On Trump vs Google, Facebook, CNN and NBC
NOTE: I don’t agree with Alex Jones’s views. But this is solely about free speech and censorship.
The Moral Libertarian Ideal: Equal Moral Agency for Every Individual.
The Moral Libertarian Ideal is that there should be Equal Moral Agency for every individual. Every individual should be able to live out their sincerely held moral views, on an equal basis with every other individual. There is also no exception for governments and elites, so there is no excuse for top-down social engineering. Now, from this perspective, let’s look at the ongoing war between President Donald Trump, internet giants like Google, Twitter and Facebook, and left-leaning mainstream media outlets like CNN and NBC.
In recent days, President Trump has been putting the pressure on internet giants like Google, Twitter and Facebook to uphold free speech. Viewers of this show will know that I have been 100% behind Trump on this issue, even as I have had plenty of disagreements with him. From a moral libertarian viewpoint, free speech and a working free market of ideas are indispensable for several reasons.
Firstly, part of living out one’s sincerely held moral views is to be able to promote them in the free market of ideas. Secondly, if every individual is to have equal moral agency, then there certainly shouldn’t be some individual who gets to decide who gets to speak and who doesn’t, which is what censorship is. Thirdly, the reason why we uphold equal moral agency is because we recognise that everyone is wrong at least some of the time. Therefore, our ideas need to be corrected and refined in the free market of ideas, so that they can become more correct. Now, this process needs to be unbiased and unrestricted to work properly.
In society, where we see something that’s going wrong, it’s our moral responsibility to speak out. And that’s what President Trump was doing. So good on him for having done that. But now, the issue appears to be headed into a more problematic territory.
Skepticism of Government Intervention is in our DNA
With President Trump escalating his rhetoric over recent weeks, there is now speculation that the Trump administration may like to do something about the situation, using whatever power it has. Now, this idea has actually been brewing in many circles for a while. About two week ago, Sargon of Akkad released a video outlining his support for the government regulating social media, to controversial reception. I made a response video saying that I don’t agree, because that would be supporting government intervention into ideological matters and essentially giving up on the free market.
Also, let’s revisit the moral libertarian case against censorship. It rests on the fact that nobody should have the right to intervene as to what can be said, and what cannot. This is in recognition that, as human beings, we are all equally capable of being wrong. Now, I would argue that there should be no exception for the government, as they are just made up of human beings like you and me. Governments shouldn’t be able to dictate the content provided by private platforms, even if their intentions are sincere. Of course, internet giants practising censorship is a major concern. But the proper way to get private corporations to change is by mechanisms of the free market. And to do that, we need to focus on winning the wider culture war on free speech. I don’t feel like making this a government political issue, a political football, is going to help.
Applying John Rawls and The Veil of Ignorance
Political thinker John Rawls is perhaps most famous for his Veil of Ignorance. He believed that, if we are to make a fair decision regarding any issue, we must pretend that we do not know where our position in society is. For example, that we don’t know what race we are, or what gender we are. Now, I would argue that we can apply this principle to any move to give the government more power, in that we should pretend we don’t know whether the government in power is one we support or not.
Now, many people on the right are, in my opinion, failing this test. We have the recent poll in which 43% of Republicans agreed that the President should be able to shut down misbehaving media outlets. We have people cheering for President Trump to take a more intrusive role in regulating our markets of ideas. Now, I believe most of them would have taken a very different stance to government regulation during the Obama administration. This is a total meltdown of principles, I have to say.
Of course, this does not represent everyone on the right. Fox News analyst Howard Kurtz is one of the more principled people still standing. And he recently criticised President Trump for his remarks that the executives of CNN and NBC should be fired. Now, Kurtz has always supported Trump firing back at media outlets that have been unfair to him. But using the bully pulpit to suggest that private executives be fired is crossing the line, and as Kurtz pointed out, something Obama never did. If it’s not OK for Obama, it’s not OK for Trump, and it’s not OK for anyone else.
Originally published at taraellastylia.blogspot.com on September 3, 2018.
TaraElla is a singer-songwriter, independent journalist and author, who is passionate about free speech, liberty and equality. She is the author of the Moral Libertarian Horizon books, which focus on developing a moral case for freedom-based politics in the 21st century.