It is possible to hold two seemingly incongruent thoughts in your head at the same time. For example, most reasonable people would agree that hate speech is bad. But most reasonable people would also agree that censorship is bad.
You can call what I’m about to say whatever you like: being woke, P.C., social justice, cancel culture. I get it. And at the same time, I don’t care. I call it taking some responsibility for the litter scattered around our podcasting playground and making the decision to be a part of the cleanup process.
When Is A Dilemma Not Really A Dilemma?
I've talked about ethical dilemmas faced by podcasters and podcast listeners before. I’ve covered Alex Jones as a cautionary tale for podcasters. But when it comes to hate speech, I’m not really interested in the “how do we identify what is truly hate speech” discussions. Anyone entering that argument with a dictionary in hand is just a dick trying to hide behind words.
Words that were designed to incite violence or continued disparagement against people who, through genetics, through geography or just because are seen as “other”.
And that’s bullshit.
This isn’t a free speech issue. I’m a big fan of free speech. In the United States of America and many, many other countries, we have the right to free speech. But that right extends only to governmental restrictions on our free speech. Uncle Sam can’t stop someone from saying hateful shit. But individuals and corporations can show that same asshole the door.
Addressing Hate Speech In Podcasting At The Source
I have an idea on how we can start to make a dent in the problem unique to podcasting. It's not going to make the lawyers that work at or for podcast hosting companies very happy. And no, it’s not a panacea. But it’s a powerful, simple idea that will make a major impact. If they -- and we -- are brave enough to follow through.
The concept isn’t difficult to grasp. And, frankly, not all that controversial to anyone without “Esq.” on their business card.
Podcast hosting companies need to state -- loudly and succinctly -- that they will not stand for hate speech on their platforms.
One bold statement, linked to prominently from their home page ideally, and certainly not buried in a 20-page TOS agreement. One statement made by each podcast hosting company that simply says hate has no home on their platform.
But What About...
If your mind immediately went to the fuzzy edges and grey areas inherent in such a simple statement: I get it. Honestly, mine goes there as well. But then I remember that I’m not a lawyer. Assuming you are also not an attorney, you and I should leave this to attorneys to figure out. You and I should apply pressure on those attorneys (and the companies they serve) to find a way to make it happen.
Because the question of “Do we want to support hate speech on our platform?” really has only one reasonable answer.
Keeping Hate Speech On The Run
Purveyors of hate speech know what they’re peddling and are always on the lookout for places that seem welcoming to their hate. So when a podcast hosting company makes a clear and concise statement, the purveyors of hate will likely move on, hopefully occupying smaller and smaller portions of the internet.
What can working podcasters like you and me who do not put out hate-filled commentary on our shows do to help? Are we supposed to police our hosting companies, checking every new show listed to make sure they’re squeaky clean?
Probably not. Though I’m sure some more activist-minded podcasters certainly will. My hats off to them.
But we can -- and should -- report hate content to the hosting companies when we find it. It’s not hard to figure out which hosting company serves the media file. So we can make a complaint directly to the hosting source.
What happens if (when) the hosting company fails to respond to our complaint? Or what happens if (when) the hosting company hides behind a legal shield, refusing to take action? What will you do if (when) a podcast media hosting company chooses not to remove content from their servers that any reasonable, rational person would say is hate speech?
Well… we can show that hosting company the door ourselves.
It’s really, really easy to move podcast hosting platforms. Such is the nature of a commoditized business. I’ve moved media hosting companies on behalf of clients as well as on my own stuff, and I can assure you that it's a snap. So if your hosting company refuses to takes stand, tell them you’re moving on to a hosting company that does, and that you’ll no longer subsidize their support of hate speech with your money.
But let’s also be realistic. Their lost revenue of $5 or $10 a month isn’t much incentive to change. But it can be if that happens en masse. It’d be a real shame if a hosting company’s refusal to take action against hate were made public, wouldn’t it?
No, actually. No shame in that at all.
I assure you I’m not taking vague aim at any one hosting platform. This is a systemic problem that every podcasting hosting company needs to address. Chances are, every single podcast hosting company is unknowingly hosting hate speech on their platform. So every podcast hosting company needs to take action.
Careful Of That Slippery Slope
We could fall way down the rabbit hole (or get lost on a rabbit trail, as those two idioms confuse me constantly) on this, as I’m sure some will. Should podcast directories make a similar statement? What about podcast listening apps? Podcast production companies? Should we take the same “get rid of it or I’m out!” position all the way up and down the podcast supply chain?
I don’t know. Maybe? Probably? Worthy discussions, I’m sure.
But right now, we need to crawl up to the top of the slope and strongly encourage our podcast media hosting companies to take a stand against hate. And that’s not a stance any reasonable, rational person should be afraid of taking.
(Except, maybe, for lawyers. But that’s their problem. And job, as a matter of fact.)
Don’t forget to buy me a virtual coffee to show you support at BuyMeACoffee.com/EvoTerra. Also, please tell one person about the show today. Yes, I know you told one person about Podcast Pontifications yesterday. Today, I need you to tell somebody else. Either about the entire show or about this particular episode. It’s up to you.
There will be no episode tomorrow, as I’ve some personal activities to attend to tomorrow morning. And I don’t record on Friday, so you’ve got a long weekend without me in your ears.
I shall be back on Monday with yet another Podcast Pontifications.
Podcast Pontifications is written and narrated by Evo Terra. He’s on a mission to make podcasting better. Allie Press proofed the copy, corrected the transcript, and edited the video. Podcast Pontifications is a production of Simpler Media.