By Nathan Barton
Today, the word “ghetto” has really bad connotations. It refers to slums where the vast majority of residents are black, living in these inner-city neighborhoods of rotting buildings and utilities, crime, and neglect. (See also “barrio” and “the ‘hood.’)
The other, original, use of the word refers to those neighborhoods in European cities in which Jews (at that time, defined much more by religious beliefs and practices than as an “ethnicity” or race). The most famous is Warsaw’s, rising up in rebellion against the German occupation in 1943. But the Jewish ghettos existed for centuries. Although they are best known as being the locations to which Jews were confined, they didn’t start out that way.
They started out as places of refuge, of safety and with the comforts of home, in which followers of the Law of Moses could observe that, and practice their customs. Without risking being attacked as “Christ-killers” and more. The walls around the ghettos were as much (or more, originally) to protect those who lived inside, than to confine them. Mobs whipped to a frenzy by rabble-rousing preachers (often Catholic or Orthodox priests) were not able to do as much damage, if they had to get through gates in walls.
But as social and political conditions changed, the ghettos became traps and jails instead of refuges.
What does that have to do with us today?
Just as we are seeing popular social media and web merchant sites increasingly restrict free speech, we are seeing the same thing as regards marketing. The latest example of taking away SOME free speech is the Alex Jones dust-up by Facebook and others.
The latest example of restricting marketing and business transactions (including simple advertising) is firearms. In the past we’ve seen the sector deny selling, advertising, and displaying of such things as Confederate symbols. And it isn’t the first time this has been done to guns. But it seems to be escalating.
JPFO recently reposted an article about this from Gun Rodeo, a site for gun-enthusiasts and (like the Zelman Partisans and JPFO) Second Amendment defense.
(Please note, I’m not recommending or endorsing Gun Rodeo: don’t know enough about it. And like Mama Liberty, I’m not much of a supporter of JPFO, after the coup. NRA is of course worse. But I DO recommend The Zelman Partisans. They carry on Aaron’s legacy well. By the way, check out Carl Bussjaeger’s latest contribution to TZP. Good job, Carl!)
What makes this interesting is that at first glance, Gun Rodeo is exactly one of the ghettos I’m talking about. As more and more social media bans both free markets and free speech, (all very selected, of course), the more we need someplace to have free buying and selling and free speech.
Just like Jews in Europe in the Middle Ages. Someplace we can enjoy a bit of peace and quiet, and safety, to do things that more and more VERY vocal people object to with screams, curses, very rude acts, and actual violence.
If you don’t like the baggage of “ghetto” today, consider some other comparisons, from American Western History (of the days before government was involved in EVERYTHING). Trading posts, like the PRIVATE fur-trading forts of companies founded by such as Jedediah Smith, the Bent brothers, and John Jacob Astor. And the great rendezvous of the mountain men in the West of the 1800s. These were places – literally walled forts in the case of many trading posts – where people could voluntarily and peacefully come together to buy and sell – and to talk and listen.
If people can’t do that with certain subjects and merchandise and services on the likes of Facebook and Linked-In and Twitter and Instagram, then people are going to provide other places in cyberspace (and meatspace) to do that. Gun Rodeo is just one of those. Others, many others, exist. Some actually developed from the old internet bulletin board services and various forums – many of which still flourish today. It is also closely tied to the development of the Dark Web: places to buy and sell things that governments have decided are bad and made illegal.
The advent of crypto-currency opened the gates to far more. However, we must remember that such freedom is clearly one reason governments (and their close friends and partners, banks) has fought them. Just as they have and are working to keep alternatives to social media from becoming widespread, popular, and known.
Having places – even in cyberspace – which are public but which offer safety and freedom to say and do things that some people do not like, is important. Especially when a majority of people – and/or those powers-that-be – are against those things. Whether it is herbal medicines, guns, books, or even some drugs and some pictures.
But we need to keep a couple of things in mind.
First, we need to learn from the Jews of Europe: refuges can become jails. A fortress can be a trap, a killing zone. From their ghettos in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, the Jews reached out and financially conquered the world. Only to overreach and find themselves trapped and nearly exterminated.
Second, we need to remember that we MUST, even if from places of safety, interact with the public. Not just because we need the goods and services, but because we need to reach out and teach them what is right, no matter how politically-incorrect or banned that might be. We cannot totally isolate ourselves from the world, meatspace or cyberspace. That is perhaps the lesson learned from the American West. Those in the trading posts and rendezvous did not cower there: they reached out FROM those places to adventure, explore, buy, sell, and win a land.
Nathan, two things: first, I realize “ghetto” is just a metaphor here, but it may be useful to point out that at least the first one in Venice was established as a result of regulation by the Republic: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Jews_in_Venice#Medieval_history
Second, it occurs to me that “gated community” may be a more applicable idea, especially in light of the uses you propose.
Jeff, thanks for the correction, clarification, and idea! I am certain you are right regarding the “Republic of Venice” (which I admit has not be a major subject of study for me) but I understand in other cities and districts (such as some of the Hansastadten) the establishment of these were (initially) voluntary. Somewhat like some Chinatowns in the Fifty States and elsewhere (another possible comparison, like your gated community). In some cities (LA, SF, come to mind immediately but my readers know my antipathy to California), the Chinese were forced to live in a Chinatown. In others (like Deadwood and apparently Salt Lake City), the immigrants chose to live in a specific area. Lead, Deadwood’s sister city and site of the vast Homestake Mine, had at least a half-dozen clearly defined (and enforced by public opinion, not law, near as I can tell) ethnic neighborhoods. It is natural to want to associate with “your own” in language and culture. I do like your comparison to gated communities, but we usually don’t think of those as actual fortified, defensible sites.
Which does call for yet another thought: the various governments who pushed Jews and Blacks into ghettos certainly did not intend to create locations which could then be fortified and used to defend against outside attacks, yet they sometimes did so. The companies and politicians may be doing the same thing today, in cyberspace.
A second thought is that under the right circumstances, a cyberspace gated community or ghetto may give birth to an actual meat-space community. More than just the “Free State Project” or “Free State Wyoming” movement. There would be both advantages and disadvantages.