The Left’s War on Free Speech: Battlefront Facebook

One would think an editor of an online magazine would be a staunch defender of free speech. One would be wrong.

Keith A. Spencer, Salon’s senior editor responsible for its science, technology, health, and the economy coverage, once more reveals the elitist Left’s abject contempt for your ability to think for yourself and make your own decisions.

Spencer has spewed a diatribe against Facebook with a bitterly ironic title: “How Facebook Misunderstands Free Speech: Freedom of Speech Doesn’t Matter Much If Only the Wealthy and Corporations Can Afford to Proselytize.”

What set Spencer’s First Amendment-protected cyber pen to screen was Facebook’s decision that it will not ban, censor, or fact-check political ads. Simon deemed it a “universally-reviled announcement,” because the likes of Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and some leftist twitter trolls brandishing a hashtag like an epee—and, of course, Spencer—didn’t dig it. (One senses Spencer’s universe is rather finite.)

As the Supreme Court has consistently ruled, however, political speech is the most highly protected form of speech. So one suspects someone might welcome Facebook’s decision.

After all, what is there “universally” to revile about it? Per Facebook, the company made the decision because “we don’t believe it’s an appropriate role for us to referee political debates and prevent a politician’s speech from reaching its audience and being subject to public debate and scrutiny.”

In conjunction with its announcement, Facebook also unveiled improvements to its Ad Library, which will allow users to see who is paying for the ad; why the user was targeted for the ad; and what other ads the candidate or organization is promoting.

So what’s the problem? None for free citizens of our free republic who believe in free speech. But the problem for Spencer and his fellow leftists is the lack of control they would have over the free speech you receive and disseminate.

As a result, they aim to make freedom seem a burden, one of which the purportedly altruistic Left promises to relieve you.

First, the claim “big [fill in the blank]” is exploiting you. Here, Simon scribbles in a host of Lefty bogey-persons: and not just big, but “mega-corporations” and their political minions along with “the wealthy” in unholy union with “modern advertising and PR industries” are exploiting you. In sum, the intrinsically materialist Left thinks people with money are inherently predatory. Guess whom they’re hunting?

You, who the Left now declares a hapless victim of the villain’s power and freedom.

Either you are too apathetic or lazy or both—“very few users will actually be interested in such a tool [the Ad Library]”—or you are too dumb to protect yourself. Of course, we know that “knowledge [of who is manipulating you] hasn’t always halted the root of the manipulation itself.”

But even if you were intelligent and eternally vigilant, Spencer and his fellow censors argue you remain powerless to make the right decision. Why? Because money is all that matters in their dialectically materialist world: “The root problem is that the ability of humans to be manipulated—of one side or another to ‘win’ a narrative, argument or election—is almost always just a matter of which side has more money.”

That side would be the rich villains:

Speech is free, but the ability of it to be spread and propagandized is limited to those with cash; hence, the ideas and beliefs and politicians that favor the rich tend to be well-broadcast, while those that might benefit the rest of us are deflated, particularly on a platform like Facebook.

Hmm . . . one wonders who Spencer wants to decide what “might benefit the rest of us”?

Hint: it isn’t the rest of us.

To sell his argument, Spencer cites as evidence “the academic paper, ‘How Money Drives US Congressional Elections,’ published by Thomas Ferguson, Paul Jorgensen, and Jie Chen in 2015,” which concluded there exists “a direct correlation between the amount of money that Senate and House politicians had for their campaign, and their probability of victory. In other words, money buys elections because money buys access to that sophisticated marketing apparatus.” Former Representative Joe Crowley, the New York Democrat who was ousted by the upstart and underfunded Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, might beg to differ.

To further ensure you obediently relinquish your freedoms, the censorious Spencer is happy to redefine the definition of free speech:

While a deceptive political ad may be ‘free speech’ in the sense that no one is censoring it, very few people have access to the sums of money that could broadcast such a message far and wide . . . Everything we see, read, watch and eventually think trickles down from that fact—from the whims and beliefs of the rich and their propaganda, as the aforementioned data points note.

You mean even from—gasp!—the well-heeled backers of Salon?

It’s no shock, then, that Spencer claims you need the Left to protect you from free speech.

And what are Spencer and the Left demanding Facebook do to address the “problem” of free speech? Censorship to ensure less free speech, naturally:

The social and political problems engendered by Facebook are rooted in how the platform and its leaders misunderstand what free speech is, and how it works. Facebook brass seem to think transparency—in knowing who manipulates us—is preferable to actually, say, ceasing the manipulation entirely.

And, finally, comes the warning: “corporations, NGOs funded by corporations to manipulate politicians, or politicians funded entirely by corporate executives—will fight back with all their might.”

So, how long will you need the Left to protect you from yourself by rationing free speech? Forever—or at least until they can confiscate all private property and establish a workers’ paradise, where the Left will herald censorship as the best protection against thought crimes.

Spencer’s screed is a hypocritical, despicable attempt to coerce Facebook into engaging the very corporate fascism the Left alleges they decry.

Because the Constitution proscribes government censorship, Spencer and his ilk would circumvent this protection by coercing private entities such as Facebook into censoring political speech. Having proven their bullying prowess, these very same censorious leftists would then dictate what speech will no longer be free and ration your political speech according to their own ideological whims. To the Left, property is property, be it physical or intellectual; confiscation is confiscation; they believe your property is theirs to confiscate.

It is precisely such corporate fascism Facebook’s new policy seeks to avoid. As Facebook’s director of product management, Rob Leathern, averred:

In the absence of regulation, Facebook and other companies are left to design their own policies. We have based ours on the principle that people should be able to hear from those who wish to lead them, warts and all, and that what they say should be scrutinized and debated in public.

To its immense credit, for which it should be universally heralded, Facebook’s policy is founded upon its trust in its users to make their own, informed decisions; it improved its Ad Library to facilitate them; and it refused to impose unilateral restrictions on speech absent federal regulations that must pass constitutional muster.

It is Spencer and the censorious Left who are ignorant of free speech and “tone-deaf” to the times in which they live, even as they peddle their online wares. Captive to an abjectly failed 19th-century ideology, the Left cannot recognize nor abide a world in which the communications revolution daily empowers individuals to engage in free speech—political or otherwise. (Is not Spencer’s piece and Salon, itself, an example of that?)

In short, all they can offer are class-envious pretexts for oppression and scarcity all in the name of an arbitrarily defined and bloodily enforced “equality” of misery.

One might expect a bit more from Spencer, author of A People’s History of Silicon Valley: How the Tech Industry Exploits Workers, Erodes Privacy and Undermines Democracy, rather than taking it upon himself to undermine democracy. Then again, perhaps not.

Yet, while I vehemently disagree with Spencer’s opinion, I would fight to the death for his right to say it.

Would he do the same for me?

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About Thaddeus G. McCotter

An American Greatness contributor, the Hon. Thaddeus G. McCotter (M.C., Ret.) represented Michigan’s 11th Congressional district from 2003 to 2012 and served as Chair of the Republican House Policy Committee. Not a lobbyist, he is a frequent public speaker and moderator for public policy seminars, and a Monday co-host of the "John Batchelor Show" among sundry media appearances.

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