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The friend I mentioned in a recent post — who had expressed skepticism about my remarks on censorship — has offered a comment. His observations are worth considering and responding to…
“The majority of online social media is the cyberspace version of the National Enquirer and just as reliable.
“I and my wife have had posts taken down by the Facebook police. We have both been sentenced to do time in Facebook prison. They are Equal Opportunity Discriminators.
“The left wing would have all right wing books, articles, documentaries, film, thoughts, acts, behaviors disappear.
“The right wing would have all left wing books, articles, documentaries, film, thoughts, acts, behaviors disappear.
“Does any of it disappear? NO! Is either wing happy about that? NO! Do both wings piss and moan and gripe and complain and cry foul about it? Endlessly, and with feeling.
“There are an infinite number of spots for messages to land and they do land, and we all do hear and read and view them. And we all make our own judgments about all of it.
“Are all the books still being written? Are all the books still being read? Are all the books having an impact in some degree or other?
“Is anything ‘effectively’ banned? NO!
“‘Banned’ Is a great tag line and marketing tool. It makes things more sought out. Tell us we can’t do it, it goes to the very top of our to-do list.
“Any other questions?”
Well yes, there are other questions.
As I mentioned, my friend is a very creative writer. I would add expressive (not to say salty). His work is highly reliant on traditional American freedom of speech.
And so I would reply to him accordingly…
There’s a certain comfort in saying “Everybody does it” — that is, the Left suppresses the Right, and the Right suppresses the Left. Much like saying “All politicians are crooks,” it avoids making awkward political distinctions.
Now, I can’t deny that conservatives would be happy if obtaining the books of leftward authors required more effort. In fact, there was a time when books, movies, and other creative output considered “un-American” were actively suppressed by the Right.
My friend and I are both old enough to remember blacklists (or at least remember hearing about them). And we would both acknowledge that it was the folks who considered themselves “liberals” or “progressives” who were the most vocal opponents of that 1950s version of “cancel culture.”
Efforts to curtail leftist ideas weren’t successful, however. Hollywood writers who found themselves blacklisted were largely able to work under assumed names, or by hiring representatives to “front” for them. In 1976 Woody Allen made a movie about that very situation.
On the literary side, there were lots of book publishers and magazines willing to propagate out-of-favor political thinking. The mainstream book market accommodated many works imbued with liberal themes or socially conscious story lines, even if those ideas often had to be presented in somewhat subtle ways.
Also, there were rightest figures on the intellectual / ideological scene who refused to participate in the censorship of that time; William F. Buckley, Jr. and Russell Kirk come to mind. Indeed, conservative outlets didn’t squelch leftist writings, they criticized them openly, contributing productively to the public debates of the day.
And after a few years of tension, all of this exploded into the social and political turmoil of the “Sixties,” in which my friend and I were steeped.
The situation today is different. Leftward viewpoint dominates the world of literary and pop culture producers. And it exercises powerful leverage over nearly all structures of finance, marketing and distribution. Schools and colleges are in virtual lockstep behind “woke” dogmas. Only a handful of producers and publishers offer ideological alternatives.
This cultural domination isn’t new, and for awhile it wasn’t crippling. Conservatives set forth their ideas, and people accepted or rejected them.
But things have changed.
Gradually, channels of communication are being choked off by the forces of the Left. In particular, the Internet (which didn’t exist when my friend and I were young) has been brought under the near-total control of companies and organizations that not only disagree with conservative or traditional thinking, but are actively hostile to it, that collude to block it, and that feel morally justified in pounding it into obscurity.
This attitude is evident in what’s being done to undermine free-speech social-network startups like Parler and Gab, and to sabotage content producers like Prager University, One America News, the Babylon Bee, and others.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas recently addressed the market concentration that makes this kind of highhandedness possible. In a ruling on a case involving the blocking of accounts by Twitter, Thomas wrote…
“Today’s digital platforms provide avenues for historically unprecedented amounts of speech…. Also unprecedented, however, is the concentrated control of so much speech in the hands of a few private parties. We will soon have no choice but to address how our legal doctrines apply to highly concentrated, privately owned information infrastructure such as digital platforms.”
In particular Thomas attacked the argument that social networks are private companies free to determine what they will carry, and content providers can place their messages elsewhere…
“It changes nothing that these platforms are not the sole means for distributing speech or information,” Thomas wrote. “But in assessing whether a company exercises substantial market power, what matters is whether the alternatives are comparable. For many of today’s digital platforms, nothing is.”
The censorship we see today is not a matter of whim, or even of simple narrow-mindedness. Rather, it reflects a huge philosophical shift that’s taken place on the Left, especially in the major media. NBC News anchor Lestor Holt gave voice to this changed attitude in a recent speech accepting the Edward R. Murrow Award for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism…
“I think it’s become clearer that fairness is overrated,” he said. “The idea that we should always give two sides equal weight and merit does not reflect the world we find ourselves in …. Decisions to not give unsupported arguments equal time are not a dereliction of journalistic responsibility or some kind of agenda, in fact, it’s just the opposite.”
So speaks the most highly regarded network news anchor of our day.
Rightwing outlets continue to exist (though some are struggling severely). And in all fairness, I should note that my attention gets drawn to many important issues and conservative writings through posts I come across on Facebook. The Left’s thought control is not complete.
At the same time, Twitter has ejected Donald Trump. Major news media ignore him (when they aren’t celebrating his current travails, or painting him as a mortal danger).
Now, this is something that may please those who share my friend’s political outlook. But is it ethical — or healthy for the country — to continually distort, or try to erase, the legacy of someone who has been President of the United States, and who still leads what is unquestionably the nation’s largest political faction?
It’s one thing for leftist outlets to refuse conservative product (you wouldn’t insist that Catholic bookstores carry books by atheists, after all). It’s quite something else to prevent alternative voices from being heard. That’s the kind of monopolistic practice which progressives have always opposed. Until now.
These things really are happening. Cancel culture is affecting people’s lives directly, even within the Left cultural establishment itself. Consider, for instance, the recent case of a literary agent who was fired by a major New York rep firm for being on Parler. She didn’t post anything objectionable, mind you, she merely established an account.
The current wave of censorship is real, it’s serious, and it’s not evenly distributed among progressives and conservatives. Indeed, the Left is on a search-and-destroy mission now — not just advancing it’s own cause, but attempting to eliminate all opposition and resistance.
That’s about as “un-American” as things get. And those who are committed to free expression — as my friend is — must surely see this as an evil which must be fought.
This meme currently circulating on Facebook (at least I hope it’s still being allowed to circulate) views our current concerns about online censorship in light of a prescient observation by Founding Father Benjamin Franklin…
The Federalist analyzed Lester Holt’s speech, along with other expressions of the current philosophy of journalism shared by mainstream media figures described as being…
“…less concerned with searching for truth than being the arbiters of it.”
For instance, the piece highlighted CNN’s Brian Stelter, an advocate of “reducing information pollution,” who insisted that…
“Freedom of speech is different than freedom of reach.”
Check out the essay by Federalist intern Gabe Kaminsky at…
Writer, urban analyst, and blogger Aaron Renn recently issued a call to action, urging rightwing think tanks to take the initiative in creating alternative online platforms. He charged that, for all their commendable work in policy development, conservative thinkers have dropped the ball in the area of high-tech communications, and he asked…
“Is there a single research group focused on technology and social media in the vast public policy apparatus of Conservatism, Inc.? What conservative groups have published original research into how social networks are organized, how information propagates through them, who is banned (or shadowbanned) by these companies, what actions typically trigger bans, etc.?”
Renn didn’t shy away from probing into why the principal rightest groups have held back…
“The dirty secret is that some conservative players and institutions probably like these deplatformings, as they mostly affect people who are outside rightist agitators or populists who might threaten their status as the ‘rightful owners’ of conservative politics in the country.”
You can read his provocative essay at The Federalist…