It's a Lot Deeper than Alex Jones and Infowars

Promoted from the diaries by streiff. Promotion does not imply endorsement.

Wikipedia defines the phrase “marketplace of ideas thus:

a rationale for freedom of expression based on an analogy to the economic concept of a free market. The marketplace of ideas holds that the truth will emerge from the competition of ideas in free, transparent public discourse, and concludes that ideas and ideologies will be culled according to their superiority or inferiority and widespread acceptance among the population. The concept is often applied to discussions of… freedom of the press and the responsibilities of the media in a liberal democracy.

If that definition is accurate, then we are living a joke.  There is much celebration in the media regarding the “deplatforming” of Alex Jones at Infowars.  Some are insisting that the censorship has not gone far enough since he maintains a Twitter account.  CNN has long argued against Jones and Infowars and they are patting themselves on the back for their efforts.  Vice is complaining about his Twitter account.  Another writer at CNN, Rafia Zakaria said the deplatforming was “an important step in the recognition of nativist, nationalist and white supremacist hate speech as a form of terrorism,” going so far as to suggest that Jones be prosecuted for domestic terrorism.

Other celebrants on the bandwagon are Amanda Marcotte at Salon who praised Jared Holt at Right Wing Watch for his efforts.  Holt admits that one of his motivations was because Jones managed to get on Spotify with a podcast and he didn’t.  Journalistic jealousy is now a higher ideal. Throw in more back-slapping from Daily Beast and Vox and you get the picture.  Carlos Maza at Vox has targeted Lauren Southern as the next best target of the censors.  He admits that censorship is a “tough debate,” then laments the fact that when people look up the terms “Islam” or “immigration,” Southern’s name comes up.  He said one of Southern’s videos “feels a lot more like white nationalist stuff.”  

Feelings are no justification for repression.  Maza notes that social media platforms are breeding grounds for extremism, hate speech and conspiracy theories.  But, who defines “extremism” or “hate speech?” Sarah Jeong’s crude remarks against whites certainly didn’t get her banned.  Instead, she got a plum promotion to the editorial board of the New York Times.  There are scores of journalists and actors on Twitter with a basic message: “I hate white people.”  Here is a good sample..  An objective standard of “hate” would have these people banned, yet they are not.

But, it does not end with repressing speech about race or ethnicity, or even hate speech if anyone can ever define that phrase.  It’s not even about stopping the spread of conspiracy theories. The infection has now spread to some tech companies banning videos that question climate change.  Elizabeth Heng, running as a Republican in California’s 16th District, had a Facebook ad about her parent’s escape from Cambodia taken down (it was later restored).

What has unfortunately happened in today’s digital world is that social media platforms now have de facto control over the “democratic” political system as it pertains to free speech.  They have the power to shape public opinion and have control over its distribution. The obvious solution is competition, but actors like CNN, Buzzfeed, Vox, Vice and others want their competitors silenced.  At one time there was a Fairness Doctrine that was anything but fair.  Today, they cloak that same philosophy in terms not of “fairness,” but of “protection.”  Protection from an Alex Jones video?

As a way to get tough on Russian meddling via social media, Democrats are circulating proposals that would effectively control Internet content.  One proposal calls for mandatory location and and identity verification online to protect us from these Russian trolls and bots. It has nothing to do with protection against misinformation campaigns by Russia and everything to do with ending online anonymity.  It would be government sanctioned doxxing. Those most in hysterics about Russian misinformation are also the ones with this intense desire to crush dissent. That is not protection; that is not letting a “crisis” go to waste.

Said Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy- not content to eviscerate the Second Amendment, but also the First:

Infowars is the tip of a giant iceberg of hate and lies that uses sites like Facebook and YouTube to tear our nation apart. These companies must do more than take down one website. The survival of our democracy depends on it

If he means the current system, he is correct since the current system, or what he calls “our democracy,’ depends on control of information.  Groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center are now the self-anointed gatekeepers suppressing dissident opinions on race, immigration and Islam.  Brute media power prevents challenging the obvious double standards. Alex Jones is marginalized; Sarah Jeong is defended and mainstreamed.

It is truly a sad for American democracy if Senator Murphy and the compliant media followers think people are so easily manipulated and brainwashed that free speech should be reconsidered.  If speech is regulated in the name of saving “our democracy,’ then there is no democracy?  They rail about censorship in China and condone censorship in the United States.  Only the justification is changed: kill free speech to save their idea of democracy.

Most importantly, if those who feel the compulsion to regulate and censor online speech cannot survive a video from the likes of Alex Jones or Lauren Southern, then maybe their worldview is not worth saving and preserving.  If the Left cannot win the competition in the marketplace of ideas, perhaps it is their ideas that are lacking.