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There has been some incredibly heated discussion on the Facespace about whether the stupefyingly unamusing ‘Aboriginal Memes’ page falls into ‘ribald comedic riffing that coincidentally happens to be based on a racial stereotype’ (fetch me a doctor for I fear my sides have split) or outright hate speech.
Under the ‘Hate Speech’ sections in Facebook Community Standards, the following is listed:
‘Facebook does not permit hate speech. While we encourage you to challenge ideas, institutions, events, and practices, it is a serious violation to attack a person based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or medical condition.’
The creators of this particular Meme site – predictably anonymous, I LOVE YOU INTERNET YOU GIVE COURAGE TO ONLY THE WORTHIEST OF FACELESS OPINION HOLDERS – have obviously been feeling the pressure and overnight added the brand ‘Controversial Humor’ to their page’s title. But is simply stating something as ‘controversial humour’ (I refuse to spell it the American way as I am a patriot) enough to give it a free pass?
In Tony Abbott’s vision of a fair and just Australia, yes. Abbott promises to repeal section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act once his political opponents collapse in an undignified pile and in true Steven Bradbury fashion he simply skates across the finish line (and into our hearts). Our future Prime Minister says free speech is “the freedom to write badly and rudely. It’s the freedom to be obnoxious and objectionable”.
The question is, how would Facebook – and Abbott himself – react if the Aboriginal Memes page featured African Americans* depicted in the following fashion?
I have been guilty of saying some very grubby things about conservative politicians in the past and the endlessly topical discussion regarding personal insults to our Prime Minister (see the recent ‘unproductive old cow’ saga for a starting point) certainly serves to hold up a mirror to what is acceptable and what is not when it comes to making internet ‘comedy’. There are many of us who learn on the fly – who learn by doing wrong, publicly, by crossing the line and being told in no uncertain terms that we have done so. We are placed in stocks in the town square of cyberspace and duly pelted with rocks until we learn our lesson.
Whenever the issue of ‘free speech’ or ‘hate speech’ or ‘edgy’ humour is raised I am often reluctant to comment upon it – only because I am keenly aware that by wading in to such a debate I will instantly have elements of my inglorious internet past dredged up and smushed in my face like soiled bedsheets (‘Just look at what you’ve gone and done’) and that is fair enough and a byproduct of growing up on the web I suppose.
It doesn’t, however, mean I can’t call bullshit when a website purporting to be comedic vilifies an entire race of people. And this meme website is bullshit.