I have written a lot on here about free speech and the issues with platforming and now I will bring it full circle to something far more subjective and theoretical. For the record I believe these things to be objectively true before we start:
- Platforms are useful because getting important information out there sometimes requires a trustworthy source with a long reach.
- People who are public speakers and newspeople do rely on this for a living so advertisers are a major factor
- The amount of money available to conservative speakers is far greater than for actual leftists.
- After the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine, the news was no longer prevented from providing both sides of an issue of public importance, from having equal time. This created a disparity in the reach of leftists commentators and left the midwest to the mercy of conservative talk radio.
- Not all platforms are equal and some, due to reach and number of users are more influential. The social media giants are incredibly powerful gatekeepers because of it. This is important to keep in mind.
Now that these things are out of the way I’d like to give you my personal thoughts on the matter. I believe at the core of the concerns about platforming and free speech is a concern about self-importance and self-image. The opposite of popularity is indifference. Negative press is actually not nearly as awful as no press at all. The conservative mob mentality means that they are able to weather the negative press and continue to hammer their messaging. Many of their commentators are quite open about how they argue in bad faith. Ben Shapiro is a good example of this. He has tips for debating leftists, even though he clearly has never debated an actual lefty. Negative press is better than none and the carping about free speech is partially a defense against the realization, the certain ideas are slowly being less acceptable. It might be hard to imagine that racism is still something nobody willingly accepts about themselves considering who is in the White House but the perception about the ideas in the minds of conservatives is still there. They keep on bitching despite the fact that they literally hold all the power at the moment. They call the left weak and strong at the same time. The contradictions are like double-think, it is what gets them through the day. But the left also has fears regarding these issues. Leftists who have platforms often will be quite absolute about free speech. They will stick up for conservatives even though they would never do the same as them. I do not agree that they should but I think I understand why they do it. Many of these people are funded by viewers or smaller organizations. They have their platform despite all the odds and at some level they instinctively recoil at the thought of losing their platform. Nobody should blame them for this, losing your job is something we all don’t want. Lefty commentators believe in the messages they speak and this is what I like most about them. But they seem to forget what it means for most Americans who do not have the platform and whose speak doesn’t have as wide an impact. Unlike people who have shows, most of us don’t have that. The platform is a responsibility and if you truly care about the public interest you must be responsible. I feel like there needs to be a mix of pragmatism and radical critical thinking to solve today’s problems. I feel like the liberal framework has failed and we must be brave enough to try something else. But long term plans are just as important as the short term. For example, the moderates tell us the situation on the ground precludes certain legislative ideas, due to lack of members in power who support whatever policy you want. This is partially true but I would argue that even if you don’t win on it, the act of pushing for it can be quite galvanizing. The conservatives tried to repeal Obamacare a bazillion times. It was ridiculous but it fired up their base and now they have all three branches of government. Their dumb ideas never change and the reason is, they are fighting for them regardless of the situation on the ground. I’m not saying ignore the present and the short term, you must have solutions that mitigate harm in the meantime, but you should have a long-term gameplan. The reactionary nature of politics keeps everything in the short term via election cycles. However, the corporations and their think tanks have had a long term game plan that has reaped dividends. They have nearly dismantled the entire social safety net and evaded any sort of repercussions. The eyes are always on government. The government is the only protection against the big businesses and the big businesses know it. We must be smarter and we must be willing to take risks and lose. We must expect the media to mock us and belittle us. They expect us to lose focus and have our movements die from a thousand cuts. But the long game is something we can win and we must win. We can make a better world.