Facebook has banned right-wing activists Alex Jones, Milo Yiannopoulos, Laura Loomer, Joseph Watson, white supremacist Paul Nehlen, Jones’s company, Infowars, and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.
And yes, it is unethical. And frightening. The irony is that Facebook says that the ideas promoted by these mostly fringe figures are “dangerous.” Nothing any of them say or write are anywhere nearly as dangerous as promoting censorship based on content and political viewpoint.
It doesn’t matter that all of the political and opinion figures Facebook banned from its two social media platforms are assholes, bigots and hate-mongers—I can’t say for sure that all of them are, since I only bump into any of them when I take a wrong turn on the Information Superhighway, as Al Gore liked to call it. I can say for sure that Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan meets that description, just as I can say for sure the media spin that he is “right wing” is ridiculous. If he’s so far right, why have so many members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including the only-recently resigned co-chair of the Democratic National Committee, met with him, posed with him, and generally given him legitimacy? Barack Obama posed with him too, though that photo was stored in the media memory hole until he was safely elected President.
Oh, I get it: only conservatives spread hate, ergo Farrakhan must be a right winger. I suspect that the real reason Farrakhan was on the initial list of banned users was so Facebook could claim, when challenged, that it wasn’t just banning advocates for the far right.
Progressives and their allies need to get their stories straight.
Let me get back to the first sentence: for a major source of communication in our society to permanently censor anyone based purely on the ideas and opinions they advocate is unethical, and is a serious threat to freedom of expression in the United States.
The measure, for example, provides legitimacy to the campus fascists who threatened, and sometimes delivered violence when Yiannopoulos was invited to speak on campus. Presumably Facebook is endorsing that conduct: after all, the students were only defending themselves from “danger.” Facebook’s censorship also encourages the Orwellian trend on campuses to conflate smug comfort within an ideological bubble with “safety.” Students across the country are demanding that faculty members be fired and speakers silenced because their very existence —they espouse non-conforming views, you see—makes them feel “unsafe.” If professional trolls like Yiannopoulos make you feel unsafe, how does an articulate, rational conservative advocate like Jordan Peterson, Glenn Reynolds, Victor Hanson, or Justice Alito make you feel? I would presume terrified, since they might actually prevail in some of their objectives.
Alex Jones told The Washington Post that Facebook’s actions were “authoritarian’: as usual, he was inarticulate. The word you want, Alex, is totalitarian. This is where the American Left is trending, and its Big Tech arm is all in, as this episode shows.
“The timing is never an accident,” Angelo Carusone, president of the leftist propaganda organization Media Matters said. “The reality is, people are getting killed. There are mass shootings and mass murders that are clearly being connected to ideas like white genocide, which are fueling radicalization. The conditions have changed. When you have these massive catalyzing moments that are connected to real-life consequences, it puts pressure on Facebook and others to look in the mirror.”
There are people getting killed in Venezuela thanks to “dangerous” ideas like socialism, but I don’t see social media platforms banning most of the Democratic Presidential field or Rep. Occasio-Cortez any time soon. Every day I read on Facebook repeated false narratives equating a red campaign cap with a KKK hood, leading to various forms of assault against law-abiding citizens going about their own business. Why aren’t those posts regarded as ” massive catalyzing moments that are connected to real-life consequences”?
That’s easy: because Facebook feels it can abuse its power to dictate what is and what isn’t speech that can be “safely” communicated. Maxine Waters spreads hate. Adam Schiff spreads hate. The Southern Poverty Law Center spreads hate. Bill Maher spreads hate. Stephen Colbert, Maizy Hirono, Charles M. Blow, Rachel Maddow and Tom Perez spread hate. Why is their hatemongering “safe”?
Come on, it’s obvious! It’s because they are encouraging hatred of the right people, te ones who deserve to be hated! Try to keep up.
Every now and then the ACLU retreats temporarily from its new role as a partisan advocate to return to its actual mission, and this was one of the times.
ACLU staff attorney Vera Eidelman said in March, when it was clear that Facebook was considering becoming a national censor, that “every time Facebook makes the choice to remove content, a single company is exercising an unchecked power to silence individuals and remove them from what has become an indispensable platform.” Eidelman told NPR that nothing is stopping Facebook or other platforms from using that same power to censor content on other topics, such as abortion rights or climate change. Yes, that is the slippery slope all right. Of course, if you are in favor of abortion on demand or the dictatorial government powers required to enact the “Green New Deal,” Facebook using its power that way might not bother you. “For the same reason that the Constitution prevents the government from exercising such power, we should be wary of encouraging its exercise by corporations that are answerable to their private shareholders rather than the broader public interest,” she said.
Yeah. Wary. Twitter, Google, Amazon, YouTube and Apple are also deciding what kind of ideas they will allow Americans to express. That’s conduct, and that’s dangerous conduct. They, and not the idiots they have banned so far, are the real, active threats to democracy and freedom.