As some of you may know, I run an IRC server dedicated—in theory—to writers and readers of “transformation fiction,” a fancy way of dressing up various ideas such as age-regression, furry and animal transformation, sex and gender alteration, and the like all under a common banner. The history of how I ended up the administrator of this service is long and varied, and by and large it’s unimportant. What matters at this point is that the service sits on my server.
I bring this up not because I want to talk about the details of the service. I’m not interested—right now—in talking about the people who inhabit the place. I’m not bringing this up to talk up the quality of the writers and other artists who visit. I’m not even interested in tooting my own horn as an administrator, because Connie knows what a shitty job I’ve done of that. No, I mention the IRC server because I have a question to my friends regarding political philosophy.
This may not seem like an obvious connection, so let me try to draw in some of the missing lines. I like to think of myself as a pretty leftist sort. If you click on over to Political Compass, I’m somewhere around a (-7,-7) based on their quick test, and I’ve got no real reason to think this is that far off from true. This puts me somewhere to the “left” of Dennis Kucinich, who is routinely disregarded as a laughable nutjob for his “dangerously liberal” political views. In fact, it puts me around Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama, quite far away from the political center and nigh-uncrossable oceans removed from what is considered “the center” in American politics.
What this means, as related to the above, is that I regard the IRC server that I run as a service. I don’t expect recompense for my work. I do it because I believe that it needs to be done. I’m not now asking to be showered with praise, nor am I asking for money. I’m pointing out that I’ve kept this thing running for five years over three moves and multiple hardware upgrades. I kept the service going even in the depths of The Bad when I really couldn’t afford to pay for internet connectivity, because I felt it was important to maintain the server for the folks who used it. This is my fandom, too, and this is how I support it.
Now, all this might by itself be happy backpatting, if not for the real meat of this post. I have a number of users who are, for lack of a better descriptor, bootstrap-libertarians. They, like everyone, connect to the server because they are members of the transformation fandom. They enjoy a good story as much as the next person, and they all do their parts to support the “scene,” as it were. However, they—like any other normal human being—have interests that extend beyond the one single topic that unites us, and this means that on a fairly regular basis, I have a small but devoted crowd of people spouting ideology that is utter anathema to my own.
Now, I want to reiterate here, just in case it’s been missed. I don’t hate these people. I don’t reject the basic humanity of these people. I don’t think these people are bad people. I think they’re dangerously misguided. I think that their ideas are broken because they’re based on logical fallacies and untrue assumptions about the basic human condition. However, I’ve attempted more than once to “agree to disagree” and yet the topics seem to come back time and again, and I’m frankly getting sick of having to deal with the subject matter.
To make matters more… challenging… I find myself thinking of them all, collectively, as hypocrites. The users who understand the idea of a service willingly provided because of the betterment of the commons as a result, I accept and gladly. I wouldn’t expect money from them, because they all know why I do what I do, and they in turn don’t get on my case for not being the best admin money can buy, because I’m not doing this for profit. The BSLs, on the other hand, all spout at length about the elimination of government handouts, the evils of taxation, and the general stupidity of “liberals,” and yet not one of these people has ever once offered to pay for zir bandwidth, nor has a one of them recognized that they’re receiving a “handout” and left in protest, or set up a competing paid service.
Is it really so difficult to understand, that if I agreed with their ideals I would have shut down the server long ago as unprofitable?
One of the cornerstones of my philosophy, and one I don’t think I’ve ever really gotten to state here, is that of the “transitivity of tolerance.” That is, I am tolerant of any philosophy which is itself tolerant of other philosophies. I am likewise intolerant and rejecting of any philosophy which claims to be the One True Way. It is in this fashion that I lay claim to the mantle of open-mindedness while actively telling those who insist that they have a monopoly on truth that they’re unreservedly wrong.
So, now we come full circle, and I get to the question I originally wanted to ask. Would I be out of line in telling the libertarians who inhabit my server that they’re welcome to take their business elsewhere? Am I committing some error of judgment or knowledge towards that political system that would bring it back into the realm of “welcoming of other views?”
On the one hand, I see this both as memetic health and cultural health. I believe in a healthy state of political debate, but there has to be some agreement on basics before that debate can happen, and with these people I feel that there’s no way to have that. Just as I couldn’t have a discussion on the minutae of biology with a creationist, I simply have no means to have a policy debate on the extent of government assistance with someone who says that the government has no business offering it.
On the other, this is censorship, after a fashion. It may be healthy censorship, as any successful forum moderator has had to apply at some point but I don’t want to paint a pretty face on it and pretend it’s something that it’s not. This is the elimination of a certain set of ideas from the public discourse. I’m not stopping them from forming their own forum. I’m not telling them they have no right to be heard. I am, however, saying that they no longer have a right to use my server to further their ideals. As much as I can tell myself over and over again that this is utterly consistent not only with my ideals but my rivals’ as well, I feel like I need a second pair of eyes on this before I pull the trigger.