The social media censors were at it again last week. Facebook deleted four pages operated by provocateur Alex Jones, while Apple, YouTube, Vimeo, and Spotify all scrubbed the Infowars host’s content. Why the sudden crackdown and why this particular target?
Right up front, we’ll say that Jones falls into the category of what we call 10% substance and 90% fragrance. His conspiracy theories are as legendary as they are loony, and some are downright offensive (like his accusing Sandy Hook victims of being “crisis actors”). He occasionally starts with legitimate stories or concerns, but he often blows them so far out of proportion that they become falsehood. Other times, his rantings are so phony they don’t deserve the time of day. His own lawyer described him as “a performance artist” who’s “playing a character.” That’s his bread and butter.
But that wasn’t the reason social media thought police gave for their censorship; rather, each platform categorized Jones’s content as “hate speech.” That made for an interesting setup to the hype about the so-called — and grossly misnamed — “alt-right” rallies over the weekend. After all, Jones’s listeners tend to fall on the conservative end of the political spectrum, which Big Tech and the Leftmedia are incessantly endeavoring to cast as uniformly racist bigots. Working in concert, the Leftmedia can now cite as “evidence” the censorship of their allies in Silicon Valley.
We aren’t arguing that private companies can’t set rules for use of their systems. The First Amendment does not force companies into subserviently providing a platform for any speech. But the tech giants have engaged in a documented pattern of suppressing conservative speech, and they’re using leftist smear machines like the Southern Poverty Law Center to justify it. “Hate speech” = anything leftists don’t like.
Meanwhile, elected Democrats are cheering them on. “These companies must do more than take down one website,” declared Sen. Chris Murphy (C-CT). “The survival of our democracy depends on it.” Using the government’s power to curtail speech — even advocating it as Murphy does — crosses the First Amendment line. If no one speaks up for Jones, when will they speak up? Or will they be able to?
Finally, an irony: By literally conspiring to suppress Jones’s speech, these tech giants are bolstering his conspiracy-theory brand and rallying his followers even more to his flag. Or maybe Jones conspired with social media to achieve just that result, and they’re all having a grand laugh.