Coronavirus has terrified many people; it has unquestionably caused deaths and illness – but the virus will go away and daily death counts have decreased dramatically in the last month (despite what many in the media would have you think). The economy has been severely injured, stripping many individuals and businesses of prosperity and financial stability – but the economy will recover and is already showing signs of bouncing back (despite what many in the media would have you think). Other issues have become more virulent like investigation of a former president and investigation of various political dynasties in this country, including serious allegations of murder and treason – but those stories will wane, some will pay a price, others will not. We will forget all these things, in time, (despite what many in the media would have you believe).
In Twittersphere, there are those who are crying Freedom of Speech. At least tens-of-thousands of users have been deleted based on their opinion, fact or fiction. The President of the United States of America has had comments deleted. There are those who emphatically support Twitter’s terms of agreement statement, allowing them to delete whatever they please. It is true, Twitter users checked the box saying they agreed and we are all subject to the whims of a private platform if they choose to act like a publisher.
We heard a story about a man who sent a small sum of money to his son through GooglePay. In the memo field, he typed “shotgun” because the intent of the gift was to cover the cost of a shotgun purchase for a young adult, member of the armed services. The father was sent a message by GooglePay letting him know that including the word “shotgun” was against their terms of service. They have the right to do this, it is in their terms of service, and the box had been checked. We are checking boxes daily.
In Facebook we see tens-of-thousands of accounts deleted because they represented a way of thinking not shared with the majority of the media, as keepers of correctness. And that correctness is defined in such a way that it gives license to individuals to commit dreadful acts that fall outside of most people’s definition of fundamental human kindness, including murder, property damage, and bodily injury. This is not unique to any one group.
We see reporters and media outlets taking broad liberties with the truth and fact of any story such that the headline is inaccurate or at best misleading. The art of getting someone’s attention through the thick fog of so many stories requires an ability to grab the readers attention, essentially in five words or less, so that they will click on the story and the website will gain the almighty ‘click’ which leads to advertising which leads to money. Those headlines rule the collective thinking and radicalize the conversation so that the chance of people coming together to productively discuss with seriousness, intelligence, and calm is all but flushed. Platforms curate for us, but the design of the very platform itself creates systems in which we are self-curating the inputs we receive for the sake of mental stability in a world of dramatically opposing viewpoints.
If you can imagine how each of us spends our days bombarded with headlines. In addition, we are bombarded with memes, a visual snapshot version of a headline. We believe in our cause, we retweet, repost, and comment, continuing to fuel the social media feeds of others.
No, the real crisis is about freedom of expression, inclusive of freedom of speech. One twitter user argued with us that freedom of speech was only applicable if being perpetrated by the government. This may indeed have relevance in a discussion about what is legal and illegal in the eyes of the laws of the United States, but it is no way negates the need to protect, even in the marketplace, our freedom of expression. A much more insidious form of censorship comes at the hands of the media and their ability to change the narrative by simply editing to fit a mainstream agenda.
Freedom of expression is one of the primary tenants at the core of what most of us believe to be American (not just in the hearts of conservatives). It is not necessarily illegal for Twitter to block or cancel voices they don’t want to hear, but imprinted into the spirit of most Americans is the fundamental tenant that our country was founded on the understanding that we must be able to express what we feel and believe. That can come in the form of allowing the press to print what they choose, allowing people to worship the way they wish, and allowing people to peaceably assemble and preach their own truth.
Censorship of expression inhibits the political and social conversation about anything. Censorship of expression is the real reason that the Democrats lost in 2016. The tamping down of voices around the country because of actual or implied censorship (or discarding of politically incorrect opinion) clouded the pollsters and pundits about the true heart of America. It appears it will happen again in 2020.
(photo by Marcus Winkler on Unsplash)