All within a period of about 24 hours, the social media giants Facebook, YouTube, Spotify and Apple (iTunes) removed Alex Jones and his InfoWars videos and podcasts from their platforms. As Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz notes at this link, the sites have been under pressure about censoring conservative commentators, but they apparently felt that Jones’ brand of conspiracy theorizing fell outside the line of acceptable free speech.
Personally, I don’t care for what Jones does, and I would never rely on InfoWars as a news source (then again, same goes for the SPLC, and these sites use them as their trusted advisers!) But I would rather have the marketplace of ideas remain open to all, including bad ideas, with the understanding that the rancid fruit will be identified and rejected, rather than have a self-appointed group of speech police in Silicon Valley pre-judge who’s allowed to speak online.
Besides, as several commentators noted, when you’re dealing with people who are allegedly paranoid conspiracy theorists, how do you think they’ll react to all the social media platforms banning them at the same time?
Meanwhile, Bretibart.com (another site that’s had its problems with being blocked by social media) pulled up a remarkably prescient Jones interview from 2015 in which guest Matt Drudge of the Drudge Report warned Jones not to rely on social media for an Internet platform. Drudge has one of the most-visited sites online, but it’s an independent website, with only a small presence on Twitter. Drudge said this:
“Make your own place. The Internet allows you to make your own dynamic, your own universe. Why are you gravitating toward somebody else’s universe?...They are taking your energy, and you get nothing in return!”
Young people might not remember this, but in the Paleolithic days of the Internet, bloggers each had their own pages, on websites they paid to host. Then they began moving to blogging platform sites, and then to social media sites like Facebook that promised convenience and visibility, easy connections and free membership. But as always, those “freebies” came at a steep price. First, it was loss of privacy and exposure of your personal information, then demonetization of “controversial” content, and now, the corporate bosses are trying to police what users are allowed to say. This has started an exodus of users.
So where will they all go? To other social media sites that will grow big and rich and arrogant and repeat the same cycle? Back to printed books, manual typewriters, friends you know personally and going out into the fresh air occasionally? Or will commentators follow Drudge’s advice and return to hosting their own sites, independent of the speech monitors of Silicon Valley?
I have no idea what happens next. But I can tell you this: If I suddenly disappear from Twitter or Facebook for expressing a very-bad, triple-plus-ungood thought, you can always get my newsletter twice a day by email, or find me at MikeHuckabee.com.