"Government by Intimidation", or, Free Speech on the Brink

Jmaurone's picture
Submitted by Jmaurone on Tue, 2018-04-10 04:04

"No, the government would not establish any censorship; it would not need to." Ayn Rand, "Govenment by Intimidation"

There's been a lot of disturbing news, lately, regarding attempts in several countries to infringe on freedom of speech.

There's also a warning to be found in one of Ayn Rand's more obscure articles that needs to be given a closer look.

First, the news:

As I mentioned on another thread, the latest example is the introduction of legislation to require online "publishers" to submit to state-supervision of content:

It Begins: California Senator Introduces Bill to Kill Free Speech, Requires State-Sanctioned Fact Checkers to Approve Online Content

Senator Richard Pan is attempting to pass legislation "that would force online publishers to utilize state-sanctioned fact checkers to approve content before it is posted online...The bill is titled “SB1424 Internet: social media: false information: strategic plan.”

This is just the latest example in recent news about social media platforms like Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook waging a war against non-leftist views and news.  What I find disturbing is how the issue is starting to divide Objectivists and libertarians. Some are calling it censorship, and some are saying the standard line that it can't be censorship because only the government has that power, where private companies don't. And of course, there's the argument that freedom of speech does not mean that one is obliged to provide another with the platform upon which to speak.

(A particular example of the divide over this involves the "Christian baker" case, where the law is forcing Christians to bake a cake for homosexuals, against their religious beliefs, on the basis of non-discrimination. I've seen left-libertarians defending business be required to serve others, even if it goes against their beliefs. I've seen libertarians and Objectivists also defend social media sites in their right to discriminate against conservatives, and speak out against regulations to force those platforms to exercise their right to do as they see fit...)

Being Objectivish, myself,  I personally agree that private companies should NOT be compelled to act against their beliefs, or be forced in any way to provide platforms for speech with which they disagree. And, like some Objectivists who've made the argument, I would NOT like to see regulations implemented to force people to do so. That said, I also don't believe that these social media platforms are acting as private companies, anymore, but are in bed with the State in an attempt to silence conservative, Christian, and even libertarian voices, both behind-the-scenes, and even in calls to violence from leftist supporters like Antifa, BLM, and the like. The Obama adminstration was revealed to have used the power of the IRS to harass conservatives, and actively tried to supress FOX News. And it's not just "hate speech" racism, etc, that's being censored from these forums. Simply being a Trump supporter will get one branded "dangerous"; see the most recent example regarding "Diamond and Silk", two African-American women whose crime was to support Trump, and thus upsetting the approved "narrative" for minorities.

Some have suggested as a solution to start new sites, using competition as an alternative to regulation. Rightfully so, if this were a free-market problem. The current platform being touted is called MeWe. This is not a bad idea in itself. But looking at the proposed legislation at the beginning of this piece, and the actual criminalization of free speech in Europe and elsewhere, this is not going to go far enough, without addressing the spector of governmental force hanging over the issue. Indeed, the loss of free speech is one of the four conditions Rand herself identified in the establishment of a dictatorship.

But should full, outright censorship be permitted to happen BEFORE a stand is taken? For all the valid points made by some Objectivists against regulating social media, etc, I still think they are ignoring the back-door censorship that is happening, while counting on the moral and ideological restraints held by proponents on freedom to keep them from acting until it's too late (i.e., once the guns are confiscated). And, of course, they invoke Ayn Rand in doing so.

And here, as mentioned, is where Rand's article comes in.

Rand herself was wise to the game. In an article titled "Government by Intimidation" (reprinted in The Ayn Rand Column, while writing about anti-trust accusations against publishers, she makes a comment that applies, today. We all know that Rand made the argument that free speech doesn't oblige others to provide the platform, and that successful or large companies were not obliged to "level the playing field" for small or new competitors without the same resources. But here, while still making the point that large publishers were not obliged to not compete with small-town church bulletin or "The High School Bugle", she also noticed that attempts to break up large newspapers were an attempt to silence the opinions of the owners, to diminish their outreach:

"Doesn't this mean that the owner of a newspaper has no right to hold 'consistent' political convictions and that a newspaper is not entitled to a 'consistent' editorial policy? If the owner of one newspaper posses the right of free speech, does he lose it if he acquires two newspapers? Who determines what is 'slanted' and which political views are 'prejudice or idiosyncracies'? The government?"

According to current events, the governent is eager to do it.

Now, Rand was STILL not calling for regulations to "level the playing field." While talking about an an antitrust investigation against Newshouse and Hearst (which, she notes, "are not exactly 'liberal' in their political views), she quotes the concerns of the investigation: "...we are interested in seeing whether or to what extent the columnists might be drying up local talent in assaying the news of the day." She responds, "Well, it is incontestably certain that the talents of the local 'High School Bugle' could not possibly compete with nationally syndicated columnists."

Ok, you might be asking, "so what?" Here's where I thought this gets interesting, and relevant: First, FOX News becomes the target of the Obama administration, who tried to shut it down. Now, Breitbart is a target. But the line that stood out to me was the "High School Bugle" line. (It was THAT phrase that triggered this article. It's been a good while (years) since I read her article. But current events made me think of that line, so much so, that I scoured my Kindle looking for the reference, as I couldn't remember where I first read it. I had  no luck, until I went looking through my hard copies, and FINALLY found it in one of the few Rand books not on my Kindle. The point, there, is that it was not in her major nonfiction, and that her articles deserve a second look.) If such a paper WERE to have an influence, the MSM would be sure to buy it up or stamp it out. But today, we have the internet, and what's now called the "alternative media". And people who DID start out with the digital equivalent of the schoool paper have become forces to be reckoned with. They have even started to overtake the mainstream media, enough so to be a threat to their dominance. And the answer to that was to label them either "fake news" or mock them for not being mainstream. When that backfired, we started to see once-neutral platforms like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter start to "shadowban", then outright block or delete these alternative voices, under the guise of "community standards" , in an attempt to fight "hate speech", etc. Remember Rand's question about who will set the standard on these issues? These bans become less about hate speech, and applied to anyone with a conservative view, and even libertarian views. Meanwhile, there were those on the left making hateful comments and promoting violence, but were not being banned. Clearly, a double-standard was being applied on these so-called "neutral" platforms. When called on it, Facebook responded with something about becoming less of a social media platform and more of a publisher, "curating" content. (Which, I believe, is where the calls for them to become "regulated" started to come in to play...)


Still, you might say, "so what? They're still private, and should be free to be irrational, right or wrong." That it's not censorship, only banning. Ok, then, back to Rand's article...

"Here we see the essence of the antitrust doctrines...If it is right to sacrifice ability to imcompetence, or success to failure, or achievement to envy-then it is right to silence every man who has acquired a national audience and clear the field for those whose audience will never grown beyond the corner drugstore."

I submit that THAT is what the leftist social media platforms are trying to do, now, using government force. And that is what the goverment is trying to do, using the power of social media.

Rand, anticipating the arguments today: "Freedom of speech? 'Why, we don't deprive any man of his freedom of speech,' the trustbusters would chorus, 'provided he is not heard beyond the boundaries of his township or his city block.'"

That is what is happening, now, by attempting to shut out alternative voices from the big social media sites. And it is not just a matter of banning on one; when those voices turn to other platforms, they are now being followed by their leftist opponents to those sites, and harrassed until the site is pressured to remove them from there, as well. (Case in point-Comedian Owen Benjamin being booted from Twitter and banned from livestreaming, has turned to Patreon to have his efforts privately funded by his fans, only to be followed there and harassed. Not only that, but they are pressuring venues to cancel his comedy shows. (Just like they are doing with public appearances by Milo WhathisnameIcantspellit, Michael Malice, Stefan Molyneux, etc...) He does have his own website, but the next step will be to pressure the domain carriers...)

And if you are STILL not convinced that this IS a free-speech issue: Here is the where Rand's article intersects with today. First, Facebook, CEO Mark Zuckerberg admits to aiding the Obama administration in the elections. Then, as I mentioned here, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has not only aligned his site with the left, but has openly endorsed an article calling for a "second civil war" against the right, where the authors called for a "complete marginalization of the Republican Party and its voters." That article points to California as the "way forward". Now, as shown in the beginning of this piece, California is pushing legislation requiring online media to submit to state-sponsored overview. Here, I submit the crux of the matter that relates to Rand's article. The attempt is NOT only to break up a large conservative company, like Fox or Breitbart, but also to PREVENT new ones from starting, and keeping those alternative voices relegated to Rand's proverbial "High School Bugle." (Since the larger social media companies have ALREADY gone left, they have little to lose, in that deal, and it's easy to see how they benefit.) And the fact that those once-neutral, now-leftists sites ARE allowing their sites to be used to advocate violence against conservative AND libertarian voices, attempts to start new sites, such as WeMe, are only a tool, at best, to keep those alternative voices going. They are a solution to the platform issue, but they are not the answer to what's to come. 

Ironically, the conclusion of Rand's article is nothing if not prescient regarding not the situation, but the ignorance of those Objectivists, who, in rushing to defend the rights of those rights-denying Leftists, while debunking claims of censorship, don't see or refuse to admit to the real danger:

"No, the government would not establish any censorship; it would not need to. The threat of antitrust prosecutions will be sufficient. We have seen what it did to the steel industry. Rule by hidden, unprovable intimidation relies on the victim's 'voluntary' self-enslavement. The result is worse than a censored press; it is a servile press."

 In seeming anticipation of the internet and social media, she continues to write the following:

 "Consider the signifance of a curious contradiction. On the one hand, the government hails the launching of Telstar as a means of uniting the whole world in a single network of global communication. On the other hand, the government proposes to distintegrate national communications into local atoms, forbidding any private individual to acquire the means of addressing the nation, and forbidding the separate atoms to know what the rest of the world is thinking.

" Do you grasp the possibilities?

"President Kennedy is to broadcast his news conferences via Telstar. Which one of us will obtain equal time on that global medium? And if we do not, how will we make ourselves heard? It is not by means of the 'High School Bugle' that one cant protect one's rights or compete with a monopoly of that kind.

"Gentleman of the press, if any, now is the time to speak up."

To that, I will echo her warning to the Objectivists of today: If you want to keep your freedom of speech, now is the time to speak up. And if you don't understand what is truly happening (not including the traitorous sellouts like ARI's Yaron Brook, who, in telling Objectivists that he "doesn't think that guns matter that much", would enable the end of the 2nd Amendment, and as a consquence, the 1st, as well), then now is the time to WAKE up.

It's later than you think.

"Yaron and Amy"

Bruno Turner's picture

I have not listened to it yet, but the "Yaron and Amy" show's latest title reads:

"Zuckerberg in DC: Sanction of the Victim?"

Internet Censorship

Kyrel Zantonavitch's picture

Private censorship is still censorship. And it's morally loathsome. It's about damn time the Objectivist community figured that out. Yes, private companies have an absolute right to censor. But it's still censorship, and it's morally loathsome.


Jmaurone's picture

"If Faecesbook were honest about its agenda, a freedom-lover would say simply, 'that's their right,' and set about making sure that he registered his disgust, on his own alternative platform if that's what it took.But this very day Zuckerberg has been insisting that Faecesbook has no agenda and is open to all comers, even as he acknowledged that Silicon Valley is awash in lefties (no wonder Obleftivist Bwook the Cwook loves it) and admitted that he's helping the evil Mueller."

It almost sounds like entrapment. "Come to our forum! We want to expand and get everyone in! All welcome! Let's share ideas, opinions, and moments of our live-oh, what's that? You're not a liberal? BURN THEM!"

("Come closer", said the spider to the fly...)

Zuckerberg Is Part of The Filth

Lindsay Perigo's picture

My problem with Faecesbook, aside from all the appalling airhead moronnials who infest it, is that it pretends to be non-partisan, when in fact it's in bed with The Filth and is an integral part of it, banning the most benign of non-conformists as "unsafe to the community" (does it get more Orwellian than that?!). If Faecesbook were honest about its agenda, a freedom-lover would say simply, "that's their right," and set about making sure that he registered his disgust, on his own alternative platform if that's what it took. But this very day Zuckerberg has been insisting that Faecesbook has no agenda and is open to all comers, even as he acknowledged that Silicon Valley is awash in lefties (no wonder Obleftivist Bwook the Cwook loves it) and admitted that he's helping the evil Mueller. Note, also, the detestable HR weasel-word MBA terminology Zuckerberg uses. Here is proof positive that we must never make the mistake of thinking an entrepreneur is necessarily heroic because he's an entrepreneur. This guy is as evil as evil gets:

If your blood's not boiling you're a waste of space!

Excellent Analysis

Luke Setzer's picture

This is another stunning and informative analysis, Joe. Thanks for posting it. Now to determine exactly what steps each of us, as individual readers, can take next.

I am really glad I quit wasting time and energy on Facebook back at the end of 2013 when I closed my account there. I did #DeleteFacebook before it became a thing. Good riddance to bad rubbish. I became a much happier person after that.

"When Weasels Collude..."

Jmaurone's picture


Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Nancy Pelosi.


Facebook Has Dozens of Ex-Obama and Ex-Hillary Staffers in Senior Positions

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