Skousen: Is It Illegal to Censor Alex Jones?

World Affairs Brief, August 10, 2018 Commentary and Insights on a Troubled World.

Copyright Joel Skousen. Partial quotations with attribution permitted. Cite source as Joel Skousen’s World Affairs Brief (http://www.worldaffairsbrief.com).

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THE PUBLIC/PRIVATE WAR AGAINST FREE SPEECH

Alex Jones is the most prominent conservative fighting a battle against censorship and financial revenue as the major internet media platforms ban his content and refuse to pay him for his popular content. The Powers That Be (PTB) are working every angle to bankrupt Alex. It started months ago when YouTube denied him his advertizing revenue from the millions of viewers who watched his video commentaries. Then an establishment legal firm conjured up a lawsuit against Jones on behalf of several Sandy Hook families complaining they have been threatened and harassed by Jones supporters. This week it mushroomed to an outright censorship ban on Facebook, Youtube, the Apple Store, Spotify and others after CNN orchestrated a pressure campaign against him and targeted all the major social media tech giants. Supposedly, Alex is guilty of “hate speech,” one of those nebulous and political correct epithets that can be skewed to cover almost any criticism of anyone else. The claim of hate speech itself, if left to stand, is a major attack on the principle of free speech. This week I’ll discuss the backlash in support of Jones, and the issue of whether these are strictly private companies are, in fact, really public/private partnerships akin to public utilities that should not be able to suppress free speech.

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Is It Illegal to Censor Jones? This is bound to become more of an issue as this attack on free speech continues and expands against other conservative, conspiratorial voices. The first question is “Are these companies truly private?” If yes, then they can do whatever they want on their social media platform. Or can they?

According to the reigning legal argument in civil rights and anti-discrimination circles, once you (as a private person or private company) open your business to the public, you are no longer private as to your ability to discriminate. I oppose this expansive view against the privacy of property, but as long as it is accepted by the Left, it can and should be used against them.

These social media companies are clearly inviting all the public to participate and thus are not free to discriminate. That is perhaps why they are justifying this in the name of “hate speech,” as if that gives them a legitimate test of criminality that allows for discrimination. As I and others have pointed out, you can’t make hatred illegal any more than you can any form of negative opinion against another is illegal. In fact, if there was ever was an outpouring of hatred here, it is against Alex Jones and his points of view.

You can outlaw incitement to violence, and it appears they are trying to equate hate speech to violence, as if they are always synonymous, but they are not. Only when someone is yelling hateful speech and directly inciting violence is this true, but the Left is trying to expand the view of hate speech backward to any negative criticism of someone. Point of fact: there is no way to draw the line except at the most violent prone end of the incitement spectrum. Everything less than that has to be protected speech or Free Speech is gone.
The second question is, “Is the internet a public utility?” In many respects, it is. Even though virtually all portions of the internet are owned by private companies, including the backbone, to operate without conflict, there must be some regulation of IP address and domain names in order to maintain key intellectual property rights on the internet. That used to be managed by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the United States Department of Commerce, but that ended in 2016. It is now managed by a non-profit international consortium of stakeholders called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

Legally, there are more arguments for declaring the internet as a public utility than there are against, though being international in scope, it’s fairly complex. In essence, each country is free to regulate their portion of the internet traffic as their laws allow. China, for example, chooses to censor anything critical of its communist government, or promoting religion or personal freedom.

The US has attempted to regulate the internet before, but the latest attempt was set back by the repeal of the “net neutrality” rules—which was really an attempt to regulate the internet. Ironically, this censorship controversy could actually drive legislation to do just that. Sadly, there are as many Trump supporters that want to shut down the Leftist media as there are on the Left that want to suppress the right, as Chuck Baldwin noted:

And lest conservatives whine about being the big, bad victims in this discussion, the Trumpites are as bad as the Clintonites. Neither group cares a flip about the Constitution, Bill of Rights or Natural Law. All either side wants is the POWER to have things done their way—freedom and liberty be damned.

A recent survey has discovered that nearly half of Republicans want to give President Trump the power to shut down whatever media outlets he chooses. According to The Daily Beast:

Freedom of the press may be guaranteed in the Constitution. But a plurality of Republicans want to give President Trump the authority to close down certain news outlets, according to a new public opinion survey conducted by Ipsos and provided exclusively to The Daily Beast.

The findings present a sobering picture for the fourth estate, with respondents showing diminished trust in the media and increased support for punitive measures against its members. They also illustrate the extent to which Trump’s anti-press drumbeat has shaped public opinion about the role the media plays in covering his administration.

All told, 43 percent of self-identified Republicans said that they believed “the president should have the authority to close news outlets engaged in bad behavior.” Only 36 percent disagreed with that statement.

Yes, that’s a sad commentary on conservatives’ ability to think and be guided by the proper principles of law. I’m not in favor of the government picking winners and losers, just like Big Tech is doing. Rather, there is an appropriate place for government to strengthen the right of free speech on the internet, and preclude the use of dangerous terms like “hate speech”
Stupidly, Howard Kurtz of Fox News wants to draw a line between commentary and conspiracy, as if all conspiracy claims are wrong.

After years of deflection and foot-dragging, the major tech companies are finally having to take steps toward policing their own content. They have reached this point kicking and screaming, under great public pressure, after clinging for years to the fiction that they are just public utilities and that people can use their pipes for pretty much anything. [Actually, this is the proper position.]

But now they have united, for a brief moment at least, against a major conspiracy theorist. Facebook, Apple, YouTube and Spotify have all taken action against Alex Jones.

Then Kurtz claims ignorance by saying, “I confess I’d like to know how the four tech companies happened to take action on the same day. Perhaps they concluded there was safety in numbers.” Answer: It’s a conspiracy, dummy! But Kurtz can’t even hint that one might exist. He claims conspiracy “is not conservative—it’s at odds with reality.” Really? Conspiracies have been going on since the beginning of humanity.

They seemed to have an ally in Drudge, whose banner headline was “APPLE REGULATES HATE.” But this is just a skirmish. Just recently, Mark Zuckerberg got himself into trouble by saying he saw no reason to ban pages by Holocaust deniers. [As they do in Germany.]

There is a fine line between banning hate and bullying on one hand and censoring controversial political opinions on the other. These battles will play out in a hyperpartisan political atmosphere. But for now, Apple, Facebook, Google and Spotify have all agreed there is one person who falls on the wrong side of that line.

And what line is that? He did not even offer a clue of how to draw that ethereal line on hate and negative comments or physical versus verbal bullying. And he certainly didn’t make a case against conspiracy as political commentary except in outright denial.

The Backlash Against Censoring Jones: The PTB may have started a war they will regret. Sometime bashing a person can bring more notoriety and interest and defeat the purpose of the attack (which is to silence him). Already Jones is claiming that 5.6 million new people have signed up for his internet newsletter and podcast since the blacklisting attack began. It’s free so that is certainly possible. But there is another backlash trend that prove Jones is gaining a lot of interest from the general public. As Breitbart reported,

InfoWars has become the number one trending app on the Google Play Store, following the mass purge of Infowars and Alex Jones from Big Tech platforms including Google’s YouTube, Facebook, and many others. The app is currently at the top of Google Play Store’s trending list, beating all mainstream media outlets.

The Apple version of its App is also currently at number three on Apple’s App Store most popular news app chart, behind Twitter and News Break. In the U.K., Infowars is at number four on the App Store’s free news chart, beating Sky News, Mail Online, the Sun, the Guardian, BuzzFeed, and the Telegraph. In Canada, Infowars is at number three under the same chart, just behind Twitter and Reddit.

On Tuesday, Infowars was the fourth most popular free app on the App Store, overtaking CNN, which prompted CNN to lobby for the app’s removal.

Whether you like Alex or not, he is the loudest and most prolific voice for conspiracy out there and has millions of followers. He’s been responsible for bringing millions of people to an understanding of various aspects of conspiracy. Sometimes he gets it wrong, making himself an easy target, but believe me, the PTB wouldn’t be after him with a vengeance if they didn’t know he was effective at exposing a lot of conservatives to conspiratorial issues.

So I have to give Alex credit for casting a wide net, even if it turns some people off. Once exposed to conspiracy talk, those sensitive to tough truths are then free to seek out other opinions. But at least he gets people thinking. My many appearances on his show have helped me get exposure to millions that I would not otherwise have, and many viewers have crossed over to the World Affairs Brief in order to gain access to what many consider more carefully drawn conclusions about conspiracy.

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