Free Speech and Censorship
Kris Paronto, a former private security contractor for the CIA who was in Benghazi during the attack in 2012, has gone on a tirade against Barack Obama and his apologists on Twitter. So far, so good.
However, his tweet was based on a careless misrepresentation of Obama’s words, and seemed to promote violence against him, so Twitter suspended him for a few hours. For this suspension, the pseudo-conservative online world is up in arms about social media “censorship” again, which means those of us who are still semi-rational (Paronto literally accuses his opponents of “TDS,” which suggests he is no longer semi-rational) are left picking up the pieces of the political principles conservatives used to espouse, but have now shattered on the rocks of anger and public school indoctrination.
Here, to set the table, is the post that got Paronto suspended:
Benghazi is a conspiracy @BarackObama ?! How bout we do this,let’s put your cowardly ass on the top of a roof with 6 of your buddies&shoot rpg’s&Ak47’s at you while terrorists lob 81mm mortars killing 2 of your buddies all while waiting for US support that you never sent??#scum
— Kris Paronto (@KrisParonto) September 7, 2018
To state my own position up front, Barack Obama is and was a neo-Marxist, and Benghazi will and should hang over his head forever as one of the great moral failures and derelictions of duty in U.S. presidential history.
That said, however, I think too many people are letting emotionalism over the identity of this particular Tweeter cloud their judgment.
First of all, Obama did not say Benghazi (the attack) was a conspiracy theory. He referred, in an anti-Trump speech, to conspiracy theories “surrounding” Benghazi. He is full of BS, of course, and the seven hours during which he cavalierly did nothing while people under his control were slowly massacred is his greatest disgrace. But we do ourselves no favors by deliberately misrepresenting what he said, the way Paronto has done.
Secondly, read Paronto’s tweet again carefully. It isn’t much of a stretch to interpret him as saying that Obama should be submitted to an attack with mortar and AK47s to teach him a lesson (“How bout we do this…”). I know we are in the era of Trumpism, where expecting civility is simply out of the question; but doesn’t Paronto’s language sound a little like inciting violence against a President of the United States, or at the very least inviting others to go that way? Is that responsible behavior, whether from a former CIA security contractor or anyone else?
Thirdly, wasn’t it just a couple of weeks ago that many American conservatives still had the reasoning skills to say, “We don’t have to like Twitter’s particular political bias, but it’s a private company which ought to have the right to limit speech on its own forum as it sees fit”? As many angry online commenters have pointed out in attacking Twitter, there are alternative sites comparable to Twitter where people should go to escape from Twitter’s bias — which only goes to prove Twitter is not a coercive monopoly, and therefore nothing to worry about (constitutionally-speaking). And of course no one is required to use Twitter or any other social media service at all. These are luxuries, not necessities. And stupid luxuries, designed and intended to make users stupid; so stop letting them succeed.
Go ahead, criticize their bias, say “hooray” to security contractors who speak a little carelessly about a former president, whatever you like. But that’s different from wanting the government to control private businesses in the name of “fairness” and “free speech.” Do you want the government regulating the guest list for your next dinner party, or forbidding you from expelling a guest who offends you or other guests during the dinner conversation, on the grounds that private bias equals anti-free-speech “censorship”?
When I opened Limbo back in the fall of 2016, I had to choose whether to allow readers’ comments on the articles. I elected to allow no comments, but only e-mail replies through the Contacts page. Why? Because I didn’t want to spend half my days weeding through and deleting incendiary garbage from people I didn’t know, and whose views I didn’t want to have represented on my private website. If I had chosen to allow comments, would I have been engaging in illegitimate “censorship” if I deleted comments I didn’t like? I can assure you, for example, that if Kris Paronto or someone like him had posted the same comment on my site that he posted on Twitter, I would have deleted it, and possibly blocked him from making any further comments, at least for a period of time – not, to be sure, in defense of Barack Obama, but in defense of decency and civilized discourse.