On Censorship through Purportedly Private Businesses

Censorship

Given the consolidation of most media sources in the United States and the control of worldwide social media infrastructure (the Internet, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Microsoft, Apple, etc.), those who truly believe in democracy and liberty are facing an existential crisis. Many of us believed that social media would provide, “We the People” with a means of circumventing the extreme, one sided propaganda machine that the mainstream media has become but some of us have always warned that that would soon prove inaccurate, and it has.

Social media was, for a brief time, the only vehicle providing the citizenry with a full spectrum of information including a great deal of information the mainstream media would not provide. It circumvented what minority political groups had long referred to as the conspiracy of silence, murder of ideas and alternative political groups by refusing to cover them. Perhaps what Simon and Garfunkel subconsciously warned us about in their protest classic, “Sounds of Silence”. But private corporations control both the mainstream social media infrastructure and platforms (Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Microsoft, Apple, etc.) and now censor both, filtering the information we get. Exactly what George Orwell warned us about in his classic 1984. Their conduct is clearly monopolistic and thus clearly illegal but government too has been infiltrated by kindred souls and in a practice akin to the Conspiracy of Silence, selective non-prosecution, and thus anti-monopolistic laws provide us with no protection. So too have non-governmental organizations we once relied on to defend our civil liberties, organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union which once protected free speech but which has become as irrelevant and hypocritical as the Anti-Defamation League which once protected freedom of religion and cultural tolerance.

It is not only Alex Jones who is being censored, or only the most conservative groups, or even racists groups or advocates of violence, or even jihadists, but also the real left (those who believe that social and collective interests must predominate when in irresolvable conflict with individual interests) leaving only faux liberal Clinton – Obama operatives and supporters free to expound their views. My posts and writings, like those of many others on the real left have been filtered so that they reach less than five percent of our former audience, censorship without notice or due process.

We used to believe in free speech on the basis that the truth would predominate and we could decide for ourselves what was accurate even if it took a while and even if we made mistakes. That is the essence of democracy. But democracy is not what the mainstream media and the social media platforms want. They are owned by a tiny minority of private interests who buy and pay for the institutions that govern us through legalized bribes in the form of campaign contributions and will do whatever they have to to protect their investment. As populism, democracy that disdains the institutional filters that make it irrelevant, began to circumvent them preventing their imposition of candidates we despised, they counterattacked using all means at their disposal, hoping to eliminate even the semblance of democracy.

Democracy is frequently wrong, it frequently constrains liberty and minority rights. Alex Jones may be wrong in his substantive beliefs. Many of those censored are people and causes we despise. But as antifascists German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) warned concerning the cowardice of German intellectuals following the Nazis’ rise to power and subsequent purging of their chosen targets, group after group:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

We have apparently become those we so criticized and fought against and thought we’d conquered.

And we are paying the price.
_______

© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2018; all rights reserved. Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia although he has primarily lived in the United States of America (of which he is a citizen). Until recently he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales. He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies). He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.

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