In America, You Have The Right To Be An A**hole

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

The world is different this morning.  I think the events of yesterday, will live down through our history more so than the events of Wednesday.  It somehow feels less open, less free.  We have rung a bell that in many ways, cannot be un-rung.

In September 2018, Social Media companies banned the far-right-wing host, Alex Jones, from all of their platforms, essentially silencing him on the internet.  Many people accepted it because they found that the InfoWars content was often lies and misinformation.   While Alex Jones’ wild conspiracies were such that many people justified the action taken, stating that no one should have that platform to discuss those topics.  I even found myself on the side of those social media companies, thinking they had the right to do with their own private property, as they desired.

The problem is, that slippery slope became a freefall over the next couple of years, as social media companies exercised their rights over their property, to silence conservative voices, while allowing the spreading of calls for violence, misinformation, conspiracy theories, and other horrible content, from the left.  This standard has been followed by putting warnings on tweets and posts while floating wild leftist conspiracies as fact.

Does that mean that I agree with the conspiracy theories of the right?  No.  But what I will do, is fight for someone to have the right to be crazy.  You see, here in America, you have the right to be an a**hole.  You have the right to say and do, pretty much anything you want, short of language that would be conceived as a direct threat or an imminent call for violence.  While Trump’s tweets certainly leave a lot to be desired, never did Trump tell people to attack the Capitol or use violence of any means.  Yet Trump’s tweets, perceived by those on the left to call for violence, earned him a perma-ban from Twitter.  Meanwhile, Kamala Harris, who said on CBS that violent protests in the country shouldn’t stop, is about to be inaugurated as Vice President of the United States.  Other groups who have led to the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars of property, the deaths of over 30, the injuring of hundreds, and the injuries of hundreds of police officers, still maintain their accounts on Twitter and Facebook.

I believe the standard should be, short of a specific threat, that is an imminent attack at a specific time or place or a threat to a specific person, there shouldn’t be a single word about bans or action taken against the account.  Again, your right to be an a**hole.  As soon as those threats become that specific, report them to law enforcement and mute those tweets or posts.  You see, even a**holes deserve a platform. It is up to you whether or not you want to listen.   We’ve got a**holes like David Duke and Louis Farrakhan.  We’ve given them both platforms for years.  Both are incredibly horrible people, but they have the right to be so.

How are Iranian officials tweeting “Death to America” or threats about “wiping Israel from the face of the Earth” not treated equally in the social media realm?   When they post, “No Justice, No Peace” is not that a threat for violence unless we bow to their idea of justice?  And who is the purveyor of the standards by which these are ruled?   The social media companies themselves.

You won’t find me defending Trump’s use of Twitter.  What you will find is me defending his right to say whatever the hell he wants, as long as it doesn’t meet that standard of specificity.   Let Trump or any leftist nutjob tweet until their little heart’s content, but the moment you begin to pick and choose which content you want and which you don’t, it becomes a problem.  Now when other companies decide that certain forums that abuse liability laws are free to operate while others that operate in the bounds of the law are not, we’ve entered into dangerous waters. Twitter and Facebook are one thing.  For Apple and Google to act on Parler, simply because they don’t like the content, is outright discrimination.

Free and open platforms should be just that:  Free and Open.  That freedom and openness should not just be reserved for nice people.  A**holes deserve those protected rights too.