A far better course of action is to leave the government to do what only it can do — to infiltrate, surveil, monitor, assess credible risks, and then move if the impetus is there — and to allow the American citizenry to do the rest, simply by choosing with whom they wish to associate. Under the existing structure of the Internet, there is no wholesale way to prevent the 8chans and the Stormfronts from setting up websites and from communicating online — and, again, there should not be. But there is ample room for America’s tech businesses to decline to provide them with tech support, to decline to help them scale up, and to decline to help protect them. A good analogy here might be with the owner of a printing press. Suppose that a white supremacist writes a Hitler-praising pamphlet that he hopes to distribute en masse and, upon realizing that his inkjet printer is not up to the task, asks a local printer to make 500,000 copies. The owner of the press would, of course, be within his rights to refuse to provide help — and he should. “No,” he might say. “Go home and do it yourself.” Were Cloudflare, Amazon Web Services, and a few others to take a similar approach, the welcome mat would be pulled from underneath some of the worst actors within our ranks. And all without cramping a solitary piece of the American order.
Whenever the United States faces a crisis or a tragedy, it is invariably suggested in the press that the country needs a more streamlined political system that is capable of transmuting the transient whims of the majority into concrete action in a matter of days. This view is a dangerous one, and it ought to be resisted at all costs, for when a nation sets up a direct pipeline between its emotions and its laws, it does not keep its liberty for long. There is much that we can — and should — do in order to respond to changing circumstances. We must recognize that there are certain corners of the Internet that are anything but harmless or “ironic”; we must accept that evil ideologies such as white supremacy represent a physical as well as a spiritual problem in America; and we must avoid complacency, even as we defend our elementary rights. But defend them we must. Even — no, especially — when our grief points us in another direction.