An article was published in the Weekly Standard this week titled “The Case for Banning Alex Jones” aims to defend the Masters of the Universe almost unanimously blacklisting Alex Jones and Infowars from social media.
The Weekly Standard published an article written by editor Jonathan V. Last titled “The Case for Banning Alex Jones,” which defends Big Tech’s decision to remove the Infowars and host Alex Jones from almost all of its platforms and alleges that the situation is not a free speech matter.
In the article, Last lists a number of arguments for banning Jones, the first being that the situation is not a free speech issue as Jones was banned by private companies. What this argument fails to take into account is the monopolization of digital platforms by a few large tech companies, giving them massive control over who is and is not seen or heard.
(1) It’s a First Amendment issue. Let’s dispense with this one off the top: No, it’s not. And conservatives used to understand the difference between having the right to say something and having the right to say something without consequences.
None of the tech companies that have de-platformed Jones are impinging on his right to speech. He can still record and disseminate podcasts and videos. He can still publish whatever conspiracy theories he wants. No one is threatening him with violence or jail or a fine or denying him a license to carry on as he pleases. No arm of government touches this case in any way.
All that is happening is that privately owned companies are declining to allow him to use their resources to broadcast his speech. There is no First Amendment case—none at all.
In his second point, Last argues that there are many other avenues for Jones to publish his content, while Jones is free to publish his content on his own website, he has been massively limited by his ban from platforms such as Facebook which is used by approximately one third of the world’s population every month:
(2) It’s an equal-access issue. You might recall a couple months ago when conservatives celebrated the Masterpiece Cake Shop decision. (Rightly, in my view.) The nub of their argument was that privately held businesses ought to be allowed to refuse certain kinds of services to certain customers, provided that (1) the refusal was based on reasonable, non-discriminatory grounds and that (2) the person being refused had reasonable recourse to an alternative remedy.
That’s precisely what has happened here. Jones is being denied access based on his behavior and actions, not who or what he is. And he has an enormous, obvious, and reasonable remedy: The Internet.
Last finally argues that there are plenty of people on either side of the political aisle that deserve to be banned from Twitter or Facebook. It would seem that the Weekly Standard editor is quite comfortable having Silicon Valley tech giants police who does and does not get to speak:
(3) The ban is imperfect. Have you seen all of the conservatives asking “What about Farrakhan?” There are a ton of bad users out on the tech industry’s leading platforms. But saying that these platforms shouldn’t ban Alex Jones because they haven’t banned all of the bad actors is like saying that the DA shouldn’t prosecute one criminal because the police haven’t caught every other criminal.
The answer here is obvious: Tech companies shouldn’t give Jones a pass; they should get rid of the Farrakhans of the world, too. The perfect should not be the enemy of the good.
Conservatives who worry about the slippery slope ought to wait until we get to a part that’s actually slippery. There is nothing about Alex Jones—nothing—that would allow him to be confused with a reasonably responsible, good-faith actor. This isn’t a hard case. If you have even minimum community standards for decency, you can draw a line here.
The full article can be read in the Weekly Standard here.