Really encouraged to see so many people starting to speak up about the issues on the official Star Trek Facebook page, and imagining the potential of positive change. The above is a selection of comments left on the Change.org petition for CBS and StarTrek.com to develop a comments policy to address the sexist, racist and homophobic comments on the Facebook page, and appoint moderators to enforce it.
Have you signed the petition yet? If not, what are you waiting for?
There are only 339 signatories to the petition so far — come on Tumblr — we can make that tens of thousands, can’t we?
PLEASE! Everyone go and sign this! So, so important!
Only 27 more sigs needed!!!!
Okay, listen. As terrible as racist, homophobic, obnoxious comments are, they are not doing anything they are not allowed to do so long as they are not directed at someone specific. Freedom of speech works both ways. :(
Overall the response to the petition has been hugely supportive, but I wanted to address this, I think well-intentioned, misconception that implementing a comments policy and page moderation in any way infringes on freedom of speech.
Freedom of speech is a hugely important right, one that I rely on daily as a feminist blogger and media commentator. But the right to freedom of speech (read the wording of the First Amendment for a good example) is meant to prohibit government suppression of speech, not to say that private citizens and organizations must, in their own spaces, accept any and all speech from others
So let’s just say, for example, I wanted to express an opinion that others might find controversial, like: “Jonathan Archer is the best Star Trek captain ever and anyone who doesn’t agree is an idiot.” (Don’t worry, that’s never going to happen).
I am guaranteed the right to say that in my house. I can have a banner printed up and hold it while I wave at passing cars. I can start my own blog about how great Archer is and how stupid everyone who doesn’t like him is. I can even stand on a street corner and hand out pro-Archer pamphlets and try to strike up conversations with random members of the public…
But I can’t force them to stay and listen if they don’t want to. I can’t walk into the middle of a Macy’s and stand on a crate with a megaphone and shout my love for Archer. I can’t invite myself to a Captain Janeway fan club meeting at someone’s house and go off on a vicious anti-Janeway rant and call everyone there idiots; they’d be well within their rights to kick me out of their space for being a jerk.
Similarly, corporate entities like CBS and StarTrek.com (as well as Facebook) have the right to determine who gets to use their space under what terms.
I can’t even come close to listing all the major, mainstream, legitimate organizations that have comments policies for their websites and/or social media similar to what this campaign is asking for. But I did make a list of a handful of particular policies that specifically address sexism, racism and homophobia, and that seem to be working well.
What we have on the Star Trek Facebook page is not free speech; it is free reign for a loud minority to spew sexist, racist and homophobic comments, and to troll and intimidate those who object, thereby silencing the voices of many women, people of colour, and LGBT fans.