So, I wanted to share a little experience I had on the Internet last weekend.

As I’ve mentioned, I have an interest in the auxiliary language Ido. It has a pretty small community (I’d guesstimate it has about 0.1% the speakers of Esperanto, which it’s very similar to) and while I’ve been learning it for some time and can actually write it without feeling like it’s pulling teeth now, I hadn’t really had a lot of luck finding places online where it’s spoken. There’s a subreddit, which hasn’t seen any new posts since April 22 (and that was some shitty anime meme with right-wing overtones – but more on that later). And there’s a Discord server, which is similarly inactive. I wanted to see what else was out there, you know? Where were those Ido speakers hiding?

A couple of months ago, someone (Gilles-Philippe Morin) put together this snazzy little site called Ido, the incredible language(external link). It links to a few different online communities, so I did my best to go through them. I wasn’t really able to check out the Telegram group, because I don’t have a Telegram account, and I wasn’t going to make one just in case the Telegram group was decent. Then the Google Group wasn’t very interesting, because it mainly seemed like old people sharing “inspirational quotes” with each other and links to videoconferencing catch-ups. (No offence to old people.) The Facebook group, though. Oh my God, the Facebook group was really bad.

Basically, at least 50% of the Facebook group is one far-right nutter spamming the whole thing with hateful shit against feminists, leftists, and vegetarians, “Ido language tip!” explainers with the ancap flag, as well as fucking Nazi symbology, but ~*~translated into Ido tho~*~ so according to everyone senior in the group that’s totally cool. There was more than one group member arguing back against the hate speech, but mostly they were doing it in English or Spanish, so when the senior people (or at least Gon­çalo Neves) spoke up it was basically to say, “The Ido community supports freedom of speech; if you don’t like it, don’t read it. The thing that REALLY detracts from Ido’s image isn’t right-wing hate speech, but the fact that people are using ENGLISH to complain about it, as if Ido isn’t good enough for them.”1

As I said there were multiple people trying to counter this right-wing hate speech in the group, but there was one legend in particular who tried to push back on Neves’ apologism. He said (in the original English):

If you think that a reply in english is a worse representation of the Ido group than a message that is in its core hate speech, and what is worse, hate speech that isn’t countered by many people (I’ve seem just a few comments, in Ido, going against the ideas of the original poster), than Ido doesn’t look like an inclusive language… Unfortunately that is not the first case of alt-right members spewing their fascist ideas that I’ve found in the Ido groups, if that is a trend, maybe my appreciation of Ido was misguided after all…

Neves’ response to that (my translation into English):

Ido is a language, just a language, with which you can express any idea, from the (extreme) left to the (extreme) right. Would you be complaining the same way if the ideas expressed were far-left? To me the two extremes are equally abominable (I’m a spiritual humanist), but at the same time I think people can express any view point: I prefer words to weapons!

The legend argued (original in English):

freedom of speech must be restricted, when it threatens the integrity or existence of someone or somegroup. What this user is saying (not just in this post) is not merelly opinion, it is hate speech, it is derogatory and harmful for many people.

In the same way that is abhorrent that nazis think that jews (and many other groups) shouldn’t exist, this user proclaims against the existence of non cis-gendered people…

Neves totally ignored him (my translation again):

Since you didn’t answer my question: would you complain the same way if the ideas expressed were far left?

The totally correct guy replied back:

and who is expressing extreme lefty ideas here?

Btw, saying “everyone should be equal and have equal opportunity” (communism, what is frequently associated with “extreme left”) is quite a bit different than (“Those people shouldn’t be allowed to exist” (alt right conservative) or “people should be allowed to enslave other people and sell organs” (ancaps and extreme liberals).

Gonçalo Neves had no comeback to that.

Personally, I found it deeply sickening that the most “established” people in the Ido Facebook group were all supporting the publication of hate speech (a few of them of them were “liking” the gross posts, at least a couple posted comments in support of what Neves was saying themselves, and certainly none called out the hate speech for what it was, although a couple voiced some minor disagreements). It was further enraging to see those few who turned it back on progressives to claim that it would be just as bad if people were arguing for “extreme left” ideas (omg, radical democracy, egalitarianism and human rights, how disgusting!). In the comments of different posts, I did see people arguing against this right-winger’s bullshit, including some in Ido, which is great to see even if they were not among the most active members of the group (I guess why would they be, if their experience of interacting there is arguing against hateful shit with zero support from the group admins). Despite their efforts, for at least a couple of days there, I was considering giving up on Ido entirely, because between the community seeming mostly-dead, realising the weird right-wing anime memes from the subreddit were also courtesy of this fuckhead, and this Facebook group tacitly condoning hate speech and thinking it’s worse to speak English or Spanish than SPREAD HATE SPEECH, I just felt like it had nothing to offer me. I started to teach myself Occidental,2 which is on a more encouraging trajectory and is an interesting auxlang in its own right, but then I got annoyed.

You know that line, like, “Why should I change MY name? HE’S the one that sucks!” That’s how I started feeling. Before I had gone in search of an Ido community, I’d already got pretty decent at it. I still need to look up words in a dictionary every now and then, but overall when I write it it feels pretty fluid now. I just started to feel like, why should I “cede” Ido to the far right, just because of one dickwad and a few apologists? Far-right people speak lots of languages, including English and Spanish, that decent people don’t just desert en masse solely because far-right people speak them. Ido is a language literally created out of internationalism, and one of the main things it fixed from Esperanto is the inability to talk in a gender-neutral way in the latter – so quite bizarre that someone would learn it just to shove discriminatory and gender essentialist bullshit at people. What’s more, while it’s clear that the Facebook group is an irredeemable, unsalvagable dumpster fire of trash, this hateful person’s screeds have not been welcomed everywhere. Remember that Discord I said had been quiet for months? At least they banned that hateful piece of shit. Nor are there hateful people in the “Ido” channel of the broader “auxlangs” Discord (which apparently is syndicated to a Telegram channel, so I guess no hateful people there either). Through the latter, I found a small group of people who all wanted to create Mastodon accounts to post in Ido, and now I actually feel like I have what I wanted in the first place: a community, however small, of decent people I can chat in Ido with. And to think, I was just on the verge of being pushed away entirely by that hateful fuckwit and his “free speech” defenders.

I guess here is the critical point: if you create a community where neo-Nazis and other far-rightists are welcome, very soon you’ll find you have a community that is ALL neo-Nazis and the far right. Decent, moral people are naturally disgusted by that kind of shit, and they will desert any community that enables it in droves. It’s great that for affluent men who are mostly white and straight, hate speech can be just an amusing thought experiment that has no actual impact on them and their lives, so they feel entitled to talk down to POC, women, queer people, the disabled, etc. that we need to tolerate all speech regardless of the fact that this has a radicalising effect on other right-wing fuckers who come to feel entitled to harm us. Trans people are not gonna take part in communities where people regularly debate their right to exist. Women are not gonna take part in communities where people call us crazy scheming harpies and debate our right to bodily autonomy. POC are not gonna take part in communities where people act like they’re all criminals unless proven otherwise. Jewish people are not going to take part in communities where anti-Semitic imagery appears regularly in memes. Like, come the fuck on. Free speech extremism just means that no one except the most highly privileged people feel comfortable to participate. If you actually support free speech, you need to create a space where the Overton Window does not include denying others’ right to live in dignity. Plus people from diverse backgrounds must be able to speak up without becoming victims of coordinated harassment by right-wingers.3 For fuck’s sake.

As should be obvious far-left ideas are not even remotely comparable to far-right ones. Are we really going to pretend that “there should not be billionaires in a world where people are hungry and homeless” is the same as what right-wingers go on about? Are we going to pretend that criticisms of capitalism, of imperialism, of oppression, of the fake democracy of liberal democracy,4 are equivalent to demanding a world where the rich get richer and the rest are exploited ruthlessly, living in eternal fear? Let’s be real.

I want to be clear: I really like the language Ido. It’s like Esp­er­anto if Esp­er­anto had none of the things that annoy me about it. It’s simple, regular, cleverly agglutinative, aurally pleasing, lacking in EO’s weird consonant clusters, and more thoughtful in its vocabulary choices (it seems to me).5 I don’t want this post to be taken as a criticism of the language itself or of Idists in general, just of that Facebook group and the individuals who take part in it without pushing back on the hateful bullshit. If you want to encourage people to move beyond the “oh that’s kinda interesting” stage and actually learn and use Ido, you’ve gotta clean house and make sure these kinds of nasty individuals aren’t around to push them away. Otherwise they’re gonna stick to Esperanto, or choose a different auxlang to redirect their frustrations with Esperanto into. If things like that Facebook group are promoted as places to experience the Ido community, I sure wouldn’t blame them.

  1. If you want, you can see the post whose comments the biggest argument took place in(external link)↩︎

  2. Even though it turns out one of the people who posted “the struggle against hate speech is worse than hate speech itself” is also high-ranking in that community’s Discord 🙄 But, as I’ll go on to explain, I don’t think that makes him representative of ALL Occidentalists or Idists. ↩︎

  3. Not saying that this specifically has been a problem in any Ido communities – I wouldn’t know – but it certainly is usually a problem on sites that allow the far right to participate. ↩︎

  4. If you are clutching your pearls at this, I’ll put it this way: wildly popular policies like taking action on climate change, halting privatisations and renationalising already-privatised industries, substantially increasing funding for public healthcare and education, and not getting involved in imperialist wars are all things that we don’t get under liberal democracy. In the US there are even more specific examples, like gun control or the current dismantling of abortion rights. In a real democracy these would not even be questions! IDK why right-wingers pretend that everyone who criticises liberal democracy wants some kind of Stalinist dictatorship instead of the thing we literally say we want: real democracy. Oh wait, actually I do – purely to smear us. ↩︎

  5. Esperanto is also simple, regular and agglutinative, and I don’t think it sounds bad either, but I just wanted to stress that Ido is also all these things. Plus it doesn’t have weird clusters like word-initial [sts] or [kn] and it doesn’t have things like its word for “open” literally being “unclose”. ↩︎