The Republican Party is finalizing its transition from the party of free speech to the party of coerced speech. This metamorphosis is much like the GOP’s decision to go from defenders of free trade to defenders of protectionism. It was as subtle as a crocodile looking for its prey and moved about as quickly as one latching onto a turtle. A quick snap of the jaws and it’s down the hatch to be digested by stomach acid.
The latest attack on free speech comes from Congressmen Matt Gaetz and Devin Nunes. The pair – adhering to the yearning of their leader at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue – launched a multi-pronged attack on Twitter based on a Vice News report showing Twitter was shadow-banning conservatives i.e. not letting people find them in a search of Twitter. Social media sites have long been criticized for their failure to either crack down on fake accounts or the problems with their suspension process. But Gaetz now believes it’s time for the heavy-hand of government to ‘solve’ the problem by filing a complaint with the FEC.
.@RepMattGaetz on his complaint to the FCC against Twitter for "shadow banning": "It gives advantages to our political opponents. It gives them access to the platform that we don't have." #Tucker pic.twitter.com/CHJRiuvPxc
— Fox News (@FoxNews) July 28, 2018
The money line from Gaetz on Tucker:
So, are we really going to trust tech companies to be able to just decide with no transparency what behavior limits someone’s ability to amplify their message?
Gaetz had previously praised Facebook for removing a page which promoted violence against Republicans (Facebook denies removing the page, but it no longer exists). One wonders if he’d raise complaints if a conservative site was removed for allegations of violence against Democrats.
Nunes followed up Gaetz’ yowls by telling FOX News on Sunday, “It sure looks to me like they are censoring people and they ought to stop it. We are looking at any legal remedies to go through.” It appears Nunes means his Florida cohort’s complaint to the FEC – along with President Donald Trump’s angst towards its algorithm. Another pointless hearing before the House Judiciary Committee is probably in the future for Twitter and Facebook executives.
Of course, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (looking to show his Trump bonafides in a November election which will probably hinge on Trump supporters forgiving him for his “vote your conscience” comment in 2016) decided to get in on the action as well.
Am no fan of Jones — among other things he has a habit of repeatedly slandering my Dad by falsely and absurdly accusing him of killing JFK — but who the hell made Facebook the arbiter of political speech? Free speech includes views you disagree with. #1A https://t.co/RC5v4SHaiI
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) July 28, 2018
This is the same Cruz who defended free speech on the Senate floor in 2014.
It would be sad if it weren’t so predictable. One has to remember the Federalists, the ones who pushed through the Constitution over the Articles of Confederation, almost immediately rejected the notion of free speech within the First Amendment a mere eight years after the Constitution’s enshrinement through the vile and horrendous Alien and Sedition acts. The party in power only loves free speech when it serves their best interests – not when said speech or action can be used against them.
Reason’s Katherine Mangu-Ward chronicled the GOP’s abandonment of free speech in January and how similar it is to the Democrat Party’s own contempt of those who dare oppose their beliefs. She also found Americans seem perfectly happy with the notion of “free speech for me, but not for thee.”
A survey by the Brookings Institution found that 19 percent of undergraduate respondents agree it is acceptable for a student group to use violence to prevent a “controversial” campus speaker from “making offensive and hurtful statements.” Similar numbers showed up in polls by McLaughlin & Associates and The Economist* taken around the same period, suggesting that the finding of one in five college students condoning violence against speech was not an outlier…
A poll conducted by the Cato Institute’s Emily Ekins… in conjunction with YouGov found that 72 percent of Republicans say colleges and universities are not doing enough “to teach young Americans about the value of free speech” and 90 percent think political correctness is “a big problem this country has.” Around seven in 10 agree with the statement that “people should be allowed to express unpopular opinions in public, even those that are deeply offensive to other people,” compared to less than five in 10 Democrats.
But further queries reveal deeply confused views about those same topics: 72 percent of Republicans would support making it illegal for an American to burn or desecrate the flag, and 53 percent favor Trump’s idea of stripping flag burners of their U.S. citizenship. Nearly two-thirds say they would like to see NFL players fired for failing to stand during the anthem.
This is, of course, a major problem and only likely to grow exponentially as ‘the mob’ looks to regulate whoever can express what opinion. Democrats – along with some conservatives – suggested it was time for big data regulations due to Russia’s use of Facebook ads during the 2016 election. Republicans are now pushing for more government oversight because social media isn’t giving ‘equal time’ to certain Trump supporters. The hypocrisy is apparent, but no one cares because it’s ‘owning the libs/cons.’
Yes, Twitter’s shadow-banning of Nunes, Gaetz, et al is a major problem. But it’s not a problem government should attempt to solve. It should be pointed out Twitter may have fixed the shadow-banning (I say may because this is Twitter, after all) because it was exposed by Vice, and people complained. That’s how the free market (and free speech) works. There are also options to Twitter and Facebook like gab and MeWe which people could go to if the big boys didn’t fix their problems. One doesn’t need the heavy hand of government to roar in like some sort of warhammer to ‘fix’ a problem and proceed to make it worse.
Government-enforced speech isn’t free speech – something Gaetz, Nunes, and Trump are either forgetting or they never believed in it at all (my guess is the latter). All it does is set the stage for social media in America to become Europeanized – with all its pitfalls and legal insanity. We don’t need that stupidity here. Let Twitter and Facebook try to solve their own problems. A replacement outlet will take over, if they don’t.