YouTube is circling the drain

YouTube has recently put out a new set guidelines aimed at ensuring that the videos that get uploaded by users are more “advertiser-friendly”. This means that people on YouTube can get videos de-listed for monetization, meaning they will be unable to generate ad revenue for those videos, because those videos aren’t considered “friendly” to advertisers.

Below is a list of content that YouTube deems inappropriate for advertising:

Content that is considered “not advertiser-friendly” includes, but is not limited to:

  • Sexually suggestive content, including partial nudity and sexual humor
  • Violence, including display of serious injury and events related to violent extremism
  • Inappropriate language, including vulgar harassment, swearing and vulgar language
  • Promotion of drugs and regulated substances, including selling, use, and abuse of such items
  • Controversial or sensitive subjects and events, including subjects related to war, political conflicts, natural disasters and tragedies, even if graphic imagery is not shown.

What this ultimately amounts to is that your videos can be de-listed for monetization if you  not only talk about the wrong things (like social justice warriors, terrorism and Hillary Clinton) and possibly hold the wrong opinion but even so much as make a raunchy joke or shout “fuck”. This can’t be good for the AVGN I assume.

It’s not even a level playing field either, as the likes of CNN can still generate ad revenue from videos that surely violate this policy. I suspect this is an attempt on the part of YouTube to discourage those who generate income from YouTube videos from holding the wrong opinion or saying the wrong things, or just to create a nice habitat – nay, safe space! – for advertisers.

Not to mention, here’s an example I found of just how insane this policy is.

I would also like to address the inevitable “YouTube is a private company therefore they can do whatever they want”. Can big private companies do whatever they want? I’m not so sure of that, even though I identify as a libertarian. I would think that there are certain things that private businesses and corporations aren’t allowed to do. After all, are they not subject to the law just as private individuals are?  And the thing is, I don’t think the people who are defending the right of big social media companies to ban people for having the wrong opinion or talking about the wrong sort of subject matter would be so keen to defend Chick-fil-A for refusing to serve gay people because they don’t believe in same sex marriage, or McDonald’s for allowing people the choice to eat unhealthy fast foods, or GM for making veritable death cabs and selling them on the market, or companies like Halliburton for being able to profiteer off of the Iraq War, or big tech companies that dump hardware in places like Ghana where it creates e-waste that releases toxic chemicals when burned in landfills. It seems fairly obvious, then, that the people defending big social media only do so out of convenience, based on the fact that the people being censored, delisted or banned are usually people with opinions they don’t like.

I am of the opinion that social media companies need to uphold the freedom of speech of all its users for the simple reason that they are a very large platform for speech. Millions of people around the world use YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, and they need it in order to connect with others in the modern world as well as to succeed. I, personally, need Facebook in order to stay in contact with my fellow game design students when I am at home so that we can discuss the project and help each other do our work. They are that important to everyday life nowadays, and they create a massive platform for anyone to express themselves freely. When you remove people for wrongthink on your social media platform, you end up creating a culture of censorship on that platform. At that point, it’s only a matter of time before people start leaving that platform. This has already been happening to Twitter, and I am convinced it will happen to Facebook and YouTube as well. Not to mention, a culture of censorship is cancerous to a free and open society. People will be afraid to think for themselves and express themselves openly, while an increasingly authoritarian or at least soft-minded culture will eventually influence the government to cater to its whims and erode the freedom of society as a whole. I do not want to see this happen. At all.

So, no. I don’t think big social media companies should be allowed to get away with this.

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The fight for liberalism in the West – Part 2: Liberal culture needs to be re-asserted

The fight to preserve the values of liberal democracy won’t be fought in the battlefield where the armed forces of the Western world are currently engaged in conflict or will be in the future, nor will it be fought on our behalf by the state. It can only be fought by all of us as individuals on the battleground of ideas, where all of the other culture wars fought in our societies are fought. For make no mistake, this is in truth a culture war.

It should not have escaped your notice that the illiberal (nay, anti-liberal) identity politics championed by the likes of feminists and Black Lives Matter is not just endorsed by celebrities and the mainstream media, but in America’s case it is also being endorsed by the current president Barack Obama and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. That to me suggests that politics and the state is dancing to the tune of prevailing identitarian progressivism and the division that it engenders, perhaps because the people who support it are the loudest voices. But the prevalence of progressive identity politics is not the only problem. The values of Western liberal democracy are being eroded culturally by other factors as well. And again, not so much by the state but by the people, even though they stand to benefit from these values prevailing in our society.

For instance, freedom of expression. We have witnessed several instances in the Western world where artistic media and advertisement can be censored by the whim of public outrage, even if that outrage is in the minority like in the case of the Protein World ad saga. In Australia Grand Theft Auto V got banned at Target Australia by a large number of people who have never played any Grand Theft Auto game but presume to know what it is about. When DC Comics released a Batgirl comic depicting the Joker holding, tons of people. When video game companies like Lionhead Studios and Obsidian Entertainment have intended joke content in their games (like the a depiction of a woman with large breasts in Fable III for National Cleavage Day, and a poem about a Don Juan type character named Firedorn Lightbringer within Pillars of Eternity) that happens to offend someone on Twitter, the people on Twitter take it upon themselves to shame them into changing or removing that content and eventually the companies capitulate and apologize for content that they made as a joke. And don’t criticize social justice warriors Stephanie Guthrie for shaming the creator of an Anita Sarkeesian face-punch game, or you could be the center of a witch-hunt and be accused of harassment simply for disagreeing with her. On YouTube, you can actually have a video removed for the ever-vague notions of hate speech. And more recently, after everyone’s favorite gay super-villain Milo Yiannopoulos published a scathing review of the new Ghostbusters movie on Breitbart, actress Leslie Jones reported Milo and now there’s a hashtag campaign aimed at getting Twitter to ban Milo Yiannopoulos. And it worked: Twitter has recently suspended Milo Yiannopoulos, and I can only assume he has been getting the blame for the ire directed at Leslie Jones.

It seems to be lost on the people advocating that Milo be suspended that while he can be censored for a scathing movie review, and perhaps blamed for the actions of those who might have harassed Leslie Jones, there are examples of people who threaten others with violence publicly, and yet they have not been banned. Indeed, I can’t say if any of the people shouting for killing police officers in the wake of Alton Sterling have been banned yet either. It is thus entirely obvious that people with the wrong opinion in the eyes of the Twitterati are punished with censorship and accused of harassing other people, while people who actually call for violence against individuals remain active on Twitter.

The power of social pressure is such that a man can land a spacecraft on a comet, but he can be reduced to tears because of constant pressure and shaming by a large number of feminists for nothing more than the fact that he was wearing a T-shirt with a lot of scantily-clad women on it. If a public figure makes so much as an innocuous joke that offends the wrong people, they’re harassed and shamed by people with puritan mindsets and too much time on their hands. Like Tim Hunt’s joke about female scientists, or Richard Dawkin’s sharing of a video by SyeTenAtheist on Sargon of Akkad’s channel. In the former case, Tim Hunt lost his job. In the latter, Richard Dawkins may well have suffered a stroke brought on by the stress of being constantly harassed by SJWs shaming him for sharing the video. And sometimes it happened to private individuals who weren’t so famous before, like Justine Sacco, a senior director of corporate communications at IAC who posted a sarcastic tweet about AIDS during a trip to South Africa and found herself publicly shamed and trending on Twitter as a result.

It’s also at a point where the phenomenon of “trial by Twitter” is fairly well-documented. That’s right, online social pressure is even valued above the rule of law – one of the cornerstones of any liberal democracy worth its salt. Like in the case of Kesha’s attempted to sue produce Dr. Luke, accusing him of sexually, physically and emotionally abusing her. She was denied a temporary injunction, and tons of people sided with her and condemned Dr. Luke simply because Kesha broke into tears over being denied that injunction, and despite a lack of hard evidence of any wrongdoing on the part of Dr. Luke. There’s also the case of Afrika Bambaataa, who was accused of sexual assault by several individuals who claim he abused them in the 1980’s when they were underaged, including a Democrat activist who released a video accusing him of rape (apparently for the purpose of “emotional healing”, seemingly as a substitute for calling the police). There has been no criminal conviction against Bambaataa, at least not as of yet, and unfortunately the case can’t be tried in court and police investigations are apparently not possible due to New York’s statutes of limitation, but despite this there have been calls for Cornell University to discard their collection of records released by Bambaataa and he has been effectively disavowed by the public and Zulu Nation. When Jian Ghomeshi, a Canadian radio personality accused of rape, was acquitted, the Twitterati were outraged that people chose not to automatically believe the plaintiff, and there were even voices suggesting that the premise of the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, along with the adversarial legal system, be abandoned entirely.

To me, it seems that the power of social pressure magnified by social media has not been lost on people living in the age of social media. Indeed, I think it seems like social media either has too much power or gives too many people too much power to coerce private entities and individuals or just shame them.

Another force that working against the values of liberal democracy is cultural relativism – the idea that there are no greater or lesser cultures, just different ones that are all equal. The problem with this prevailing is obvious. Every time, nowadays, when there is a serious terrorist attack committed by someone shown to identify with radical Islam, there are too many people unwilling to address the culture within which they are raised or raise themselves. In fact, we too often have a media and politicians who want to turn us away from the motives of the culprit. Not to mention, in the UK, there are actually sharia courts in operation and it is feared that they basically operate as sub-legal or parallel legal courts, similar to how the Khap Panchayats operate in India. And I’m sure the phenomenon of Salafist Muslims taking to the street to agitate for the supremacy of sharia law is well-known. It seems evident to me that the idea of individuals from different cultural backgrounds existing under a common banner is fading in the West, and we are actively allowing this by not questioning any aspect of it whatsoever. And it is worse in Europe, where it is starting to feel like there’s going to be a new Islam-inspired terrorist attack that takes the lives of tens of innocents every month or so. And every time it happens, people are discouraged from talking about a radical Islamic culture that has been fostering for a long time and currently inspires future terrorists whilst going unchallenged by a society that seems uninterested or unable to tell them . And all because of the bizarre conflation of the Islamic religion with the Arab ethnicity or race, despite the obvious fact that being a Muslim and being an Arab are not the same thing – one is a religion you can be raised in or choose to be part of, the other is a race, something you are born as.

I believe that all of the following needs to happen in the West if the values of liberal democracy are to be saved.

  1. Private companies must exert their right to refuse to censor themselves in order to suit the whims of social justice warriors.
  2. Individuals must not allow themselves to be silenced by the same social justice warriors.
  3. Social media companies need to show that freedom of speech and expression is a right guaranteed to all.
  4. Private media companies should refuse to cave to social pressure and refuse to fire people for saying the wrong thing.
  5. We must delegitimatize the phenomenon of “trial by Twitter” in which people are “tried” by court of public opinion via social media, and instead trumpet the rule of law.
  6. We must reject cultural relativism, and embrace the values of secular liberal democracy as a common banner under which we all live under instead of encouraging self-segregation.
  7. We must challenge bad ideas in forum of public debate and the media, especially the bad ideas that have inspired an increasing number of terrorist attacks.
  8. People who are easily triggered need to just block people who harass them instead of further stoking the flames. Better yet, get off social media for a little bit or turn off the phone.

If none of these things happen, then I predict that the values of liberal democracy will be eroded, and Western civilization will truly decline.

Unveiling of the Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World (1886) by Edward Moran.

The law of liberty

Freedom of speech is simple: everyone must have the freedom to speak as they wish, and everyone must be allowed to express any opinion or thought they please. There are no exceptions. Not even those whose opinions or beliefs are unpopular or even revolting are to be exempted from this freedom, and no unpopular or unsettling statement is to be exempted. This is the law that all who believe in the concept of liberty invariably oblige themselves to when they profess their belief in the concept of freedom of speech, because in observing this tenet we nourish liberty itself. In order for liberty to be sustained properly, we must have freedom of speech in the truest sense. No “partial” freedom of speech will suffice.

In our age, we still have to deal with the thought of the youth, not just the old, in parts of the world being blind to this basic reality. The entire notion of no-platform policies being implemented in many universities is based exactly on the ignorance towards the fundamental nature of freedom of speech. It’s based on the notion that you are allowed to say somethings but not others. It’s based on the notion that freedom of speech exists only as long you don’t say anything that could be accused of being hateful, offensive, and even aggressive. And ultimately, it’s still based on the notion that someone else decides what you are allowed to say, which is fundamentally opposite to the notion of freedom of speech.

The reason I say that no “partial” freedom of speech will suffice is because such “partial” freedom of speech is ultimately non-existent by definition. If you are only partially allowed to speak freely, but otherwise not allowed to say certain things, then you are living in an environment of restricted speech rather than in freedom of speech. Those who wish to support freedom of speech must remember that if they are to support liberty, if they are to support true freedom. Liberty means that we can do as we wish provided it need not directly harm others in the sense it would deprive others of the right to exist as independent beings. It is free agency. Genuine freedom of speech is an essential part of this notion of liberty. Without the right to speak freely, we aren’t really free at all in any strict sense of the word. Thus the law of liberty is clear: freedom of speech means exactly that – no exceptions.

Hatred, intolerance, and mob mentality: the threats to freedom

On Friday I wrote about the threat to freedom of speech lingering over universities in my country at the ends of airheaded and comfort-obsessed student unions. But I have become aware that freedom in my country is being endangered, if not killed entirely, by a much bigger threat than student intolerance: hatred. Not specifically hate in itself, or even hateful speech, but hateful actions and extreme intolerance in political form. Our government is playing on the hatred and intolerance of mob-minded masses on the Internet and arresting people who, while they may have said hateful things, did not go out and commit crimes and violence based on that. If you say something hateful, everyone on Twitter practically tars and feathers you before you get investigated by the cops. If you say anything in the newspapers about certain groups of people, you’re reported to the police. If you put up an advertisement that makes you feel insecure, you can get people to sign petitions to get it pulled or banned.

1984 has long passed, forget about Big Brother as described by George Orwell. Welcome to the postmodern world of the 2010s, where anything can be censored and banned if enough people whine intolerantly. In this country, if people protest loud enough over any shit you say, they can shut down a writer, get an ad, art exhibition, or a TV pulled,  or get the cops to investigate someone for doing nothing more than making offensive statements. Speech is potentially a crime, and so is hash-tagging. Even so much as a cruel joke, which nearly all of us do, can get you investigated or arrested by the new Gestapo police.

And this is no longer the product of any cold and torrid fascism. In fact, I don’t mean to sound like some right-wing nut, but I think it’s the result of the failure of modern liberalism. More accurately, a direct result of both the hypocrisy of modern liberalism and the hatred and intolerance that modern liberalism has allowed to have its way. Think about it: liberalism is supposedly about tolerance and equality, yet in our supposedly liberal society we are continually appeasing the mob mentality of the masses and the foaming mouths of the intolerant and hateful few who want to silence freedom of speech. This applies to public places, printed media, television, and the internet, especially the last of those four considering the increase in regulation being applied to the Internet in this country.

Online mob mentality is, naturally, not limited to the UK. If it can happen here, it can happen anywhere in this day and age, which means even America could be in danger from the tradition of liberty being violated not by the government, but by its own people, subject to hatred, intolerance, and ignorance of the true meaning of freedom. Indeed, how long before most of the rest of the world becomes coaxed into holding liberty hostage by the masses?

Liberty cannot thrive in a place where people of intolerant and ignorant minds can censor everyone else and coax the state to ban whatever they tell them. Such a land would be no different to a dictatorship run by one person and his or her iron hand. Both environments are unjust because they hold freedom hostage and oppress the individual, and the people as a whole by proxy. And in a land where freedom is not held as sacred, and where ignorance reigns supreme, this is all too easy. And as we’re in an age of democracy, whatever new age of oppression may yet come will be brought about not by government or officials, but the people themselves, for the people will demand censorship and oppression because they mistakenly believe it is the way to protect the insecure and the innocent.

Freedom of speech over censorship

When the attack on Charlie Hebdo and the killings of journalists and others shook France, the people of France have been standing and mourning in solidarity in the face of what is no doubt a great challenge to their values of freedom, and the French president Francois Holllande was especially boasting of how country claims to value freedom of speech. That said, the French government recently arrested comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala over a Facebook comment that supposedly suggested he sympathized with the attackers. Some demonstration of the French value of freedom of expression. 53 other cases have also been opened for “condoning terrorism”.

You can’t say you support freedom of speech and then have somebody locked up for saying something other people find offensive or for how you can interpret it. That’s just downright unfair. How’s it any different from killing someone for saying something you don’t like? Either way you’re attempting to coerce someone and stifling liberty.

The arrest of Dieudonne has sparked a debate about freedom of expression and about its limits, just like the massacre did. The thing is, freedom of expression is not something that is meant to have a beginning and an end. Freedom is timeless, and liberty is sacred. To limit freedom of expression is to harm liberty as a whole. The way I see it, if you say something offensive but otherwise are not working to stand in the way of the life and liberty of others and do not seek coercion of others, there is no need for you to be arrested for anything. It’s that simple. You don’t just ban someone for what they say. That’s not what a free society does.

America’s contradiction of values

Recently I was told of the story of Edward Snowden, the man who worked for the NSA and leaked secret information kept by them and handed it to The Guardian newspaper. According to the stories, he had revealed that the NSA was putting surveilance programmes in the Internet to spy on just about everyone. The fact that the American government is spying on its own people using technology seems shocking, but to me, it’s not too new. Because the way I see it, this is another example the hypocrisy and contradiction of American political values (I don’t mean religious, as I already covered).

One the one hand, America is classically known for placing high value on freedom, more specifically freedom of speech and expression, and the right to privacy. But on the other, the American government seems to place high value on stability and “order”, sometimes more than freedom, even to the point that they’ll back up foreign dictatorships rather than support the rebels trying to depose them, while publicly condemning those dictatorships. And does anyone remember the PATRIOT Act, which Obama extended until two years from now? Some knight in shining armor. Some change.

Our saviour? My ass.

Speaking of Obama, this guy actually supports what those bastards at the NSA are doing. I thought he was the president of the land of the free, not the UK, or Russia, or fucking China, but America. But I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised. Guys like him and Hilary Clinton (whose ass just gets bigger every time she lies) have been supporting security states and foreign dictatorships and tyrants this whole time. It’s among the reasons she’s so horrible, along with any other politician. The reason I put the UK in that list of coutries that Obama is not president of (to make a point) is because, let’s face it, the dream of nanny-state is secretly in the heart of the UK government, and it has people like William Hague to support the statism of the US and the dictatorships of foreign lands, while spouting venoumous lies regarding how “law-abiding citizens have nothing to fear” (that sounds so much like what Bush’s cronies would say) among other false truths.

I wonder, why does the supposed land of the free have such a difficult time deciding what it really values. Does it truly have freedom in its heart, or is its soul fixated on control? Right now America and the world still suffer from those afflicted with the twin shadows of ignorance and evil in pursuit of the madness of social control in the name of the myth of order. The world has no need for any such people, and neither does humanity. I wonder, will America decide what it believes is the right thing, or continue to follow a policy of hypocrisy? I’m not even sure how I can know America’s answer. I can only hope, but I’m just not that patient.

Note: I feel I should make something clear here. I do have a major problem with America’s government, to the point that I see them as evil, but I do not feel the same way about America itself. I just feel America is struggling between the twin forces of freedom and security, and can’t seem to decide what it values more these days.

The PMRC’s persecution of Twisted Sister

You know what this is about.

While I do not profess myself to be a fan of Twisted Sister, I am a heavy metal fan, and Twisted Sister is kind of important to the history of the genre. Besides, there’s something in heavy metal’s history I think is worth mentionig.

Back in 1984, Twisted Sister released the song We’re Not Gonna Take It, an anthem of youth rebellion and empowerment. The music video was classic. Dee Snider creating slapstick mayhem while singing in that voice. Just cool. Evidently The Man hated the idea behind the song, because soon the grown ups, supposed authority figures, and political opportunists, tried to find a reason to get rid of it. When the PMRC was formed about a year later, they tried to label it as violent, even putting it among the Filthy Fifteen under Violence, despite the only “violence” being a slapstick music video.

It’s my conviction that this was a campaign by politicians (and their wives) to crack down on a song that preached youth rebellion, freedom, and empowerment, something that, for some reason, America’s establishment seems to disfavour, despite speaking of the values freedom and independence over and over. Fortunately, Dee Snider, the lead vocalist, kicked the PMRC’s ass in the hearings. It still makes me wonder, why persecute the freedom anthem?