Considering the many evils proliferating on the internet, many people may conclude that the world would be better without it. Far from unleashing the golden age of free information and exchanging ideas, the internet has only facilitated the worst in humanity. Every extremist finds his audience to radicalize and mobilize, every troll finds a discussion to poison and corrupt, and every pervert finds a mindboggling abundance of pornography to satisfy his addiction.
However, with all these evils comes the great good of freedom. The internet has brought people real choice in their media. True, most abuse this freedom and waste their time re-watching “Friends” episodes or sounding off on relatively trivial topics, but a fair amount of people have benefited from this freedom. They have access to better entertainment, a greater diversity of opinions, and can enjoy all this at their leisure.
With the rise of streaming technology and access to vast libraries of content, the arts and entertainment continue to evolve and accommodate consumers’ preferences. On one hand, this has led to the niche-ification that divides audiences and takes away a common culture; on the other hand, it has improved the quality and possibilities of arts and entertainment. Depending on how people respond to this change, this can either bring about a cultural renaissance or accelerated degeneration.
How Would News Look without the Internet?
Perhaps the clearest instance of the internet’s effects has been in the news and commentary. Not surprisingly, this is where readers will find the most wailing and gnashing of teeth. Pundits, podcasters, and journalists who dissent from the mainstream leftist narrative have now found a home online and can challenge this monopoly on thought. Many of them are conservative, although not all, and their presence has been a great boon to the public good: audiences are better informed, clearer in their logic, and affirmed in their values.
Those who doubt this should consider how the news would look without the internet. In the past week, Democrats voted to hold the attorney general in contempt, Hamas launched hundreds of rockets into Israel, a state representative filmed himself taunting and harassing pro-life protesters, a school shooting happened at a high school in Colorado, Georgia passed a heartbeat bill to limit abortions, the revolution in Venezuela continued, President Trump imposed tariffs on China, North Korea launched a couple of missiles again, and Facebook banned controversial public figures from their service.
In a world dominated by mainstream news, more than half of these events would probably not receive any kind of attention, and the few meriting a mention would immediately be run through a progressive filter. Rather than discussing the items listed above, the mainstream would run through the many critiques of Donald Trump along with the accompanying speculations (like the current “constitutional crisis” behind Attorney General William Barr simply following the law), deliver the weekly puff piece about some Democratic presidential candidate (this week was Joe Biden), and making awkward defenses for anti-Semites (on a late-night talk show, no less).
Accuracy and Relevance Are Ironically Less Emphasized
One would hope that the existence of alternatives would force mainstream media to improve their product by working harder on accuracy and relevance, but they have only doubled-down on their narrative despite the facts and bad ratings. Such obliviousness might have worked in the past, when Americans had no other choice but to believe the mainstream news and think there was no answer to the claim that Hamas terrorists are innocent victims or that unborn babies are actually human beings or that no one cares about the president’s decades-old tax returns. Now, thanks to alternative news and commentary online, there are plenty of rebuttals.
Nevertheless, old media consumption habits die hard and the mainstream press still commands a faithful audience who will follow their favorite columnists and talking heads through every crisis of credibility. Unfortunately, as the press increasingly loses credibility and general contact with reality, loyal viewers will do the same. The left’s fanaticism and outrage is no accident; they have learned from people unused to explaining themselves. This leftist departure from reason, not the supposed bigotry of conservatives, is what accounts for the political polarization of today.
This leaves conservatives in an exciting new position. For so long, they have accepted their role as political and cultural inferiors enduring the abuse and condescension of progressives who controlled the main channels of public opinion. As conservative online media gradually eclipse the old progressive media, conservatives will soon have the opportunity to step out of the shadows and take the lead in culture. For the first time, they can initiate the discussion, set the terms, dispel the myths, expose the con men, and make truth the standard.
Again, progressive media could respond in kind, engaging in debates and restoring their damaged credibility, but instead they prefer to stop debate through violent protests, online trolling, false reporting, and even weaponizing government agencies. Bad as these are, though, the real threat to conservative media lies with the Big Tech platforms ruling the internet.
How Conservatives Can Step out of the Shadows
Considering Silicon Valley’s obvious hatred for conservatism—witnessed in their strictly enforced politically correct corporate culture and funding of liberal causes and politicians—it is truly remarkable and ironic that conservative media has flourished on the web. Twitter, Facebook, and Google became trillion-dollar companies by offering consumers a choice, but they must witness their customers making the wrong choice.
Thus, these companies have gone to work correcting these bad choices through manipulating their algorithms to marginalize conservative content, demonetizing popular conservative websites, artificially boosting liberal content, and deplatforming conservative figures. Normally, taking such actions would hurt their standing with competing platforms, but because they enjoy a monopoly, they can act with relative impunity.
Fortunately for conservatives, there is a limit to what a private company can do, even one that has a monopoly. Arbitrarily banning people for political reasons not only violates the First Amendment (which they must follow since they’re platforms, not publishers), but it is also inefficient (see Mark Zuckerberg’s failed attempt to create hate-speech detecting artificial intelligence, or AI) and ineffective (some people become famous after being banned or publicly shamed). This makes the slippery slope argument that de-platforming Alex Jones and Louis Farrakhan will lead to more such instances somewhat implausible.
Dear Government: Please Do Our Jobs
This is why Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey want government intervention and regulations on their services. This could help them in four ways: (1) government could do the company’s work of censoring conservatives; (2) taxpayers would pay for it; (3) the government, not the companies, would fight the inevitable legal battles; and (4) these platforms would have their monopoly status made permanent since the government could shut down “unregulated” online forums.
Seeing that Twitter and Facebook have millions of users, some may wonder how feasible it would be to have government monitor so many millions of discussions, but this is beside the point. Partisan government officials could simply pick and choose people they don’t like and silence them.
This situation is the real danger. When government intervenes and essentially takes away a whole medium of expression, free speech (let alone conservative speech) will quickly die. The mainstream view will dominate once more and debate will cease.
This is happening all over the world, where governments use one pretext or another (hate speech, disaster prevention, stopping fake news, etc.) to silence critics and scatter dissenters. While bad arguments or boring programming can be vigorously challenged here in the United States, mainstream propaganda and radical underground populism are the norms almost everywhere else.
Therefore, conservatives need to keep up the fight for free speech and take heart in the gains made online. In the cyber cesspool of the World Wide Web, this is the one good effect that has the potential of redeeming everything else.
If, for the sake of peace or compromise, people allow the government and its cronies to regulate speech and eliminate alternative media, they will find only the opposite: Lies will prevail, and decadence will be assured. If Americans hold fast to an uncensored internet despite the confrontations and aggression from the other side, they will indeed see their country become great again.