Big tech mutes free speech: Is this who we want to become?
“Our election was hijacked.”
That’s a tweet.
From Rep. Nancy Pelosi.
In May 2017.
Imagine a world without Twitter, Facebook and Parler.
Oops, we don’t have to imagine a world without Parler.
A consortium of Amazon, Twitter, Facebook and other non-elected editors of our discourse eliminated Parler when that version of electronic dialogue had the audacity to cut into their customer base.
“Woke” people usually call this bullying, but when the bully is on your team the bullied get canceled — with glee. If Twitter, which allows ugly postings from Ayatollahs, can mute an outgoing president, millions who loathe him delight. Forfeiting the First Amendment, aborting antitrust laws, and inviting monopolies is fine if the correct victim is chosen. What’s next on the chopping block — newspapers that don’t fit a particular narrative, television networks that reflect an alternative agenda?
Every media entity should be expressing outrage at what this coalition is executing. In fact, world leaders who do not care for President Trump are expressing opposition to this behavior.
Still, imagine we were all silenced. We would have to talk to each other — face to face, over the phone or at dinner. The veneer people use to judge each other on a small percentage of who they are would be removed.
My father told me when I feel myself about to express anger or over-the-top confrontation, I should pause and imagine it is visitation at my funeral. What would I want people to say about me? Our social media-fed world lacks such a moral governor on personal communications.
I have friends and family who do not share my political beliefs. I respect them all. They are among the finest people I know. We probably agree on about 90 percent of our perceptions of the world. I can’t imagine “canceling” them. Millions of Americans share these circumstances. You see them in the grocery store and on a four-mile walk. There is no sense of anger or division.
But our social media world emphasizes the 10 percent. That skewed view creates an illusion of mass division that does not exist.
And when political expressions are woven inseparably with the Twitter world, the 10 percent becomes a dangerous firecracker. Extremist elements on the right and left set off those firecrackers last summer and last week.
President Trump’s brusque tweets and personality pushed some very effective policies into the background. His policies were such that 56 percent of those polled before the election told Gallup they were better off than four years ago, a record for that poll. But overbearing tweets created a launching pad for an obsessed opposition threatened by a Washington outsider.
Rep. Maxine Waters’ megaphoned instructions to “get in the faces” of anyone associated with the president in restaurants or anywhere else. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi tore up the State of the Union address a year ago. Sen. Rand Paul and his wife were nearly assaulted while leaving a Republican National Convention speech by Trump.
That abhorrent behavior was judged acceptable by a coalition controlling our national conversation. But Trump’s call to “march peacefully in protest” of an election full of questions never aired in court was judged as inciting a riot and grounds for impeachment. He should never have made the speech. But Trump has held hundreds of rallies like this with no violence. Apparently, if a small, extreme faction of 75 million backers acts horrifically — it was historically dangerous behavior — it is grounds for impeachment in a president’s final days and canceling of anyone daring to embrace his policies. There was no such transference of responsibility to mayors of Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis, Chicago, Philadelphia and Atlanta for violent actions by extremists on the left the past several months.
Dangerously, corporations have joined the cancel culture alliance. Like moral peacocks, they have announced no one associated with the Trump administration — thousands of people, many in apolitical positions — should be hired when they leave.
Some have proudly announced aborting of political funding to any elected leader who attempted to block the Electoral College vote count, action identical to what Democrats did in 2001, 2005 and 2017. How does any of this unite the country, help the incoming president execute an agenda in the midst of a crippling pandemic or turn our political temperature down if the incoming leader won’t do it?
I recently watched a very good movie that ends with the narrator whose true story was the focus of the film telling us, “Where we come from is who we are, but we choose who we become.”
We all need to internally cancel the impact of social media and big tech and take our own hard look at what we, as a country, want to become.
David F. Troisi is retired as editor of the Sun-Gazette.