'Cancel Culture' And The Parameters Of Free Speech on LeoFinance - Is Something Amiss Or Am I Missing Something?
A couple of days ago I came upon a discussion thread in the comments section of a post on Leofinance which made me pause for considerable thought. I will summarise the exchanges below and link to the original. This post is pitched at a general level and I am therefore avoiding naming the active participants as the issues I am raising here are not about individual personalities. They are to do with the undefined 'parameters' of what is 'allowed' to be said on LeoFinance. I'm not calling for 'action', 'change' etc. I just wish to raise 'awareness' about these concerns.
The core issue is a version of the 'Cancel Culture' that is to be seen on much of the mainstream media and the big social media platforms. Basically, someone perceives transgression/offence in the actions/words of another, experiences a strong negative reaction and seeks to publicly punish/harm/ostracise the offender. When the initial action is picked up by others in the space, the offender is effectively 'cancelled' - removed, silenced.
This phenomenon clearly has a highly subjective component and is therefore widely open to interpretation and potentially, manipulation. There are instances where a group may not wish certain subjects to be discussed, or where certain things are seen as instantly offensive - and are so to some/many - and people get banned. There are also instances where loaded labels of the sort that lead to bans are thrown around and it is not clear how they apply to what is being said. No explanation or evidence is offered and the 'offence' is not self-evident. This amounts to an effective 'hit and run', relying on the label to be effective on its own at triggering similar feelings in others and getting them to join in the 'cancellation' of the 'offender'. It is this second case that my example refers to.
Summary Of 'Cancel' Discussion Example:
A user commented with the following meme on a post by Khal. You can read the entire exchange in the comment section here.
In response, someone from the LeoFinance community commented that this was 'anti-semitic claptrap' and downvoted it. Additionally, the OP and an associated BIG account downvoted the user such that the account reputation reached near 0. You can read this person's perspective here.
A second person then commented in support of the meme not being anti-semitic and they in turn posted a meme that refers to the weaponisation of the term 'anti-semitic', but is not itself anti-semitic in any way that I can see. The meme, IMO, illustrates the point this person was making about how the label 'anti-semitic' has often been used to silence questioning or challenging of powerful vested interests and how these same dynamics were being employed here.
Back came the Objector to these memes with another label of 'anti-semitic' directed at the second person (whose perspective on the matter you can read here). On top of that, the Objector went on to suggest that this second person go on to create a "community of anti-semites on Hive". To me this 'suggestion' appeared to be a crass and baseless attack which assumed a narrative that could not possibly be derived from the interaction without resorting to distortion.
Basically, it seems to me that a fantasy was created around a knee-jerk reaction
which lead to a wrongful misapplication of a loaded and sensationalist label: 'anti-semitic'.
In the instance of the first meme, the only reference that can be construed as 'Jewish' is the name 'Rothschild'. However, the content of the meme has nothing whatsoever to do with this particular aspect of the man, nor does it ever mention his race/religion/ethnicity. To infer such a bias from this starting point is surely to take a leap into a kind of paranoid fantasy.
In the second meme the words 'anti-semitic' appear as spoken by Jesus, himself a Jew. As far as I can see, there is nothing offensive going on here. The 'dual-citizenship', even if it does refer to 'Israeli-US' duality and thus hints at the influence that Israel has on the US political system, well even if so, is this really saying something offensive about people of the Jewish faith? Is it not a fact that Israel has tremendous influence in the US? Where's the anti-semitism here folks?
In my comment on the post I invited the person who objected to the memes to spell out why they consider the memes to be anti-semitic. So far I have not had a response. This illustrates a 'hit and run' example - drop a stink bomb and scarper!
So why am I bothering to write a post about this? Shit happens all the time right and folk hurl words at each other... it's the immutable blockchain, we have guaranteed freespeech....right...?
....to some extent AFAIC, and this can potentially be limited (to a greater or lesser extent) on a second-layer community such as LeoFinance! There are two additional factors that prompt me to bring this issue to the attention of the community at large:
- the person who objected to the meme and offered up the label of 'anti-semitic' purported to speak for the community to a greater or lesser extent. This can be seen from the language used by them in the exchanges.
- two of the large downvotes are from Khal (@khaleelkazi and @leo.voter). If this were Hive, ie not Leofinance.io, the issue would be different for me - downvotes are a personal matter AFAIC. However, being a community, an ecosystem in itself, a sub-layer of Hive, there is the possibility of exercising a certain amount of censorship regarding what does and does not appear on the LeoFinance interface. Given that Khal is top guy here - CEO effectively - downvoting the meme sends out a signal with regard to what content will not be tolerated. It also sends out a message that the 'cancel culture' is being tolerated on LeoFinance. It seems fully possible that the label of anti-semitism was taken at face value leading to the downvote - ie without investigating if it were accurate or not. It is possible Khal thought the meme he downvoted to be offensive and there is no such oversight. I'd be interested to know his considered opinion. I am calling Khal by name as this (for me anyway) goes straight to the top and I've always had respect for his way of interacting and his sense of balance. These downvotes seem to be excessive, and more so, worryingly pander to stirrings of the 'cancel culture'. I say this with respect to him and I know he is busy atm, however, I do think this is something worth (re-)considering. Either way, I have pulled my delegation to leo.voter for now, following the example of at least one other, as I do not wish to support this kind of action.
Personally speaking, I consider the LeoFinance space to have aspects of 'private ownership' that Hive does not. As such, rules can exist or be brought in and if one doesn't like these 'rules', one is free to leave - this I know.
I hope I have expressed my points clearly - this and suchlike can be sensitive and emotive topics. I know it is possible that offence may be taken but please also demonstrate to me where it was intended in what I have said and also how it was offensive.
I'm raising the rather awkward subjects of the bounds of free-speech, the silencing of alternative voices and narratives, the self-righteous weaponisation of language and the issue of Cancel Culture. These are topical issues in the world at large as the macrocosm smashes into the microcosm and we are faced with choices that may well have significant implications for the future.
What say ye?
Thanks for reading 🙏
Previous LeoFinance-themed artwork by me for anyone to use:
- 7 "Vote LeoFinance Witness" banners/footers and page-dividers
- 14 Festive LeoFinance-themed page-dividers
- 21 LeoFinance-themed page-dividers
- Metamask outreach artwork
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