Are we still free to express ourselves? Art has been used for centuries to tell stories, express feelings and of course, express outrage when social injustice and political outrage don’t have the words we need to truly frame up our feelings. It is a hard question to answer, especially considering more and more control that social media is taking on by policing posts.
Many people who are speaking out against our current state of affairs are seeing their accounts locked down over content they have shared. Whether it is controversial art or fake news articles, it can seem that platforms like Facebook and Instagram do not garner those same “freedoms of speech” that we had (Pre-COVD-19). The management of posts comes at the frustration of many social media users exhausted with seeing white supremacy groups being given a platform.
Recently, an artist was banned from Facebook for one of her art creations that broke the rules regarding posting content that contains hate speech. Her art piece, created out of the popular MAGA (Make America Great Again) hats, depict an armband reminiscent of the one the Nazi’s wore, with a black swastika shaped out of the words, “Make America Great Again” on it.
Maryland based Artist, Kat Kretz, intended for this piece to speak out against the current social injustices and the hate speech she feels is rampant and unaddressed. This piece was created “to both call out wearers who claim the hats to be innocuous, and to sound the alarm that history is repeating itself,” she wrote in her blog. To her surprise, she was met with the removal of her post by Facebook, with a note letting her know they considered the image hate speech.
Kretz tried to repeal their decision assuring them it was an art piece that represented hate speech, and that her piece was not in fact created to be hate speech. Instead of being heard, or her concerns being addressed, Facebook pulled down her second posting of the armband and blocked her from the account, disabling her ability to reach her followers. Kretz uses social media as a large part of her livelihood and is still waiting for a decision as to when she will expect to be allowed back into her own account.
One thing we can know for sure, art is a vehicle that gives a voice to those who are voiceless and it gives light to issues that are overlooked or ignored. How do we determine where we draw the line between art and between hate? In the current climate of the world, we know that uncertainty is the one thing we know will be here longer than we want but we can be grateful that artists will continue to use times such as these to create art that will impact and change the world.
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