With a renewed focus on the freedom of speech in the wake of the capitol insurrection and Donald Trump’s subsequent permanent ban from Twitter, I felt it important to get some thoughts out on the subject. It’s a complicated topic, and one that the Right often uses as a defense for terrible behavior. By this I mean, the Right often falls back on the first amendment as a crutch.
There seems to be a very deluded sense of what the first amendment means, that any kind of speech in any place is permissible. Twitter, however, isn’t your house or your street where you can just yell to your heart’s content. Twitter is a business, and they can do what they want. I was actually quite pleased to see Donald Trump banned from the major platforms – big surprise there. He abused his power and his reach, he knowingly stoked the fires of division and provoked his followers to act, many of whom he must know are deranged and dangerous. For all he’s said during his presidency, a large group of people took it to heart and began training to mount an insurrection.
Do I think everyone has the right to say what they want? Yes, within reason. I’m not an absolutist about this. No, I don’t think anyone should be censored, but when something this heinous happens, you must seriously question if any of us should be allowed to talk so freely to that many people. The compulsion to tweet is dangerous. We shouldn’t be allowed to broadcast our most reactionary thoughts as soon as they arise. We’re not ready for that, and I don’t think we ever will be.
When I wrote an article a few days after the election, I received some relatively hostile messages on Instagram. I was told I was “silencing dissent” by deleting a trolling comment. Calm down, everyone calm the fuck down. We’re allowed to not like people, or to not want to engage. We’re certainly allowed to delete a dumb comment from our dumb post. The freedom of speech isn’t such that anything you say anywhere is protected.
I think the Right’s view of freedom and how it’s being “taken away” is sorely misguided and misinformed. They always claim the loss of their freedoms, and yet most of them are white folks with ample resources and no real impediment to their behavior. They seem to have no problem buying guns and tactical gear, or even getting into the capitol. What freedoms are they lacking? They don’t seem to be missing anything. They’ve got each other, they’ve got guns, ammo, gear, drugs, booze, internet forums in which to conspire – am I missing anything? What have they lost?
So, yes, the freedom of speech is important. But no, it doesn’t apply to Twitter as it would anywhere else. Only now that something horrible occurred has Trump seen any consequences for his wonton use of inflammatory, inciting language. Twitter made the right call. The Right needs to reconsider their view of freedom. It’s unrealistic, and in fact, they never had the amount of freedom they think they do.