FDR Controversy Part 4: “I would like to ask you to stop posting here”.
Aside from the whole concept of breaking out of unpleasant or abusive relationships this is the biggest issue FDR’s “critics” (as if that’s all they were..) have a problem with.
The claim is that Stefan Molyneux consistently bans dissenting opinion from FDR and that this represents a form of hypocrisy because he otherwise promotes freedom so much. People say such things as, “this is a forum about freedom and anarchy yet it is one of the most tightly controlled boards on the internet” or “Stefan Molyneux repeatedly says he is open to criticism, yet when somebody even politely disagrees he asks them to stop posting”.
I can play the devils advocate all day, but I’m not the devil though I’m sure some dissenters, excuse the pun, will see me as such once I’m done with this piece.
So let’s see what we’ve got here.
1. Private property is not the state
The reason people often passionately decry a particular forum administrator’s tendency to, as they say, “ban dissent” is an obvious connotation with tyrannical, totalitarian and anti-free-speech leadership (or dictatorship if you will). However this simply conflates private property with the state. Whereas the state coercively prohibit you from speaking out even when you use your own property or voluntarily acquired means to do so, somebody in his house, hall or online forum can at best prohibit you from speaking up in his own place. These are two completely different things in that the former is a true clamp down on free speech and the latter is an exercise of property rights.
To claim that those who deny their visitors to say certain things or express certain opinions represent oppressive state leaders if they were given a chance is complete and pure fantasy. If this was so then every christian whom prohibits people to spit on his religion in his house or even every homeowner who prohibits swearing in his home is a would be totalitarian dictator. This is pretty ridiculous.
So this connotation between a private property owner enforcing certain speech related “house rules” with coercive banishment of free speech by certain governments simply needs to be destroyed. It has completely no basis whatsoever and only reflects poor understanding of both the state coercion and property rights. Libertarians should by far be the last ones to carry such connotations.
2. Am *I* a cult?
I own myself (prove me wrong!). Therefore I totally decide with whom I wish to speak, associate with and have relationships with. Thus I totally decide whom will I allow to use my property and what they are allowed to do with it. Thus it can easily be claimed that if I choose to disassociate with people whom I disagree with, whom I personally find unpleasant and whom bring up topics I don’t like and ban them from using my property (no you cannot borrow my bike, now beat it), I am a “cult”. Just me, my own cult of one.
Or.. I am just a freaking human individual!
Conversely, FDR (in terms of server, bandwidth etc. he is paying for) is owned by Stefan Molyneux, an individual that is, just as I am, totally free to decide whom will he allow to use it and what will he allow them to do with it. Does that alone make him a cult leader? Obviously not. Far more is required for that to be true.
This cannot be emphasized enough! Self ownership and consequential property rights consistently applied can only lead to voluntaryism which consistently applied can only lead to every person being a little “dictator”, if you will, over his own self and property. To decry such a rightful dictator of dictating is just funny and ridiculous. Of course I know there are countless of statists (including our friends minarchists) who would have all sorts of qualms about the above equation, but they know where they’re coming from and they know how “complicated” they feel these issues are, given how difficult it is to keep all those self-contradictions jammed into one brain. Have fun with that guys (and gals)!
3. Let’s agree to agree or stop talking!
There is a very popular, but as I am finding out actually quite peculiar notion called the “agreement to disagree”. The reason it is peculiar is that it really makes most sense for those who think there is no such thing as objective truth and reality, the post modernist types, and biggest fans of performative contradictions who essentially thus lost all real motivation to speak truthfully and may as well make up stuff as they go along and write “scientific” papers about it using such smart and juicy terms as “the subpatriarchial paradigm of expression and the neotextual paradigm of consensus” as titles of those papers.
Clearly, to them the “agreement to disagreement” presents no problem whatsoever. For all they know they could both be right even if they state two completely, utterly and directly contradictory statements. “That circle has a diameter of 10 centimeters. – No it has the diameter of 20 centimeters. – Let’s agree to disagree. – Okay.”. Oh I know I am being derogatory about it and I know few (I hope) post modernist relativists, nihilists and other such performative contradictions licking freaks would agree to disagree in an instance where a simple measuring could prove what’s actually true.
The problem is that they would, even upon taking such a measure, claim that what they just found as true might actually be false, or true.. or who cares anyway. Most importantly, in cases where possibility of such an easy determination of what is “actually true” is not obviously available, as if assuming it doesn’t even exist, they all to readily agree to disagree on completely contradictory statements. This really reminds of the “god of the gaps” theory, except instead of putting god in the gaps of their understanding they put “impossibility of uncertainty”.
Anyway, for the rest of us, who believe there is such a thing as an objective truth and reality that can be measured, sensed and felt, because we do measure, sense and feel it with all of the devices that we’ve got at our disposal capable of such detection, “agreement to disagree” really is quite peculiar. We know that either one of the two disagreeing parties is most likely right and we thus know that “agreement to disagree” is in fact no agreement whatsoever. It is in fact an obvious contradiction in terms and unlike post modernists we do give a damn about contradictions!
Agreement to disagree is thus a very cheap shot, a lie and a sign that you do not really care about getting to the bottom of what is true. Did you agree or did you disagree, it can hardly be both at once.
Now this can be seen as an attempt to justify some form of intolerance of differences in opinion, but I am not saying that not agreeing to disagree must immediately mean not tolerating disagreement. You can certainly let someone disagree with you, but that can be done without pretending to be in any kind of agreement. You can simply agree to stop talking to each other, which ties well into the previous two points I have made in an attempt to show that such an act does not represent some draconian kind of intolerance or persecution of dissent, as is often hyperbolically claimed.
4. So what if Molyneux asks you to stop posting on his forum?
Nothing more than it states. He would like you to stop posting. This in no way means he somehow wants to force you to stop talking about it in your own venues, that he is a burgeoning cult leader or on the same level as some dictator. All it means that he doesn’t want you to post anymore, on his forum for the exact reason that he states. Everything else is pure conjecture, framing, projection, straw manning etc.
So you can build that case of yours that supposedly proves his “banning of dissenting opinion”, and even if you succeed you still don’t really have much to stand on. All you’ve proved is that Stefan Molyneux exercises rights he ascribes to every other individual in a way in which you find particularly unpleasant and distasteful. That’s all you proved. And not everybody cares what what you think. Those who have a problem with this are perfectly free to not use his property and if Molyneux really does that and it results in too many people leaving his forum, he may very well have an incentive to change a tactic. In any case this is absolutely his choice.
That said, a lot of such claims have only a selection of controversial forum threads to show for it for which they often tend to portray a rather one sided picture of what happened usually following a pattern like “someone comes in and politely states his disagreement and promptly gets swarmed with irrelevant questions that stonewall him into a defensive position that gets him banned”.
I realize something that resembles this did seem to happen in certain instances, however when examining purported examples of this behaviors it is still worth asking if such stated disagreement really was all about mere expression of disagreement and curiosity or contained something more that could cause the discussion to take a more inflamed route.
It may also be worth to note that certain people can easily be exposed as effectively trolling FDR with questions supposedly meant as “simple expressions of disagreement and curiosity” when in fact they were former FDR members from Liberated Minds posing as someone else to put on a “good show” and produce supposed evidence for Molyneux’ banning policies.
“Recently, when someone asked for clarification on his forum, he gave the curt reply, ‘I have never seen a UPB discussion work out well on a Board, the concepts are too slippery for this format, and everyone always just ends up frustrated. I invite the OP to call into the Sunday show, 4pm EST, to ask these questions directly…’”
That ‘someone’ was me (masquerading as a female named katietron)
Another member, QuestEon, who happens to be the author of FDRLiberated to whose articles I was responding in my last two parts, applauded this tactic by saying: “Good show on that!”.
Molyneux’ response to that topic however seemed fairly polite and did not in fact reflect an unwillingness to address the poster’s concerns, but invited the poster to pose it in a call in show (which of course accusers claim are manipulative, which I’ve already addressed in previous parts, they will claim anything). This is his common response to critiques or requests for clarification on the boards. As the response clearly indicates, he does not consider boards to be a good medium to discuss that particular topic.
5. “But he threatened LM with violence?”
Consistent with the whole “purging of dissent” line of accusations it was actually claimed that Molyneux threatened LM with violence, which is a claim of actual authoritarian-style attempt to purge dissent even by dissenters own venues. I wish to put this claim to rest once and for all.
The sole basis of this claim is Molyneux’ plea in this video where he says that “using these words without detailed and specific evidence is actionable legal slander” and where he also states:
“You can call me all of these things, but you can’t call me an embezzler. You can call me names and that’s fine, but you cannot call me a thief, you cannot say I kidnap people and lock them in because that’s where you’re starting to talk about facts and as we’ve seen there are very specific facts which need to be presented with objective evidence in order to support the charges of cult. Cult is a very specific legal term that is different from “jerk”, you can call me a jerk, I’m never gonna get bothered by it fundamentally, but when you’re gonna use words like brainwashing, cult, cult leader and so on, that is specific, that is associated with criminal activity and you need to provide evidence or you need to withdraw those claims. If you call my show a cult, or me a cult leader, and do not provide objective evidence from standardized definitions, you and I will have a problem. Don’t do it, let’s not go down that road. That’s silly, let’s keep the debate on principles
The terms “actionable legal slander” is taken as to mean that he can take legal action against those using terms in question to portray his show. What accusers infer from this is that he effectively threatened to sue them and since it is impossible to sue someone today without state courts and since state is the one enforcing laws against slander, this is seen as threatening to use state violence against them.
But this simply does not follow. As is seen in the quote above, he clearly states that the accusations in question are associated with criminal activity given that many cults foster certain acts which are not only illegal (by laws of state), but morally illegitimate (natural law referred to by libertarians for the principle of non-aggression). Therefore accusing FDR a cult without real basis not only presents potential harm to the value of FDR and its brand and reputation, but puts FDR in a legally vulnerable situation to others who may in fact initiate legal action against him.
Even in a free society which Stefan Molyneux, libertarians and voluntaryists promote, filing disputes for arbitration on the basis of baseless slander is not inconceivable. In market anarchy there would be a severe plurality of private courts with various terms of service. If Liberated Minds, for instance, was a group registered with court A and that court had provisions against slanderous activity, one can certainly sue Liberated Minds if they break such a contract. If they however went with the service without provisions against slander, Molyneux could still claim a dispute with it by means of a different arbitration agency which could have some sort of a contract with the agency representing LM which would allow a way of settling inter-agency disputes.
Whichever route was pursued the bottom line is that Molyneux could claim that his business was damaged by what were deliberately slanderous and untrue statements against potential customers of his business, claiming that these slanderers are perpetrating fraud. If he could prove that he is at a loss as a direct consequences of said slander, and the arbiter determines that the claims they have been making truly were without basis and deliberate attempts at smear, with conclusive evidence, LM could conceivably be forced to pay damages.
But given that we do not live in such a society and are all subject to the same coerced set of rules, appealing to the vulnerable legal state seems entirely reasonable.
In any case, quite a bit of misrepresentation is necessary for this to be understood as a threat that flies in the face of Molyneux’ own philosophy.
Addendum: One thing which was not explicitly stated above, albeit it ties well into the explanation of possibility of filing a dispute against LM even in a free society, is that threatening legal action is not the same thing as threatening violence since initiation of legal action is merely an initiation of dispute. The fact that state has a monopoly on dispute resolution changes that only in so far as neither FDR nor LM agreed to the terms prohibiting slander of any kind (since state coerces its rules), but it is worth pointing out that this makes both FDR and LM vulnerable, not just LM. Thus if FDR would indeed continue to be associated with criminal activity it could as well end up in some sort of a lawsuit by some parent, something that was even mentioned (if not suggested) as a future possibility at LM. Going “down that road” certainly constitutes a problem between FDR and LM that Molyneux suggested. In any case to treat Molyneux’ statements here as a necessarily thin veiled threat of violence without considering the whole context is just slanted attitude talking.
This accusation thus fails and the best that they’ve got to work with, if even that, is him asking certain people to stop posting on his own board. I hope this at least offers some food for thought and an alternative perspective on this aspect of the controversy.