Musk Supports (Actual) Censorship

Monday, May 02, 2022

Via the Harry Binswanger Letter, I got wind of the following tweet by Twitter's new owner, Elon Musk:

By "free speech", I simply mean that which matches the law.

I am against censorship that goes far beyond the law.

If people want less free speech, they will ask government to pass laws to that effect.

Therefore, going beyond the law is contrary to the will of the people. [bold added]
I have no doubt that Musk's heart is in the right place, but if support for "free speech" merely means support for whatever the government happens to allow, who needs opponents?

By such a standard, even China has "freedom of speech."

I mention Musk, but he is hardly the only person who has this opinion.

Actual freedom of speech, which is so poorly understood by practically everyone these days, is an inalienable right which laws like China's do not take away so much as fail to recognize and protect. Man has the right to freedom of speech, and it is part of a government's job to protect that right.

It is only with such knowledge that it is possible to understand that Twitter, as wrong as some of its policies were, was never capable of censorship. It could only, say, terminate Donald Trump's account; it could not force his silence elsewhere, fine him, or put him in jail simply for saying something.

(And frankly, if Donald Trump had the slightest clue about what makes America great, he'd have hoped to be banned while he was still President so he could show what a great champion of individual rights he was. He could have made complete fools out of the then-owners, simply by asking where else on earth something like that could happen -- and then recommending a different platform to go and learn all about it.)

Let's now consider two highly relevant Ayn Rand quotes, one more enlightening and more morbidly interesting.

In the first, she cuts through lots of confusion regarding free speech:
Freedom of speech means freedom from interference, suppression or punitive action by the government -- and nothing else. It does not mean the right to demand the financial support or the material means to express your views at the expense of other men who may not wish to support you. Freedom of speech includes the freedom not to agree, not to listen and not to support one's own antagonists. A "right" does not include the material implementation of that right by other men; it includes only the freedom to earn that implementation by one's own effort. Private citizens cannot use physical force or coercion; they cannot censor or suppress anyone's views or publications. Only the government can do so. And censorship is a concept that pertains only to governmental action. [bold added]
Applied to today's context: We have the right to voice any opinion we want; but we are not entitled to using someone else's meeting hall, living room, megaphone, or social media platform to help us deliver those opinions.

Now, take a moment to compare that last bolded sentence by Rand with the one I bolded from Musk, along with Rand's commentary, from about half a century ago, about left-wingers who made complaints -- that are basically identical to the ones conservatives like to make about various social media outlets today -- as justification for the soft censorship of the Fairness Doctrine:
Newton Minow actively pushed the completely backwards notion of "censorship" that now passes for common sense across the political spectrum. (Image by Nminow, via Wikimedia Commons, license.)
For years, the collectivists have been propagating the notion that a private individual's refusal to finance an opponent is a violation of the opponent's right of free speech and an act of "censorship."

It is "censorship," they claim, if a newspaper refuses to employ or publish writers whose ideas are diametrically opposed to its policy.

It is "censorship," they claim, if businessmen refuse to advertise in a magazine that denounces, insults and smears them...

And then there is Newton N. Minow [then chairman of the Federal Communications Commission] who declares: "There is censorship by ratings, by advertisers, by networks, by affiliates which reject programming offered to their areas." It is the same Mr. Minow who threatens to revoke the license of any station that does not comply with his views on programming -- and who claims that that is not censorship .
To be clear, while I often disagreed with the way Twitter moderated its platform, I appreciated then (and do now) that it is, ultimately, its owner's property to do with as he pleases.

But that doesn't make it any less disturbing to see Elon Musk riding in like the white knight he intends to be -- but spouting the same nonsense about (what the left has caused everybody to regard as) "censorship," thereby helping pave the way for the government to come in and impose the real thing.

-- CAV

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