They ARE coming for YOUR free speech. Count on it. The “War on Terror” was the first wave. Now, we have the emergence of “fake news” as an excuse for shutting down alternative voices making use of today’s technology to offer the nectar of free speech – alternative perspectives. Should Social Media – the new defacto public square – be held to a higher First Amendment standard than other companies? Do individuals have “freedom of the press” or is that definition reserved for corporations dispensing “official” information?
You see it everywhere today. Free speech in under assault in the United States of America. This shouldn’t be a surprise. It’s been coming for a long time. Every time someone seeks to shut down the views of another because they disagree, freedom of speech is under assault.
I’m 52 years old. I’ve seen this my whole life. We’ve never really perfected an openness to free speech in our country. It’s always been more of an aspiration laid forth in our First and most important amendment. In actual practice, many Americans are perfectly willing to sacrifice it, especially for others, to their personal religious and political views.
A true free speech advocate places the speech rights of those he or she disagrees with in the highest esteem because there is where the threat to this freedom always lives – in our personal biases.
However, there are many, many people in America who have turned this argument on its head. They recognize that free speech can be used for hateful and hurtful purposes. Rather than understanding the power of free speech to battle such ideas, they have resorted to the short cut. Let’s just eliminate free speech when it’s not convenient.
There’s no denying it. There are people who abuse free speech. There are people with hateful and hurtful views that are not convenient or pleasant to hear. Free speech is an adult right. What do I mean by that? I mean that adults understand some people are going say things that offend us, but we understand that freedom of speech is a HIGHER principle than my momentary discomfort. It protects me and my freedom to counter those ideas in the light of day and defeat those ideas on the merits.
“To suppress free speech, is a double-wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as the speaker.”
The childish way to handle it is to “make a rule,” like in a school yard, that no one is allowed to say anything that someone else doesn’t like. That’s how it’s been handled in most places for most of human history. Normally, it was things the king or the church didn’t want you to say, but the principle is the same. Individuals were prevented from expressing their views and providing their insight in the world.
The Founding Fathers of our country, for all their flaws, were wise when it came to how politics had been played throughout the centuries. They chose for us a higher vision. They enshrined it in the First Amendment.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
This First Amendment protects three things. – religious expression, political expression, and protest to get the government’s attention. They are all free speech related. It protects your right to practice religion or no religion of your choice and prevents the government from establishing and compelling you to be a member of a state church. It protects the free speech of individuals and of the press. It protects the right to peacefully protest government actions and to express your displeasure in groups.
Today there are many nations that have words like this in their constitutions. We forget how radical and unique they were when they were written and adopted in 1789 The idea that ordinary citizens had a right to express themselves freely and openly in the public square was a game-changer. We’ve forgotten how precious and rare this idea is.
The American journey since has been a constant battle to find the balance between government and the individual and among individuals in exercising these rights. In those partisan battles, we’ve lost the magic that is a fundamental commitment that individual human beings – whether we agree with them or not – have a right to express their views. Those views may be wise or ignorant, informed or uninformed, positive or negative. There is something sacred and profound, though, in allowing human beings this freedom.
“If we do not believe in freedom of speech for those we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.”
When our leaders call us to war, they call us in the name of our freedoms. “They hate us,” said former President George W. Bush, “because we are free.”
It’s bad enough when we have person-to-person free speech abuses. It’s worse when the government participates. In recent years, though, a new potentially graver threat to this fundamental human right has emerged. Ironically, it’s emergence has coincided with technology that could allow free speech’s fullest flowering ever. That threat is corporate interest…i.e. profit motive.
Social Media (SM). You all know the big players – Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest., etc. You’re probably using them. We’re all using them. Why? Because they are platforms for us to practice free speech. You can share family photos or your profoundest visions for the world. You find when you meet all the other kids in this new public square – and it is a public square – that…shocker…not everyone agrees with you. You don’t like that and these platforms have made it easy peasy for you to Follow and Unfollow. You can follow people who sing from your songbook and unfriend people you’ve known since you were five because they don’t support the same political candidate as you. It’s messy, but it’s freedom and it’s good.
Early on, SM took any content you wanted to provide. They needed your content to attract advertisers and billions of us were willing to provide that content for free. We got a free place to connect with friends and make new friends and the SM sites made some profit. It was a win-win.
Eventually, SM got large and influential. They got investors who don’t like freedom of speech because someone might say something that would offend a potential customer. SM got so big and important that governments began to take notice. Governments – many of whom have nice words about freedom of speech in their constitutions but don’t really mean it in practice – began to sue or punish SM sites for things people said on their networks. The SM sites got smart to the game.
Now they (especially Facebook) seek out governments around the world and receive their blessing for the kinds of speech that should be allowed. For it’s part, YouTube wants to become the new online TV. So, it’s partnering with mega-media companies who don’t like the competition of YouTube’s traditional bread butter – ordinary people building audiences by sharing their own views.
While these forces are congealing on SM. The traditional mainstream media (MSM) is experiencing a ratings catastrophe it so richly deserves after decades of selling the Military Industrial Complex’s lies to the American people. In a last-ditch effort to save themselves, they’ve invented this narrative of “fake news.”
“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
This is entity whose charge in a free society is to hold government power and corporate power accountable. Instead, it has abrogated that responsibility time and again to “sell” the American people on false and destructive narratives that have drained treasure and lives from the people. Now, they want us to respect them and rely on them as our sole source of information?
The MSM has slept while governments have deemed more and more information off-limits to the people. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has become a joke. Google, the world’s search engine, and many Internet Service Providers (ISPs) want to water down and falsify search results to point you to the information they want you to see when you search the Internet. That’s what the Net Neutrality fight is all about. Meanwhile, they constantly double-down on their collusion with the power they are supposed to be holding accountable.
They have no compunctions about selling you out to raise their ratings, increase their revenue, or bend to the interests of the advertisers. There’s little to no legitimate journalism in the MSM anymore. There are no Cronkites or Murrows. There are Jake Tappers, Rachel Maddows, and until this week Bill O’Reillys who spin the news to feed the narratives they want to feed you with a spoonful of partisan sugar to help it all go down.
Let’s cut the bull. “Fake news” is alternative – non-Military Industrial Complex – information being spread by entrepreneurs on SM and traditional airwaves. This is NOT a left-right thing. This about citizen journalism across the political spectrum that has had enough of being sold war after war and other narratives by the MSM. It’s finding and presenting alternative perspectives – not fake or false perspectives – to the information being shared on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, New York Times, Washington Post, etc. It’s journalism based on research and critical thought not corporate, government, and partisan political talking points. It may arrive at partisan perspectives, but at least it does journalism 101 and asks questions about what the powerful are telling us rather than just regurgitating it.
Our nation was founded on citizen journalism. Our Founders rejected the British tradition of state-run media like the London Gazette and encouraged an entrepreneurial spirit in “the press” as they called it then. Are we ready to go back to media outlets that owe their allegiance, not to the people, but to the the government? That’s a rejection of our revolution. Have we lost sight of the advantages of citizen journalism over corporate, practically state-run journalism?
“The freedom of Speech may be taken away—and, dumb & silent we may be led, like sheep, to the Slaughter.”
~George Washington, 1783
The corporatization and politicization of SM, the desperation of the MSM, and, frankly, the desire of governments to quell all the questioning of their agenda are forming a perfect tsunami against free speech and citizen journalism.
They know where to hit you. Facebook has become prolific in bans recently. Say something that doesn’t fit the agenda of their stakeholders and you’ll find yourself on a 30-day ban. YouTube is even more aggressive because it had become the platform of choice for citizen journalism. First, it worked to demonetize alternative media channels and then outright blacklisted many of them, claiming that large advertisers were demanding it. Meanwhile, it’s inking deals with MSM and entertainment companies, who would see these popular channels as a threat, to become the Internet’s television network. For it’s part, Twitter has been caught removing posts from search and rigging its #hashtag trending system to satisfy the PTBs.
The new “public square” is starting to look a lot like the pre-1789 public square. Platforms built on personal expression are now being coopted by the very entities they once challenged and freedom of speech is the first victim. Post as many pictures of grandma as you want, but don’t say anything that challenges us or our stakeholders.
I’ve mentioned public square several times. In 1789, freedom of speech gave me the right to express my views in the public square, in other words where others could hear me. It was not limited to what I could say inside my house. The SM companies have defended their free speech abuses as legal because they are private companies not subject to the First Amendment.
I wonder. When you establish yourself as the 21st Century “public square” by asking people to post their content for free so that you can profit, shouldn’t you be held to a different First Amendment standard than a company making refrigerators? This needs to be challenged in court. Social Media IS the 21st Century’s public square. When you inhibit the First Amendment in your virtual public square, I believe that DOES rise to the level of a First Amendment violation.
The Constitution never anticipated the virtual public square, but it has arrived and it requires First Amendment protections that cannot be subsumed to corporate interest.
Now, there are a few of you who have read this far and are thinking, but I want to shut up Alex Jones or I want to shut up the ACLU. Their speech offends me. Don’t lose focus. The target is not their free speech. The target is YOUR free speech. Free speech is an inconvenience to governments and corporations and intelligence agencies. In the US, they have to give it lip service because it’s glaringly right there in the First Amendment, but they despise it. It’s forever a threat to the narratives, the products, the paradigms they want to sell you. SM and the First Amendment? Well, that threatens to bring down their whole house of cards.
“Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.’
~John F. Kennedy
They’re fighting like heck to prevent that. Are you fighting like heck to preserve freedom of speech and your other rights so that we can move with those freedoms into a brighter future defined by the people and not by the Powers That Be?
Think about it. They give you 100 kinds of potato chips so you can feel free, but when it comes to information – the lifeblood of democracy and freedom – they want you to get all your information from a few corporations that have demonstrated not to have your interests at heart. Is that reasonable?
Are your momentary inconveniences or momentary partisan views really more important than this foundational principle on which the future of human civilization rests? You’ll have to decide that. Riding on your decision is the future in which your children and grandchildren will live. Will they live in a world still trying to perfect free and respectful dialogue or one that has called off that foolish experiment experiment in human freedom and deferred thought to the state?
Ray Davis is an author, thinker, and advocate for human potential. He is the author of the Anunnaki Awakening series. Signed copies of Book 1, Revelation, are now available within the U.S. from his website, AATrilogy.com or outside the US from Amazon or by order from your local bookstore.