Mass censorship is never the answer

Jun 12, 2019 at 07:00 am by Arthur-RB


I must admit that sometimes, as a right-leaning person, it’s hard to enjoy the things that most consumers take for granted.

As a conservative, it’s difficult to ignore the overwhelming bias in every commercial, sitcom and movie I see. Sometimes it just seems like the world is out to get those of us that aren’t liberally inclined and we feel like we’re going crazy for thinking it.

But I say to anyone reading this column, whether you’re right or centrist leaning, that you aren’t losing your mind.

The media pressure you feel is alive and real and if you aren’t prepared to embrace it wholesale, there are mainstream forces that will collude in an attempt to force even the average Joe to conform.

And that’s what lies at the core of my daily discomfort. I believe that mass censorship efforts, in all its forms, are never the answer and are dangerous for the health of our republic.

This phenomenon is very real and especially troubling when we look at what has been happening to certain users and content creators across social media platforms.

A few weeks ago a viral video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi slurring her words made the rounds across Facebook. The unflattering, and frankly comical, video was altered specifically to make Pelosi seem like a drunkard in the spirit of good fun.

It didn’t take long for Kevin Poulsen, a hacktivist journalist from the Daily Beast publication, to make a concerted effort to track down the creator of the video. Poulsen’s search led him to an African-American blue-collar laborer from New York. After finding him, the Daily Beast went on to publish a lengthy exposé revealing the man’s home address, his work history and large portions of his criminal record.

All this done in the name of making him pay for creating an Internet meme for fun.

In the article, Poulsen admits that he contacted Facebook officials for help in tracking the man down and airing out all of his sins to the world. This means that Facebook, despite their user privacy claims, did not hesitate to aid a left-wing journalist in exposing a private citizen for partisan reasons. This is a frightening story that gives new credence to those who still remember the stories penned by Orwell.    

I realize that there are some of you who aren’t avid social media users and may not be troubled by the above account. But be aware that the same forces at work on the Internet have a similar stake and influence across all media outlets.

You may be a Democrat who supports Nancy Pelosi and finds it distasteful when she’s made fun of by political adversaries.

You might also be someone who believes that the actions of your fellow citizens on social media should be policed to some degree.

But silencing and bullying private citizens into submission cannot be the answer.

To the readers I ask, to what degree are you willing to go to ensure that your sensibilities aren’t offended? Are the repercussions of censoring, and in some cases doxing, your opposition worth giving up the broader virtues of freedom of speech, opinion and privacy?

I’m convinced that it isn’t, even if I have to put up with feeling like I’m the member of some insane minority whenever I visit Facebook or turn on the television.

 

Washington County native Arthur Howell is a staff writer at The Beacon. He can be reached via email at arthur@roanokebeacon.com.


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