The mad scramble to signal virtue can operate contrary to the virtue under consideration. Being opposed to racism is virtuous. Seeking to proclaim this quality to the world by booting neo-Nazis off the Internet is not. Those on the activist left may not always be wrong about everything, but it’s a useful working assumption that they are.
It would be incredibly stupid to plan violence or other criminal activity on Facebook. Now take a look at the neo-Nazis. Do they strike you as overly burdened with intelligence? When the Third Reich fanboys frolic on the Daily Stormer, it’s extremely helpful to law-enforcement agencies and the rest of us. Anyone can access the site and learn what these idiots are thinking, hoping, planning. They’re so stupid that they actually think using a pseudonym in Internet comments makes it hard to learn who they are. It doesn’t. Forcing them off the Internet is a way of forcing them to get smart: If they start organizing via text messages on burner cell phones, they’ll be much more difficult to track.
Yet Google, Apple, Twitter, and much of rest of the tech world have allowed themselves to be prodded by lefty activists into booting white-power idiots off their platforms. What will be the consequences of that? More resentment and whining about being treated unfairly by the lads with the 88 tattoos. (H is the eighth letter: 88 means “Heil Hitler.”) That need not concern us overmuch except that the more outraged they get, the more paranoid they get — and the more paranoid they get, the more violent they’re likely to get.
So Richard Spencer’s l’il stormtroopers should be allowed access to every Internet platform, social-media app, and hotel ballroom they seek out. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. The more clips of their meetings show up on the Internet to be ridiculed by Stephen Colbert, the better. If those meetings are held in dank secret basements rather than at the Holiday Inn on Route 5, we won’t know what is going on in them.
And it’s better to know. Anti-terrorism squads should be watching everything the neo-Nazis say and do. Undercover agents should infiltrate them, keep close tabs on them, and sow internal discord among them.
To the Left, all white supremacists look the same. Indeed, to the Left, Ronald Reagan wanted to blow up the world and George W. Bush was the Hitler of Crawford, Texas. But within the brownshirts there is apparently much heated discussion about the finer points of hate. Michael German, a former FBI agent who infiltrated neo-Nazi groups in the 1990s, told the Wall Street Journal that back then, various organizations despised each other so much that anyone who belonged to one group was blackballed by the others.
It’s better to know. Anti-terrorism squads should be watching everything the neo-Nazis say and do.
A few years ago, CNN explained that “Police embrace social media as a crime-fighting tool.” Last year, Islamist militants were arrested in Brazil because of their involvement in a plot to attack the Rio Olympics. Information obtained from the suspects’ use of Twitter and Facebook “was instrumental to understand[ing] the nature of discussions carried out by the suspects,” Reuters reported, paraphrasing statements by a judge overseeing the inquiry. In New York City in 2012, the FBI used Facebook to ferret out one Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, a Jihadist who was planning to bomb the Federal Reserve. In Manila, Mohammad Umao-as, a suspect in an attempted bombing of the U.S. Embassy there, was arrested after authorities discovered where he was by checking his Facebook account.
Social media and the Internet are wonderful means for tracking hideous people. By denying them to fringe groups, we’re denying troves of information to law enforcement. When awful events happen, “Do something!” is a nearly irresistible sentiment. “Do nothing” is a much less emotionally satisfying but much wiser idea, at least when it comes to fascists on the Internet. The tech companies seeking to show the world they disapprove of neo-Nazis should understand that if they want to actually defeat these morons, the best course of action is keeping their easily tracked online services open to everyone.