What Censorship of Alex Jones Means for the Rest of Us
Social media companies are private corporations that reserve the right to deny service to anyone. There is no constitutional right to demand that Google, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, or iTunes allow any person to speak freely. The First Amendment of the United States Constitution restricts the government from prohibiting speech, but privately owned companies – whether newspapers, opinion websites, or social media platforms – can censor whomever they want. That said, the coordinated censorship of Alex Jones by these companies should frighten anyone who is seriously concerned with a free flow of information in the Marketplace of Ideas. While we rightly resist most forms of tyranny in the civilized world, we should recognize that government by Corporatocracy is a very real threat to a Democratic Republic. And, to make matters worse, it’s not a threat that can (or should) be fixed governmentally. It can, and should, be fixed by the People, however.
JUST THE FACTS
Alex Jones is a conspiracy theorist whose conspiracies are often wrong. On occasion, however, Alex Jones is ahead of the curve on reporting information that is later picked up and validated by the Mainstream Media (who never credit Jones’ media organization with uncovering the information).
I’ll put his work into three categories what Jones’ Info Wars media company does. First, Jones aggregates media stories that are already public and in the realm of more “trusted” media. In other words, small but respected MSM (mainstream media) outlets (like local news affiliates) often cover or unveil certain news stories and the much larger Info Wars publishes the material and disseminates it to a much larger audience. In this case, Info Wars acts essentially like Drudge Report, passing along what others have written. This information is often trustworthy, and I say that as a media connoisseur who also reads far-left news sites as a part of my daily Feedly digestion. Second, there is independent journalism done by Info Wars, like that written by Paul Joseph Watson. These are stories researched and exclusively produced for one of Alex Jones’ media outlets. It’s here the information provided to the news consumer gets sketchier but is often (but not always) affirmed as accurate by impartial fact-checkers (if there is such a thing). The fact is, Watson and other contributors have broken major news stories that the MSM then feeds upon, regurgitates, and publishes as though it’s their own. There is then a third aspect to what Jones does, which is to provide commentary based upon the daily news, like on his nightly program. It’s here that the crazy comes out. I often find the assumptions drawn from the facts presented by Jones to be off-base, sometimes hysterical, unsubstantiated, or just downright nutty. To reiterate, Alex Jones sources the news stories of others (which is usually good), provides independent research and journalism (which is a mixed bag, ranging from good to awful) and provides commentary (which usually ranges from bad to atrocious).
Jones, in the last few days, has been banned – along with all of his media platforms – from Facebook, YouTube, Apple, and Spotify. What is disturbing is that these are independent companies that seem to have made this decision collectively. In other words, competitors are making decisions about content publication together. Regardless of how you feel about Jones, that should make anyone who is cautious of a Corporatocracy a tad concerned. And frankly, all of these companies blocking Jones and Info Wars within 24 hours of each other does not help keep millions of Americans from being convinced that there is a conspiracy to silence conservatives (by the way, there is a conspiracy to silence conservatives).
A SHIFT OF POWER
There is zero doubt – none, zilch, nada – that the American conservative movement was saved by the advent of alternative media. Leftists have had a monopoly on MSM for more than half a century, with the exception of a few (very vew) large newspapers. Most print media and virtually all televised media has and has had a strong left bias for more than two generations. Then, thirty years ago, along came Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh, who has reigned at the top of news radio ratings for three decades and is still the undisputed king of talk radio, changed the balance of power. People with viewpoints not represented by the “five networks” dutifully tuned into their AM radios. Soon, an archaic medium and antiquated radio-band became the go-to place to hear opposing viewpoints. Not only did Rush Limbaugh create “news talk radio” (he pioneered the three-hour news talk format), it’s not an exaggeration to say that Rush Limbaugh saved AM radio. It very likely would not exist today without him.
A further change came when Fox launched their news channel in 1996. Although Fox did not invent the 24/7 cable news network (CNN was founded in 1980), it created the first televised “conservative” media source that would come to challenge – and conquer – the news options of the five powerful networks. And soon, Fox News came to conquer all of cable TV, and is now the highest-ranking cable channel in the nation.
Without AM radio and Fox News, the conservative movement would have died. There’s very little doubt about that from cultural commentators and pop-political anthropologists. Even something as “given” as George W. Bush presidency would not have happened without these two sources of “alternative media.”
However, the earth didn’t really begin to shake until the birth of Internet Alternative Media. The Drudge Report was founded in 1995 and helped to break the Clinton-Lewinski scandal and, as they say, the rest was history. With the popularization of the Internet, it became easier and easier to break the stranglehold of MSM upon the American people. While NBC, CBS, ABC and PBS are still solidly blue and relentlessly leftist, people have chosen to consume their news from sites like World Net Daily, Newsmax, and even smaller but still well-read websites like Barb Wire, Hot Air, The Daily Wire, and Pulpit & Pen. In the meantime, video sharing platforms have allowed dissemination of alternative voices through media produced by outfits like CRTV, Louder with Crowder, Jordan Peterson, Apologia Studios, or Joe Rogan. You no longer needed a media company monopoly to be behind you. All you needed were ideas that people wanted to hear.
Alex Jones has ideas – no matter how crazy – that people want to hear.
However, what would happen if all the forms of alternative media began to lose their platforms because the content-producers didn’t own the media outlet that hosted them? What would happen if YouTube decided to stop hosting Louder with Crowder? What would happen if they refused to let Joe Rogan monetize his videos, even though they were large traffic boons for the site? What if Facebook started throttling World Net Daily? What if AM stations, under threat of boycott, started taking Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck, and Levin off the air? What if Fox News, again under threat of boycott, began to remove its conservative commentators? What if Twitter began to shadow-ban Paul Joseph Watson. What would happen if – and mark it down, it will – Internet Service Providers refused to give service to servers of conservative news sites? Effectively, what you would have, should these things take place, is a gigantic shift of power away from conservatism as the ideology’s lifeline of alternative media is silenced. None of the above would be illegal, because none of them involve government interference of speech. However, our Republic might just be doomed to suffer under the tyranny of Corporatocracy.
What is happening to Alex Jones is a test-run for what will eventually happen to everyone deemed subjectively by corporations as contrary to their own preferred ideology.
THE CENSORSHIP OF SUBJECTIVITY
Many might scoff at the Jones censorship and think, “Good. The nutjob done for.” What you need to understand is that Alex Jones was not blacklisted by virtually every social media platform in existence within a 24 hour time period because he’s “fake news.” His news is no faker than the Huffington Post, which is equally as conspiratorial and kooky. He was censored because he holds to an opposing ideology and this is seen as a test-run for things to come.
Consider the facts. Steven Crowder has been penalized by YouTube but not equally-as-offensive commentators on the left. Candace Owens – a conservative commentator – was banned from Twitter over the weekend for tweeting the exact same thing as leftists (only changing the ethnicities). There is zero doubt that these corporations are censoring conservatives to the point we’re afraid to speak, but almost never penalize leftists.
Jones was officially banned for “hate speech,” but what exactly is hate speech? What constitutes hate speech? It is ill-defined. Hate speech has come to be defined by whatever the judge perceives it to be. Christians should be terrified if hate speech is the criterion for censorship from social media platforms because half of the teachings of our religion (at least) qualifies as hate speech by today’s standards.
THE ANSWER IS LITIGATION
I’ll flesh this out on a podcast or something later, but chiefly the answer has to be litigation. The answer cannot be legislation, because even though we don’t like media platforms or service providers discriminating, we recognize their constitutional right to discriminate. The solution is this: If a social media company wants to act like a publisher – determining what content they’ll publish or promote – they should have all the already-existing legal liabilities of a publisher. For example, if a newspaper published a libelous article, then not only would the author be liable, but so would the newspaper corporation itself. That’s how the system has always worked. So then, if Facebook, Google, Youtube, Apple, or Spotify want to act as a publisher, allowing some content but censoring others, then they should be held liable for every libelous, untrue, or dangerous thing that the two-billion (or so) of their users say or write. Everytime someone faces monetary damages due to what one of their customers has said, these companies should be taken to court and made to pay damages. Very quickly, these companies would long for the day when what they were intentionally designed to be before they made billions and got into the market of social engineering; places of free-flowing ideas and opinions. If they are not publishers, but are only providers of places for people to speak without censorship, they would not be held civilly liable for all the insane things spoken on the platform.