The New York Times, America’s leading “liberal” paper, has published an article openly declaring war on freedom of speech.
It, and much of the left, has been at war with free speech for a while — but its new article, bluntly titled “Free Speech is Killing Us,” is its most unequivocal statement yet.
The author of the piece, Andrew Marantz, solemnly declares he has “spent the past few years embedding as a reporter with the trolls and bigots and propagandists … I no longer have any doubt that the brutality that germinates on the internet can leap into the world of flesh and blood.”
Of course, the same could be said of underground anti-Soviet cells in the 1980s, French revolutionary salons in the 1700s, and indeed, Massachusetts town halls in the runup to the American revolution. Marantz appears to be arguing against a colossal strawman in which there’s never any talking before violence.
Breaking news! People talk before they do things! And it’s not always good!
Because of this allegedly paradigm-changing revelation, Marantz believes First Amendment values should be discarded.
It’s not just violence. Marantz whines that the internet was once seen as “surely only a force for progress” but that “No one believes that anymore. Not after the social-media-fueled campaigns of Narendra Modi and Rodrigo Duterte and Donald Trump; not after the murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, VA; not after the massacres in a synagogue in Pittsburgh, two mosques in Christchuch New Zealand, and a Walmart in a majority-Hispanic part of El Paso.”
It’s hard to feign shock at a New York Times writer equating the election of populist leaders with white supremacist massacres. That’s just what the mainstream media does these days — and every time they do it, Americans contempt for the media sinks a little lower. Just 35 percent of Democrats and 12 percent of Republicans say information from national news organizations is “very trustworthy.”
Also predictable is the writer’s call for unelected tech executives to play speech-police: “Tomorrow, by fiat, Mark Zuckerberg could make Facebook slightly less profitable and enormously less immoral,” writes Marantz. “He could hire thousands more content moderators and pay them fairly. Or he could replace Sheryl Sandberg with Susan Benesch, a human rights lawyer and an expert on how speech can lead to violence.”
Massacres and madmen have always existed. The Oklahoma City bombing happened before the internet had attained widespread use, as did (as the author ironically acknowledges himself) the Rwandan genocide. Anti-Semitic pamphleteers drove pogroms in Russia and parts of Europe at the turn of the 19th century. There’s nothing about the internet that makes violence more likely than in previous eras, all of which were far more violent than modern times.
The test of Marantz’s thesis is this: can speech alone, and in particular the digital erosion of the power of gatekeeping publishers to moderate the flow of information, kill people?
We can only think of one recent example: Alec Holowka, the video game designer who committed suicide after the notorious social justice grifter Zoe Quinn used social media to spread wildly exaggerated charges of abuse against him. Even with the media’s far-left bias, it’s unlikely that any major publication would have agreed to spread such threadbare allegations in the pre-digital era.
It’s not a case against free speech, but it would be an interesting case for Marantz to discuss. Of course, he never will.
Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News.