Internet Users Have Been Defamed by the Anti-Defamation League
Posted on: April 26, 2010, by: SkepticOverlord
In a recent report authored by the Anti-Defamation League, Internet users everywhere who express opinions that are highly critical of "government" have been viciously defamed as "extremists," "terrorists," and worse. The report ignores reality, context, and history in an effort to fabricate new levels of fear and public apprehension about public discourse that falls well within the hard-fought confines of free speech.
The copyrighted (2010, ADL) report, Violent Voices: Anti-Government Extremism Takes on New Intensity is authored by the "ADL Center on Extremism" and contains no other citation of the person or persons involved in creating this hit-piece on the expression of intense political opinion online. The "report" should be viewed by all those who express their opinions on the Internet as an overt effort to create unease among your ranks, with the ultimate aim of demonizing your free expression.
The "report" contains four fatal flaws throughout the entire eighteen pages of poorly researched and sensationalized content.
Context: Misrepresentation of Online Commentary
The report includes brief, out-of-context, snippets from three members of ATS. A casual look at the actual postings and opinions of those members provides a significantly different opinion than the expressions characterized by the report.
A brief sampling of several other comment snippets used in the report provides a similar result: nearly every comment used in the report is out of context and expresses opinions not compatible with the "findings" of the ADL report. In fact, some of the commentary snippets used in the report are simply people placing current events in historical context, and not advocating violence in any way.
Deep disaffection, by ordinary people, over the operations of this nation's government goes all the way back to the colonial government of the revolutionary war. At certain times in history, that disaffection becomes more acute as events of the day inspire anger and feelings of despair. We are currently experiencing one of those points in history. As a result of a long-list of grievances, from economic to border security, the population is increasingly feeling their government is letting them down.
Throughout history, this nation has experienced a broad range of political commentary that ranges from extreme anger over the operations of the government, to calls for "stringing them all up" in reference to the politicians believed to be responsible for the failures of government. Indeed, there are hundreds of examples of political cartoonists depicting violence against politicians in various forms, most of which have been published in mainstream newspapers and magazines.
And, lest we forget, this nation was founded on the intense rhetoric of violence focused on the British monarchy. We are a nation forged of strong opinions by people who (until now) have not been concerned about the repercussions of such intense sentiments and editorialization.
Context: The Internet
The report completely ignores the evolution of the online culture, that of a new-found bravado associated with posting opinions anonymously. Huge segments of the population are participating in online discussions in a manner in which they may not behave during live person to person exchanges. Several academic studies from credentialed universities and sources have concluded that the higher-degree of intensity of online commentary is nothing more than braggadocio for the purpose of personal entertainment. And more importantly, those blustering opinions should not be given the same credibility or importance as published opinions that utilize one's actual name.
Vacuum: No Citation or Bibliography
The omission of source citations in any report that attempts to analyze published opinion is not just rare, it's unprecedented. This exclusion of any means whereby the reader may confirm the findings of the report is not only suspect, it renders it little more than a work of sensationalist fiction.
Of course, given current events, we can conclude that the negligence is not the accidental act of an inexperienced researcher, it's the decisive act of someone with an agenda. That agenda is broad-based libel focused on people who take to the Internet to express their disaffection with the government.
Certainly, as intelligent and passionate people finding fault with our government, we must take care not to use words that may inspire violence. Such should be the nature of we who seek meaningful change instead of being firebrands for angry action. However, this report from the ADL uses out of context quotes with no confirming citation to categorize these types of people, and certain types of web sites, as dangerous. The conclusions are not just wrong, they're an assault on the fabric of free expression and the right of people to assemble and discuss government grievances.
No person who expresses their political opinion online should accept the findings in this report.
The report is much more dangerous to the founding principals of this nation than any of the inflammatory commentary the authors selected.
Internet users, you have been defamed by the Anti-Defamation League.
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