(ANTIMEDIA Op-ed) — This week, internet giants like Facebook, Youtube, Spotify and others banned the notorious Alex Jones and InfoWars from their platforms, and the purge is enjoying widespread support among the left, which has made a reputation for itself as intolerant of differing opinions (last year, for example, a group of Antifa protesters beat one of our own Anti-Media reporters and destroyed his camera equipment at a rally simply because he was filming).
In Jones’ case, Facebook cited hate speech, though this stance seems inconsistent considering the platform has caught flack for allowing anti-semitic content. This lack of principle doesn’t matter to many left-wing partisans, though, as long as someone they find reprehensible is silenced — even as others with far better reputations are banned from other platforms (to clarify, Anti-Media does not endorse Infowars in any way, nor do we consider them to be a legitimate news outlet).
At the same time, however, the right is proving equally open to banning speech and news outlets they dislike. A recent poll from Ipsos found 43 percent of Republicans advocate giving the president, and thereby the government, the power to shut news outlets down. The president, too, has fantasized about doing so:
With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 11, 2017
Disdain for journalists is palpable at Trump rallies, and popular right-wing commentator Milo Yiannopoulos recently called for the assassination of journalists (before claiming the comment was just a joke).
Adherents to both sides of the false dichotomy are increasingly okay with silencing speech and ideas that conflict with their own. What this represents is a bipartisan war on free speech as both factions lust after control of the power institutions that create and perpetuate the divide and conquer struggle for that authority in the first place.
Worse still, companies like Facebook, Google, and Youtube, which is now owned by Google, are aligned with intrusive government agencies and policies that regulate speech and expression on the internet — whether it’s these platforms working with government to monitor speech, colluding to install backdoors for spy agencies to access users’ private data, or Google having roots with the CIA and NSA. Further, we may not know the extent of just how much shadowy levers of government dictate platform’s decisions to allow or ban users and pages, but it has happened and will likely continue.
At the same time, public opinion is creating demand for these kinds of crackdowns. It may be true that Facebook is a “private” platform, but the reality is that whether it’s Facebook banning Jones or Disney firing Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn, whose old Twitter posts offended conservatives, they are, at least in part, responding to the public’s intolerance of ideas and opinions that don’t align with their own — and this intolerance is directly linked to people’s views on government and politics.
Aside from ever-encroaching state and corporatist power, the biggest problem is that due to people’s dogmatic, programmed, and evidently fragile beliefs on both sides — views emboldened by government and “acceptable” media outlets — the people themselves are condoning the suppression of ideas and speech, and this further cements consent for government and corporatists to continue doing just that, fueling an ever-worsening cycle specific to neither left nor right.
This disdain for free expression is parallelled in government. American press freedom in the U.S. has been deteriorating for years, Obama and his cabinet had their own blatant war on journalism, and in 2012, Congress legalized government-funded propaganda. Democrats are currently looking to regulate speech on the internet in the name of fighting the Russians and fake news, and Senator Chris Murphy is eager to shut down more pages:
Infowars is the tip of a giant iceberg of hate and lies that uses sites like Facebook and YouTube to tear our nation apart. These companies must do more than take down one website. The survival of our democracy depends on it.
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) August 6, 2018
Meanwhile, “acceptable” outlets spew propaganda for bipartisan priorities, like war and the two-party system itself (in 2016, the Washington Post ran a story smearing independent anti-war outlets, including Anti-Media, as “useful idiots” for Russia, if not outright shills, and weeks later issued a clarification admitting that the “experts” they were citing were anonymous and many of the outlets they condemned objected to the designation).
The government and their corporate partners are objectively terrible, but the influence of the mainstream ideologies they espouse has made the public they’re supposed to be accountable to so blind with hysteria that they are voluntarily demanding suppression of speech. This inevitably requires more state power as both sides grapple for government control and battle each other instead of the institutions breathing down their necks.
We can blame the government and Big Tech all we want, but at some point, we’re going to have to take a look in the mirror and stop begging those suffocating our freedom more power to regulate it.
Editor’s note: This article previously stated James Gunn was fired over old posts critical of conservatives. It has been updated to reflect that he was fired due to conservative outrage over old posts.
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