Author of Be Ready for Anything and Bloom Where You’re Planted online course
Welcome to the United States of Censorship.
Your tour guide today is Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, tweeted some pro-censorship nonsense the other day. In doing so, Murphy proved that (a) he doesn’t understand the First Amendment, (b) he wants the internet to be an echo chamber, and (c) he must have slept through high school civics class.
Murphy tweeted that “the survival of our democracy” was dependent upon even MORE censorship.
(Psst: NOT a democracy. I Googled it for you, Chris. How the heck did you get elected when you don’t even know this? I guess there isn’t a quiz you’ve gotta pass to be a Senator.)
Anyone north of a Hillary-Clinton-loving liberal knows that there’s war on our opinions, while the folks who control the media can say practically anything they want. (Like when CNN anchor Chris Cuomo defended Antifa and freaking compared them to WWII soldiers storming the beach at Normandy, even though he says he didn’t.)
Some background information on the wave of censorship
At the center of this brouhaha is Alex Jones’s InfoWars, an ultraconservative, conspiratorial media outlet who was recently deplatformed by anyone who matters in the media world.
While I’m personally not a fan of Jones or his website, I’m even less of a fan of censorship. Apple, Facebook, Spotify, and YouTube all removed Jones’s accounts within hours of one another, which is blatantly a colluded effort to silence his opinions. And whether you like Jones or not, this should scare the crap out of you if you don’t wish to live in an America that only allows one philosophy.
But it didn’t start with Infowars. The purge has been going on for quite some time.
Since mid-2016 the big 4 tech companies – Google, Facebook, Twitter and, the biggest social media platform in the known universe, YouTube, have engaged in secretive/open policies of censorship. It began with Amazon-owned, Washington Post running an article announcing Prop-Or-Not in which some unknown shadowy people had decided there were 200 different websites that were engaged in spreading Russian propaganda. Nothing could have been further from the truth and this experiment actually unleashed unintended consequences that took more than a year for these tech giants to reign in. Each of the 200 websites traffic exploded to the upside, in some cases doubling there traffic from the previous month.
The next step was unleashed by YouTube in what was dubbed “AdPocalypse” due to the way YouTube began systematically stripping ad revenue from content creators. Not all content creators and not all videos published by these select content creators were affected, but it was devastating to some of us…
…There was no rhyme or reason behind this on-going attack to our revenue base. AdPocalypse continues to this day with the added bonus of shadow banning. More about shadow banning in a moment.
When Natural News was first threatened and then had 140,000 pages de-indexed, Mike Adams took action, hired an attorney and had everything put back into place in short order. This was the warning shot to all other websites, including The Daily Coin, that something major was coming down the pike.
This is now the third phase of what seems to be a coordinated effort among these companies. Google began de-indexing pages from established websites like InfoWars and Natural News. This practice is alive and well today. (source)
And remember when Milo Yiannopolis got deplatformed? He was on top of the world for his alt-right commentary, he had a book deal, he was filthy rich, and he was everywhere. Until suddenly he wasn’t. He was all but erased by the Gods of the Internet. Media outlets like Mashable are filled with glee. “Deplatforming works,” they crowed, overjoyed about the fates of Yiannopolous and Jones.
For a few years there, Yiannopoulos was a reigning troll of the alt-right. He championed the ability to demean anyone anywhere, and called it free speech… Yiannopoulos’ rise and influence crystallizes how social media can amplify a fringe voice by coalescing followers and normalizing once-abhorred opinions and groups, which leads to real world violence.
Eventually, however, Yiannopoulos took it too far for social media, his speaking sponsors, and even his bosses to handle…
“My events almost never happen,” Yiannopoulos wrote.. “And when I get dumped from conferences, BARELY ANYONE makes a sound about it — not my fellow conservative media figures and not even, in many cases, you guys.”
Milo’s events don’t happen because his words, and the real world action they’ve inspired, triggered “de-platforming.” De-platforming is the idea that the best way to combat hate and vitriol in the real world is to take away amplification, usually online. It most recently regained prominence amidst the wide scale ban of Alex Jones and InfoWars from every major platform he had, except Twitter.
…The fact that Yiannopoulos has found his reach and influence so depleted that he can’t get new gigs and takes to comments on Facebook to complain shows the real world effect that de-platforming a toxic public figure can actually have. Indeed, the pro-InfoWars fervor surrounding Alex Jones’ ban from social media lasted about 24 hours; much more enduring is his silence. (source)
Again, whether you love or hate these websites and people that have been attacked doesn’t matter. I’m not a fan of Jones or Yiannopolous, but I am a fan of their freedom to say what they want, even if it’s abhorrent. The folks who run the information world are starting with the sites that are the most blatantly controversial because that’s how they get people on board with this purge.
They will not stop there, with the most abhorrent. The rest of us are next.
A quick segue into the protections of the First Amendment
One quick point I’d like to insert here so that it’s perfectly clear. There is a difference between censorship and violating the First Amendment.
Yes, Google, Facebook, Apple, YouTube, and the like are all private entities. They’re allowed to have whatever they want on their platforms. Their censorship is NOT covered under the First Amendment.
BUT…when they collude to silence a point of view that they don’t like, we’re at the top of a greasy slide straight into a pit of complete and utter censorship. While it isn’t covered by 1A, it is no less dangerous.
Ben Shapiro explains:
…it is a problem. It’s a problem because these policies are extraordinarily vague. These policies aren’t merely designed to crack down on speech openly advocating or threatening violence, or containing obscenity. These policies are deliberately unclear as well as political.
What, for example, constitutes “hate speech”? Much of what Jones and his employees say is absolutely rotten pig excrement, but there’s no definition of hate speech that has a limiting principle. Is it “using dehumanizing language to describe people who are transgender” to state that transgender people suffer from a mental disorder? Or that they are not in fact members of the gender to which they claim membership? What constitutes “hate speech” when discussing the relationship between radical Islam and terrorism? None of this has been made clear.
Furthermore, it won’t be made clear, because the political Left has no clear standards. … How exactly are we supposed to trust in free and open debate when those setting the limits are openly setting them up with embedded double-standards?
The answer is, we don’t. Trust in social media is declining nearly as fast as trust in media overall. There’s a reason for that. And it’s not because social media tolerates voices like Jones. It’s because they don’t tolerate voices like Jones while tolerating voices who are just as bad on the political Left – and they show no signs of limiting their censorship to Alex Jones. (source)
So when you’re arguing about this, just remember, it isn’t the First Amendment being breached here, but it is still insidious. Just because it isn’t unconstitutional doesn’t mean that it isn’t censorship.
Censorship is defined as the suppression of speech, public communication, or other information, on the basis that it’s considered by the government or a private institution to be objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient.
So yes, call it what you want, but it is classically, totally, absolutely censorship.
Back to Senator Murphy’s Twitter rant
So, anywho, let’s go back to Senator Murphy, who really is only saying what a whole bunch of other people believe. It’s just scarier because he has the political oomph to make his Orwellian dreams a reality.
It all started when he tweeted this:
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.”
Trust me when I tell you it won’t stop at Alex Jones. Senator Murphy doesn’t want it to stop at Alex Jones. He wants the sweep to continue and scoop up anyone with whom he disagrees. And not just on social media. Did you notice he was saying that he wanted entire websites to disappear? This is a totally different ballgame, friends. This is the beginning of the end.
John Nolte wrote for Breitbart (please swallow your disdain for Breitbart, commenters. I quoted CNN too):
InfoWars being silenced tightens the free speech circle, brings the line closer to you and I, especially in a terrifying and chilling climate where the left-wing establishment are deciding what “lies and hate” are.
Killing the InfoWars canary, however, will also embolden the censors at CNN and those like Murphy in the political world. They see that dead canary as a success, and as a blueprint to come after the rest of us. And make no mistake, we are all next.
Finally, and this is important, what Murphy is calling for is even more extreme than what happened to InfoWars.
Murphy is calling for “websites” to be taken down — entire websites.
In deleting their accounts, what Facebook and YouTube did to Infowars is bad enough, but Jones still has his own site, his own outlet; and now we have a sitting United States Senator is calling for that to be removed. (source)
But, even CNN is nonplussed about the disappearing of Jones from the internet. CNN. Columnist LZ Granderson wrote:
But that doesn’t mean I view systematically scrubbing him from the internet, as Apple, Facebook, and YouTube have tried to do, as a victory. Why? Because I enjoy hip-hop, Elvis Presley, and “The Catcher in the Rye” — and at some point in our country’s history, all three were in the sights of people who didn’t approve of its content (or in Elvis’ case, hips).
Restricting offensive or harmful language for the greater good is all fine and dandy until you become beholden to a definition of “greater good” you don’t agree with. Or when you oppose a politician’s view of “offensive.”
Today the mob is for you, but tomorrow you could be Larry Flynt, who endured decades of court cases and was shot because people thought the content in Hustler Magazine was not worthy of First Amendment protection. Times are obviously different today — paging Kim Kardashian — but the tendency to cherry pick the Constitution remains.
Again, I don’t like what Alex Jones has to say. But I do like the fact I can call him an idiot. That’s America, baby. (source)
When even CNN, that bastion of anti-Trump groupthink, agrees that this is a dangerous, horrifying slippery slope, I think we can all agree we’ve gone way beyond dangerous.