The Post Facebook Didn’t Want You To See

When Author John Dickson Questioned A Sacred Cow

Something very bizarre happened on Facebook recently.

On Saturday (April 16), Christian Author John Dickson put up a post questioning the approach of some same-sex marriage advocates to the marriage debate.

Facebook didn’t like the post, so that evening, FB took it down. John was given no warning, just the following explanation from FB:

We removed the post below because it doesn’t follow the Facebook Community Standards.

Just how bad was the post? Did it vilify? Was it a hate-filled homophobic diatribe?

Judge for yourself: you can read it here on John’s wall (it was eventually reinstated).

Facebook doesnt want you to see

Source: stock.adobe.com

What did you think?

Whether or not you agree with John’s point, his underlying concern is for the health and wellbeing of LGBTI youth: he wants to spare them potential harm arising from the rhetoric of (some) same-sex marriage advocates.

And (as far as I can tell) he argues for this in a respectful way.

As it turns out, Facebook did end up reinstating John’s post, with an apology (but at the time of writing, no explanation apart from ‘it was a mistake’).

But it took the personal intervention of the former Human Rights Commissioner, Tim Wilson, to have the post reinstated.

It’s a bizarre episode in the life of this Social Network. So what are we to make of it all?

1) It’s Not a Legal Freedom of Speech Issue

Facebook isn’t the government.

We need to be careful not to see this as a classic freedom of speech issue. It wasn’t the government demanding this post be removed: it was Facebook, a non-governmental company. It’s their social network, and like any company/organisation, they’ve got a right to determine what’s allowed’s allowed to be said on their network, and what’s not.

2) But Facebook is Part of the Public Square

Facebook erodes our culture of free speech if it censors these discussions.

Let’s  face it: Facebook is the public square (or at least a significant part of it). Many people have all sorts of meaningful political discussions online. And so for Facebook to limit such discussions effectively limits what can and can’t be said in the public square.

3) Facebook’s Censorship Is a Sign of What’s Happening In the Wider Culture

Many pro-SSM advocates want to censor traditional marriage advocates.

Although pro-SSM advocates assert that the majority of Australian opinion is on their side, many don’t want a plebiscite, allegedly for fear of the negative things that could be said about LGBTI people.

Paul Martin, writing in The Guardian, puts it this way:

The problem with the public debate leading up to the plebiscite is that it brings out a plethora of negative messages, usually spearheaded by people in positions of trust and leadership.’

In his article, Martin doesn’t call for a respectful debate: instead,  he demands there be no debate at all. And that seems to be a growing call among many pro-SSM advocates.

However, as John Dickson points out in his now-reinstated post:

It is true that demeaning insults were once part of the stock language against the LGBTI community in the public square..But I haven’t seen many demeaning insults directed at the LGBTI community in the public square in the last few years.’

He continues:

Whether on The Project or ABC’s Q&A, it seems that all (or most) of the intemperate language and spiteful tone comes from advocates of gay marriage, while defenders of classical marriage—even if they are wrong and loopy—seem to have learned to engage in this contest of ideas with respect and civility.’ [emphasis added].

Furthermore,  calling for there to be no debate on a public policy issue like marriage is quite troubling:

4) A Free Society Assumes Voters Have the Right to Speak about Political Issues

Free and fair voting requires public discussion.

Let’s be clear: the topic of the marriage debate is whether a law (i.e. the Federal Marriage Act) should be redefined or not. That’s a bonafide public and political issue. It’s a legitimate concern of the citizens of this country.

But the idea that citizens shouldn’t be allowed to publicly discuss/debate this is a serious problem for our democracy: our democracy is built on the very idea of people discussing political issues; making up their own minds about those issues, and voting accordingly.

Doesn’t the pro-SSM camp believe in democracy?

5) Questioning Secular Sacred Cows Won’t Win You Many Friends

It’s a recipe for marginalisation (even if you do it respectfully).

Whether it’s on Facebook or QandA, the point is clear: merely questioning secular sacred cows (no matter how reasonably or compassionately it’s done)  may well lead to being censored,  and vilified.

But here’s the thing:

6) Christian Love of Neighbour Will Sometimes Mean Questioning Sacred Cows

It’s great we’ve got the privilege to raise questions about societal issues. But it’s also a responsibility: the fruit of the gospel will mean speaking up lovingly, and truthfully, about issues that impact our neighbour. Just as John Dickson has done.

Even when the consequences aren’t particularly to our liking.

As a citizen, how do you feel asking questions about controversial political topics? (Feel free to comment below). 

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9 thoughts on “The Post Facebook Didn’t Want You To See

  1. Thanks, Akos! We need some more level headed sanity! May our Lord Jesus give you wisdom and grace each day.

    Ruth

  2. Thanks for more great insight. It’s true that as a Christian, I feel nervous about speaking out about controversial issues (but do it anyway) in the current political environment. I believe the media is to blame for it, as they are constantly promoting the politically correct view while ridiculing any opponents.

    • I feel the same Sharon, l have had quite a few abusive replies when l go on forums to discuss the issues of the day.

    • I think it’s probably those who own everything…media, government, corporations, banks, etc…who are dictating the narrative that’s allowed, according to their plans for a totalitarian one world government.

  3. Thanks for your thoughtful comments.
    Proponents of ssm are re labeling two dissimilar things as identical. thus corrupting equality as understood by liberal thinkers for the last 4Cent.

  4. Akos, I wonder if you have posted your epistle above on FB? Might be interesting as a follow-on to see what responses appear online.

    It seems to me that there is a possibility either that a machine decided either to flag the post for human reading, or directly removed the post with human review following, or alternatively that the post was directly read by a human and misconstrued to be an inappropriate rant (since it’s unlikely that FB staff would know the writer’s work).

    One can understand the limitations of software based decisions in regard to human writing, and perhaps such was the case. In that respect it seems that the apology from FB was sufficiently personal to cause me to consider that a machine was not available to blame. This leaves us with a relatively direct alternative that a human at FB did indeed make a mistake. In between the lines, it also seems that FB were unwilling to restore the article on petition from the author. The two taken together suggest FB has considerable bias in favour of homosexual marriage, or at least as a protective mechanism towards homosexuals. The fact that it took the intervention of Mr Wilson confirms a resistant bias at FB.

    Online postings and engagement with others is a proper zone for Christians to say their piece. Clearly Christians must be thoughtful and restrain impulsivity and touchiness. Yet we can all learn to speak with restraint. The walls of the public square may seem to be closing in, but the weapons of our warfare are not carnal and earthly. Instead they are mighty to the pulling down of strongholds. So we push back on those compressing and restricting walls with the gospel. Our gospel sword is two-edged, one edge for laying bare people’s need for repentance and faith, and the other for condemnation of the unrepentant. Obviously the way the gospel works is because God is doing those things. Our presentation of the gospel needs grace and understanding of our hearers. It’s OK if people are offended by Jesus. As far as possible, let’s not offend them, ourselves. Mr Dickson’s writing is a good example of a more detailed and perhaps intellectual approach. Others less well equipped can still speak for Christ, and point their hearers towards Him who loved us and still does.

  5. First, a personal experience for what it’s worth: in our city two people I respect, who are involved in politics, made statements in support of SSM in our local media. I emailed them personally with my comments and asking fresh questions, I received their replies and so we have benefited from a respectful conversation though agreeing to differ.

    Second, Christians need to be concerned not only about the SSM debate but also about the flow of information on political issues. The Main Stream Media fail to give fair reports of the policies of the ALP and other parties and that becomes an ethical issue. As a Christian, how can I hold out the truths of the Gospel with one hand and on the other hand fail to show concern for the erosion of truth in public life?

    • Great points you make, Steve.

      I think the Christian commitment to truth, and truth telling, can have a remarkably positive impact on politics. We do indeed need to address the erosion of truth in public life, by (at the very least) holding our political office bearers accountable for the statements that they make.