Big Tech takes a giant step towards totalitarianism
Twitter has banned former President Trump for life, while Facebook has settled for a two-year suspension. How proud these mammoth-valued censorious outfits must feel. Well, the late Associate Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., is likely to be rather disappointed. As for Framers of the Constitution, they must wonder why they bothered to enact the First Amendment’s free speech guarantee.
Justice Brennan, of course, in the 1964 case, New York Times v Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 took note of some precedents underscoring our tradition of free speech, and then summed up our "profound" free speech tradition. The justice's sources included this observation from Bridges v. California, 314 U.S. 252, quoted at 376 U.S. 269 of his Sullivan opinion:
"[I]t is a prized American privilege to speak one's mind, although not always with perfect good taste, on all public institutions."
Ah, but if you are a president, or former president, loathed by privately-owned media outlets, with an enormous impact on the free flow of information, you will find a wall as iron as that which surrounded the former Soviet Union, a wall that blocks your ability to speak one's mind freely, even "not always with perfect good taste."
Justice Brennan, at 376 U.S. 270, then quoted at length from the incisive "classic" statement on free speech that Justice Brandeis included in his concurring opinion in Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357: The Framers
knew that order cannot be secured merely through fear of punishment for its infraction; that it is hazardous to discourage thought, hope and imagination; that fear breeds repression; that repression breeds hate; that hate menaces stable government; that the path of safety lies in the opportunity to discuss freely supposed grievances and proposed remedies, and that the fitting remedy for evil counsels is good ones. Believing in the power of reason as applied through public discussion, they eschewed silence coerced by law -- the argument of force in its worst form. Recognizing the occasional tyrannies of governing majorities, they amended the Constitution so that free speech and assembly should be guaranteed.
Did the Framers ever imagine that a powerful, although private, media outlet would claim the power - worse, the authority, to stifle the free expression of a president; indeed, coercing him into silence by means of Big Tech tyrannically thuggish methods? Unlikely.
And what of our "profound national commitment" to freedom of speech and assembly that Justice Brennan went on to take note of at 376 U.S. 270 in his Sullivan opinion. He wrote that the Sullivan case was considered:
...against the background of a profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust and wide-open and that it may well include vehement, caustic and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.
What would Justice Brennan say of the background of the commitment by Facebook and Twitter to silence debate on public issues by a narrowly-skewed censorious approach to public debate to ensure that a particular public official or figure would be denied his right to enjoy the "profound national commitment" to "uninhibited, robust and wide-open debate...that...may well include vehement, caustic and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials."
What a remarkable claim of power we get from the likes of a Zuckerberg or a Dorsey: the power to determine what caustic remarks may be heard on their media outlets, and what caustic remarks are to be banned. Do Zuckerberg and Dorsey play favorites as they determine who shall speak and who shall be banned? Of course they do. But that is, actually, a mere trifle in considering their flagrant chutzpah in the face of the spirit of liberty in America. Who in hell are Zuckerberg and Dorsey to trash the credo to liberty expressed by Justice Brandeis in Whitney v. California? Who in hell are Zuckerberg and Dorsey to trash our "profound national commitment" to speech that "may well include vehement, caustic and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks" on Democrats? And they dare claim that Republicans are undermining our democratic institutions? Today we recognize, as a sad variation on the theme by Justice Brandeis, the totalitarian leanings of the Big Tech companies to eradicate the Constitution's guarantee of free speech and assembly.
Republicans, speak up in defense of Mr. Trump -- or do you accept diktat from the execrable duo of Zuckerberg and Dorsey?
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