Facebook et al Ban Alex Jones (and Conservatives Go Berserk)
Facebook and other social media platforms have banded together and agreed to delete the content of Alex Jones, the political sleaze merchant at Infowars. Some popular conservative commentators, including Brent Bozell and Ben Shapiro, while conceding that Jones himself is reprehensible, are shouting “Censorship!” I understand that this issue is particularly touchy for conservatives who make their living on internet discussion platforms, but….
Here’s the problem: Alex Jones is aligned with the pro-Trump alt-right crowd, and has direct connections with the original Trump inner circle, through his friendly relations with the grotesque Roger Stone and others. Just as the political and media establishments in Washington are loving the chance to pretend Trump represents grassroots conservatives, thereby effectively painting all constitutionalists as vulgar, amoral, offensive, ignorant blowhards like their supposed leader, so they love the opportunity to cite a carnival barker and doomsday shyster like Jones as a typical representative of Trump’s supporters, i.e., “the conservative movement.”
I note that Jones was specifically banned from Facebook for his language about transgenders, Muslims, and immigrants. In other words, they are NOT banning him for being a conspiracy kook or disseminating malicious falsehoods or slanderous fantasies. They are banning him for being “intolerant” in precisely those fashionable areas where many conservatives could be similarly branded “intolerant.” That is indeed disturbing and portentous, and also just a sign of the times.
Because Jones is Jones, this banning from “polite society” need not indicate a potential slippery slope. But because the progressive social media world is the progressive social media world, it undoubtedly does indicate a slippery slope.
But here’s the bigger problem: As private companies, these platforms have every right to abide by their own internal policies, guided by the wishes of their preferred customer base and their own consciences. This is not much different, in principle, from restaurants that refuse to allow men to enter without a tie.
By objecting to these companies exercising their legal authority over their own property, Bozell, Shapiro, and others give the appearance of implying that it’s not acceptable for a restaurant to reject men who don’t wear a tie – or for a bakery to refuse to bake a wedding cake for homosexuals.
If this were a government agency banning Jones or others from the internet itself, it would be a free speech and censorship issue. But as long as it is private companies banning people from their privately owned platforms, but not from the internet per se, I don’t see how the critics have much to stand on, other than a somewhat artificial appeal to the idea of “unfairness.” Was it unfair when Mark Levin accepted calls from liberals only as an excuse to shout, “Shut up, you big dope,” and hang up on them? He wasn’t banishing them from the airwaves, only from his program, which he had every right to do.
Yes, the trend being established by the social media companies is ugly and disturbing, mainly because of the optics it is intended to normalize in the mainstream of American life, namely that “conservatives” are hateful “extremists” who don’t deserve a voice in the public discussion. But it seems to me that in establishing this trend, Facebook et al are merely using their platforms to exercise their own free speech, disagreeable as that speech may be.
But if conservatives are going to go down this road of crying “censorship” and “unfair” – let alone “discrimination,” for heaven’s sake — then they had better accept the implications: They are diminishing property rights in favor a “higher principle.” In other words, they will no longer have a leg to stand on in defending Christian bakers, let alone the less popular cases like racist restaurateurs. Private property is private property, whether you like the way its owners choose to dispose of it or not. And private property sometimes has free speech implications. Anti-discrimination laws, as applied to the private sphere, are in effect “right-thinking” laws. Conservatives and constitutionalists used to see what was wrong with this.
For the record, I don’t use Facebook or Twitter, mainly because I know they were invented for the purpose of making money off of gullible people by sucking their brains and time away through the addictive allure of feeling “connected.”
Final thought: If these social media platforms receive special treatment from the U.S. Federal Government, then this muddies the waters considerably. Crony capitalism is just fascism by a kinder name. If Mark Zuckerberg is not merely a friend of the progressive Washington elite, but is actually given special favors, breaks, or protections from Washington, then his act of optics-building against “the right wing” might be more than just a private expression of sympathy with the socialist Democrats. But that remains to be seen.