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We’ll keep tweeting (for now) but have also started tooting.

Posted on 14 December 2022 by SkS-Team

“Déjà vu all over again.” Another run of ethical calculus. Not so very long ago and on the heels of one or another specially offensive transgression, Skeptical Science had to  search our hearts: Is there a compelling reason to help Facebook with its business plan, by maintaining a presence on the platform? Now we're asking the same question about Twitter. If you'd like to cut directly to "there's a better way" we have a section for you right here about Mastodon, what might be termed a "post-legacy," improved social networking service.

Recent events at Twitter are causing us to again ask familiar questions, but with a twist. For reasons we've previously explored we continue to maintain a presence on Facebook. Facebook goes through the motions of window dressing ruthless commercial practices for the purpose of making money. Expedient cosmetics set (admittedly loose) brackets on what’s acceptable to say on Facebook. On the other hand,  Elon Musk’s recent acquisition was launched with the explicit intent of normalizing hate speech, promoting the worst of human nature. Fertilizing and cultivating ugly human nature at its worst is how Musk’s sophomoric philosophy on “free speech” unpacks, as a practical matter. 

Skeptical Science engages with folks via Twitter. What's our responsibilty in all this, in the big and small pictures? What should we do? Leave? Stay? Prepare to leave but acknowledge the complications and trade-offs inherent in that decision? At a minimum, we should think it through.

There are many reasons to be offended by developments at Twitter. A lot of Twitter employees suffered direct material harm as a result of being let go from their posts. The idea of an entire culture invested with the spirit, energy and relationships of real people being sold as chattel and then brutally reshaped by a tyrant is disturbingly anachronistic, feudal. Worst of all, folks who have made Twitter part of their daily lives are being emotionally harmed by others feeling permission granted to injure.

A healthy instinct in the face of "that's disgusting" is to be repelled by Twitter, to back away. Not least, self-respect is closest to home: “why am I participating in this horror?” After that, “what culpability am I taking on, by participating?”  To feed Twitter with time, energy and attention without an urgent purpose is arguably a serious mistake. At minimum it's a decision dominated by dilemma.

Is leaving Twitter a simple choice, and what if not? As with Facebook the very same personal investments that make the platform viable are powerfully binding, for many people. Social circles have limited portability. “Just” move to another platform isn’t necessarily easy or a practicably reasonable demand; we’re social animals, self-exile is a frightening thing— in a social circle, who’s going to jump first? In reality some proportion of users will find this very challenging. It’s safe to say that a lot of people will stick with Twitter, only with increased vulnerability to a variety of malignities. We can already see this as a matter of plain facts. Here, "a lot" likely means millions.

For Skeptical Science we’re left on the horns of a sadly familiar dilemma. The half-baked purpose of Musk’s acquisition is guaranteed to mean that our corrective services in the face of misinformation and cultivated synthetic ignorance will be more urgently necessary on Twitter. More than guaranteed: added requirement is  already delivered.  Yet staying “feeds the beast,” to some extent. We need to assess: do we cause less net harm by retreating from Twitter, or more?

Per prior history there’s a “civilian” population at Twitter that isn’t going to evacuate in a hurry and is in need of protection, at least for some period of time. We need look no farther than Facebook for evidence of that. As with Facebook, we can hope that normal people leave Twitter, but we can’t plan on hope. Checking Facebook's user statistics, we can see that "just leave" just doesn't work. Hope alone doesn't work.

Skeptical Science’s entire purpose is to combat bunk about climate science. The climate science communications community already does a lousy job of penetrating spaces where it’s most needed. Here’s “most needed” staring us in the face. How does abandoning the field in a war involving a civilian population in harm’s way provide an identifiable net benefit? 

Symbolism is important, has purpose and weight, but symbolism can be outweighed. For most people– particularly those there with no particular purpose other than self-promotion etc.--  the symbolism of leaving Twitter vs Mastodon users, 217 million versus 5.6 millionTwitter will (should?) be the most massive component of a decision. Our assessment is that for Skeptical Science, symbolism doesn't outweigh mission. We have specific, urgent needs to fulfill on Twitter, and our symbolic departure will leave a growing, measurable amount of harm. 

Thinking about all of these factors and weighing: we’re sorry to say that we’ll be pinching our noses and staying on Twitter, for the time being. Readers are welcome to suggest how we might establish a threshold of “Twitter is dead enough” below which we can conscionably fold our Twitter tent. But unfortunately, “just” leave isn’t an option right now.

So, that’s all fairly depressing. But now– good news. 

"And now for something completely different"

Mastodon artworkSome time ago a brilliant person created a thing called “Mastodon,” a social networking (not social media per se!) platform specifically designed to be what social networking as most of us came to know it should have been in the first place: a public service, run by the public, for the benefit and good of the public. It sounds head-smackingly obviously better than what we’re more familiar with. But Mastodon arrived long after first-movers seized the internet social space, leaving social media/networking ironically as the victim of the network effect and its lockin outcome, stuck in a state of objectives conflicted with the public good– and awful mediocrity. 

The shock effect of Elon Musk’s trampling of Twitter is causing a reassessment of old habits for many Twitter users, producing an inadvertent benefit of openings for substantial improvements.

Leaving a rearguard at Twitter, Skeptical Science has joined what can fairly be called a stampede to Mastodon, where we can be found on the “instance” (server) as As the instance handle implies, scicomm is mostly but not all about science, and communicating science. There are many other Mastodon instances, covering an overlapping array of special-to-general interests; for us scicomm was the cultural concentration best suited. Scicomm is one of many individual "states" in the Mastodon federation, each with local culture but open borders of communications.

Overall– even for die-hard skeptics of what we accidentally came to know as social media– Mastodon and its galaxy of interconnected instances and cultures is pretty delightful, worth a look. Mentally clicking on the concept feels a bit like understanding the world wide web for the first time.  

A good introduction and how-to for Mastodon is here. Our immediate advice for current social networking users: as always, don’t let neophobia block better enjoyment, more happiness. And if you can, move to a nicer neigbhorhood. 

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 95:

  1. The "hate speech" graphic on new Twitter has been completely debunked.  It's made up. 

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    Moderator Response:

    [BL] If you want us to believe that you are not just making things up, you are going to have to actually provide a link to where this supposed "debunking" has been done.

  2. Why is there no article on the MIT study that shows that 90% of CO2 released comes from rotting leaves? 

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    Moderator Response:

    [BL] If you want to claim that some "MIT study" shows something, you are going to actually have to provide a link to the study. And you're going to have to explain why it is relevant to the blog post at hand.

  3. I have responded to ecgberht on a more appropriate place. I would urge ecgberht to read the article the comment is associated with. 

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  4. I was under the impression that free speech was facilitated by speaking freely. Twitter is now allowing all Americans to have freedom of speech, but the scope of casting it becomes limited. Meaning if you seek out hate speech you can find it, but it will not come up without actively looking for it. But it is not another Americans legal and moral activity to interfer with anothers right to speak. From the movie 'An American President': "America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can't just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the "land of the free".

    You cannot re-name what another American says as Hate Speech or any pronoun, because it is against what you believe is right, and then moderate or remove that other American or thier view based on that. They cannot silence you as well. 

    Having an opposing view has a function. In addition to giving America as many choices as possible, it cauterizes your opposing viewpoint and strentghens your own beliefs. Death enlivens life and losing hieghtens efforts to win.

    This article suggests unamerican activity which goes against the free discussions of the cranky uncle. As confident as the uncle is of winning, the discussion constitutes the nessasary freedom of the american forum.

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  5. Incredibly immature and inaccurate article and a total embarrasment to an otherwise great web site.
    "Emotional damage"
    "Elon is a Nazi"
    "Elon Musk’s recent acquisition was launched with the explicit intent of normalizing hate speech,"

    Who's the clown who wrote this?

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    Moderator Response:

    [BL] Inflammatory portions deleted.

    "Quotes" that are not quotes (i.e., do not actually appear in the article) deleted.

    Please read the comments policy. In particular, it says:

    No profanity or inflammatory toneAgain, constructive discussion is difficult when overheated rhetoric or profanity is flying around.

  6. This article is entirely an Advertisement.

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  7. Peppers @ 4... "Free speech" is about what the government can do to limit your criticisms of the government. I am fully within my rights to kick you out of my home if I don't like the things you say, and that would not be an infringement on your free speech.


    It's fascinating to me how such a large number of people have come to believe that "free speech" means they can say anything they like anytime they like. Go sit in a courtroom and start yelling anything you like. See what happens. Go sit in your local church and start reciting Nietzschi at the top of your lungs. See what happens. We do, as a matter of regular social interaction, necessarily limit people's speech. 

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  8. I believe the fundamental conundrum Twitter faces is to allow as much free exchange of ideas as possible within the scope of the necessity to keep both users and advertisers. Rampant antisemitism definitely drives away advertisers who need to protect their brand. Rampant conspiracy theories are great for flaming interactions but also drive away users with large followings. To my understanding, that's exactly what Twitter was actively doing moderately well and what "critics" believed was wrong with the site.

    Even Musk is saying (though I remain dubious he'll accomplish this) is going to find ways to algorithmicly drive hate speech to the bottom of the conversation heap. How is that different? Above, Pepper seems to believe  hateful, awful, and vocal people are to be celebrated because it means we're free. I believe it's a recipe for devolving into social chaos. Musk's attemps to detrend hate will just lead to the same complaints if the hateful can't see their hate rise to the top.

    I've always held, Twitter doesn't have an engineering problem, it has a people problem that is amplified by revenue requirements. And I actually think that is exactly the problem Mastodon solves. Mastodon is essentially a social media site with no stock ticker, no revenue, no investors. It's a distributed structure where each instance operates their own resources at their own costs.

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  9. peppers @6

    In what way and for what do you see the article as an Advertisement?

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  10. Peppers: "Meaning if you seek out hate speech you can find it, but it will not come up without actively looking for it."

    That's a remarkably oblivious claim, objectively so ignorant as to make one wonder if it was truly spoken from a stance of "I believe this." Not to go ad hominem about it but this kind of abject seeming blindness is a legitimate topic in itself. 

    There's a UW professor Carl T. Bergstrom on Twitter. He's routinely threatened with various forms of bodily harm there including "you should be killed." He's not even at the top of the Bell curve demographic for being a target of such speech. For Bergstrom, "actively looking for it [death threats]" consisted of talking truthfully about matters of which Bergstrom is well informed. He's one of myriad examples, many of those loudly surfaced in lots of easily visible forms.

    Obtain situational awareness and speak truthfully, please. 


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  11. Further to Pepper's comment at 4 and the responses.

    Elon Musk has reportedly criticised Apple for a lack of commitment to "free speech", due to Apple reducing advertising on Twitter and threatening to block Twitter from its app store.

    "Free speech" does not allow someone to force themselves into getting access to someone else's platform/megaphone. Surely Musk must recognize that Apple is free to not speak on Twitter (ads), and free to not spread products it does not like via its own store? Or is it only certain types of "free speech" that Musk supports?

    Twitter, Facebook, other social media sites, Apple's App store, etc. are not (AFAIK) considered common carriers, where there are obligations to accept traffic from everyone (but still subject to regulation - for example, dangerous goods).

    And there is a world outside the U.S.A., and Twitter is not an exclusively-U.S. business. There are laws in most countries against hate speech, inciting violence, etc.

    On a slight tangent, it might be worth reminding you that Skeptical Science is not the government, is multi-national, and has it's own rules for people participating here. (It's call "the Comments Policy".) Your "free speech" position would seem to imply that anyone would be allowed to say anything here (they cannot). The rules may limit you - but they also limit people responding to you. If anyone were to threaten you with violence here, because of your position, they would be instantly banned.

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  12. Agreeing with Bob, likewise, rules of grammar are not a limit on free speech. They're there to assist you in becoming a better communicator. By the same right, commenting policies can assist the user in effectively communicating their ideas without devolving into methods that destroy good exchanges of ideas.

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  13. Slight clarification/correction of my last sentence in comment # 11.

    If someone were to threaten anyone else with violence for any reason, they would be instantly banned....

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  14. The following NPR article "Maria Ressa's 'How to Stand Up to a Dictator' is a memoir and manifesto", is an example of the harmful results of a failure to effectively govern and limit the influence of harmful misunderstandings.

    Advocates of 'more free speech' seem to conveniently ignore the harmful realities of their 'theoretical belief in the Ultimate Good of more freedom'. Another reality they ignore is that their argument would include leaving graffiti on publicly visible surfaces. I personally believe that graffiti, well done, can improve the vibrancy and inclusiveness of public spaces (or the otherwise boring passing of string of train cars). But harmful graffiti should be removed (and so should poor quality graffiti, even if it is not harmful).

    Another reality that appears to be ignored by people who declare that harmful misunderstandings will natural fail to be influential are the many examples of success through the promotion of harmful misunderstandings. The following CBC News item "Indigenous-provincial relationship is a long road. Danielle Smith is making potholes" is an example of a 'Leader' who seems confident that her fans will believe her claim that her undeniable declaration of an understandably harmful misunderstanding 'may have been misunderstood by some people' who are now attacking her for saying something she now claims is not what she said - she claims to be the victim of misunderstanding.

    There are many Leaders who have made absurd presentations of harmful misunderstanding regarding climate science. They seem to be confident that they can rely on their fans to believe the harmful misunderstandings. And, if they get publicly directly challenged regarding their presentation of a harmful misunderstanding (by a predatory news investigator) they will follow the play-book of being more misleading and claiming that they are being 'attacked by woke people (with the understanding that 'their fans' misunderstand being Woke to be a Bad Thing).

    Having social media and other media full of presentations of harmful misunderstanding is not helpful. However, I consider it important to preserve each unique presentation of harmful misunderstanding (not allowing multiple instances to spawn all over) along with a detailed explanation of why it is not to be believed.

    Some group should do that regarding climate science - Oh Wait - maybe there already are groups doing that (if only people who claim to be self-researching to self-learn could find such resources).

    That leaves the required actions to be the limiting of harmful production and spreading of understandably harmful misinformation. If only all Leaders would help with that effort.

    There will always be people who dislike restrictions on their freedom to benefit from harmful misunderstandings. But it is not necessary to compromise 'responsible ethical leadership efforts to limit harm done' in an effort to 'not disappoint the people who want more freedom to act harmfully and be excused by harmful misunderstandings'.

    Leadership is about deciding who to disappoint, what actions to discourage, and who should be helped. Harmful misleading has no real future, but it can be popular and profitable for as long as it can be gotten away with.

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  15. Free speech has generally recognised limits such as time and place restrictions, like some of Rob Honeycutt's examples. Only the fanatics  think the limits are wrong, and I bet there are things they wouldn't tolerate in their own homes over the dinner table.

    But we are really talking about information and opinions (sometimes hate filled) posted on websites, and whether there should be moderation of that.

    I used to believe websites should delete the very worst misinformation, and  ban the most serious offenders that spread misinformation (Like Trump) but now I'm just not sure. Twitter had literally thousands of people trying to moderate this sort of thing, and I wonder if its really feasible to keep that up. Banning opinions or information is also going against the spirit of free speech. 

    Of course there are things that can be done that dont go against the spirit of free speech like rules against spamming, requiring people to back up claims by reference to published science, and boreholes like at that silo the drivel while still allowing people to have a say. Maybe thats the best approach generally.

    I loathe hate speech especially when it targets vulnerable people. But the  problem is that hate speech is very difficult to define and could be widened out to include almost anything. Racist speech is relatively easy to define and is illegal in New Zealand, and I support that because it effectively incites violence. But I believe limits on free speech should be kept quite minimal. 

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  16. Ta-Nehisi Coates has a really good explanation of how we all limit our speech, as a normal course of social interaction, all the time. This is well worth the 5 mins it takes to watch the video.

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  17. Rob Honeycutt @16,

    Excellent reference video. Indeed, everyone should watch it.

    I would add an important word to clarify that it explains that "... we should all limit our speech, as a normal course of social interaction, all the time."

    The serious problem is people who believe they are Right to persist in believing and sharing harmful misunderstandings rather than responsibly considerately learning and self-governing to be less harmful and more helpful 'To Others'.

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  18. BaerbelW, moving to another specific named platform, as an alternative to Twitter is referenced 5-6 times in the article.

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    Moderator Response:

    [BL] If t his is in reference to comment #9, asking why you think that the article is an advertisement, you are failing to make a convincing argument.

  19. Rob Honeycutt, free speech is in the category of free culture and religion, etc. You may be christian but some worship muslim, judaism, et al. You cannot decide yours is only it and call all others as toxic. For speech, you also seem to reference free speech in only one category, death threat, and apply that backwards up the rope. Free speech includes hate speech becuse you cannot say just your viewpoint counts. America allowed the Nazi party to continue through the 50's here, based on freedom rights to religion, to assemble, freedom of points of view. ( do we assemble online now?). I think sad and dangerous viewpoints have their own reward anbd you do not need to operate using the tactics and pronouns so that you can homogenize america to just your viewpoint. We already agree that the content of the hate speech is wrong, even dispicable. You end up commiting a greater unamerican behavior to toss out pronouns and censor others, than the failure destined opinions they may state which will sink them on their own when left to the public.

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    Moderator Response:

    [BL] Yet you seem to insist that your definition of "free speech" is the only one that is acceptable. And that "the American way" is the only acceptable international standard of conduct.

    A reminder: this is not a government-run we site, and this site does have a Comments Policy that all participants must adhere to.

  20. Rob,

    I just happened across this and it will likely be the most remarkable thing I see today. Opposing views of anyone, anyone else are harmful misunderstandings, and the person needs to be inculcated and re-oriented to be less  harmful/more helpful.

    "The serious problem is people who believe they are Right to persist in believing and sharing harmful misunderstandings rather than responsibly considerately learning and self-governing to be less harmful and more helpful 'To Others'."

    Such a  statement is the very basis of hubris thinking. having it all figured out just yourself and all others should comply, might be the main problem of the world. Mark Twain, "The main problem of the world, the number one unsolvable thing is that there is just one true religion. Several of em".

    To make yourself the only truth sayer and everyone else wrong and dangerous is the very beginning of the worlds lack of peace. I apologies in advance for any alternate opinion.

    And such a comment is that the comment itself becomes the first evidence to the falibility of the speaker actually knowing it all, as proposed.

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  21. Peppers @19... Are you trying to suggest I am required to allow people to say anything they like in my own home?

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  22. Peppers @20... I haven't the slightest clue what you're referencing in this comment.

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  23. Peppers @20,

    As the author of the quote you refer to in my comment @17, I offer the following in the hope that it is helpful.

    The comment is made in the context of what Ta-Nehisi Coates says in the video that Rob Honeycutt linked to in their comment @16. (btw, did you watch the video?)

    State that the comment I made is that "Opposing views of anyone, anyone else are harmful misunderstandings, and the person needs to be inculcated and re-oriented to be less harmful/more helpful." is a misunderstanding, and potentially a harmful one.

    A length presentation on ethics and civilization could be offered. But I will limit my response to be related to climate science.

    Climate science has robustly established the understanding that harmful climate change impacts are being produced by many developed human pursuits of benefit, primarily, but not exclusively, the burning of fossil fuels. In spite of that robust, and continuing to improve, understanding there are some people who still want to benefit more by resisting that learning. They want to maximize their ability to benefit by being more harmful and less helpful to Others. Those pursuers of benefit need to argue for the Freedom to benefit from understandably harmful misunderstandings that excuse understandably harmful actions. And every Myth that is debunked on this site is an a 'harmful misunderstanding' (all the items presented under the Arguments tab, not just the ones highlighted in the Most Used Climate Myths presentation on the upper left of the SkS pages).

    That understanding has general application beyond the specific case of climate science. It can be understood to be based on many other cases of human development of harmful misunderstandings to excuse desired (potentially popular and profitable) harmful actions.

    A general understanding is that there is no viable future for any group that allows any of its members to pursue benefit through the misleading advertising of harmful misunderstandings to prolong or increase their ability to benefit from understandably harmful actions. Groups that do not responsibly learn and self-govern, including helping their members learn to limit the harm or risk of harm done are harmful to themselves and Others.

    That is the fundamental understanding of important groups like Professional Engineering groups. It also applies to medical groups and any other group that wants to maintain their status as helpful harm limiting organizations within a larger society.

    The people who want to benefit from harmful misunderstanding have to try to argue against that fairly common sense understanding, often demanding the freedom to 'believe what they want and do as they please'. Their misleading advertising of harmful misunderstandings may be popular (and profitable), but understandably makes little sense when it is seriously thought about.

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  24. Peppers @20

    OPOF: "The serious problem is people who believe they are Right to persist in believing and sharing harmful misunderstandings rather than responsibly considerately learning and self-governing to be less harmful and more helpful 'To Others'."

    Peppers: "Such a statement is the very basis of hubris thinking. having it all figured out just yourself and all others should comply, might be the main problem of the world."

    Nigelj: "I disagree entirely. There is no hubris. The first part of the "statement" is about being honest and not deliberately spreading misinformation. This is just simple basically accepted ethics.

    The second part of the statement is about minimising harm to others. The origins are in the work of philosophers like John Stuart Mill: "The harm principle says people should be free to act however they wish unless their actions cause harm to somebody else. The principle is a central tenet of the political philosophy known as liberalism and was first proposed by English philosopher John Stuart Mill."

    This is the basis of modern government. Most of the laws and regulations governments pass are about harm minimisation. So nothing to do with hubris. The alternative is total anarchy and the law of the jungle.

    The only real question is about defining harm and whether someone is harming someone else, and whether the other person has given permission (tacitly given with some sports) how much it can be practically minimised and so forth. This is an ongoing issue of political debate, and political compromise, but life was never meant to be easy.

    Finally being helpful to others is just simple basic ethics and human decency that we all consider and impliment in our daily lives. You help your family dont you? Are you seriously contesting the general principle that we should be helpful?

    And how is it all hubris? Mystifies me. Whether being helpful is appropriate comes down to the specific situation. Society has guidelines and accepted norms that do not look like hubris to me, and its generally up to the individual to decide whether they are helpful. The law does not force people to be helpful with some occupation specific exceptions. So your comments just dont make much sense to me.


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  25. Hi Nigel, What determines this disinformation? Is it what you say it is, or your group? That is censoring. That would be hubristic to determine you alone are right, or higher right. Let people speak. What is harmful to others? Is your censoring harmful to the freedom of others? Is something someone says you do not like or agree with, now recategorized as harmful, allowing you to censor and silence them in your estimation. Is that your process? That would be very wrong. Let people speak. It is the opposite of hubris to know, without losing your stance, what are the motivations, meanings, precedence, progeny, needs, desires and fears of other viewpoints, which can strengthen your own original stance. Or allow you to benefit from it if impressed. Or you will also watch it whither on itself if wrong. But let everyone speak. My grandmother said to give everyone a clean sheet of paper, and let them mark it up themselves. Dont label me (or someone) as 'harmful', simply in your limited view ( lacking other input), and assail my rights to influence my world too. All should speak. Nor is this the function of government or leaders, to influence freedom of speech in any way. BTW, death threats are another category. But absent that phenom, it is too dangerous to call anything else 'dangerous' to eliminate other rights of speech and assembly.

    I am referring to within the zone of your own comments about the spirit of free speech. Not within science processes.

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  26. Peppers @25

    At no point have I promoted censorship of information. In fact @15 I indicated I oppose censorship of information and opinion other than 1)the usual time and place restrictions, and 2) website moderation rules forbidding personal abuse, off topic and spamming 3) racism and inciting violence. Defamation law also has its place. Do you oppose any of those sorts of limits?

    To briefly answer your other questions. Disinformation is deliberately spreading false information. Misinformation is spreading false information. These are standard dictionary definitions. False information is determined by a consensus view of experts and sometimes by the courts. They are always open to challenge but until the consensus changes false information is false information. 

    I will label peoples views harmful If I deem them to be harmful. I assume you agree that theives, murderes and environmental polluters to be harmful? I also consider covid deniers to be harmful. Its normal for humans to make judgements about harm, and sometimes require penalties to discourage harmful activities (like theft) or to compensate people, because its part of how we survive and prosper. Sometimes we make the wrong judgements, but making no judgements will get us all killed.

    Of course its needs to be genuine and significant harm based on evidence and responses need to be proportionate to the type of harm. Taking some level of risk in life is also healthy. So its a nuanced issue. IMHO.

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  27. Peppers @25 and prior :  with your permission I will add a comment on your statements.

    You have allowed your thinking to become muddled, and you are not looking clearly at the reality of the situation.  (But why is that the case?)

    For example : you are making the logical error of using binary thinking in regard to "death threats".   Sorry, Peppers, but death threats are not a separate category, but are toward one end of a spectrum - a continuum - of antisocial thoughts/actions.

    And individuals (at various times) can slide back & forth along that spectrum.   And they can by their speech influence other individuals, pushing those ones further along the spectrum.   In other words, a multiplier effect occurs (the madness of crowds is an example - but there are many other examples).

    Peppers, it is disappointing that you are not very aware of such tendencies of human nature.   The lessons of history, and your own personal observations of life experience, should have educated yourself about it all.

    Rather than taking a doctrinaire/dogmatic view against censorship, it would be better if you simply applied common sense to the issue.   And there, a possible short-cut is to ask yourself :- "What view would Ben Franklin or Abe Lincoln or other wise/ heroic/ saintly (etc) historical person take, in the modern hi-tech situation?"

    The second question to ask yourself is :-  What deep emotional influences are causing my (Peppers) extraordinary amount of motivated reasoning in arguing for a position so opposed to common sense.

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  28. Eclectic

    I am a student of Ben Franklin! Thanks for your inputs.

    Where along this spectrum of of determining ideas from others should be categorized as dangerous, would you place your marker? Without subjugating others right to revolutionary ideas they may have. Nor interferring with UCBerkeley,"In science, ideas can never be completely proved or completely disproved. Instead, science accepts or rejects ideas based on supporting and refuting evidence, and may revise those conclusions if warranted by new evidence or perspectives,", which will need a constant flow of new ideas, both good and bad, to continue our mission of knowledge?



    is on the way of defining his interpetation of dangerous; lisiting thieves, murderers and enviromental polluters as dangerous. I departmentalized death threats in the same way, as physical act. But it is wrong to then spread that definition across areas that involves general thought much less to others beyond your family, church, culture or need levels. Because you don't know.

    Feeling is not knowing, which is the woke movement in a nutshell, the polar opposite of an academic dicipline such as science. Separating physical acts from thoughts and perspective would allow a thought pool. What do you think?

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  29. Peppers, it seems the essence of your line of argument is a sort of nihilism ~ that one cannot really distinguish the gradations between black & white, or between good & evil . . . and therefore there is no distinction of these polarities (and that likewise we should not attempt the distinction).

    Peppers, that sort of argument is an obfuscation or sophistry.   It is used (as you are using it) as a motivated reasoning intended to hide from yourself your own emotional drive to avoid acknowledging the bleeding obvious.   And the bleeding obvious is that we live in a world of grays ~ and that most of the time we can do a fair job of managing these realities . . . simply by using common sense.

    As Ben F. or Abe L. might well say :-  Nonsense, young man.  You are avoiding your responsibility -  your responsibility to act sensibly in this world.  Examine yourself, to understand your inner desires for such a dereliction of duty.  Overcome those unworthy emotions, Sir !

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  30. I just happened to zip by this comment, and it seems to have lost its value in the mix of culture wars. "Feeling is not knowing, which is the woke movement in a nutshell,"

    "Woke" is a type of awareness I thought, not a program. It is not a scientific term for sure, but wasn't Hume ushered in Kant's "woke" moment?

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  31. Eddie @ 30: yes, that use of "woke movement" by Peppers is rather bizarre. The only other use of "woke" on this page is when OPOF used the term in comment 14:

    And, if they get publicly directly challenged regarding their presentation of a harmful misunderstanding (by a predatory news investigator) they will follow the play-book of being more misleading and claiming that they are being 'attacked by woke people (with the understanding that 'their fans' misunderstand being Woke to be a Bad Thing).

    It seems obvious that Peppers has an emotional viewpoint of "woke", and the context in which he uses "woke movement" seemingly falls under OPOF's "...publicly directly challenged ... follow the playbook... attacked by woke people ... Woke to be a Bad Thing" clause.

    For someone who is arguing some sort of "Free Speech" position, Peppers sure seems to like dismissing other opinions by labelling them.

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  32. In his essay, "Memes and the Exploitation of Imagination," Daniel C. Dennett argues that memes (smallest elements that replicate themselves') act like DNA.
    "In the struggle for attention, the best ideas win, according to the principle of the survival of the fittest, which ruthlessly winnows out the banal, the unimaginative, the false."

    "I think that a new kind of replicator has emerged on this very planet. It is staring us in the face. It is still in its infancy, still drifting clumsily about in its primeval soup, but already it is achieving evolutionary change at a rate which leaves the old gene panting far behind."
    These are "complex ideas that form themselves into distinct memorial units" like "arch," "wheel," wearing clothes." Philosophy after Darwin, Michael Russ

    (It's a stretch, I know, but fun.)
    From Wikipedia

    "In 2018, the British political commentator Andrew Sullivan described the "Great Awokening", describing it as a "cult of social justice on the left, a religion whose followers show the same zeal as any born-again Evangelical [Christian]" and who "punish heresy by banishing sinners from society or coercing them to public demonstrations of same."

    Replicate Mastodon, replicate as a meme, like "born again."

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  33. Sorry, I meant to post under another, but related post.

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  34. Peppers @28

    I  quoted a few examples of physical harm. I didn't say they were the only forms of harm. I was trying to establish what if anything you believed in in terms of harm and consequences. I asked you whether you agreed with having consequences for those  examples of physical harm.  You still havent answered that question. 

    I have answered as many of your questions as possible, but you dont answer any of mine (or other peoples questions). You make yourself look evasive and like a troll and a hypocrite if you dont answer peoples questions explicitly. All it takes is a simple yes or no.

    Why is it wrong to spread that definition of physical harm across general thought? You didnt really give a good reason. Did you not read Eclectics comment? Its all shades of grey. There are all sorts of harm including physical harm, socio-economic harm and deprivation, and mental harm, etcetera. They are all harmful. You cannot say they are not harmful just because they sit inside one category.

    Its always going to be a case of what is the appropriate response in a specific situation. For example in my view we should not lock people up for personal abuse (like name calling), insults, racism, or internet bullying (threatening comments and relentlss abuse), but we can ban those people from internet forums (after a few warnings). This is what plenty of websites do these days. I will try one last time. Do you agree with doing that or not? 


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  35. Eddie Evans @32,  woke people dont want to want to "ban" bigots, racists, mysogonists,  and ignorant people from society. Woke people just condemn their beliefs, and wish they would  engage their brains, rather than being slaves to their emotions.

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  36. Jnigel,


    Getting caught up in Christmas and a 3 year old. Sorry and Ill be back! Ill be back and you and I agree on much. We will probably continue to not agree on the original premise we started with from Rob. People who do not agree with his self need to be:  "Opposing views of anyone, anyone else are harmful misunderstandings, and the person needs to be inculcated and re-oriented to be less harmful/more helpful." Supercilious folly. Thx Nigelj, D

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  37. Peppers @ 36:

    You have placed a statement in quotes that has not been stated by anyone here other than  yourself. You made it in comment #20. OPOF quoted you in comment #23 (and explained how he thought it was a misrepresentation of what he said). You have twice attributed this "quote" to Rob, who has said no such thing.

    Please make an effort to actually read what people are saying, and respond to them properly. If you are going to be this sloppy about referencing what others have said to you, any discussion is going to be very difficult.

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  38. peppers makes the following interesting claim at the end of their post @10: “Separating physical acts from thoughts and perspective would allow a thought pool.”

    It seems that the claim is 'only actions are harmful', with a clarification by peppers that 'only death threats’ are also harmful. Except for 'death threats' the claim is that 'thoughts' cannot be harmful because everyone’s opinion of what is a harmful thought would be different.

    That appears to be the basis for peppers’ thoughts. Thoughts are not harmful. Only actions are harmful. What about the potential for the sharing of thoughts that are misunderstandings to result in harmful actions?

    Follow my ‘thoughts about that’ (credit is owed to the originators of this post and those who have commented, but I will not be making specific references).

    I will use climate science as the example. And I will focus on social media sharing of 'thoughts'.

    The primary harmful actions from the perspective of 'climate science understanding of climate change harm being done' are the actions that increase the global average surface temperature (primarily the increase of ghgs, primarily CO2 from fossil fuel use).

    Each person’s impacts may be small. But they all add up. The harmful human climate change impacts are the collective total of the activities of each human.

    The important evaluation is the amount of harmfulness attributable to each person – not the comparison of national totals. A related understanding is that perceptions of prosperity or status that developed based on, and reliant upon, the harm of fossil fuel use are 'unsustainable developed illusions'. Attempts to maintain those developed perceptions are also harmful, even if a person wants to believe that it is harmful to limit their ability to maintain their harmfully obtained perceptions of prosperity and status.

    The above is clearly about harmful physical acts. But creating and sharing beliefs/thoughts is also an ‘action’. That ‘action’ is understandably harmful if it delays the raising of awareness and understanding of the need for everyone to limit the harm done by physical actions.

    Therefore, it is harmful for 'thoughts to be shared through social media' that would delay the learning of the need to rapidly end fossil fuel use. And the creation, initial presentation, of such 'delay provoking' misunderstandings is more harmful than sharing or liking them.

    Therefore, and this is clearly supported by the evidence, there are cases where it is harmful to have 'no restrictions on sharing of thoughts' (btw, credible science does not allow debunked thoughts to continue to be repeated). Also, Harmful Thought Production Pools do exist (groups like the Heartland Institute).

    Harmful thinkers will always be part of humanity. In order to develop sustainable improvements for humanity the influence of the harmful thinkers needs to be limited. The more limited the influence of harmful thoughts, the faster the development of sustainable corrections and improvements will be.

    In conclusion, demands for 'freedom of expression of thoughts' should have to include an evidence-based rational system that will effectively limit the influence of harmful thoughts, with an agreement that freedom of expression would be justifiably limited if the 'system fails to limit harm done'. The marketplace of popularity and profit has proven to fail to limit harm done (on many matters, not just climate change impacts). In fact, the evidence indicates that 'freedom to believe and share misunderstandings' will develop more harmful actions and make it harder for thoughtful considerate people to limit the harm done (climate change impacts are not the only example of this).

    People who demand 'freedom of expression in social media' need to prove how it will limit the production of harmful actions (and those harmful actions include expressing, liking and sharing misunderstandings).

    Note: I have excluded the obvious harm of unjustified targeting of people through expressions of harmful misunderstanding in social media. Those are actions. And they are harmful actions because there is ample evidence that creating and sharing those misunderstandings prompts people to physically act harmfully towards the targeted person or identifiable group. And each participant promoting the misunderstanding shares responsibility for the harmful actions produced no matter how insignificant or misunderstood they claim their impacts were – Everybody’s actions add up.

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  39. peppers @36... You seem to be suggesting I said, "Opposing views of anyone, anyone else are harmful misunderstandings, and the person needs to be inculcated and re-oriented to be less harmful/more helpful."

    Again, this is gibberish, and it's most certainly nothing that I said. 

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  40. Rob,

    I responded to a statement in 23, and this was attributed to you mistakenly.

    "The serious problem is people who believe they are Right to persist in believing and sharing harmful misunderstandings rather than responsibly considerately learning and self-governing to be less harmful and more helpful 'To Others'."

    They penned this in response rather, to an entry of Robs prior. But to respond I think you can decide who comes in your home and oversee what they do and say, as well as how you raise your children and where you worship. The statement above relates to woke cancel culture, labeling and otherwise infringing on the rights of others, to have opinions of their own back in their worlds. Which may be next door.

    Retraining, canceling or otherwise silencing other humans means one is considering your opinion is more right than theirs. That they should all think as you and their opinion is now classified as harmful misunderstandings and the offender should be retrained, whatever that entails.

    The key is understanding that what you think is right for you does not equal what someone else may think is right in their home. You will thank me to acknowledge that they also cannot tell you how to think in your home.

    This is free speech and it includes the public space between all these homes, from all angles. Im reminded of being in line at the beach for something and overhearing a bicyclist loudly lamenting and  lambasting all these strollers and roller bladers and runners mucking up the brand new bike path the City just put in. Another bystander, a City worker, heard enough and promptly corrected the speaker that the mission statement for the path included walking, running, skate boarders, strollers and more, as well as bikes.

    What can be a clear distinction is real physical harm intended or being done to another. Thats definable.

    The definition of what is a harmful misunderstanding from one people, one culture, one gender, class standing, etc., to another cannot be defined to concluded that all should be and think and do only as you do. 

    I have not found a perameter yet that would permit this.  Whole nations have thought the wrong thing and later said, what were we thinking? There is no support in numbers for instance, to make what you think global, or so valid you should want to force it on or silence others. You can sell them something though...

    This website promotes discourse. It goes back many years and years of productive discourse. It is biased, but it is no different than going in to a revival tent. They invite you to come in and intend on converting you. This is a respectful use of the free speech arena.

    Labeling others thoughts as harmful 'in your opinion' to conduct acts of silencing or vilifying them will ultimately diminish your experience as well (the golden rule).

    In my opinion. Thanks all.

    Nigelj, some of this may respond to you as well,. On the definition of woke, it has changed several times. It started referring to black justice and some areas now equate it to thinking much like detailed above, canceling as valid woke activity, etc. Best D


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  41. Peppers @ 40:

    Seriously, dude? You think it is a Bad Thing  for someone to use labels such as "misunderstanding", "harmful", etc. - but at the same time you use labels such as "woke movement", "cancel culture", etc? Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

    As for "physical harm" - that ignores all the other sorts of harm associated with speech. Have you ever head of "slander"? Or "libel" (the printed version)? I expect there are very few civilized societies that do not have laws against those forms of speech, and mechanisms where people can recover the damages (loss of reputation, loss of business, extreme emotional harm). And damage can and will occur long before it reaches a point where someone will take the time and effort to sue in court.

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  42. Peppers @4, @25, @28
    @25 you say “Dont label me (or someone) as 'harmful', simply in your limited view ( lacking other input), and assail my rights to influence my world too.”
    It is an old and tiresome defense to hide behind “freedom of speech.” The first amendment right, indeed all rights, comes with responsibility to not abuse that right. The age-old example is that you do not have the right to yell “fire!” in a crowded theatre. It is akin to being morally wrong to spread disinformation that global warming and climate change are not real and cause no harm. @25 you ask “what determines this disinformation?” The answer is fundamental facts of science that explain global warming, which include conservation of energy, radiant energy transfer, and atmospheric physics.
    @28 you imply that science is changeable and can be revised “if warranted by new evidence or perspectives.” True, but the key word is “new.” Deniers often repeat the same old arguments. For example, on another comment thread (Skeptical Science New Research Week for 50 2022 @49), you say “I am still struggling with our involvement with Co2 at .04 of 1% and water vapor is the main ghg factor at a hundred times more the effect at up to 4% of the total volume.” Bob Loblaw replied that these concerns are addressed in the standard myths, which does an excellent job of explaining the science at Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced levels.
    Regarding being harmful, climate change will result in death and destruction, not in my limited view lacking input from others, but based on volumes of scientific research, some of which is referenced on this SkS website. Do a little homework. There is no excuse for spreading wrong information.

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  43. Peppers @40

    "The definition of what is a harmful misunderstanding from one people, one culture, one gender, class standing, etc., to another cannot be defined to concluded that all should be and think and do only as you do. "
    I disagree. Harmful misunderstandings are defined where there is good scientific evidence and consensus. Science is also a universal language that cuts across cultures.

    However I do think people should still be allowed to challenge all consensus scientific positions, and other views, in the public realm like websites and in the scientific literature.

    Censorship of opinion and information worries me, (with very limited exceptions like inciting violence, defamation law, etc, etc) because a well intended process can so easily be abused and go terribly wrong, and you would need a huge army of people trying to enforce it. People should read George Orwells 1984.

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  44. Nigelj,

    I was certain we were close on our understandings. What differences remain are what will be mine as an individual.

    Id like to repeat a partial of what I inserted before, from movie American President and can be utubed. 

    "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can't just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the "land of the free".

    Merry Christmas, D

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  45. HI Charlie Brwon,

    I dont think folks grappling or struggling with info, new to them, constitutes harmful information. Asking questions and trying to understand should not. And I maintain that labeling as harmful is a method to diminish the other, under the presumption that your opinion and/or conclusions are tantamount. You are challenged with that tack, to presume you have the last word as you also know new information may still arrive and could matter.

    I am not trying to affect anyone else, but trying to figure this out a bit myself.

    For something specific, I have not seen much detail in to the increase in human population from 1B in 1900 to 8B this year, yet it has an identical graph line for our Co2 increase. Not the 'humans breathe within the cycle' response. But the increase of consumption and giant leaps in fuel uses. 90.72% of this 8B have cell phones So where do these people in the somalian desert charge their phones? Because apparently almost everyone has one. Each and everyone of them also wants a car, because they are like you and I. As tech becomes more efficient, more can access one, more on the road and no gains are made. This could be very relevant as current GW reports are that no gains are being made.

    My point is not about cell phones or breathing Co2 being net, but that defining the reason the increase has happened will dictate where to aim the guns. Oil gas and coal are just fulfilling demands. Our rocketing from 1 to 8 billion consumers is not talked about.

    I am thinking about this, and other concerns. In what way am I being harmful to you?

    Thx D

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  46. Peppers @44 ,

    Your argument fails.   Intellectually and morally.

    The rhetorical quote you give, about the man:  "advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing"  ~ is an example of a fine rhetorical piece which, at first encounter, seems nobly liberal & almost Voltaire-like.

    But further thought shows the piece to be absurd.   And absurd, because in a civilized society there must be limitations & restrictions of extremes.

    Peppers, I am confident that both you and I are strongly opposed to the abduction of children for organ-harvesting and/or torture.   Yet if the shouting man were advocating such immoral activities ~ would you be nobly prepared to defend his free speech "rights"?   (A rhetorical question, of course!)

    And assuming you do not favor severe child-abuse   ~ what happens if the shouting man were not actually advocating such crimes . . . but were merely advocating de-criminalization of these activities?   Where do you draw the line, Peppers?   Your argument so far has been that you strongly disapprove of drawing any line anywhere which could limit "free speech".

    In short, your "free speech" position is absurd.   So absurd, that I rather suspect you have been filling an idle hour or two with disingenuous nonsense.   But no need for that, my friend ~ there is already enough and to spare, of nonsense on the internet.  Why would you wish to add more?

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  47. Peppers @ 45.

    Once again, you are stating "And I maintain that labeling as harmful is a method to diminish the other, under the presumption that your opinion and/or conclusions are tantamount."

    Yet you use labels such as "woke movement", "cancel culture", etc.

    Are you familiar with the phrase "what's good for the goose is good for the gander"? Take a look at definition # 2.

    2. If something is good for one person, it should be equally as good for another person; someone who treats another in a certain way should not complain if the same is done to them.

    The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

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  48. eclectic,

    Merry Chrstmas

    you are using free speech to denounce free speech. You would miss it if gone. 
    the comparisons to physical harm to protect against speech does not equate. Someone promoting child harm would not fare well. Not a likely example either but you are trying to make a point, albeit extreme for a fast gain. You are using free speech. 

    Bob yes you could call those labels. They were identifiers I thought and not as global as 'harm', but I may end up labeling too. I must have been implying negative to cite them and then my premise would have me ask, mwas I qualified to label cancel culture as a negative culture? And I was a I'm saying to not let people say their piece is a mistake. Goose and gander applies. 

    in addition to this site and this article, there are matches in opposition to equal it.

    this Is historic. The second time in history a global issue has come to us. But this is worse. atom bombing involved deterring and withholding. This has been done and it is about containing. Even dreams of reversing. Every mock, every poke, every diminishment of one another makes me feel further from home, as Tom Hanks said in Private Ryan. Every attempt to force or bluster this through is not working and I don't know how to convey it except to display and convince and hopefully convert. The forum is free speech For that. minimizing What you don't want to hear has one minimizing what you came to get. New ones to your message. 
    got to get the kid in the car here. I'll add to this. Best. D

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  49. Peppers @40...

    I don't know how more clearly to state this. "Free speech" only means that Congress cannot enact laws that limit what you say. Everyone else is fully in their individual rights to limit what you say with respect to their own properties and businesses.

    If someone is asking you to leave their home or business because what you're saying, that is not a limit on your right to free speech. It merely means they're telling you you've stepped past the bounds of what they are willing to listen to. You are free to find another venue for what you want to say. 

    What you're asking for, as far as I can summize, is the "right" to say awful things and not be criticized for it. And that's not how it works. Congress cannot enact laws that prevent you from saying awful things, but your fellow citizens are fully within their right to ostricize you when you do.

    What you're complaining about with "woke" and "cancel" culture is merely politically motivated labeling. It's linguistic framing designed to literally do what you're complaining about others doing. 

    You want free speech but don't want to allow others the freedom to exercise their right to free speech in their criticisms of what you say.

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  50. Free speech is important here as it is how you can deliver your message. Labeling an opposing message to your own thought as 'harmful misunderstanding' removes the usefulness of this site and your mission.

    I'd think you would want to welcome them in, hear once again the same issues all newcomers bring and try and convince them. Not silence them. Here is the list of narrow exceptions to free speech:

    Rights, against

    To incite imminent lawless action. ( child porn?)
    Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969).
    To make or distribute obscene materials. (or maybe here)
    Roth v. United States, 354 U.S. 476 (1957).
    To burn draft cards as an anti-war protest.
    United States v. O’Brien, 391 U.S. 367 (1968).
    To permit students to print articles in a school newspaper over the objections of the school administration.
    Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, 484 U.S. 260 (1988).
    Of students to make an obscene speech at a school-sponsored event.
    Bethel School District #43 v. Fraser, 478 U.S. 675 (1986).
    Of students to advocate illegal drug use at a school-sponsored event.
    Morse v. Frederick, __ U.S. __ (2007).

    The point that is really my business, is that free speech does not include labeling something something else on the delete list so you can cancel it. 

    I know I have worn this topic out! This is my opinion, Thx all, D

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