MATTHEW BOOSE: Conservatives should stop defending Big Tech

May 13, 2019

When Alex Jones, Paul Joseph Watson, and several other “far right” figures were banned from Facebook this month, corporate media celebrated the next step of their un-personing and, by extension, the left’s tightening grip on conservatism.

CNN anchors and beltway “conservatives” lauded Facebook’s decision in unison. The Washington Post published an editorial dancing around the obvious message: that they were glad to see these “mostly conservative” figures chased out of society.

The corporate journalists who accuse these *scare quotes* far-right figures of spreading false and malicious information are far more powerful, and dangerous, themselves. But Big Tech is glad to squeeze these already-fringe, relatively powerless figures into total irrelevance.

Big Tech will not protect conservatives. Why, then, do some rightists still insist on being persecuted?

For some, the conservative instinct to be wary of government makes inaction preferable to intervention; weakly pointing out that the rules are unfair is enough.

National Review’s David French suggests that famously opaque Big Tech corporations like Facebook voluntarily adopt a policy to be fair to all viewpoints.

But why should they do that? That’s not their goal. No one is forcing them to be fair; why should they?

It is getting more difficult for conservatives and even libertarians to reconcile a nominal belief in corporate rights with the censorship that they suffer at the hands of tech conglomerates. Many are left observing that companies like Facebook apply double standards while suggesting that nothing be done about it, assuming that “build your own Facebook” is not a serious proposal.

Kevin Williamson extends the logic of treating corporate rights as sacrosanct to its extreme: why should “extremists” like Alex Jones be allowed to use telephones? Have medical care? Buy houses?

These examples are more theoretical, but corporate censorship by Big Tech is in the here and now. The censors will not stop with barring “extremists” from social media websites.

While some are content with merely pointing out that there is a double standard, others respond with a more vindictive, but no more effective, line of reasoning. According to this response, progressives are just loading their own gun with each incursion they make on free speech.

Echoing this sentiment, Williamson concludes that progressives are taking a victory lap in error. They have only empowered corporations to dictate the norms of public discourse, a trend that could someday turn against them.

But who dictates the sensibilities of those big corporations? The marriage between progressivism and capital has become tightly wound. Does anyone really think that corporations will someday soon begin endorsing traditional values?

The notion that progressives are paying the rope that may wind up around their own necks is based on a misunderstanding of who is taking orders from whom. Corporations follow the trends that progressive moralists establish, not the other way around.

When Big Tech corporations overwhelmingly shape norms in one political direction, it no longer suits conservatives to champion their rights over their own. But many still do, whether out of a slavish loyalty to corporate rights, or a naive belief that the left’s crackdown on free speech will eventually somehow backfire.

The idea that progressives will eventually get theirs in a moment of poetic justice is an impotent revenge fantasy. When was the last time corporate journalists were held accountable for attacking conservatives?

Has a single reporter lost their job over the Covington Catholic scandal or Russiagate?

Progressives never suffer when they suppress their adversaries in the name of combating “hate speech.” They win every time, and they know it.

They know that there will be no freeze peach final judgment. John Locke will not come down from the sky in a blaze of glory to vanquish the blue hairs.

Why are corporate journalists celebrating Alex Jones’ deplatforming? Because it means they’re winning, and they know it.

Liberals will never lose when “free speech” is curbed. This can often be mystified by the muddled narrative that “classical liberals” use to describe censorship by mysteriously apolitical “authoritarians.”

“Free speech” is not an ideology, and “authoritarians” is not politically descriptive.

To begin with, progressives don’t see themselves as attacking “free speech” at all. Perhaps they should be taken at their word. They are driven instead by a religious compulsion to squash “hate,” by which they mean bigotry, as well as just about any trace of Western tradition.

For the left, it’s very simple: political dissidents who pose a challenge must be silenced. They are not as interested in a grand attack on “free speech” as some of their detractors probably imagine.

To this extent, “free speech” warriors in the center will probably be safe in the long run, at least to the extent that their underlying ideological commitments to an open society are similar enough to those of the “authoritarians.” After all, classical liberals belong to the same ideological family as the “authoritarian” liberals they decry.

The left is interested instead in targeting certain figures and ideas, conservative ones, which challenge their control. The “free speech” warriors closer to the center, who more often act as ideological gatekeepers than genuine defenders of “open inquiry,” will probably be fine.

“Free speech” does not protect everyone equally; rather, it exists as a catch-all for the exception of political undesirables. It is a remnant of an unraveling social contract, a plank of constitutional driftwood upon which all believers in yesterday’s norms are made to cling.

Under the present circumstances, progressives do not exist at the sufferance of their adversaries; conservatives do. But the grandiosity of the “free speech under attack” narrative produces paralyzing intellectualization.

The left isn’t really winning, see; everyone loses when free speech is curbed. Eventually, all will be subjected to the “authoritarians” when free speech is gone — perhaps even the liberals who empowered them.

To believe that progressives are somehow losing when they deplatform conservatives is an exercise in self-flagellation. Progressives don’t need “free speech” for protection. They don’t care that their rules are unfair. They don’t care about the rights of their adversaries to speak freely, think freely, and earn a living. Big Tech shares these views, and will enforce them accordingly.

Alex Jones’ banning does foretell the purging of more conservatives, and less extreme ones, from society. That wave may eventually come for the centrists too, at least those right of center enough to challenge liberalism.

But it will not end with the “authoritarians” getting their come-uppance. Seriously, do the classical liberals who worship Orwell remember how 1984 ends?

Complaining about double standards is idle enough. But some conservatives, whether by marinating in impotent, grandiose narratives or merely toeing the line of libertarian corporatism, continue to support their own persecution.

To fight Big Brother, you have to actually fight Big Brother — not fight for the right of Big Brother to stomp you in the face.

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Matthew Boose

Matthew Boose is a staff writer for Conservative Institute. He has a Bachelor's degree from Stony Brook University and has contributed to The Daily Caller and The Stony Brook Press.