For those making their arguments about whether Section 230 should be repealed or reformed to protect conservatives on social media, it’s time to declare that this ship sailed long ago. Most of the world has now come to accept that these monolithic platforms can remove people or their content at will. The banning of President Trump and a host of other conservatives from all major platforms has proven this point beyond dispute.
Those who argue whether this is a violation of free speech or a perfectly valid exercise of freedom (“It’s a private company! It can do what it wants!”) should now realize it is a moot point. Whether or not it was fair, these private companies banned a political point of view and now they face the consequences of any private company that rejects a large portion of its customers: they lose money.
The problem now is that the content creators who rely on these platforms also lose money. Furthermore, alternative social media platforms like Parler are also being shut down since web hosting and financial companies are refusing service to businesses that show any kind of sympathy to conservatives. Even insurance companies are discontinuing the policies of their conservative clients.
In effect, right-leaning opinion in all media is gradually being marginalized and erased into oblivion. And anyone who says anything about it, like Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) in his book about Big Tech, will also be silenced by legacy publishing houses. (Happily, Regnery this week announced it would pick up Hawley’s book.)
It must be added that this marginalization of conservatives and conservative thought has taken place in all other areas of public life. For a long time now, conservative employees and students have known they can be fired and kicked out of establishment institutions for their opinions.
All this amounts to a systemic prejudice against conservatives. If one ascribes to conservative philosophy and rejects progressive identitarian ideology, it is quite possible, and probable, to shut him out of all institutions. Perhaps, he can live off the grid and strive for self-sufficiency in the style of Henry David Thoreau, or more likely he will live the life of a pariah residing in physical and intellectual ghettos for the rest of his days.
Before considering the great animus that fuels this dystopia, it is important to understand the conditions that enabled it. One of the great changes in the 21st century has been the American government’s decline from a democratic republic to a plutocratic oligarchy (or a “managed democracy” as Patrick Basham puts it); the other great change has been the American economy’s decline from a capitalist free market society to a corporatist oligopoly. In other words, big government and big business have grown even bigger, and the people running those institutions, consequently, have become more powerful. By contrast, the citizens, employees, and customers must increasingly conform to the dictates of the elite.
Therefore, any kind of effort to reform the government or business would have to require some kind of breakup. For businesses, this means breaking up the monopolies that destroy competition and heedlessly push their political agendas onto their customers. The biggest culprits in the post-COVID age are not necessarily Facebook and Twitter, but Google and Amazon. Roughly speaking, Google has a monopoly on all internet traffic while Amazon has a monopoly on all retail. If these two companies blackball a website or a business, it will be virtually impossible for them ever to grow or make a profit.
Last year, a class-action antitrust lawsuit was launched against Google, but this is unlikely to go anywhere with a new administration that’s friendly with Big Tech. And nothing much has happened to Amazon which continues to kill off competition and rake in billions from continued lockdowns. For now, the best option for fighting today’s monopolies is to stop using them whenever possible.
So if big business can’t be broken up, is it feasible to break up big government? Perhaps, but not in the ways that conservatives have already tried.
The Tea Party tried to fight big government, particularly Obamacare, with an emphasis on the Constitution’s checks and balances. The MAGA movement tried to fight the establishment behind big government—“the swamp”—with a populist agenda. Neither was enough to tame the leviathan.
Rather, the issue needs to be reframed, away from institutions and more towards the individual. This kind of leftist totalitarianism needs to be called out and addressed for what it is: discrimination. When institutions can arbitrarily shut people out of public life for their political beliefs, it is no different than doing the same on the basis of skin color, religion, sex, or sexual orientation. It is a blatant violation of equal protection to marginalized groups guaranteed in the 14th Amendment.
Writer Chad Felix Greene makes this very point in a still-extant Twitter thread: “This is a Civil Rights movement.” He rightly points out how the Left doesn’t merely disagree with conservatives and seek to persuade them to change their positions; they absolutely loathe conservatives and seek to eliminate (or “cancel”) them.
Consequently, Greene recommends that the conservative politicians extend civil rights protections to political minorities: “1st step is adding Political Affiliation to anti-discrimination AND hate crime laws because the left targets us for physical violence. Create the legal framework to force businesses and corporations to defend their discrimination policies.” If a business throws out a customer or rejects a client for “inciting violence” and “promoting hate” (see Politico’s response to Ben Shapiro), they will need to do more than citing that person’s presence at a Trump rally or being a member of the NRA.
In today’s political climate, where conservatives have endured every invective imaginable, such protections become necessary. The leftist movement has cast conservatives as not just wrong, but evil. In his 2007 book, The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil, psychologist Phillip Zimbardo explains how this works:
The process begins with creating stereotyped conceptions of the other, dehumanized perceptions of the other, the other as worthless, the other as all-powerful, the other as demonic, the other as abstract monster, the other as a fundamental threat to our cherished values and beliefs.
Read any article of a “mainstream” publication, such as Hillary Clinton’s recent Washington Post op-ed, or scroll through any social media, and this messaging is everywhere.
This is why conservatives won’t even bother engaging in argument. They are understandably scared of the other side. So many thoughtlessly believe the narratives, as has been shown with the mindless compliance with COVID-19 restrictions. If the authorities say that conservatives are a danger and need to suffer, does anyone think that the typical leftist has the wherewithal or rationality to refuse?
America is moving into dark territory, eerily similar to 1930s Germany or 21st-century Venezuela. Many Americans feel disenfranchised after the questionable results of the 2020 election, and many now feel like they are being pressured to ignore reality. Their champion was impeached again and faces a (likely unconstitutional) Senate trial, leaving them without a leader and without much hope.
Such a moment calls for courage and patience along with a viable strategy forward, which should take the form of nonviolent resistance to the violation of civil rights. Conservatives shouldn’t seek common ground and compromise, but identify the conflict and correct it. They should start with protecting the individual, then move outward. Otherwise, this situation will only worsen and lawful remedies will disappear.