You don’t have to obey.
You don’t have to submit.
How to Save Facebook, Google, Free Speech and Maybe The World
by L. Reichard White
Special to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise
The New Zealand Government banned live-stream video of the March 2019 Christchurch Mosque attack and threatened to punish anyone who re-posted it. Ten years in prison and a hefty fine is what the NZ law against “ objectionable content” allows.
Is that good or bad?
Facebook was held responsible for failing to quash the real-time live-stream in the first place—not to mention the thousands of reposts. So Mr. Zuckerberg squealed for help. In particular, he requested government regulation .
That’s understandable if not excusable. Facebook’s flubs, f-ups, and blunders in it’s other inept attempts at censorship are already legion, and quickly becoming legendary. This one for example—
Even if it was unbiased, facebook is clearly unable to do censorship. The results of its attempts make a bull in the china shop look like a meticulous curator in the British Museum.
As a result of these inept maneuvers, Mr. Zuck’s organization is losing literally millions of users. And customers.
Such flubs, f-ups, and blunders shouldn’t be a surprise since what “objectionable content” amounts to is a subjective “I know it when I see it.”
That’s how Associate Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart explained his personal interpretation of what “hard-core pornography” was.
Using the Christchurch murders as a standard for censorship, should the following “objectioable content” likewise be censored and banned?
That’s actual footage, shot from a U.S. Government gunship in action in Iraq. It’s usually titled “Collateral Murder.”
It’s just one of many examples of what killing civilians actually looked like during the second Iraq so-called “war.” “So-called” because, as of April 2019, according to its Constitution, the U.S. Government has not legally been at war since the Japanese surrendered to Allied Commander Louis Mountbatten, ending World War II.
So, should the above video be censored and banned?
If you think so, you’re in the company of a bunch of pro-war neocons and their apologists who definitely wanted that war-crime evidence to stay safely classified, hidden and/or censored.
You can tell because they put Chelsea/Bradley Manning in prison for seven years for bravely “de-classifying” it via Julian Assange and Wikileaks.
And they’ve spent approximately 30 million dollars ($30,000,000) to keep Mr. Assange bottled up in the Ecuadorian Embassy for nearly seven years.
Now recently the pro-war establishment has clumsily stumbled out of the top secret closet by incarcerating Ms. Manning again and is otherwise inadvertantly revealing its previously hidden attempts to trump-up fake charges against Mr. Assange.
How effective have these machinations been? You can find a full version of Collateral Murder directly from Wikileaks here .
If you click on it, however, you’ll discover Google’s little toady youtube has a trick up its sleeve. By requiring you to enter your birthday or sign into your Google account and thus identify yourself, Google has de facto censored it by default. Even if you don’t mind identifying yourself.
Especially with these sorts of subtle manipulations in mind, John Stuart Mill’s summation of the detrimental nature of censorship is highly appropriate—
“...the peculiar evil of silencing an opinion is that it is robbing the human race;... If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose... the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.” —John Stuart Mill
Clearly this observation isn’t limited just to opinions.
In addition to being generally damaging to society as Mr. Mill points out, censorship is inevitably biased, sloppy, arbitrary, and contentious. And since, as Associate Justice Potter Stewart illustrated, it’s also subjective, as we’ve already seen with facebook etc, once it starts, nothing is beyond the censor’s reach and no one will be safe from the effects.
Further, in a context where you know censors are lurking—facebook for example—in fact, now the whole net—you begin to worry about what you email, text and even say over your device. This creates strong pressure to self-censor. And when you begin to do that, there are a whole range of thoughts that don’t ever form in your mind. This amounts to self-censoring what you think as well.
Censorship is thus an effective form of mind control. It’s insidious.
Among freedom-of-speech literati, that’s known as “chilling.” About a third of American writers are already chilled .
If I were younger, I might be too. Apparently I should be. For making a few too many penetrating observations about two of the curiously persistent defenders of the official 911 conspiracy theory, facebook censored me and suspended my posting “privileges” for 48 hours. I have reason to believe I’ve been “shadow-banned” as well.
Folks call suspended posting “facebook jail” and it happens regularly, often with no legitimate justification and with much longer—even life—sentences. For facebook addicts, even regulars, especially ones who depend on it for a living, this must be truly chilling. Which is likely a main reason folks are deserting facebook in droves.
How far can all this go? In Germany, France, Poland , Canada , etc. they’ve managed to make it a crime carrying jail time to question even the details of the current version of what is called “The Holocaust.” There are other genocides but they aren’t taken as seriously.
This makes me curious about those who would censor—
So, are you afraid other folks will see it? Or are you afraid you will?
When you think it isn’t OK to see something, do you censor the folks who disagree with you?
With those questions in mind, I’m seriously drawn to playright Eugene O’Neill’s characterization of censorship—
Censorship of anything, at any time, in any place, on whatever pretense, has always been and will always be the last resort of the boob and the bigot. —Eugene O’Neill
But can we save facebook and for that matter, Google, twitter, instagram, etc. from continuing to be boobs and bigots? And maybe save free speech and the world too?
Since Mr. Zuckerberg has himself called for regulation, the solution is rather simple: Merely have Unkle require facebook to enforce the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, in particular, freedom of speech.
In the modern context—and considering it a “utility” as some are suggesting—facebook may also be the place to protect the freedom of assembly
That is, as self-damaging as it may be, even the Supreme Court recognizes that the Constitution supports your absolute right to hate and to vent your anger publicly. Free speech wise.
To put this in perspective, is it OK to hate Hitler? Or how about Pharaoh of the Old Testament? Osama bin Laden? Al-Quaida? Isis? Russia? Putin? Tony Blair? George “Dubya” Bush? Hilary? Trump?
Notice I didn’t ask if it’s a good idea, healthy, rational, or mannerly, just if it’s OK. Meaning not illegal—and in certain cases, maybe even socially responsible.
So the way to save facebook, freedom of speech and maybe the world is to completely stop attempting centralized censorship. Let everyone be their own censor.
For those folks who haven’t yet mastered the art of the click—and the don’tclick—it’s a great learning opportunity.
Even if Unkle doesn’t regulate them into it, Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc. should simply give up the pretense of rational centralized censorship, invoke the First Amendment, and, after possibly appropriate warnings, let the chips fall where they may.
On the bright side, it’s better to know who your enemies are and who hates you rather than have them anonymous and hiding in the bushes somewhere. Also, venting often defuses things and/or sometimes leads to dialog that does.
And especially because of the concerted efforts to create Russia as the MilitaryIndustrialComplex’s Essential Villain , that’s exactly what we need between the U.S. and Russia. We need anti-nuke Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin—also anti-nuke—to collude to try and save the world from another nuclear arms race and M.A.D. 2.0.
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L. Reichard White [send him mail] taught physics, designed and built a house, ran for Nevada State Senate, served two terms on the Libertarian National Committee, managed a theater company, etc. For the next few decades, he supported his writing habit by beating casinos at their own games. His hobby, though, is explaining things he wishes someone had explained to him. You can find a few of his other explanations listed here .
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