May 17, 2016

When Outraged Mobs Deprive Us of Creative Content

DevoWhen I read assorted atheist blogs or write posts of my own, I almost always do so while listening to music. And while it is quite rate that one of the songs playing ends up inspiring the post, it does happen every once in awhile. This is one of those occasions.

I was a causal fan of the band Devo back in the day, and I still enjoy listening to them every once in awhile. They have such a distinctive sound, and hearing them always takes me back to the days when they released their classic albums, albums that sounded like nothing else at the time.

The particular song that came on a few minutes ago was "Mongoloid." In case you aren't familiar with it and would like to hear it, I have added a YouTube clip you can listen to below. But really, the title itself is probably sufficient to make the point I'm interested in making here.

If this song were to be released today and receive enough play that it was widely heard rather than remaining obscure, I think it would bring sharp accusations of "ableism" and numerous "call outs" from the social justice warrior crowd. A band brave enough to release it today would most likely face an organized campaign of public shaming via social media and boycotts aimed at harming them.

I think this is unfortunate. It is not that I love this particular song or anything, but that really isn't the point. Even if I hated it, I want bands to be able to record and distribute what they want without having to worry about being harmed by outraged online mobs. And the same goes for authors, bloggers, video game designers, and other artists of all types.

I have no problem at all with people steering clear of creative content they do not like, as doing so only harms them (e.g., limiting their exposure to content that might impact their worldview in positive ways). I also have no problem with people who attempt to educate others about their concerns over ableism or whatever other -ism they find objectionable. Such efforts can be valuable. On the other hand, I do have a problem with people who seek to suppress the creation of content they find objectionable or to punish content creators for creating content they find objectionable.

Outraged mobs of theists recently managed to get Facebook to shut down some atheist pages, at least temporarily. I would have an awfully hard time saying that this was unacceptable while simultaneously arguing that it was perfectly acceptable for outraged mobs to shut down pages with content I did not like. Assuming that this content was legal, defending such efforts would strike me as hypocritical and tough to defend.

If we want to maintain our access to atheist-oriented content, content critical of Islam, and so on, it is important that we take a stand against those who would suppress other sorts of content and punish those who create or distribute it. I think it is possible, even desirable, to defend the right of others to express their -isms without defending the -isms themselves.


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