I don’t understand this development at all. Perhaps I should say that I hope I don’t understand it. The move feels like another canary dying in the Free Speech mine.
A week after the 2020 Presidential election, The Conservative Treehouse received this from WordPress, which, as you know, hosts Ethics Alarms:
…”given the incompatibility between your site’s content and our terms, you need to find a new hosting provider and must migrate the site by Wednesday, December 2nd.
What’s going on here? This is the blog’s interpretation :
It means CTH is being kicked-off the WordPress website hosting platform because the content of our research and discussion does not align with the ideology of those who define what is acceptable speech and what is not.
What was our violation? After ten years of brutally honest discussion, opinion, deep research and crowdsourcing work -with undeniable citations on the events we outline- there is no cited violation of any term of service because CTH has never violated one.
The WordPress company is not explaining the reason for deplatforming because there is no justifiable reason for it. At the same time, they are bold in their position. Perhaps this is the most alarming part; and everyone should pay attention. They don’t care.
Truthful assembly is now the risk. CTH is now too big; with a site reach of 500,000 to a million unique readers each day; and with well over 200,000 subscribers; our assembly is too large, too influential, and presents a risk… we guard the flickering flame.
The Conservative Treehouse is a professionally operated blog. I don’t visit it often; the tone is too ideologically rigid for me, and the lionizing of the late Andrew Breitbart, who proudly engaged in unethical journalism, signals to me that ethics is not high on the blog’s priority of values.
However, unless there is something more behind this event, it is ominous.
Free speech is under attack, and the attack will intensify with the election of Joe Biden, because Democrats and progressives are leading the assault. Glenn Greenwald, now self-exiled from his own organization because it attempted to censor him, sounds another alarm here. Triggered by the tweet of an ACLU lawyer who advocated the banning of a book with which he disagreed, Greenwald writes in part, in “The Ongoing Death of Free Speech” (there is much more, and you should read it all):
Most of this censorious mentality stems from the warped proposition that ideas with which one disagrees are not just misguided but “dangerous” and even “fatal.” We so often hear now that views disliked by some people put them “in danger” and “literally kill.” Recall the creepily unified script of New York Times reporters in response to the Tom Cotton op-ed that resulted in the firing of Op-Ed Page Editor James Bennet for the crime of publishing it: “Running this puts Black @NYTimes staff in danger,” they intoned. …That speech is “dangerous” and “incites violence” and therefore must be stifled has been the cry of censors for centuries. It is the claim used to try to silence Communists during the Cold War, Muslims during the War on Terror, and pro-Palestinian activists now. …this same pro-censorship mentality is finding expression not only in calls for the state and Silicon Valley giants to suppress speech deemed upsetting and dangerous (censorship that will inevitably fall harshly if not disproportionately on leftists and the marginalized), but also disguising itself under the deceitful banner of Human Resources workplace complaints and union activism. An overlooked section of a Ben Smith column in The New York Times from June described how The Intercept Union’s “Diversity Committee” explicitly demanded curbs on free speech whenever, in their unilateral estimation, such free expression conflicted with political activism they value more — a call that is now commonplace on campuses, in corporate offices, and in newsrooms across the country:It is true that workplace censorship does not implicate state censorship, just as it is true that increasing calls for Silicon Valley to exert greater control over our discourse does not implicate the First Amendment (although it might if, as seems likely soon, a Biden/Harris presidential administration pressures tech giants to suppress their critics’ speech).
But it takes little imagination to see that there are other forms of censorship besides state censorship. Corporate censorship is one; workplace and cultural censorship are others. Free speech is a constitutional and legal doctrine, but it’s also a cultural norm and societal value. That has been true ever since the Enlightenment, at least.
Those who doubt the existence of private-sector censorship should imagine a scenario in which Facebook, Google and Twitter all unite tomorrow to announce:
"Henceforth, no criticisms of the Republican Party or GOP politicians shall be permitted on our platforms; criticisms of Democrats will still be permitted and spread through heightened algorithms, no matter how harsh or angry."
Few would doubt that free speech values would be severely implicated by such a united policy change from tech giants — regardless of whether one agrees with the recent report from the Democratic-led House Subcommittee concluding that Facebook and Google are classic monopolies.
That censorship occurs not only by state action but also cultural and societal coercion has often been explicitly stated by the ACLU itself. That’s why the civil liberties group has referred to Facebook’s banning of offensive speech as “censorship”…
And, unless there is something we don’t know, WordPress kicking CTH off its platform without a satisfactory explanation is also censorship. It is also very disturbing that the action occurred after the apparent election of Joe Biden. Increased hostility to free speech and expression was among the un-American and totalitarian attitudes that voters endorsed, knowingly or not, when they voted for the Democratic ticket.