I have no problem with people banning users from their Facebook pages, or their sites, or their blogs. I really don’t. People cry out “freedom of speech” when their posting rights are kicked to the kerb, but, frankly, you’re not actually suffering or having any rights challenged for having posting rights revoked on Facebook. You’re really not, you whiny little so-and-so. You still have your own profile, or an ability to create your own page, or set up your own blog for free (like this one). I’m not averse to banning someone myself because I am under absolutely no obligation to take bullshit from people when I’m calling the shots. But that is, at least, such a rare event that it hasn’t actually happened yet – my M.O. for idiots is to let them show themselves up, while my M.O. for intentional and repeated troublemakers is to simply deprive them of the attention they crave. Usually, by the time someone has triggered my threshold they’re bored and long gone.
I’m also not too bothered about, say, Ray Comfort’s zero tolerance approach to profanity with his use of the Ban Hammer. I find it a bit distasteful that his threshold is so low (anything stronger than “my golly gosh” gets your a spanking), that he has no concept of the use/mention distinction (so even quoting it hypothetically gets you the Hammer), that he bizarrely extends this into abbreviations (“OMG, your BS is appalling” gets you whacked) and, well, I haven’t yet challenged him on made up swearing like “frack” and “feldercarb” (but I imagine he doesn’t take kindly to it) – but it’s his prerogative to take such an overly simple approach and it’s not a difficult a rule to abide by. I don’t begrudge him this choice, it’s his to make. It’s a pain in the ass, but Fucking Deal With It.
But Ken Ham, however, is a bit of a different beast in this Ban Hammer regard.
Firstly, though, a caveat. Unlike Comfort, where I’m fairly certain he manages the page personally, I’m not sure if Ken Ham’s Facebook page and his respective Answers in Genesis page are ran by him or a subordinate. It’s not unusual to delegate social networking activity to a minion, especially when you have an organisation as well funded as Answers in Genesis. But it’s under Ham’s name, so I’m going to refer to him personally for this. I’m going to proceed as if he is the one physically typing out the messages and doing the day-to-day admin. So, that said…
I’ll demonstrate with my own experience. Okay, so in principle this is me being “butthurt” over being banned from posting on AiG and Ham’s personal page. But what was the crime? It was this: it was a single post (my second, I think), responding to another atheist about the now infamous creationist science quiz. I can’t remember the exact wording since it was quickly deleted and shoved down the Memory Hole. It wasn’t a profanity-ridden rant, it wasn’t a repeated trolling, it wasn’t egregious insults (and, people should be well aware that I’m capable of that). It was a single post, and of fairly neutral, matter-of-fact tone. But, because I had talked to someone else, I had basically outed myself as an “enemy”. This was enough.
Ham’s approach to the Ban Hammer is different to most others. Eric Hovind and Ray Comfort have a threshold for getting rid of troublemakers – and I take great pains to point out that this is their prerogative, and if I was on the receiving end of the shit that atheists hurl at them, I’d do the same. Seriously, most Internet Atheists are stupid, obnoxious pillocks with the reasoning abilities of sour cream that’s been left out of the fridge for a month. They get what they deserve. Yet Hovind and Comfort still have a threshold of sorts and are fairly open to discussion. I once dropped a minute-by-minute snark-filled review of a Eric Hovind video and he let me. Kudos to Hovind, he left it up there, even though my most meaningful definitions I was trolling the fuck out of him and I admit it. There is no threshold you have to go over with Ken Ham. There is no barrier to a ban. Any and all dissent is quashed immediately.
I’m not going to argue this as a freedom of speech issue. That would be to simplify the point and then miss the actual point entirely – after all, I’m writing this, my freedom of speech is not restricted or infringed, I’ve covered that already. I’m arguing it based on the deceitful nature of Ham’s approach to his flock, and why he goes about having this zero-barrier approach to the wielding good ol’ Ban Hammer.
This is what Ken Ham does. It’s why I think he’s one of the most insidious creationists out of the entire bunch. He quashes dissent, rails against any criticism as if it’s an undeserved attack on his oh-so-precious beliefs, and frames everything as a vast conspiracy of persecution against him and his followers. It’s this approach that’s concerning and objectionable. Comments are all disabled on anything Answers in Genesis puts out, his Facebook pages are cleansed and purified, and we’re lucky that the YouTube channel even allows the rating system. In short, he specifically selects all the options to create an echo chamber of agreement. He removes any sources of criticism except for the ones he allows through, which he then twists and frames as unjust persecution. This isn’t just the case with his forays into Web 2.0, this is true of his most well-known work. For instance, his “How do you know? Were you there?” which he drums into young children; this serves no purpose except to selectively immunise them from thinking critically about what they believe. All of his lectures specifically quash thinking in favour of rote repeating of his points and with zero exploration, thinking or questioning of them allowed.
Now, that would normally just be some hyperbole by people who equate “critical thinking” with “thinking exactly like me”, but in this case it’s actually true. Ken Ham chants his mantra, and makes sure the children he lectures to can repeat it back verbatim and unquestioningly before he releases them into the world. Until that immunisation is complete, they’re held in a bubble – free from dissent and protected from alternative views.
So, its not what he believes that concerns me, it’s how he goes about it. It’s not something anyone with any love of reason should tolerate, but an echo chamber like this isn’t something you can fight against easily.