America’s founding fathers were extraordinarily wise and insightful and visionary about human nature, the value of freedom and the proper role of government.
Freedom of speech is foundational to a free society; it springs from confidence that truth exists (the founders used the phrase ‘self-evident’ truths) and will emerge and remain standing no matter where vigorous debate in the ‘arena of ideas’ may go. Just as certainly, they knew censorship is the path to tyranny.
Big Tech’s censorship is conscience-less tyranny run amok. The damage it has already done and continues to do to America and the world is immeasurable. It represents an orchestrated, deliberate denial of truth across almost every important dimension of life and culture and history. It’s not hyperbole to assert that human flourishing is not possible without freedom of speech and thought.
Elon Musk is no threat to anyone who doesn’t fear truth.
‘Censorship is free speech’ is the establishment’s Orwellian line on Elon Musk’s Twitter crusade
“Democracy Dies in Darkness” is the motto of the Jeff Bezos-owned Washington Post. It may sound like a warning, but more and more it seems like a summary of the left’s aspirations to control debate and shut down any opposition.
A recent example of those aspirations appeared in a column by former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich on Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s big buy of Twitter stock. The original headline — changed after widespread mockery — was this: “Elon Musk’s vision for the Internet is dangerous nonsense: Musk has long advocated a libertarian vision of an ‘uncontrolled’ internet. That’s also the dream of every dictator, strongman and demagogue.”
The mockery was understandable. “Libertarian visions” of “uncontrolled” speech haven’t actually been the stock-in-trade of dictators, strongmen and demagogues. Typically, those authoritarian figures want to silence their opponents and ensure that their own voices, and those of their satraps and sycophants, are the only ones heard.
Reich’s defenders, to the extent he has any, might claim the headline is a poor summary of his real argument, which is this: “In Musk’s vision of Twitter and the internet, he’d be the wizard behind the curtain — projecting on the world’s screen a fake image of a brave new world empowering everyone. In reality, that world would be dominated by the richest and most powerful people in the world, who wouldn’t be accountable to anyone for facts, truth, science or the common good.”
The thing is, what Reich describes is what we have now: a world in which unaccountable oligarchs like Amazon’s Bezos and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg — people who are in fact “the richest and most powerful people in the world” — use opaque algorithms to mute criticism and disagreement.
That’s not Elon Musk’s vision. That’s the world that Reich’s allies in Big Tech have created.
And you don’t have to look far to see it. Just last month, Issues & Insights reported a poll it conducted with TIPP, the most accurate predictor of the last five presidential elections, regarding people’s feelings about COVID. The survey found 65% of Americans think COVID policy in the United States is “driven by politics,” with only 21% believing it’s “driven by science.”
The poll was scientific, conducted by a respected source and accurately reported.
Google AdSense responded by labeling it “dangerous and derogatory content” and thus stripped its ads from the article. When Issues & Insightsappealed, Google stood by its action.
This isn’t the first time Google has attacked Issues & Insights over polls it didn’t like. In March, I&I released a poll showing that 67% of Republicans wanted President Donald Trump on the 2024 ballot while only 37% of Democrats wanted President Joe Biden on the ticket. Google called this “unreliable and harmful.”
Their purpose was to affect the election’s outcome in favor of the Democrats, and they probably did.
Reich isn’t at all upset about this sort of thing. He’s upset at the idea that Elon Musk might bring it to an end. Despite his bluster, Reich is in fact defending the strongmen and oligarchs who are unaccountably censoring people’s speech.
If Musk’s views are dangerously libertarian, it’s because a libertarian approach would destroy the tech oligarchs’ ability to shape people’s perceptions and influence politics.
(Reich also asserts, without evidence, that Trump’s ban from Twitter was “necessary to protect American democracy.” Well, maybe, if you remember that whenever Democrats go on about “our democracy,” they really mean “untrammeled power for Democrats.”)
In George Orwell’s “1984,” war is peace, freedom is slavery and ignorance is strength. To these Orwellian inversions, Reich would add another: Censorship is free speech. But it’s not, and claiming otherwise won’t make it so.
Sadly, though, Reich isn’t just one lone wacko writing in The Guardian. He is instead, as usual, parroting the establishment’s line.
The establishment doesn’t want free speech because if Americans can talk honestly about what elites are doing, people will understand just how rotten the establishment has become and will want to do something about it.
That can’t be allowed, obviously. If democracy dies in darkness, it won’t be an accident. It will be murder.
Glenn Harlan Reynolds is a professor of law at the University of Tennessee and founder of the InstaPundit.com blog.