Networks like OAN should not be censored

In our censorship-obsessed American democracy, heads continue to roll.  DirecTV recently dropped One America News (OAN) from its lineup after months of left-wing criticism over the network's pro-Trump content.

While DirecTV attributes the decision to a "routine internal review," it's safe to assume that political activity is mainly responsible.  In a country where Trump-supporter Dan Bongino's YouTube channel is demonetized and suspended, contrarian doctors are removed from Twitter, and Facebook uses bogus "fact-checkers" to suppress information, politics is usually the motive of major sponsors at least.  Politics is omnipresent, with battle lines drawn between those on the "right" side of their history narrative and those on the "wrong" side of it.  RSBN reporters can't even discuss recent election mechanics on YouTube. 

According to the left, you're either "pro-science" (i.e., agree unconditionally with Democrats) or anti-science (i.e., think for yourself).  You're either a left-wing Democrat or you stormed the Capitol.  There is no in-between; everything is reductively binary.  And so, only "approved" content deserves to be promoted, while the rest withers and dies.  The prevailing science is political science.

In today's America, why is it so unreasonable to promote free speech?  Even if we happen to disagree with certain content, why does dissent need to result in deplatforming?

Why can't we just allow all political speech?  I don't expect much from the left, but I will allow left-wingers to make their points.  They can continue to advertise their plans, which obviously don't work.

Take OAN.  The network is unabashedly pro-Trump, and excessively so, in my view.  Even Trump-supporters will have difficulty labeling OAN as an objective news network when opinion is infused into so much of the content.  But I can still support OAN's right to exist and reach the masses, just as MSNBC or CNN can and should exist to peddle anti-Trump content and European Union-style socialism.

Of course, DirecTV is a private entity that reserves the right to drop OAN.  The likes of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are also private companies that call balls and strikes, but they forgo the designation of "platform" in the process.  When censorship becomes the name of the game, the likes of Facebook become publishers that operate similarly to traditional news organizations — picking and choosing some content over others for the sake of narrative-framing and advertising revenue.

Facebook is essentially a Democratic super-PAC, transcending its original status as a virtual communications medium.  Mark Zuckerberg's company is on the ground, influencing national, state, and local politics.  Let's call a spade a spade: there's a reason why Facebook launched a nationwide get-out-the-vote drive ahead of the 2020 election.  There's a reason why the company registered more than four million voters: to defeat President Trump.

This is not about altruism; it's about toeing the party line.  And that's fine.  It is Facebook's prerogative, but Americans don't have to consider the company an objective arbiter of news and opinion — because it isn't.

Moving forward, the most tenable solution — the only tenable solution — is to support the First Amendment.  Promote the free exchange of ideas, whether they're liberal or conservative.  Allow any and all speech, no matter the politics involved.  Companies like DirecTV or Facebook have the right to control content, but the question is, should they?

Of course not.  Not in America, where free speech and free association are guaranteed for all.  As a sovereign nation, Australia technically had the right to detain and deport Novak Djokovic over his vaccination status, but "can" and "should" are two entirely different concepts.  The ability to do a thing doesn't make that thing right.

Let's not overcomplicate First Amendment issues.  Free speech and free association are right.  They are the best solutions — the solutions that lead to maximum prosperity.  Censorship, on the other hand, is wrong — always.

And I shouldn't be censored for believing so.  The fact that it's a reality now is precisely the problem.

Shaun McCutcheon is the author of Outsider Inside the Supreme Court: A Decisive First Amendment Battle.

Image: OAN Network.

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