The world is full of people saying things one would rather not hear, and its only human to want to either make them shut up or regret not doing so. Most of us don’t have that power, but if you’re the president of the United States or the chief executive officer a big social media platform the temptation must be carefully resisted. Alas, such restraint is sorely lacking these days.
President Donald Trump has a well documented history of bullying or buying off his critics to silence them, and has long made clear that he’d like to “open up” America’s traditional permissive libel laws in order to do so more effectively, and on Wednesday he revoked the security clearance of former Central Intelligence Agency director and current outspoken critic of the administration John Brennan. The White House named nine other people that Trump whose security clearances Trump is thinking of revoking, all of outspoken critics of the administration and several of them former members of the investigation into the “Russia thing.”
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Brennan lost his clearance because of a “series of unfounded and outrageous allegations — wild outbursts on the internet and television — about this administration.” She didn’t cite any specific examples of Brennan’s unfounded and outrageous allegation that rise even to the level of a typical Trump “tweet,” and one can only wonder what the Trump administration of all people considers wild outbursts on the internet and television. The official administration line is that Brennan was not merely being punished for his free speech, but Sanders did not explain how Brennan had abused his security clearance or violated any policies.
Meanwhile, crazy-pants conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has been barred from YouTube, Facebook, Apple, Spotify, and a couple of internet sites we’ve not heard of, and although “Twitter” hasn’t fully kicked him he’s currently serving a temporary ban. This is a very different case than Brennan’s loss of a security clearance for a number of reasons, but it still troubles us.
YouTube and Facebook and Apple and Spotify has the same right as any private sector publisher to publish what they want and reject what they don’t want, but at moment in the cultural revolution where they largely comprise contemporary public square we’d like to see them welcome as wide a diversity of viewpoints as possible. Jones is certainly out on the furthest fringes of the nation’s political conservation, and his embrace of such insane notions that the Sandy Hook school shooting was faked and that Hillary Clinton was running a satanic child sex abuse ring in the basement of a Washington pizzeria have led some crazy people to do some crazy things, but we think it best that be out in public view. Now we can’t demonstrate just how awful he is by linking to his most hilariously unhinged rants on YouTube, and For pure entertainment value alone we’ll especially miss the one where he pounds on the table and screams that the “deep state” globalist cabal is “turning the friggin’ frogs gay!”
Trump once appeared on Jones’ radio program and congratulated the host on his “excellent reputation,” and briefly granted White House press credentials to Jones'”Infowars” correspondents, so he doesn’t seem to mind that Jones’ unfounded and outrageous allegations and wild outbursts on the internet television are mostly about how the “deep state” globalist cabal is now out to get to Trump to thwart his heroic effort to round up “Crooked” Hillary and all the other elitist pedophiles who secretly run the country. Even so, the Federal Communications Commission is shutting down the off-shore pirate radio ship that blasts Jones’ rants over other broadcasters’ rightful band widths, which isn’t a free speech issue at all, so Jones’ fans will just have to look a little harder get real scoop on what’s happening in this crazy world.
All of the social media CEOs are understandably concerned about the rampant vile and hateful language that they spread around the world, and the sort of genuinely fake news stories that occasionally result in crazy people calling up the grieving parents of murdered schoolchildren and threatening their lives for participating in a gun-grabbing conspiracy, or showing up with a semi-automatic rifle at a Washington pizzeria that doesn’t even have a basement. Still, limiting what people have to say is a risky endeavor. Jones was temporarily banned by Twitter for his “hateful language,” and although that’s an apt description of what he peddles it also fits many others. Trump has recently “tweeted” that a particularly pesky critic is a “dog,” and made similarly rude comments about countless others, and we think he should be free do so, and that his vile and hateful speech should be out there in plain view for all to see.
The die-hard Trump fans will continue to love it, and the right-wing radio apologists spent Wednesday damning Brennan and the other nine targeted critics, and the comments sections were full of hope that they’d all be locked up in Guantanamo Bay along with the rest of Trump’s critics. We’ll let them vent, and rest assured that Brennan and other well-credential critics will continue to express their outraged opinions no matter what Trump might threaten. Censorship never seems to work, as “Banned in Boston” is still a sure-fire way to get on the best-seller lists, and there’s always a suspicion that the powers that are afraid of what’s been banned, so we hope that Trump and those squishy social media companies figure that out in time.
— Bud Norman