Social Media and Censorship

One of the current major concerns of the day is the advent of social media as a new and very influential 4th estate. The ability to communicate and share information with people from all over is extremely useful but it is also dangerous. The new proliferation of the internet has been a double edged sword in many ways. One on hand, the amount of information available is amazing and allows people to be educated and learn more than ever before. It also means that it is harder to lie on the public record because information can be shared much faster and reach further than ever before. The opening of communication is great but it also can have side effects. It can create echo chambers and even sometimes spread lies and falsehoods. Basically, with any form of human communication there is risk of exploiters and exploited. That is why it is not just media but social media. The social aspect gives it a much different flair and even means that for those of us who may be socially awkward or not very popular with actual people, we may have many of our stronger relationships mediated online. This can lead to a dependence that can be both bad and good. The recent banning of Alex Jones from various platforms has divided many of those on the left. I have written about how  I believe that we can set standards for what qualifies someone to have a platform to spread their views and opinions. I also said that not all platforms are created equal as some are able to reach further and can even operate without much competition. The imbalance in money and reach between the left and right means that for the right, they are able to benefit quicker from being removed from a platform because of the infrastructure in place that will create a new platform for them. They do not need to actually be that good at their job or even be doing much of a public service to gain a platform again quickly. Unfortunately, the left does not have that ability. Getting removed from a platform can sometimes mean that they will not be able to find a new one. I agree that censorship of social media and the new methods to control it are worrisome. In fact, I think that many commentators correctly see it as a method of controlling information and preventing the left from getting their message out. It is also not out of the question that Alex Jones was being used as an example for new attempts at regulating information on social media platforms. After all, they are owned privately and are able to do that. I think it is important to recognize that but my rebuttal to the hand wringing over Alex Jones was mainly about perception and reality. It was also about strategy. It simply doesn’t make sense to defend Alex Jones because he would never do the same for you. It doesn’t change the problem we face as leftists. It doesn’t change the material advantages the right has. The victim complex of the right means that will do the same thing over and over again and never have to pay for their double standards. It simply doesn’t matter to them. They are using a completely different playbook and only play lip service to the liberal ideals of free speech. There is literally no difference in what is happening regardless of your position on Alex Jones. They will still smear you as shutting down free speech. It doesn’t matter what reality is because they believe they are morally right and just and the left is evil. It helps them with their hypocrisy. If you are their enemy they don’t have to treat you as an equal. They don’t want you to respond. They view the act of responding to them as infringing on the right of their speech. They view the right to talk to anybody about whatever issue they want to overturn as a right. You will never satisfy them and in the end your principled stance will work against you. Many leftist commentators including Kyle Kulinski have made claims about not tolerating intolerance when it came to the gay marriage decision. They were right about that. You cant tolerate intolerance. But surprisingly they forgot to apply that to free speech. Tolerating hate speech isn’t a value into itself. In fact, you are enabling it. Ideas don’t just die from opposition. They die from lack of exposure. Indifference is the opposite of positive attention. But all attention does some good for ideas. Therefore, simply the act of debate and discussion cannot eliminate bad ideas. Consensus and debate is a good start but we eventually have to decide what is acceptable in current discourse. Ideas that are outside the normal discourse should be introduced when there are problems that need addressing. But Alex Jones and those like him are not actually advocating new ideas or important new additions. They are simply indulging in hateful speculation and inspiring acts of violence. Again these two things can be true:

  1. Social media giants have an outsized control on discourse and must be kept in check. Corporations should not be able to prevent leftist ideas from making more headway
  2. We should be able to set standards for helpful ideas and good policy discussions. Certain things that have definite answers and conclusions should NOT be up for debate. This might seem undemocratic but it only is because we have allowed right wing radio and shows to speak unimpeded in certain parts of the country. Setting boundaries might be cause for concern for many, but certain things have answers and there is no reasonable center. We don’t debate whether to bring back slavery and it would be silly to try to find a middle ground with that. Moral standards are important to the American people and certain radio broadcasters simply stir up anger and hatred and foment division. We must be able to determine what a good amount of division is and what isn’t. It is important that the American people decide this and NOT private corporations. Division is healthy in politics and what is not healthy is when both sides view the other as morally repugnant and enemies worthy of being destroyed. Right now the right views the left as enemies to be destroyed. Too many leftists are able to see that, but are unable to break away from the norms of discourse. The idea that everybody can be rationally convinced is difficult to let go of. It is also difficult to break away from your own personal biases. Many of those who defended Alex Jones have platforms and listeners. I do not have a platform and am able to disagree with those I listen to but I do believe that they are ignoring their own personal biases. Their platforms are important to them understandably so. It is their job and their livelihood. I imagine they empathize at some level with content creators. They know what damage these people have done to people’s lives but have set an immutable standard for themselves and use it to establish their credibility. This is useful for them. Even now, I am pretty sure I know where Kyle is on every issue. That consistancy is good for judging where people stand. But the hypocrisy on the right cannot be simply pointed out. The two sides are speaking different languages and centrists are speaking another. Their perspectives don’t allow us to communicate. The right have been told for a very long time that the left are evil and morally repugnant. It is difficult to shake that off. So i say this, your principles are admirable but they do no good in attempting to establish a better society. Your principles only matter to a portion of the left and maybe some in the center. The right values free speech only for their ideas. They understand the importance of having their voices be everywhere because it has worked for them. They don’t have to be right they just have to be everywhere and have their voices always there. They are able to continue on by money and by lacking shame. You cannot beat their ideas into submission because the aren’t interested in your view of their ideas. You can’t be trusted to evaluate their ideas and that is how they continue. It is hardwired into the right at this point. That combined with their loyalty and strict adherence to hierarchy has brought them success. So we need to learn how to pick and choose our battles. We both agree on the problems but we don’t have the safety net they do. Let’s figure out together how best to help make society better.

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