Parler is bringing together mainstream conservatives, anti-Semites and white supremacists as the social media platform attracts millions of Trump supporters

"Parler...has already achieved a reputation and level of engagement that has overtaken other alternative platforms. But along with its success comes the reality that extremist movements like QAnon and the Boogalooers have thrived in the platform’s unregulated chaos." - The Conversation

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TylerR's picture

Editor

The writer notes:

With its newfound success, the site is contributing to the widening gap between the different perceptions of reality held by the polarized public.

I don't know what to do about this madness. People really do live in alternate universes. I don't know any Christians who imbibe a series of eclectic sources for their news media. I subscribe to NYT, WSJ, WORLD, Christianity Today, National Review and SpectatorUSA. I'm contemplating adding the Washington Post.

We have monitored far-right communities on Parler since March and have found frequent use of both obvious white supremacist terms and more implicit, evasive memes and slang. For example, among other explicit white supremacist content, Parler allows usernames referencing the Atomwaffen Division’s violentlty anti-Semitic slogan, posts spreading the theory that Jews are descended from Satan, and hashtags such as “HitlerWasRight.”

Although it’s hard to know how Parler will grow in the future, my research suggests that the extremism among its user base will persist for months to come.

Very few people read anything from sources with which they disagree. The alternative reality thing is very real and very dangerous. I don't know what to do about it.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

TylerR wrote:

I don't know any Christians who imbibe a series of eclectic sources for their news media. I subscribe to NYT, WSJ, WORLD, Christianity Today, National Review and SpectatorUSA. I'm contemplating adding the Washington Post.

Actually, Tyler, although I don't subscribe to those publications, I read articles from pretty much all of those and more on a daily basis, so I try to do similar to you to get a balanced perspective.

As far as Parler goes, I have joined it as well, as I have done with many other sites/services that have, in the past, declared themselves to be about free speech.  I've been using the internet in its various forms since about 1986-1987 or so, starting with BBS sites and usenet groups, some moderated, many not.  Though it seems unbelievable now, Twitter's CEO once described that service as "the free-speech wing of the free-speech party."  Clearly, that has changed.  However, allowing free speech absolutely allows the crazy to come to the fore as well as what is sane.  I still find it preferable to having viewpoints silenced "for my benefit."  It does take some work on such forums to stay away from the crazy, similar to the effort it takes to discern the truth from the various sources you quote above, as well as many others I also read.

As far as I can see, the only alternative to allowing "alternate reality" (aka "free speech") spaces to come into existence is to censor and shut them down.  That's an alternative that any thinking person should not see as valid, at least if they actually value freedom of thought and speech.  The best we can do is to encourage people to educate themselves, and exercise whatever discernment we have.

Dave Barnhart

T Howard's picture

Parler is providing an open platform for free speech (as long as it doesn't violate the law). Parler also demonstrates the pros / cons of free speech. We all like free speech when the content isn't offensive or hurtful to us. However, advocating free speech means you must also support the right to say the offensive, stupid, or hurtful.

The ACLU used to support free speech. They used to argue in favor of allowing neo-nazis and skinheads to hold public rallies. No longer.

Bert Perry's picture

I've seen neo-Nazis and such a lot of places.  A couple of neo-Confederates used to visit my personal blog, and Twitter features plenty of Communists. Dingbats will dingbat, and the genius of the 1st Amendment is that it often helps to get them out in the open where aberrant views can be confronted and corrected.

I would concur, though, that a bigger issue is the formation of echo chambers.  I feel some stress regarding news sources like the NY Times; getting their feeds each day, there are a lot of days when I think "this isn't the news; this is propaganda, why should I feed this beast?", and then the flip side is that if you don't deal with the mainstream news outlets, you do tend to migrate to echo chambers.

Put differently, what do we do when the news outlet IS an echo chamber?  That's precisely what I conclude when I see "FactCheck" articles that do things like ignore relevant evidence, change the question from the one the person being critiqued actually answered, etc..

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

T Howard's picture

I agree there is media bias: some of it more overt than others. However, that is why getting your news from multiple sources helps you to identify and filter out that bias. 

I've found this media bias chart also helpful.

I remember when the Baltimore riots occurred a few years ago. I was traveling for work and watching the news from my hotel room. I'd switch back and forth from CNN to Fox News. It was like the two networks were reporting on a completely different event. I also remember listening to NPR the morning after Trump was elected. During the broadcast, a couple of NPR reporters were in tears and bemoaning Trump's election.

So, for me, my news intake usually includes NBCNEWS.COM, ABCNEWS, NPR, FOXNEWS, and the BBC. It's always fascinating to hear how other countries report on American politics and news stories.

Mark_Smith's picture

out of curiosity and so I could follow a certain popular talk show host's posts. After a few days, porn posts started appearing. Many had links to porn sites. Saturday I checked again and about half the replies to this man's posts were porn, with naked women pictures as avatars, and by that I mean full nudity. I will not go back.

WallyMorris's picture

The basic "regulations" on free speech are libel/slander and the "yelling fire in a crowded theater when there isn't a fire" situation. Beyond these, once you start "regulating" other areas of speech, you enter into more open-ended controls. As far as what to do about some of the worse examples of what people say and write: Nothing. At least on a national scale. Your real opportunity is personal, individual conversations. If they don't listen to what you have to say, that is their right. It's not our place to "correct" every example of absurd belief. Let the gospel do its work,

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

amomentofcharity.blogspot.com

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Mark_Smith wrote:

out of curiosity and so I could follow a certain popular talk show host's posts. After a few days, porn posts started appearing. Many had links to porn sites. Saturday I checked again and about half the replies to this man's posts were porn, with naked women pictures as avatars, and by that I mean full nudity. I will not go back.

That's interesting, because I haven't seen any such content, but probably for two reasons: 1. I don't just blindly follow anyone, and 2. I rarely (if ever) read many replies.  If the top level posts (feed) would start showing that type of objectionable content, I would immediately unfollow the sources of that.  Although the exact details are different, that's the been the basic mechanics of the internet since its early days -- you avoid sources spouting filth, or shut them off.  Taking part in society means we will be confronted with sin in all its forms.  Since I'm not forming my own "fundamental monastery," I have to learn how to live in the world without being of it or loving it, as does every other believer.  Clearly, we can come to different conclusions as to how best to accomplish that.

Dave Barnhart

Bert Perry's picture

I've noticed that a certain portion of conservatives do behave in about the way Mark describes.  The thought occurred to me last night; it is as if many men think that if they're alone with a naked woman, what's appropriate is to talk about politics.  And yes, I see it on the left, too, as people like Madonna were threatening to show up nude if Hilliary won.

And of course, it just baffles me that so many of these people are single!  :^)

Seriously, it is one of those times where you would comment that if your particular political positions require  nudity to appeal to people, maybe you need to work on your positions, or how you're explaining them.  And yes, it also means that certain things are hints--even apart from Biblical principles on fornication--that there isn't a lot to be gained in certain areas of discourse.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

T Howard's picture

Look, gentlemen, Paul walked around cities in the 1st century that had depictions of all kinds of sexual immorality on the walls, buildings, and statuary. If you're going to engage the culture for Christ, you can't do it in sanitized environments.

dgszweda's picture

There is a sense within the conservative circles that Social Media is biased or that it censors information on their platforms.  Therefore they are jumping to Parler or MeWe thinking that they are moving to a social media platform that does not censor.  Here is an interesting article on the fact that studies show no censorship and why right leaning individuals feel that there is censorship.  There are a lot of studies going on right now trying to identify why right leaning people think there is censorship.  In addition, what most people want is to be on sites that think and talk like them, which appears to present "free speech".  In reality it just creates echo chambers, and thus why most of these trend to extreme right.

Is Social Media Biased

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

dgszweda wrote:

Here is an interesting article on the fact that studies show no censorship and why right leaning individuals feel that there is censorship...

Interesting that your article even mentions the NY Post case (NY Post had its account shut down for two weeks over a post on Hunter Biden, which Twitter decided was a "potentially harmful" link).  You can make all sorts of arguments, just as your article did, that it's over "uncorroborated claims, or "misinformation," but it still adds up to censorship, plain and simple.  Eventually Twitter backed down on the NY Post case, but they don't on everyone.  It's only anecdotal, but I have friends that have had posts refused as "dangerous" or "potentially harmful" by Twitter and Facebook, so it does happen.  Their views are being censored.  Twitter and Facebook often claim it's "mistaken" after it gets called out on it enough, but that only works for people famous enough to cause a big stink over it.

One of the people quoted near the end your article said this:“Knock off your good intentions and stop trying to do something you are not going to be able to accomplish and just deal with the fact that liberty is messy, free speech is going to offend everybody," she said. "One way or another, everyone needs to put their big girl panties on and their big boy panties on and just deal with it and stop trying to protect everyone’s feelings.”  Whether you agree with the reasons for it or not, Twitter and Facebook (and most other social media" are moderating content (just as is done here on SI, though for somewhat different reasons), and that is a form of censorship.  All the studies in the world can claim "no censorship," but it just takes one counterexample to show their conclusion as patently false.  And when it's so easy to find examples of hypocrisy in the application of the rules (the NY Post case was supposely done due to the "hacked materials" policy, which apparently doesn't apply to all other such materials), it's easy to see why some would move to platforms that block much less content.

Dave Barnhart

Bert Perry's picture

It's not actually weighing which content gets censored vs. which does not.  What it does is to weigh the overall political "tone", conclude that it's actually conservative, and then ignore the question of whose content is getting censored and for what reasons.

Which is the big question.  As one who has censored things on my personal blog--some rather virulent racist comments, a number of anonymous comments, and a BUNCH of spam merchandising--I also do not object per se to censorship.  If, however, public platforms like Facebook or Twitter are using different criteria for censoring one side of the aisle vs. that of another, that does tend to slant the playing field.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

JBL's picture

 It's only anecdotal, but I have friends that have had posts refused as "dangerous" or "potentially harmful" by Twitter and Facebook, so it does happen.  Their views are being censored. 

 

Curious to know - does this bother you?  And if it does, why?

John B. Lee

dgszweda's picture

I am personally fine with things being censored as long as there are a set of defined criteria.  The reason that the right is crying "foul" is because over the last 4 years the level of false information and conspiracy theories being generated from this group has increased.  It is a weird world.  The voting conspiracy information is growing even faster over the last week or so.  The right doesn't want to see that censored.  The rest of the Republican party is mostly sitting on the sidelines not saying anything.  The whole thing is looking more like McCarthyism than it does reality and truth.

Bert Perry's picture

Here's an example where Dennis Prager's work was apparently censored by Facebook.  Like him, hate him, or (like me) be somewhat ambivalent about his work, the man is pretty responsible and mainstream.  Now there could be plausible deniability here--perhaps those on the far left complain more and the squeaky wheel gets the grease and all--but there are apparently a lot of examples of things that don't come from Trump's proverbial manure generator (his cell phone).  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Mark_Smith's picture

but a website allowing people to make their avatar be a fully nude (top and bottom) woman is insane. That isn't speech.

T Howard's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

but a website allowing people to make their avatar be a fully nude (top and bottom) woman is insane. That isn't speech.

Mark, the SCOTUS has ruled that it is.

Mark_Smith's picture

Scotus said websites can't restrict naked pictures on their sites?

T Howard's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

Scotus said websites can't restrict naked pictures on their sites?

Of course not. But nudity / sexually graphic depictions are protected speech.

Bert Perry's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

Scotus said websites can't restrict naked pictures on their sites?

Binds government, not necessarily private companies.  So government can't totally ban nude pictures in their sites, but (for example) Instagram and Facebook can and do.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Mark_Smith's picture

not government. The minute Parler allows people to have nude avatars they go from being a free speech platform to a porn site. That was my point, not a discussion about the fine points of SCOTUS decisions... but you knew that.

T Howard's picture

Mark,

You can't proclaim to be a defender and promoter of free speech on one hand then sensor speech you find objectionable on the other. Porn (assuming it's not child porn or ruled obscenity) is protected speech. By allowing nudity, Parler is just being consistent with its claim of free speech.

Free speech is a double-edged sword.

G. N. Barkman's picture

As nice as it would be to live in a world without porn, I've come to realize that Christians must learn to guard their own eyes, and not demand that others do it for them.  If we demand that others censor nudity because it offends us, what prohibits others from censoring viewpoints that they do not agree with?  We know where that takes us, as we are seeing numerous examples in politics and culture today.  It's the cancel culture.

I commend Mark for self censoring nudity on Parler.  That's his privilege, and arguably, his Christian duty.   It is surely the correct choice in regard to his personal sanctification and unimpeded fellowship with Christ.  Expecting Parler to do it for him, as helpful as that would be, only opens the door for other forms of censorship.  Unless Parler claims to be a Christian forum, they will have to allow objectionable material if they expect to truly be a free speech platform.  Thanks for the heads up.  I now know that I will not be opening a Parler account.  

G. N. Barkman

Mark_Smith's picture

Saying you are a free speech forum and then allowing nude pictures turns you from the potential of having a massive, broad spectrum reach, to one having a much smaller audience. Its stupid for business.

You can be a free speech site and limit porn...

Mark_Smith's picture

At a Christian forum I'd be told I am being unreasonable for asking the simple service of website administrators preventing posters from showing full blown female and male sexual pictures as avatars...

It isn't free speech. Its your audience. How many people want to talk about politics, for example, with pictures of naked women and other things flashing around? Its silly.

G. N. Barkman's picture

If Parler decides it's better for business to prohibit nude pictures, they have the right, and are probably making a wise decision.  But it may be difficult for them to claim they are the free speech alternative to Twitter, Facebook, etc., if they practice censorship.  If they want my involvement, they will need to prohibit nudity.  Like Mark, I value my sanctification more than the desire to use Parler.  (Who has enough time to visit multiple sites anyway?)

G. N. Barkman

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

As I stated above, I haven't yet run into even one instance of people with nudes as avatars, or other sources of such images, though as I said, I mostly read the feed and not the comments, and none of the commenters I've followed (most of which are posts that point to news articles, which I do click on) have those avatars either.  I'm not sure how you ran into that immediately, Mark, but I can say after about 3 weeks of usage, it's not ubiquitous.

Dave Barnhart

Mark_Smith's picture

dcbii wrote:

As I stated above, I haven't yet run into even one instance of people with nudes as avatars, or other sources of such images, though as I said, I mostly read the feed and not the comments, and none of the commenters I've followed (most of which are posts that point to news articles, which I do click on) have those avatars either.  I'm not sure how you ran into that immediately, Mark, but I can say after about 3 weeks of usage, it's not ubiquitous.

Go to Mark Levin's page and look at recent posts and replies. I'd do a screen capture but I think Aaron wouldn't like it. I suspect he is famous enough to attract reprobates looking for clicks.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Mark_Smith wrote:

Go to Mark Levin's page and look at recent posts and replies. I'd do a screen capture but I think Aaron wouldn't like it. I suspect he is famous enough to attract reprobates looking for clicks.

OK, that explains it.  I guess I'll continue staying away from most comments (replies) to the posts.

Dave Barnhart

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