by Brandon Smith, Alt Market:
The past two years have seen a rather aggressive change in corporate policies toward the very customers they used to covet. Not long ago, CEOs tended to keep their political views mostly in the closet. Companies remained publicly neutral because their goal was first and foremost to make money. When they wanted to influence politics or social norms, they bought politicians — you know, the good old-fashioned way. The big banks still do this by funneling cash to both Republicans and Democrats alike
However, in the wake of the social justice cult frenzy some companies have decided that ideology is more important than profit, and most of these companies are deeply involved in various forms of media.
Some people will argue that the media has always been leftist in its orientation and that this trend is nothing new. But, I think it is clear to anyone who has worked in countering mainstream media disinformation that something is very different today. Conservatives are being “cleansed” from participation in these communications platforms, and conservative ideals are being erased or misrepresented on a massive scale. Not long ago, media companies at least pretended to be “fair and balanced” by tolerating a certain level of participation by conservatives. No longer.
With the advent of the internet and social media, participation in political discussion has become more open to the common citizen than ever before. This is apparently an intolerable side effect that corporate elites would like to do away with.
It is a slightly complex problem, so I’ll try to break it down point by point:
First, companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter are not honest in the presentation of their own image. They initially depicted themselves as bastions of social commerce without any interest in ideological battles. If they had come right out in the open from the beginning and admitted they are running their platforms based on social justice lunacy, then perhaps conservatives would not have bothered to join in the first place. Then Facebook and others could keep their forums “ideologically pure” without misleading people.
Second, while these companies do have standards of behavior and rules for participants, the rules are deliberately broad and vaporous. They claim their rules focus on more abhorrent behaviors like overt racism, but then go on to define almost EVERYTHING that they disagree with as “racist.” This includes most conservative viewpoints and arguments. Therefore, it appears that social media corporations want to fool as many people as possible into joining their platforms, getting them addicted to participation, and then these companies want to have the option of controlling those people’s behavior through the fear of losing access.
Third, while this is clearly ideological zealotry, social media websites are also private property. They are not “free speech zones”. They can invite people in, and they can demand people leave anytime they wish. If conservatives are going to argue in favor of private property rights and voluntary participation rights, then they must include private websites in this.
So then, what is the solution?
Some will claim that social media giants represent a public utility rather than private property and that they should be subjected to regulation by government in terms of political discrimination. I disagree.
Giving government EVEN MORE intrusive powers into how businesses function from day to day is not the answer. Allowing government to indiscriminately label a business or website a “public utility” is essentially nationalization of private property; something very common in communist countries but a habit that should be avoided in America. We need less government and less bureaucracy, not more, and conservatives need to remember that while leftists present a constant annoyance, it is big government that remains the ultimate threat to individual freedom.
They may start with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc., but where does it stop? How long before government is enforcing participation rules on all websites? How long before conservative websites are required to allow leftist trolls and disinformation agents of every stripe the freedom to rampage through their forums without any recourse to remove them? How long before government shifts over to the other side of the aisle and conservatives start kicking themselves for passing laws that are then used against them?
That said, there are some issues with corporations in general that need to be addressed when considering this conundrum. For example, many corporations are not normal businesses in the free market sense. Corporations only exist because of government charter and protections like limited liability. This is where many hardcore Anarcho-capitalists I have dealt with in the past tend to go wrong in their rabid defense of corporations and monopolies. The reality is that corporations are a product of government and are not a natural function of free markets.
Facebook has received considerable government aid. For years Facebook has been offered special tax breaks to the extent that in some cases they have avoided taxes to the IRS altogether. Show me how many small-business owners get that kind of treatment from the government!
Facebook has also allowed intrusive data mining operations including government operations and corporate operations to spy on its users and has so far suffered little consequences beyond a slap on the wrist. Facebook has even maintained partnerships with foreign entities considered national security threats to the U.S.
This does not mean that companies like Facebook should be nationalized and turned into public utilities in a socialist free-for-all. But it does mean that corporations should not exist in the form they do today if we are to ever find balance.
I would first advocate for the end of the legal protections afforded under “corporate personhood.” When a company like Facebook is sued or prosecuted for its trespasses and criminality, the company itself is treated as if it is a legal person. Mark Zuckerberg and his ilk are not punished: the company is punished. This usually ends in fines which amount to nothing more than pocket change.
Under Adam Smith’s model of free markets, corporations (or joint stock companies as they were called in his day), were not acceptable. As mentioned, they are not a function of free markets. Partnerships are, though. Reducing corporations down to partnerships and removing corporate welfare and government protections would go a long way in solving the dangers of business elites and their control of entire swaths of public communication (among many other sectors).