater is allowed speech until a court says otherwise -- after the fact and with due process.

In contrast, censorship is a kind of prior restraint that restricts speech in the absence of judicial review or due process contrary to the rule of law.


Yeah but it restricts speek on a media plattform. Believe it or not, in the past 100 years it was pretty much the norm, that certain contents would not be published e.g. in books or newspapers.

A lot of the stuff right wing extremists say on youtube today would have been censored on television in the past (depending on the country of course).


Ah, the "cant happen here" argument.


Before the Internet came around, it was actively happening "here". You couldn't shop your violent extremist video around to pre-Internet mass media outlets, or if you did, you would probably be referred to law enforcement.

Not all forms of this look like China, some look like the USA circa 1990.


Pre 1990 extremists would maintain mailing lists and send each other communications and videos.

You have no right to mass media outlets. Just as I have no right to barge into your home and force you to listen to my speech... you have no right to force the owner of a tv or radio station to broadcast your message. Your right to free speech is not a right to violently force others to deliver your message against their will... those other people have the right to free speech and liberty too.


> You have no right to mass media outlets. Just as I have no right to barge into your home and force you to listen to my speech... you have no right to force the owner of a tv or radio station to broadcast your message. Your right to free speech is not a right to violently force others to deliver your message against their will... those other people have the right to free speech and liberty too.

I agree. I'm just saying that suppression of violent extremist propaganda in mass commercial media isn't some kind of violation of some centuries-old tradition, or a slippery slope toward Chinese style information control, as some people frame it, because it was literally the state of affairs in the US prior to the Internet.


Nobody forces anyone to hear from anyone else on Facebook or Twitter. You can block people, you choose who you follow. That sort of thing is woven into the fabric of the medium itself. TV and radio was traditionally limited to broadcast companies because there was only so much spectrum to go around. The internet is a different thing, it's not exactly analogous to any medium to ever come before it.

I don't even know if you and I have the same definition of extremist. If you mean promoting literal violence or any other illegal activities, you're absolutely right. No one has a right to that kind of speech.


No, more the "isn't inevitable" argument implied by the slippery slope fallacy.

But that may be too subtle a distinction for a thread like this.


Parent didn't imply it was. Freedom is often lost incrementally. Framing that basic fact of history as a logically fallacy is unwise.


>Parent didn't imply it was.

Yes, they did.

The purpose of suggesting that "extremism" as a term is "so vague as to be meaningless" is to imply precisely that. It's a common enough rhetorical tactic that it can be taken for granted in any thread where speech or censorship (particularly of what is considered right or far-right politics) is the subject.

Extremism in context has a commonly understood definition, and claiming otherwise is not a convincing argument.


No, parent pointed out what I repeated, that history shows that freedoms are lost incrementally. You are the only one talking about inevitability.... which is par considering you also think it's totally obvious what some word that by it's very nature is inherently undefined, means.


My point was not that ‘extremism’ does not have a definition; my point was that what content falls under that definition is very much subjective. I could have phrased my original comment better.

Obviously, the drafters of this agreement had certain types of content in mind. But those people are not the ones who will be implementing the policy.

The types of content targeted by this kind of policy depend very much on who is making the decisions.


Here are some examples of how Western countries with democratic governments and rule of law actually utilize those laws that place limits on speech and expression:

https://theintercept.com/2017/08/29/in-europe-hate-speech-la...


Bless your heart.

It was actually a trick question: you cannot tell me what “violent extremism” means in this context, because you don’t know. You don’t know because you’re not the one who gets to decide.

The only definition that matters is the one held by whoever will be deciding what gets censored and what doesn’t.

How might your political adversaries choose to apply a filter on “violent extremism”? I could easily see claims arising that abortions are both violent and extreme, and that pro-choice material is therefore “violent extremist” content. That’s probably not what the people behind this agreement had in mind, but at the end of the day, that doesn’t make much difference.


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>I thought I was going to be able to have a rational, intellectually satisfying discussion but

But instead you lashed out irrationally, posted a definition that went against your point, and then dismissed the entire thread because you realized you weren't supporting your argument.


The powers that be. The shadowy cabal. The unseen hand which controls all aspects of society with absolute and arbitrary power.

Actually, this does seem to be the case with a somewhat reduced context of just media/social-media/tech in 2019. Journalist collusion is well documented. Big company manipulation of local journalists is documented. We have seen indications of CEOs of different companies cooperating to suppress politics unacceptable to them, even to the point of implementing censorship and demonetization within their platforms, and outside their own companies and spanning multiple platforms.

no one is capable of defending free speech without resorting to slippery slopes and absolutism

That's begging the question. Free Speech is inherently an (almost) absolutist position. There are other rights which take precedence, but to be valid, no one can be the arbiter of the philosophical or political positions taken -- only of incitement to specific illegal actions. Otherwise the arbiters on speech exist, and there is no Free Speech.

In reality there is no need to defend Free Speech. Society isn't on the verge of collapse here. Maintaining Free Speech won't lead to an escalation of extremism. Only increased suppression will do that. What's really happening, is that big companies and governments are engaging in a power grab which weakens Free Speech.


Free speech is not an absolutist position and it does not exist. There is no single country on this earth, past or present, which has held an absolutist free speech position. Yes, that includes America.

It may be enshrined in our constitution, but that has never stopped us from selectively applying constitutional rights to different classes of citizens or people we consider to be non-people. The real problem is pretending that an absolutist position exists and acting like we're becoming more free when the reality is that violent bigotry is rising while we complain about the imaginary slippery slope into fascism whenever someone decides to take action against them.


> It may be enshrined in our constitution, but that has never stopped us from selectively applying constitutional rights to different classes of citizens or people we consider to be non-people.

So, because some people were denied their rights in the past, it proves that right doesn't exist and shouldn't be protected?


So, because some people were denied their rights in the past, it proves that right doesn't exist and shouldn't be protected?

"The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." --MLK

I would agree we don't do this: "Selectively applying constitutional rights to different classes of citizens or people we consider to be non-people."

Instead of forcing a power differential on people we don't like by limiting their access to things on the Internet, we need to convince them. It may take time. But that is the way of just, enlightened people. Using coercion against people by taking away viral-dissemination and discovery from them isn't any different than taking away books, taking away printing presses, or not allowing them into good schools.


Nothing personal, but that's because we're old enough to have seen everyone slipping down the slope.


> Although this is Hacker News, and I know it's futile here to suggest that standing in the way of bigots and extremists is anything but a slippery slope towards an Orwellian dystopian nightmare of fascism and thought-police and boots crushing our heads forever

Of course it's futile, because you're not really "standing in the way bigots and extremists" but deciding for other people what ideas they are allowed to hear. I don't like extremist speech, anymore than I like obscene, purile, blasphemous, or false speech.

I do enjoy using platforms which curate content so that it fits within these preferences, but I reserve the right to listen to other peoples' ideas and make up my own mind. If I then proceed to do something unlawful as result of my judgement, then that is my own fault and I will be held liable for it.


> If I then proceed to do something unlawful as result of my judgement, then that is my own fault and I will be held liable for it.

I am A-OK with that stance right up until it infringes on the rights of someone else. Taking illegal drugs in your own home vs taking them and then driving are both your "fault", sure, but one of them runs the risk of hurting others. But then how do you legislate for avoiding the second without infringing the first?


Is it possible that perhaps this difference could be split by legislating against harming others? This also has the benefit of not requiring lesiglative bodies to spell out every circumstance that could be involved.

It sounds like you might be in full agreement with the person you have quoted.


> Is it possible that perhaps this difference could be split by legislating against harming others?

It could. But I'd put (at least) extremist/hate speech into the category of "harming others" and that puts me on the side of "censorship" which, I think, is in disagreement with them (and, it seems, most of the people in this thread.)


I think that depends on how one defines harm. I think we can all agree that bodily assault, destruction of property, and similar are all clear harms. So is a loss of human rights, freedoms, and liberties.

Personally, I find myself deeply skeptical of unprovable, unverifiable, and ultimately vague notions of harm. If you can provide a clear demonstration that someone engaging in hate speech is meaningfully the same as physical violence comitted against a person, I am happy to reassess this position. To be clear, I expect clear criterion for what is hate speech (no "community standards" qualifiers) and proof of consequences as clear as those of other clear harms. Until then, I'm reluctant to infringe on general freedoms in the name of something that does not appear to be a clear harm.

I hate doing this, but I'm also someone who regularly sees hate speech directed against my ethnic group. I am well familiar with the emotional consequences of being on the receiving end of what some might call hate speech.


Start a slippery slope argument? We're way beyond started. We already have people actively seeking to tie the most mild institutions around to the most vile opinions around any way they possibly can, so that they can ban and silence anyone they disagree with. It's already happening, and only a sincere commitment to freedom of expression for all, even those we disagree with, can stop it.

Have you read the Christchurch manifesto? I have. One of his goals was accelerationism, to actively get more people banned from communication by taking extreme actions, so that they get angrier and driven to more violent actions themselves. And we're playing right into the hands of him and those who think like him by banning and censoring everything in sight.


Why would you believe anything in that manifesto?


What do you mean by "believe"? He said that one of his goals was to accelerate the conflict between two sides of the cultural divide. That's a pretty common goal of terrorism. Am I supposed to not believe him, and think he did it for some other reason?

I believe he wrote the truth about what he thinks and why he did what he did. I don't see why he would lie about that. Whether you think any of his points have any validity or agree with any of them is a whole different ballgame.

I also believe that, in a society that aspires to practice freedom of speech and freedom of expression, it is an essential skill to be able to read something you may not agree with, written by someone who took actions that you oppose, and objectively evaluate the content.

Not everyone needs to or can, but some people had better do it, if we are to have any hope of rising above the hate and division associated with these sorts of acts.


I'm originally from a country where laws against "extremism" are actively used to target political opposition for over a decade.

Go ahead, tell me again how slippery slope is a fallacy.


Extremist is not well-defined, despite how much you want it to be. People who thought women had the right to vote a hundred years ago were extremist.


> So we can see that in the context of the article, and the call to action mentioned, "extremism" is not vague, nor meaningless,

The fact you had to provide context for this one case makes your whole point moot, and you don't even realize it.

Sure it makes sense in this case. But a law that just says extremism (without context) is bad, can and will be abused down the line to fit the narrative of the powers that be.


in some online circles, there was a call to ban 8chan because the terrorist posted there. Do you support banning that website because terrorists used it? Then do you support banning facebook for the same reason? Where does it stop? Or do you recommend just taking down individual posts ?



Well, broadcasting your massacre of 20 people online would be one kind of 'extremism'.

So there's that.

Surely it can get tricky (and it will) but we have to do something. This is not new, we always have. Every nation has some kind of hate law, applied one way or another.




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