I’ve never been a big fan of Alex Jones and his tin foil hat, conspiracy theory style of broadcasting but his banning by Apple, YouTube, Facebook and Spotify reminds me of the Martin Niemoller quote at the end of WW2.
“….First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me…”
Below is a cut and paste from Brendan O’Neill’s column in today’s Oz Alex Jones ban shows we’ve outsourced censorship to Silicon Valley
“….So we’re now trusting the capitalist class — massive, unaccountable corporations — to decide what we may listen to and talk about? This is the terrible take-home message of the expulsion of Alex Jones’s Infowarsnetwork from Apple, Facebook and Spotify, and of the wild whoops of delight that this summary banning generated among so-called liberals: that people are now OK with allowing global capitalism to govern the public sphere and to decree what is sayable and what is unsayable. Corporate censorship — liberals’ new favourite thing. How bizarre.
We live in strange times. On the one hand it is fashionable to hate capitalism. No middle-class home is complete without a Naomi Klein tome; making memes of Marx is every 20-something Corbynista’s favourite pastime. But on the other hand we seem content to trust Silicon Valley, the new frontier in corporate power, to make moral judgments about what kind of content people should see online.
It doesn’t matter what you think of Jones. It doesn’t matter if you think he is mad, eccentric, and given to embracing crackpot theories about school shootings being faked. You should still be worried about what has happened because it confirms we have moved into an era of outsourced censorship.
It shows that what was once done by the state is now done by corporations. The illiberal, intolerant cleansing from public life of ideas judged to be offensive or dangerous has shifted from being the state’s thing to being the business elite’s thing.
Witness how many campaigners for censorship now seek to marshal capitalist power to the end of erasing voices they don’t like — from the campaign that wants corporations to withdraw advertising from British broadcaster LBC until it gets rid of Nigel Farage as a presenter, to asking Silicon Valley to deny the oxygen of publicity to the offence-givers.
So-called liberals and sections of the political class now want corporations to do their dirty work for them. They want the capitalist elites to do what it has become unfashionable for the state to do: ban controversial political speech.
What an extraordinary folly this is. To empower global capitalism to act as judge, jury and executioner in the context of what may be said on social-media platforms is to sign the death warrant of freedom of speech.
People on both the liberal Left and the libertarian Right argue that what has been done to Jones is acceptable because this is simply a case of businesses deciding freely who they should associate with or provide platforms to. This is disingenuous. This was not a clean, independent business decision — it was a rash act of silencing carried out under pressure from a moralised mob that insisted Jones’s words were too wicked for public life. This isn’t the free market in action — it’s the bending of capitalist power to the end of enforcing moral controls on speech.
For good or ill, the social-media sphere is the new public sphere. The expulsion of people from these platforms is to 2018 what a state ban on the publication or sale of certain books was to 1618. How can we convince the owners of social media to permit the freest speech possible and to trust their users to negotiate the world of ideas for themselves? This is the question we should be asking ourselves, rather than concocting more ways to encourage corporate overlords to censor and blacklist….”