Shapes of things (16)

John Tierney takes up the subject of the current campaign to suppress speech in his City Journal essay “The new censors.” Here is an excerpt:

It wasn’t enough to ban Donald Trump from Facebook and Twitter if he and his followers could move to Parler—so Parler had to be shut down, too. Big Tech obliged, succumbing to pressure from the media and their Democratic allies in Congress. (Google and Apple removed Parler from their app stores, and Amazon forced Parler offline by booting it off its web servers.) This unprecedented suppression was denounced by conservative and libertarian publications like the Wall Street Journal and Reason, and by a few independent journalists like Glenn Greenwald, but the usual solidarity among the press against censorship was missing.

The Washington Post headlined an editorial, “Parler deserved to be taken down.” The Guardian called for still-harsher censorship through federal regulation that would restrict “online harms” and promote “social values such as truth telling.” At MSNBC and CNN, commentators longed for more government action—a new equivalent of the 9/11 Commission to investigate the Capitol riot—and further corporate censorship.

CNN’s senior media reporter, Oliver Darcy, called for telecom companies like AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast to stop providing platforms for the distribution of “lies” and “conspiracy theories” by conservative channels like Fox News, Newsmax, and One America News Network. On his CNN show Reliable Sources, Brian Stelter discussed further steps to “curb” the “information crisis,” and he offered no objection to the solution offered by a former Facebook executive: “We have to turn down the capability of these conservative influencers to reach these huge audiences.”

A few mainstream journalists expressed mild reservations about the Parler shutdown—the Los Angeles Times called it “troubling” though also “understandable”—but most didn’t even bother taking a position. Their attitude was nicely captured by the fictional Titania McGrath, the satirically woke character on Twitter created by British comic Andrew Doyle. “If you don’t like our rules, just build your own platform,” she tweeted. “Then when we delete that, just build another one. Then when we delete that, just build your own corporate oligopoly. I really can’t see the issue.”

Tierney separates these two sentences by a paragraph break: “Politicians are always eager for more power. But why would any sensible journalist go along with them?” In his Tablet essay “Journalists mobilize against free speech,” Armin Rosen compiles a dishonor roll of journalists “going along.”

Responses