For over a decade now, the left in the United States has been cultivating a pernicious lie. They claim that censorship exists only if it is done by the government. Through a facile reading of the First Amendment, they have concluded that schools, corporations, publishers, theaters, and cable providers are not engaged in censorship if they ban certain speech, they are merely private entities making choices. It’s a lie.
Censorship can be committed by any institution, even by individuals if they have enough power. Today the greatest threat to American freedom comes not from the government but from corporate actors who seek to control the actions and beliefs of American citizens by withholding goods and services from those with whom they disagree. And the left, which once abhorred certain views but would fight for your right to express them, now just abhors them and you can go to hell.
It is not hyperbolic to call this phenomenon the greatest threat to American liberty in a generation. Say the wrong thing, and the private owners of our public squares online will ban you. Join the wrong club, and our hotels and airlines will deny you service. Express the wrong politics, and those in power will ban your news outlet. This is not a slippery slope; all of these things have already happened. American liberty is at the bottom of the slope. In fact, it has crashed into the ski lodge and broken its legs.
The basic concept of fascism is that everyone marches in the same direction, everyone thinks the same way, and everyone says the same things, all in the name of safety and productivity. And it works. Nobody really denies that. Benito Mussolini made the trains run on time and whatnot. The problem with fascism is that while the trains run on time, they often take people to ominous places.
While it is not the only one, there is no better example of corporate fascism than Big Tech. When Amazon flexed its muscle to destroy the social media platform Parler, it sent a clear message that everyone had better get on board with groupthink. Together with Alphabet, Apple, and Twitter, Jeff Bezos’s illiberal monster company controls our society’s discourse in ways that no entities in history ever have, and the results are alarming.
This is not the first time America has faced powerful corporations that seek to block and destroy competition. We have busted trusts before but never quite like this. Neither the railroad barons nor Ma Bell had dark, dystopian visions for our future in which we sit alone at home staring at screens while machines bring us sustenance. Does that sound familiar?
At the end of the day, Americans are either a free people or they aren’t. It doesn’t matter if we are silenced by our government or by the billionaires who give us our tinker toys. Being silenced is being silenced. There is no comfort in knowing that our society has become illiberal and censorious because of Silicon Valley and Wall Street rather than Congress or the courts. The result is the same.
But ultimately, these corporations acting in their own interests are not to blame. The American people are. It is the American people, at least large swaths of them, who have decided that being ruled by tech oligarchs is worth it if it shuts up their supposedly racist uncle. It is the American people begging Big Tech to muzzle them. The greatest threat to freedom after all is a citizenry that does not wish to be free.
But all is not lost — not yet anyway. In 1937, the Nazi Party in Germany held a degenerate art exhibition. It was meant to expose some ugly and dangerous underbelly of German society. In fact, what it did was show off some incredible art. Think of Parler as a painting in the degenerate art show, along with Donald Trump’s tweets and Josh Hawley’s book and fundraisers. Seek out that which you are not supposed to see. Find out why you aren’t supposed to see it.
In his short story, “The Library of Babel,” Jorge Luis Borges describes a vast book depository in which every possible combination of letters exists. The true account of your own death can be found there, along with almost infinite false accounts. One of the wondrous things about this library is that you cannot censor books. You could destroy one offensive volume, but an almost exact copy, with just one letter changed still exists.
Be curious. Read something offensive today. Look at some degenerate art. Do not go gently into the darkness of corporate fascism. Be free.