The Online Hate Prevention Institute (OHPI) is a high profile body, whose Managing Director is Dr. Andre Oboler, which exists to rid the internet of “online hate.” According to its website, its targets includes Racism, Antisemitism, Anti-Muslim, Hate Against Indigenous Australians, Violent Extremism, Holocaust Denial, Hate Against Military Veterans, Serious Trolling, Cyberbullying, Misogyny, Homophobia, and Griefing (sic).
Normally, no one would object to the aims of this organisation and virtually everyone would support its aims. Certainly, for instance, more needs to be done to rid the internet of “serious trolling,” often by mentally disturbed loners who need psychiatric help, and of advocates of Violent Extremism. Internet postings which are grossly offensive, defamatory, incitements to violence, or personally abusive should most certainly be banned from the internet.
Presumably all of these are already subject to legal restrictions, and internet providers would presumably remove any of these as a matter of course. Most Jews would doubtless be happy to see the more outrageous forms of Holocaust denial removed from the web.
If that was all there was to the OHPI, few would dissent from its aims. But that’s not all there is to it. This Institute goes far beyond eliminating online trolls and overt racists to interfering with legitimate expressions of free speech, most seriously of trying to eliminate opposition to Islamic extremism and support for traditional views of marriage. One is inevitably reminded of the Commissars of the Ministry of Truth; these are deeply biased and do not deserve support.
The first and foremost of the many dubious elements about the OHPI is that, believe it or not, it does not define “hate,” which, in fact, means just about anything it decides it to mean, a purely arbitrary definition that shifts in the wind with the biases of the Institute. In the case of “Anti-Muslim” “hate,” some of the examples it gives of material it has removed from the web would surely not be regarded as anything of the kind. Strong opposition to aspects of Islamic religion and culture are perfectly legitimate expressions of opinion; I would be surprised to learn that many readers of this column did not share them.
For instance, one internet page from the “OHPI Hate Speech Archive” is a picture of a poster, removed from the internet by the Institute, which reads
“It is not Racist to Criticize a Religion,”
along with the photographs of four stereotypical examples of male Muslims, each labelled “Muslim,” from different ethnic backgrounds, among them an Asian and a white man.
I can see nothing whatever in this poster which constitutes “hate.” What this poster is says is absolutely true: there are Muslims of every race, and criticism of Islam as a religion and motivating factor in terrorism is criticism of a religion, not “racism.” Indeed, this distinction is recognized in U.K. law, where hostility to Jews and Sikhs is legally regarded as racism, but hostility to Muslims is not, any more than hostility to Catholics or lawyers is “racism.”
That the OHPI went after a poster like this leads to several more basic objections. The OPHI has arbitrarily taken upon itself the role of removing other people’s postings from the internet. Except in extreme and clear-cut cases, this should ipso facto be a cause for concern, especially as it is not the supposed victims and targets of the posting who have objected, but a self-appointed group of internet police, who operate with no clearly defined criteria- or, rather, with criteria they invent as they go along.
It also seems clear that there appears to be an agenda of political correctness behind the OHPI’s actions. One of their targets is “Misogyny” on the web. There would probably be almost universal support for removing the grossest forms of misogyny from the web. But none of the examples they give of their actions mentions Islamic misogyny or the attitude of Islam towards women. Islamic culture and religious doctrines in practice are arguably the most important sources of misogyny in the world, probably by a factor of five hundred. We are talking here of real, barbaric, endemic harm to women, female genital mutilation, the denial of schooling to girls, far-reaching legal restrictions on women, not merely casual (and totally deplorable) verbal abuse. Yet it is apparent that the OHPI studiously refuses to attack any of this which might appear on the internet.
Similar is its attitude towards “Homophobia” on the internet. Their website states that they have, for instance, removed a Facebook page which merely says
“No to Gay Marriage.”
This is in my view as gross an interference with free speech as one can imagine. It appears to be part of a new facet of left-wing totalitarianism, used to categorise the traditional attitudes of all religions towards homosexuality as “hate speech.”
Legalising “gay marriage” is, by the way, entirely different from removing legal obstacles to same sex relationships, entailing a change in the legal definition of marriage which has stood for thousands of years. One is perfectly entitled to oppose gay marriage and say so, without being censored by the Thought Police.
For the Jewish community, and, indeed, for the whole community, the censorship unfairly imposed by the OHPI threatens frank discussion and debate about Islamic terrorism, which is and has been the cause and instigator of literally tens of thousands of murders around the world in recent decades, mainly in the Third World, but also in New York, London, and Paris, to say nothing of Israel.
As it is presently operating, the OHPI ought to be treated with caution.
Bill Rubinstein taught at Deakin University and at the University of Wales.