Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is working to make a name for himself, which could be a great thing for the conservative movement. His administration’s response is leading the nation by balancing freedom and disease experience with COVID-19 despite having more elderly per capita than most states in the country. Last Thursday, he announced another first. He is the first Republican governor to take a stand against the growing push for censorship of conservative ideas.
Speaking at an event for the Texas Public Policy Foundation in Austin, Texas, in the wake of the social media app Parler being completely shut down by Big Tech, DeSantis said:
“We need to really think deeply about if we are a disfavored class based on our principles, based on having conservative views, based on being a Christian, based on whatever you can say that is not favored in Silicon Valley,” DeSantis said during a speech before a crowd of conservatives in Austin, Tx. Later, he added: “I think it’s probably the most important legislative issue that we’re going to have to get right this year and next year.”
This is exactly correct. The pretext for taking down Parler was events on January 6th at the Capitol were organized on that platform. Later reports clearly demonstrated they were also organized on Facebook and Twitter, but Parler has not been restored, increasing the speculation that the move was anti-competitive and political.
Beyond the current drive for censorship online, some commentators suggest eliminating Fox News, OANN, and Newsmax from cable providers. Others favor pulling podcasts and YouTube channels using the riot at the Capitol as a pretext to color everything to the right of CNN as far-right and capable of inciting violence.
One example is former Facebook executive Alex Stamos appearing on CNN’s Reliable Sources. Not only is he suggesting the social media networks crackdown as Joe Scarborough suggested on Morning Joe. He wants to close down all opposing views. After noting some YouTube channels had more viewers than daytime on CNN, he said:
“And, so, it is up to the Facebooks and YouTubes, in particular, to think about whether or not they want to be effectively cable networks for disinformation. And then we’re gonna have to figure out the OANN and Newsmax problem, that these companies have freedom of speech, but I’m not sure we need Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, and such to be bringing them into tens of millions of homes. This is allowing people to seek out information if they really want to but not pushing it into their faces, I think, is where we’re going to have to go here.”
So, if you want a different point of view than the one Stamos approves of, you will need to hunt for it. At least until Amazon Web Services or GoDaddy boot those websites from their servers and hosting services. Governor DeSantis is looking for ways to prevent these actions from being taken and preserve the First Amendment for Floridians. It seems amending Florida’s anti-discrimination law to prevent discrimination based on real or perceived political affiliation in commerce, employment, and other services would be a start.
An even more comprehensive plan would be for all 23 Republican-led states, where the party controls the governorship and legislature, to make similar legislative moves sooner rather than later. The justification is two-fold. The secular left has made political ideology something akin to religion. Even more moderate liberals critical of the left are excommunicated, as Eric Weinstein, a self-identified progressive, has pointed out. In these circumstances, political affiliation requires protection.
Additionally, researchers at the University of Toronto have linked specific personality traits to political preferences:
Researchers at U of T have shown that the psychological concern for compassion and equality is associated with a liberal mindset, while the concern for order and respect of social norms is associated with a conservative mindset.
Personality develops from a combination of genetic predispositions and experience. So do other protected characteristics such as religious faith or lack thereof and sexual preference. In this case, political preference nearly demands protection, particularly when it is disfavored by nearly all of our governing and cultural institutions.
If all 23 states passed similar laws, it would create a larger problem for the tech companies. It could force them to clarify their Terms of Services more strictly to prohibiting illegal activity and planning acts of violence. At some point, the hardware or devices and services starting with the server to the output device are regulated the same way to Ma Bell’s phone lines were. Or like roads are. They are infrastructure. Until then, this type of legislation may be the only way to preserve free speech on political subjects. And in the current environment, everything is political.