- Note: I’m a little disappointed at the current proliferation of offensive, false, bigoted, misleading, hate-based, and trumped up memes and posts on social media. Hence the question on the table:
Does Facebook Have a Front Porch?
Good morning, Internet. Today I have a legitimate “public conversation” question I’d like to get your thoughts on. “Is airing your views on social media more like A) setting up a microphone in the mall? B) publishing a newspaper column? or C) ranting in the anonymity of your own living room? Or, is it more like holding forth on your own front porch?
So here’s the story. I’m a huge supporter of free speech; everyone has the right to express their thoughts on any subject, no matter how rude (or polite), bigoted (or gracious), ignorant (or well-informed), boorish (or open-spirited); that’s what the right to free expression means.
But then there’s an equal right – a commensurate privilege – for other people to applaud or object; because dissent – or approval – is also free speech. You can’t claim the freedom to express your opinion on the one hand, and on the other squash dissenting voices.
You do, however (if you don’t have the stomach for rebuttal) have the right to air your views privately. I’d liken this to flying your swastika, or your “God agrees with all my narrow views and prejudices” flag in your living room. There you go; rant away; you’re not foisting your views on the world. No need for me to knock your door down and then yell at you for your ideas.
What about the front porch?
But what about the front porch? Don’t laugh, this is a serious question. Someone on Facebook used this idea recently to defend their decision to repress disagreement after they had posted something disagreeable. “You are a guest on my front porch….” Ergo, I can delete your comments, I can disparage you, and I can treat you with highhanded condescension. Why? because – well – this is my front porch, and you have no right to say anything that doesn’t fit the echo-chamber I am trying to construct.
You Be the Judge:
So, social media friends, is a front porch that much of a private space? And, if social media front porches actually exist, isn’t it true that we can still see the offensive postings from the street? And… don’t we have the right – as neighbors walking up and down the street – to voice disappointment at (and arguments against) your bigoted memes, posts, and views? And… don’t we also have the right to walk up to your front steps and engage you in conversation, right there on your porch?
If not, if we don’t have the right to express our concern, then doesn’t it make more sense to voice your rude, bigoted, ignorant, boorish views in the privacy of your living room, with the windows sealed tight, so you can remain out of sight, and out of mind, and immune from being held to account?
So, dear Internet, does free speech for us extend to those who disagree with our speech? I’ll take your comments now.