Will Good People Stand By While Censorship Threatens America?

January 15, 2021 Updated: January 19, 2021


“You Americans think your system of government is so special,” chided the Ghanian student in my advanced constitutional law seminar at Columbia Law School.

“It works more or less the same way in Ghana—except that, even as children, we knew not to ask what had happened to the other half of our class following the change in presidents.”

Well, no, that’s the operative difference between the United States and a less-developed country: opponents do not disappear. Or at least that was the difference. On Jan. 8, the tech giants staged a digital Kristallnacht against 74 million Trump supporters, burning not subversive books and shops (as the Nazis did) but erasing internet content and companies opposed to left-wing ideology.

Steve Bannon had his show unplugged by YouTube. Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn have been suspended by Twitter, along with—according to Twitter itself—more than 70,000 right-wing accounts for discussing “conspiracy theories.” Ron Paul was suspended from Facebook for complaining about Big Tech tyranny.

And not just people: Facebook has deleted all posts containing the words “stop the steal” as well as the half-million strong #WalkAway Campaign group, which encourages Democrats to reject the radicalism of their party. GoDaddy erased AR15.com, the largest gun forum on the internet. Airbnb will ban guests associated with “hate groups.”

Donald Trump, the duly elected sitting president, was himself banned or suspended from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Shopify, and YouTube, and by his email providers Campaign Monitor and Salesforce. Twitter competitor Parler (which had become the No. 1 downloaded app when reports surfaced that Trump was considering joining) was removed from both the Google and Apple app stores. Amazon then disconnected the company from its servers.

Twitter claimed that Trump had “incited violence” when he tweeted: “The 75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me, AMERICA FIRST, and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, will have a GIANT VOICE long into the future. They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!” and “To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.”

Twitter explained, “The President’s statements can be mobilized by different audiences, including to incite violence.” In other words, they admit that there’s no incitement in the tweets themselves, but Trump may be removed from the public square because of how others might reasonably or unreasonably react.

In 2017, comedian Kathy Griffin tweeted an image depicting her holding Trump’s severed head; she continues to tweet with impunity, even after retweeting the image in November. Nor have any left-wing politicians been suspended for glorifying the Black Lives Matter riots of last summer. Nor were any politicians or media censured for propagating the Russia collusion hoax; nor are Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, for continuing to propagate the myth that Trump called Charlottesville neo-Nazis “very fine people.”

Even figures such as the Ayatollah of Iran continue to have unfettered access to American social media platforms.

European leaders were shocked at the digital censorship. One French minister rightly noted that “the digital oligarchy” is a threat to democracy. Chancellor Angela Merkel charged that suppressing speech shouldn’t be a corporate decision—disappearing people should instead be the job of the state, which Merkel undoubtedly learned during her alleged service as secretary for agitation and propaganda for the East German communist youth group.

Twitter’s share price tumbled last week. Commentators have blamed Twitter’s decision to remove Trump’s account, which had a following of 88 million users, or 27 percent of the system. But perhaps the better explanation is that, as much as the left approves of Twitter’s actions, they won’t permit such power to remain in the hands of non-state entities.

The communists understand. “China’s Zuckerberg” Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba and Ant Group, hasn’t been seen since October. He grew too powerful; recent reports claim that the Chinese regime is nationalizing his companies. The West isn’t ready for that kind of direct power grab, but legislation and regulation can apply more subtle pressure to produce similar outcomes.

Not long ago, American children were taught that our country allows Nazis to have parades (with the proper permits) as a measure of how highly we cherish the freedom of speech. This sentiment also projected a national confidence that any such parade does more to damage the social standing of the men wearing the funny uniforms than it risks in having them attract adherents.

No more. “Hate speech,” defined by the left as anything subversive to its goals—“men and women are different,” for example—is being outlawed. And the media is silent, corporations are silent or participate; the Republican Party apparatus would prefer to rid themselves of Trump than defend American culture.

The day after the subversive books and shops were burned on Kristallnacht, no doubt most ordinary Germans went to work and tended their families as if little had happened: Busy people have limited time for political reflection. The extremists in power, meanwhile, tightened their grip on public life, leading Germany into an economic, political, and cultural holocaust.

So, too, for us, the internet continues to function normally for approved content, as it does in China: mostly banal entertainment.

“For that sovereign people … limits its anxious longings to two things only—bread, and the games of the circus!” complained Juvenal in the first century A.D. as the Roman Republic faded into history and the cruel emperors arrived. This too will be America’s fate if people of good will don’t organize to defend our Constitution, our country, and Western culture.

Daniel Oliver Jr. is president of the Committee for Monetary Research and Education, a free-market economic think tank focused on monetary systems. He is also founder and manager of Myrmikan Capital, which is active in the junior precious metals mining sector, and a director of Vangold Mining Corp. Previously, he practiced law at Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.