Perspectives: Who’s responsible for creating your ‘safe space’?

Stock image | St. George News

OPINION — I’m certain that a lot of folks heaved a sigh of relief when they heard that broadcast bullhorn Alex Jones had been given the boot by most social media platforms.

Perhaps some of them feel that we’re now one banning closer to creating a safe space where they aren’t in danger of encountering contrary ideas.

Whether one agrees with his views or not, it is indisputable that Jones has built a substantial and loyal audience with his signature over-the-top brand of journalism. The collective effort to remove him from the public consciousness raises more than a few questions such as, why now?

Jones has been an intense critic of the powers that be for many years. But that’s not the reason that social media companies have given to justify their decision to censor him.

Jones has been accused of violating their terms of service by engaging in so-called “hate speech.” The problem here is that the accusation of hate speech is a classic example of a bogus predicate in that it lacks specifiable content as to what, precisely, constitutes an offense.

Hate speech is a catch-all accusation that somehow carries the weight of a conviction in the court of public opinion. We all know that “hate” is supposed to be bad but are left to our own emotional associations to fill in the blanks of what was actually said or done.

In the same sense that when you’re holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail, the legalistic ambiguity of “hate speech” is becoming a tool to ban any viewpoint that we simply don’t wish to hear. That approach doesn’t reflect well on the persuasiveness of our own opinions.

Lacking an objectively detailed example of what Jones said that was hateful, we can only be certain that he may hold opinions that are unpopular to some.

The larger issue that many are missing here is the growing teamwork between the tech giants and our national government. When the domestic surveillance Leviathan that so lovingly vacuums up every bit of our online data requests our user data or content removal, most tech companies click their heels.

Yes, Virginia, the agencies that spy on us have found a useful tool in social media.

In November, attorneys and security officials for Google, Facebook and Twitter appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Under the guise of combating “information rebellions,” these representatives were told it was their duty to “prevent the fomenting of discord.”

Given the long-term collaboration of Silicon Valley with U.S. intelligence agencies, it’s a safe assumption that some of these tech companies have been drafted into the government’s efforts to legitimize itself.

Where this all leads remains unclear, but taking out someone like Alex Jones, whose pit bull persona makes him unsympathetic, seems like a solid first move toward building consensus for more corporate censorship – encouraged by our government.

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy didn’t try to sugarcoat it:

Infowars is the tip of a giant iceberg of hate and lies that uses sites like Facebook and YouTube to tear our nation apart. These companies must do more than take down one website. The survival of our democracy depends on it.

As ominous as the growing likelihood of joint corporate/government control over the free flow of online information may seem, there’s another aspect that bears mentioning.

The ultimate responsibility for separating truth from untruth is something that each of us must be willing to shoulder. If we seek to outsource that decision to either government or to our preferred social media networks, we do so at our own peril.

Each of us will encounter contrary or distasteful ideas along the way. How we react to them is a good indicator of whether we consider ourselves autonomous adults or frightened children in need of protection.

If our first instinct is to cheer the silencing of those with whom we disagree, what does that say about the persuasiveness of our own ideas? Silencing someone else is not the same thing as demonstrating the validity of our own viewpoint.

All it really shows is that we lack the wisdom to either make a better argument or to walk away from something that doesn’t add value to our understanding.

Brittany Hunter brilliantly sums up why more – not less – free speech is the antidote:

The best way to combat bad ideas is with good ideas. And by allowing a plethora of different opinions to be circulated on social media, you give individuals the opportunity to judge the merits of each opinion and ultimately make their own decision. And if our ideas are truly the “right” ideas, then we have nothing to fear.

There’s no sophistication in gloating when another person is being silenced.

After all, it’s a safe bet that someone, somewhere is holding a gag with your name on it.

Bryan Hyde is an opinion columnist specializing in current events and liberty viewed through what he calls the lens of common sense. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

Email: bryanh@stgnews.com

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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11 Comments

  • Kilroywashere August 13, 2018 at 4:14 pm

    Not a fan of Alex J., nor can I endure more than 5-10 mins of info Wars. I did watch his interview with Joe Rogan a half a year ago. I agree with Mr. Hyde, for once. Banning info Wars was done in a collusive fashion, by corporate entities and is simply censorship and a bad sign. These companies have a virtual monopoly on access to video platforms, and have shown us their true colors in regards to the future. I do not use the word nazi lightly, but it comes to mind. In a recent local post regarding this issue I will quote two phrases. “One nation under Zuckerberg” / “in Google We trust”. I think it is time to regulate the social media platforms to allow greater competition and open access. They have proven time and again they have one agenda, and this is their own. Facebook uses political coercion to get its way, and has a track record of buying justice. Due to the concentrated wealth of these companies it will take political will and the vigilience of the American public to fight back. And no doubt they will silence their detractors. I want to be able to download a Bit tube app and other platforms on my Smart TV. As another post I read mentioned, these are the new robber barrons of the 1800s and the monopoly needs to be taken apart. It may not be possible, and that is a sad thing thanks to the Supreme Court and the “citizens united” ruling. These are the new gods, and they have you by the …. But go back to your Facebook page, it will be all ok because Zuckerberg apologized. His media feed is waiting for you too.

    • McMurphy August 14, 2018 at 2:42 pm

      For what purpose regulate social media platforms? Regulate content? How about regulating newspapers and internet news sites like St George News? TV channels like MSNBC and Fox are regulated but not for content or at least minimally for content.

  • bikeandfish August 13, 2018 at 4:48 pm

    This really isn’t a strong argument on Hyde’s part. If there is a malfeasance and collusion on the part of these corporations and the government then its up to columnists like Hyde to do more than just engage in polemical accusations and actually prove it. Innuendo and guessing don’t cut it.

    Nor does the idea that more speech is the solution to these provocateurs. And lets be honest, Alex Jones isn’t a journalist in any sort but an entertainer no different than other shockjocks like Howard Stern or rock musicians of various eras. We do ourselves and our nation harm when we assume any and all radio personalities are journalists. They aren’t, not by faintest of definitions no matter how much they discuss the “news”.

    More importantly, Jones does not challenge his audience to engage critically or thoughtfully. If he did then I think discussing the negatives of banning and the importance of “more speech” could be valid. If his ideas added valuable dialog and content to the national conversation than citizens should be frightened by a corporation removing a voice from their platform. But at some point in the not so distant past we know entertainers like him began to intentionally conflate fact-based opinions with “truthiness” and that line has gotten more vague over the years. We saw how Americans being saturated with fake news truly affects a democracy in 2016. Its a prime example of how “more speech” isn’t a real answer to an informed citizenry. 2016 (the social media cycles and “news” not the election) was an example of how the notion that “we have nothing to fear” because good ideas will win over dangerous ones is fundamentally untenable in every situation. That argument only wins when the audience and the speakers engage in good faith and we know that is not always the case.

    I fundamentally disagree with alot of columnists and speakers yet would defend them against undo censorship because most are engaging in good faith dialog. But we are stuck in a lazy cycle in which polemicists like Hyde lob “catchalls” like “safe spaces”, “identity politics”, etc around as ways to appeal to irrational and unfounded fears to circumvent the dialog we really need as a country. We see it here, CNN, facebook, FOX, etc almost every day and its radicalizing citizens at alarming rates. Its as much why liberals are unwilling to see the extremism of Anti-fa as conservatives are willing to call journalists “enemy of the people.”

    So don’t expect me to protect self-interested extremists like Alex Jones from corporate bans. You can expect me to honestly step up when then government does so (and we have evidence) or when platforms begin to silence dissenting voices who are clearly acting in good faith and with quality reporting/information. Until then, Alex Jones has simply succumb to the same type of editorial control that has always kept extremists at arms length from most publications. And this was inevitable given social media platforms now distribute tons of news and information.
    Mr Jones can always start his own site or submit Letters to the Editors like an average citizen.

    • comments August 13, 2018 at 5:08 pm

      TLDR. Can we get a synopsis on this, Mr Bike. I know you had to get all that hot air out, but golly, aint that a long one.

      • comments August 13, 2018 at 8:12 pm

        OK, i read it 😉 . Pretty much agree with everything there. Jones has had his own loony conspiracy sites since the 90s, or at least since the early 2000s. Prison planet and infowars started out as just web pages. He’s been in the “conspiracy industry” for a very long time. He’s cleaver and good at making money from his idiotic conspiracy shows. At times he’s made me chuckle. He’s more like a standup comic than anything. But he really is a detriment to anything needing to be taken seriously. In that respect he is garbage and just taints everything he covers.

  • comments August 13, 2018 at 5:05 pm

    LOL. Never thought I’d see ol’ Bryan defend Alex Jones, hahaha. I’m a “9/11 conspiracist” myself, but Alex jones is such a comedic blowhard clown that everything he blabs on about just turns into a big joke. He makes us “legitimate 9/11 conspiracists” look bad, or at least just crazier than we already seem, haha 😉 . I guess the folks that take him seriously are total loons/kooks/nutters. These social media operations are private platforms that can censor whoever/whatever they want. They are not platforms for free speech. That’s how it’s always been. Good riddance Alex Jones (I hope 😉 ).

    • bikeandfish August 13, 2018 at 7:09 pm

      we agree on this. Hyde made me laugh when he called Alex Jones’s writings and radio “journalism”.

      • comments August 13, 2018 at 7:35 pm

        aint that the truth 😉

  • Happy Commenter August 15, 2018 at 3:23 pm

    Reality says” There are no safe spaces! “

  • Rob83 August 15, 2018 at 5:27 pm

    I am extremely annoyed. If you personally do not like Alex Jones then don’t watch him. I’ve watched him and appreciate most of his journalism and he has even put himself in harms way to prove a point. The part where I’m really annoyed your asking? Of course Alex Jones is getting pulled, he knew he would eventually. . So a person who is not forcing you to watch him gets pulled and as I scroll down I am completely appalled and FORCED to stare at a Casa Blanca ad with an in-modest lady in a swim suit that doesn’t completely cover up her who-ha’s!! Of course the government doesn’t bother clearing up porn and near naked women on billboards everywhere that people are forced to see.

  • Rob83 August 15, 2018 at 5:45 pm

    Seriously men, perhaps you would be bothered if everytime you drove thru Mesquite your eyes more than likely fall on a billboard show casing a man in a speedo! Heck no though, it’s always find some woman to showcase her goods! Same goes for walking down a isle in a clothing store, racks of bras a lingerie showing for the entire world to see (and no I’m ashamed of this or a prude) but never see any men undies hanging up for me to see as I walk down an isle! Men still think they’re better than women and it’s the other way around by far!

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