by Arjun Walia, Collective Evolution:
- The Facts:An op-ed in the New York Times tries to make the argument that free speech online needs to be curbed by our elected officials and private corporations because it is the cause of growing violence in our society.
- Reflect On:What is the real source of violence in our society?
At the end of each opinion piece the New York Times makes the following statement: ‘The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor.’ Essentially, the pretext of this statement is that the New York Times does not censor or reject opinion simply because it is not aligned with the opinions of the editorial staff, and will print what does and does not resonate with the newspaper’s editors in equal measure. In other words, the New York Times purports to be strong advocates and facilitators of free speech and dissenting views.
The irony should not be lost on any of us that the New York Times opted to publish an opinion advocating for the restriction of free speech online. Unlike the New York Times, which has control over exactly what gets published under their moniker, the internet as a whole was not designed with such limits in place, and therefore quickly became the real place where people were free to publish their views, uncensored. And this, according to the published opinion of a staff writer for The New Yorker named Andrew Marantz, has become a dangerous problem. In his article entitled ‘Free Speech Is Killing Us: Noxious language online is causing real-world violence. What can we do about it?‘ he goes so far as to presume everyone agrees:
Sticks and stones and assault rifles could hurt us, but the internet was surely only a force for progress.
No one believes that anymore.
Marantz apparently thinks that no one believes we can allow people to speak freely and without limits on the internet anymore. That’s funny. I still do. And so do many of the people I speak to. But let’s not let that get in the way of the crafting of a good narrative.
Noxious Language Online Is Causing Real-World Violence?
I endeavored to see what kind of proof Marantz provided to justify his notion that online speech actually caused real-world violence. All I could find was a continuation of his point that ‘nobody believes [it doesn’t cause violence] anymore’:
No one believes that anymore. Not after the social-media-fueled campaigns of Narendra Modi and Rodrigo Duterte and Donald Trump; not after the murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Va.; not after the massacres in a synagogue in Pittsburgh, two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, and a Walmart in a majority-Hispanic part of El Paso. The Christchurch gunman, like so many of his ilk, had spent years on social media trying to advance the cause of white power. But these posts, he eventually decided, were not enough; now it was “time to make a real life effort post.” He murdered 51 people.
So let’s take his ‘big’ claim: the Christchurch gunman, who we can presume has long been an angry and disturbed individual, spent years on social media with his grievances. It is because he was able to express himself online that he killed people? Where is the causal connection? Wouldn’t it be more reasonable to point to the fact that being an angry and disturbed individual is the reason he killed people?
No causal connection has been established because there is none. Mainstream media speculation, repeated over and over, is what is taken as evidence. And yet Marantz thinks it is compelling enough to use the phrase ‘8chan-inspired massacres’ with authority, as though any website whose only ‘crime’ is that it does not censor free speech could ever be ‘responsible’ for real-world human massacres.
In our latest episode of the Collective Evolution Show, Joe Martino and I discuss at length who and what this op-ed tries to convince us are ‘responsible’ for mass shootings and other acts of violence. One of the observations we make is that it has long been understood in psychology that it is the suppression of what is inside of us, not the expression of it, that fuels the type of emotions that build up and explode into highly violent acts. Check out the first segment below or see the full episode when you sign up for a free 7-day trial on CETV.
Putting Foxes In Charge Of The Hen House
Referring to this growing problem of internet-free-speech-fueled violence, Marantz asks the question, ‘What should we — the government, private companies or individual citizens — be doing about it?’ Unfortunately, he goes on to ignore individual citizens, as the only solutions he offers are to suggest what the government and private companies can do about it:
Congress could fund, for example, a national campaign to promote news literacy, or it could invest heavily in library programming. It could build a robust public media in the mold of the BBC. It could rethink Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act — the rule that essentially allows Facebook and YouTube to get away with (glorification of) murder. If Congress wanted to get really ambitious, it could fund a rival to compete with Facebook or Google, the way the Postal Service competes with FedEx and U.P.S.
Or the private sector could pitch in on its own. Tomorrow, by fiat, Mark Zuckerberg could make Facebook slightly less profitable and enormously less immoral: He could hire thousands more content moderators and pay them fairly.
In the process, Marantz’ whole pitch is laid bare: we cannot trust individuals to manage themselves, however we can trust government and the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world to decide what forms of speech may incite real world violence and should therefore be prevented from seeing the light of our monitors.
Marantz never addresses that eternal quandary that comes up whenever free speech is challenged: Which individual human being, whether clothed in an organization, council, governing body or not, has the right to determine what other individuals should not have the right to say and express? Our inalienable natural rights as human beings dictate simply that no one has such rights.
This is further compounded by the fact that Marantz makes the base assumption that we all believe that his powerful arbiters of free speech can be trusted to do what’s best for the people, when in fact elected officials and corporate leaders have shown almost ubiquitously that they act either in their own self interests or according to the agenda of their puppet masters, in ways that seldom if ever benefit individuals in society.
Calling Out The Propaganda
It strains credulity for me that someone with the intelligence that Marantz displays in his use of words and turns of phrases does not know that we are well past the era when government officials and corporate leaders were trusted for anything. And so logic would have me conclude that Marantz is simply playing along with the mainstream narrative because he has been instructed to do so, not because, as he so disingenuously tries to spin in his article, that he was once a full advocate of the first amendment but he has since grown up and really tried to solve some of the problems in society.
The fact that social media companies have already been proven to be employing egregious censorship, banning, demonetization and other practices to silence the growing voices that are speaking out against the mainstream narrative (our own company can list a litany of such attacks upon us) is completely ignored by Marantz.
The real purpose of challenges to free speech, as history has shown us since time immemorial, is to limit and thwart the challenges to the existing power structure. The New York Times and much of mainstream media are owned, controlled, and used by the power structure as a propaganda arm, and so the decision for NYT to publish this particular ‘opinion’ should come as no surprise. And by the way–I support their freedom to do so.