In response to the horrific acts of terror carried out in Christchurch earlier this month, the Australian and New Zealand governments have censored the internet in a futile attempt to prevent future terrorism.
Websites 4chan and 8chan have been blocked, apparently for having featured a video of the Christchurch massacre. Social media has also been pruned in response, and the shooter’s manifesto has been banned. In short, the governments have decided to expunge the shooter and his words from the internet entirely. The goal is commendable, but the decision is ultimately unwise.
I need not waste ink in describing the atrocity or expressing my moral outrage. Anyone with moral uprightness can see the shooting for what it is, and analyzing it would lend an undue amount of legitimacy to the act. While we can all surely agree that the kind of nonsense found in the shooter’s pitiful “manifesto” ought to be combated, I don’t see censorship as an effective strategy.
These people thrive on and crave censorship. To them, it is seen as a vindication of their claims of being marginalized outsiders, trampled under the boot of leftist totalitarianism. Furthermore, censorship is, at best, a way of ignoring the problem rather than addressing the underlying causes.
Perhaps the harsh truth we must confront is this: there is a deep and malignant hatred lurking in the hearts of some of our fellow citizens.
Merely restricting a website or banning a pamphlet won’t address this fundamental issue. Rather, we must face this uncomfortable reality head on, instead of effectively sweeping it under the rug until the next massacre.
This shooter is not a lone wolf by any means, and even now there are hordes of far-right trolls viewing him as a hero to be copied. For proof of this, merely spend an afternoon on 8chan. These people need to be exposed to the light of day so we can know what we’re dealing with.
In some sense, there’s a real value to having the shooter’s words available for all to see. Let them hang themselves with their own words. By being exposed to such propaganda, people can come to recognize the dog whistles and subtle winks that allow for white supremacist talking points to worm into political discourse.
They will be able to see the logic behind the massacre and will be better able to recognize when it appears in everyday life. In other words, a free and open internet will lay bare the white supremacist psyche and reveal its murderous intentions, while censorship will confine it to the shadows where it can perhaps do the most damage.
Won’t allowing people the right to read a terrorist’s manifesto increase the likelihood of future terror attacks? I don’t think so. Anyone who could possibly be inspired by that hatred is a lost cause anyway.
I’m more interested in the person who will be able to see the murderous end result of white supremacy and can use this whole experience to examine their own prejudices against the killer’s. In order to overcome the problem of deep racial hatred, we must all examine ourselves and see how prejudice can lead to terror.
In the end, censorship won’t prevent racism or terrorism and is counterproductive. Moving forward from Christchurch will be a long and arduous process, but burying our heads isn’t an effective strategy.