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On Free Speech, Greenwald, Rogan and Spotify and Libertarian Facebook Bans
How to Fight The Greater and Lesser Censors
Several interesting stories have developed over the past week regarding free speech.
The biggest is the exit of Glenn Greenwald from The Intercept, a publication he founded with two others to provide journalistic freedom. He claims that the other editors, and really everyone, kept him from posting an article about Biden and the Hunter scandal. They replied that he was throwing a tantrum. Greenwald has now published the censored article.
The response from The Intercept isn't irrational. It is essential for those thinking out loud in public to have guardrails. At We Are Libertarians, we have around 20 people engaged in daily conversation from various perspectives. If it doesn't seem like we fit neatly into one camp or the other, it is because of this diversity of thought. We all share a single axiom: The Nonaggression Principle. But a Trump voter like Remso Martinez or a Biden voter like Ryan Lindsey mixing in with centrists means we have to fight for our positions. Our friendship means we are freer to say what we think, and as a result, our arguments get stress-tested before they go live.
That back-and-forth is important. It is also stressful. Being part of a team is work. Other people's points of view, motives, feelings, anxieties, etc. can all come into play when a close team butt heads. It often requires checking one's pride. It can also mean accepting decisions one doesn't agree with to stay a part of a project. And sometimes it means walking away when
Part of the reason this is in my name and not on the We Are Libertarians site is that I don't want others on the team to justify what I say here. I may be the head honcho of the WAL hacienda, but it still is not entirely mine because I am accountable to the other cohosts and researchers. In the end, that may make this project weaker because it is a solo project, or it may be stronger because I have no other considerations. Probably a little of both.
Greenwald's high valuation of freedom over coalitions led him to leave. Greenwald is now free to say and do what he pleases without guardrails. It is GOOD that he can set up a Substack and have that freedom. It is also perilous because no one is checking him before he says things in public. This is a fundamental problem in the era of journalism with no gatekeepers. The editorial process is an absolute good because it protects readers as well as journalists from mistakes.
It is decidedly bad that his team lost the principles so ingrained in the Intercept's mission. The website supposedly fights power structures in a revolutionary way. It is now a Biden surrogate in the manner of Vox. They'd respond that Trump is a unique threat, and he must not be President. I agree with that. So is Biden. Greenwald explains why perfectly:
I've spent most of this year arguing that in-group policing is the only effective form of checks and balances now. The left needs to hold Biden accountable, given the immense amount of power lined up behind him. The right failed miserably to check Trump, and it led to severe consequences.
In a polarized age, the coalitional instinct breaks down institutional norms needed to hold a free society together. The Intercept staff placed a higher value on protecting Biden than they did on protecting open dialogue and free speech.
Another group placing tribalism over free speech is the employees of Spotify. Joe Rogan is now on their team. Rogan was making significant money. I visited his studios last year, and it was as cool as you'd imagine. All podcasters dream of a space thanks to $30 million a year in advertising. He had total freedom. That $100 Million was alluring, but it came with a price. Meetings.
I will tell you what. I would rather be somewhat rich and never go to meetings than be super-rich and have to fight for my editorial content.
Last week, he had on Kanye West, Alex Jones, and Glenn Greenwald. If one is a woke employee at Spotify, can you imagine a more triggering line up the week before an election? It was an intentional dare for the company to do something about it. Guess what? He won.
Threats to free speech are not ended with government intervention. Making it clear to companies and institutions that it is in their financial interests to support open political dialogue will stop censorship.
Read why Alex Jones should never have been de-platformed. (And I would argue banning Jones has increased conspiracy theories to an all-time high thanks to the Streisand Effect.)
The third issue is one most of you will not see in the newspaper for some weeks. Thanks to pressure from both sides of the aisle in Congress, social media cracked down on regular Americans exercising their right to free speech. These companies will generate good headlines for Wall Street and Capitol Avenue by saying they deleted 17,000 "Russian" assets.
While Russia certainly interferes with our elections via social media, that does not include Joshua Smith of the Mises Caucus, John Hudak of Fakertarians, Kryssi Wichers of the Ohio LP, and several others. They may be controversial in some ways within libertarian circles; they shouldn't be to Facebook. They make meaningful contributions towards the body politic (other than that one photo in your neighbor's yard, Kryssi). Other followers are saying they cannot interact with groups or pages.
Facebook wants to avoid regulation. Social media wants to please the greater censor in Senators Hawley on the right and Wyden on the left, so they become censors themselves. If Section 230 is removed, we would see even more purges to avoid lawsuits and regulations.
Now is the time to stand up for free speech. Readers need to reinforce to our elected representatives that forcing media and social media to moderate speech goes against the first amendment. It would be best to make it known as consumers that these private companies should not moderate political discourse. And support independent media financially. Once one person turns something into a viable model, others follow, and industries are created.
Above all else, connect with creators you love on channels like email newsletters or podcasts. They "own" these channels and are less likely to be censored there. If we don't stand up now, then it's going to continue to metastasize.
Articles like this will go behind the paywall beginning next Wednesday.