This evening I logged onto Facebook and saw a bunch of my friends were commenting on the following infographic:
It was produced by the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) and has caused quite the stir (which is to say it has served its likely intended purpose). Some of my friends expressed agreement with it and some of my friends expressed disagreement with it. Not surprisingly there was a significant correlation (as in 100 percent) between a friend’s opinion and their expressed philosophical ideology.
However, even those who disagreed with it failed to address the primary problem with this infographic. The ultimate failure of this infographic isn’t that it claims that characteristics like rugged individualism, nuclear families, and Christianity are white or that it implies that those characteristics are undesirable. The ultimate failure of this infographic is the same failure of all commentary on “cultures,” “societies,” and “classes.” It’s listing “facts” about make believe.
Cultures, societies, classes and other attempts to treat unique individual as anything but don’t actually exist. They’re made up, as George Calin once said about rights, like the boogeyman. Listing facts about a culture, society, or class is no different than listing facts about elves. Doing so is often a fun exercise, but elves aren’t real (outside of Iceland, of course) so any “facts” you list about them are entirely made up.
With that said, I didn’t write this post to ruin your fun. Don’t let it stop you from arguing about this infographic. People argue passionately about make believe all the time. But do know that I’m laughing at you, not with you, because, as Max Stirner would say, you have a head full of ghosts and are badly in need of an exorcism.
Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and most other mainstream social media platforms have pledged to increase the speech they censor. This has lead many people, especially those most likely to be censored, to seek greener pastures. They usually tell anybody who will listen to flock to alternate social media platforms such as MeWe, Minds, and Parler. Of course this is an exercise in trading one centrally controlled platform for another. This means users are still at the mercy of the individuals who control the services. Parler has already walked back its commitment to absolute free speech and other alternate platforms will likely do the same.
So is the concept of free speech online hopeless? Not at all. However, you have to take a page from radicals throughout history. If you look at a lot of radicals, they generally owned and operated their own newspapers, magazines, journals, and periodicals. Benjamin Franklin bought a newspaper, Benjamin Tucker printed his own periodical, egoists printed their own journal, and Peter Kropotkin published his own journal. By owning and operating their own print media they were able to say whatever they wanted whenever they wanted.
Today’s Internet has become centralized, corporatized, and sanitized, but that wasn’t always the case. It also doesn’t have to be the case. Anybody can run a server. This blog is hosted on a server sitting in my basement. In fact I self-host most of my online services. This gives me absolute control over my platforms. I can say whatever I want whenever I want.
If you want to express yourself freely, you need to take a page from radicals of yesteryear and own and operate your own platform. Fortunately, it’s easier today than ever before. There are a lot of self-hosted platforms available. For example, if you want something akin to Twitter, there’s Mastodon. If you want something akin to Facebook, there’s Freindica and diaspora*. If you want chatroom functionality, there’s Matrix (which also supports end-to-end encryption so you can speak freely on other people’s servers). In fact there are a ton of self-hosted platforms that cover almost anything you could need. What’s even better is that many of the self-hosted social media platforms can be federated, which means every person in a group could run their own instance and interconnect them.
To quote Max Stirner, “Whoever will be free must make himself free. Freedom is no fairy gift to fall into a man’s lap. What is freedom? To have the will to be responsible for one’s self.”