The culture we have is the culture they enforce

Richard Collins III was murdered in cold blood in public by Sean Urbanski. That’s heinous enough, and Urbanski deserves to be locked up for the rest of his life for his vicious crime. The other factor though is that Collins is black; Urbanski is white. Urbanski was a member of a facebook group with like-minded assholes.

Look closely at that. It’s so representative of the current state of the internet.

First, this was permitted by Facebook. If you show a photo of a breast-feeding mother or any flash of nudity, Facebook will barrel in with righteous indignation and ban your offensive ass, but promote Nazi ideology and brag about killing mud people, and you’re fine, until you actually get out and murder someone. Then your group gets taken down, but not because they’re endorsing racism and criminality…but because it’s suddenly become bad PR for Facebook. Fuck you, Facebook.

Secondly, notice their facade — it’s the same one every troll who has sent me a threatening email has used, the same one used to excuse harassing women. Controversial humor. Memes. It’s funny, dude. Lighten up!

Only it’s not funny. It’s people wallowing in hate and justifying it as a joke — they know that it’s evil shit, they know that they are merrily endorsing it, and they also know that healthy, civilized people find it vile and repugnant, so they try to cover that turd with a a candy coating and call it “humor”. Fuck you too, people who indulge in sickness and racism as a “joke”.

We know that our social media outlets, places like Facebook and Twitter and YouTube and Google, are fully capable of policing content, because they already do — it’s just that they choose to silence people who make tech culture uncomfortable, rather than people who violate basic human decency, because, apparently, they’re run by horrible people who don’t care about human decency.

Just a suggestion, but one place Facebook could start is by taking the 1155 scumbags who joined “Alt-Reich: Nation” and kicking them out. Clean up your act. Get rid of the toxic people.

There’s also a personal element to this story. It’s easy for me to empathize with the family of Richard Collins.


  1. microraptor says

    Sorry, they’d really, really love to take a stand, but doing the right thing might actually cost them money.

  2. says

    I’d like to think FB would do the right thing, but they never do. After setting up on Twitter, I was considering doing Evil FB again, for Affinity, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to go that far.

    The only thing which seems to get attention is people getting massively upset, in very large numbers, but that only works part of the time. People never get upset enough with FB to actually kill their accounts and walk, and they know that, so why should they care?

  3. anchor says

    Sorry, but we should want to see evidence that ‘doing the right thing’ would actually incur higher cost or reduce profits in the short or long term. And we should quit employing pop-wisdom assumptions as if they’re established and everybody already knows it.

  4. blf says

    As Owlmirror has already noted @5, the Grauniad has obtained farcebork’s written guidelines, the “facebook files” (e.g., How Facebook allows users to post footage of children being bullied: “Leaked guidelines on cruel and abusive posts also show how company judges who deserves our protection and who doesn’t”).

  5. kestrel says

    I truly and sincerely loathe FB and this only adds fuel to the fire.

    As to people deleting accounts: have you ever tried? They make it damn near impossible. The Partner was finally able to do it but it just about took an act of Congress. I’m not sure I have the fortitude to go through that much trouble. Instead I simply never go there. If I could permanently delete my account without all the time and effort they put people through I would do it.

  6. johnson catman says

    kestrel @7:
    Maybe it would be easier to post a pic of a woman breast-feeding her baby. Then they would ban you.

  7. hurlingfrootmig says

    As has been mentioned above the guardian have obtained around 100 manuals and flow charts that show moderators how to decide if something has broken the rules. One example they give is quite telling.

    “Someone shoot trump” should be deleted as he is in a protected category (head of state).

    whereas –

    “To snap a bitch’s neck, make sure to apply all your pressure to the middle of her throat” is allowed as it is obviously a non-credible threat. Or, as Alt-reich would put it, a joke.

    There are many, many reasons why I have never had, nor never will have, a facebook account. This is right at the top of that list.

    Oh and just so we are clear “I’ll destroy the Facebook Dublin office” is a credible threat and should be deleted but “Let’s beat up fat kids”, well that can stay, who the hell would take that seriously.

  8. screechymonkey says

    The thing about the “it’s funny” defense is that you have to ask: why is it funny? What’s the nature of the joke.

    For example, I agree that, in that recorded conversation among House Republican leaders from 2016, Kevin McCarthy is indeed “joking” when he suggests that Putin is paying Trump. But that doesn’t let the Republican leadership off the hook. The point of the joke, the source of the humor, is that Trump’s behavior almost makes that unthinkable possibility plausible. And yet those leaders still fell in line behind Trump.

    A lot of the “edgy humor” that assholes claim to love is only “funny” if you accept some tired old stereotype as your premise.

  9. kestrel says

    @johnson catman, #8: Now *there’s* an idea… might have to try that…

    @Caine, #9: thanks, I’ll check into that.

  10. René says

    Poor choice of shots, PZ. Should’ve matched both shoulder heights, or somesuch. Your son looks like a nobody now, compared to Collins.

    Weak chin line. A beard might just hide that.

  11. gijoel says

    @12 Gosh, if only PZ was a physicist instead of a biologist. Then he could build a time machine and go back to take a photo of a young successful African-American that he had only heard of after his senseless death. Get a grip.

    In other more positive new, the wheels are falling off Australia’s answer to Sarah Palin’s political party.

  12. chigau (違う) says

    gijoel #14
    You make me wonder …
    why is time-travel always assumed to be the business of physicists?
    Biologists and chemists and archaeologists and geologists and…and…and
    deal with Time® all the time.
    I mean, who died and elected ThemPhysicists to be TheTimeLords?

  13. microraptor says

    chigau @15:

    The physicists probably made the rule themselves at a meeting they didn’t invite anyone else to.

  14. gijoel says

    @15 Because the squids won’t teach us the technology no matter how hard PZ has begged. :P

  15. Richard Smith says

    My younger brother often used to employ insults and other mean-spirited behaviour under the rubric of “humour.” He would keep it up until I was clearly upset enough and about to get him in trouble with our parents, at which point out came the usual defense, “Can’t you take a joke?” Fortunately, by the time he hit his teens (and my growth hormone treatments had taken the edge off of his size advantage), he seemed to have matured enough to drop that sort of behaviour (at least with me). Unfortunate that so many others never seem to grow out of it, or at least seem to slip back into it easily when in like-minded collectives.

    You know, I sometimes wonder if “Lord of the Flies” is more than just a story about a bunch of kids stranded on an island. /s