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Freedom of Speech Matters, Even if the Provocateur is Alex Jones: 1

August 10, 2018 13 comments

As I briefly talked about in my previous post on this topic, the willingness of large monopolistic corporations to cut off essential services to an unpopular person without due process is highly problematic. Some of you might say that people like Alex Jones, who are cheerleaders of an ideology which hold private and corporate power to be supreme, deserve to be screwed by the very system they worship. And, Yes.. it is darkly funny and ironic that a prominent cheerleader for libertarianism got run over by large corporations acting as surrogate government agencies.

Some of those who commented to my previous post put forth excuses such as.. “they are private corporations”, “he was doing illegal things”, “Google, FaceBook and Apple are not monopolies” and “Free Speech protection does not apply to private corporations” etc. I for one find the sudden love among LIEbrals for private corporations, private property rights, insights into laws about monopolies and free speech rather amusing. Wasn’t it barely two weeks ago when LIEbrals were loudly professing to believe in exactly the opposite of what they are claiming this week?

Then again, establishment LIEbrals have been enthusiastically kissing the ground which Mueller and his fellow NeoCons walk on for almost a years now. They act as if the failed and highly expensive occupation of Iraq never occurred. They pretend that all these newfound icons did not lie through their teeth about the presence of WMDs in Iraq, how american soldiers would be greeted as liberators, how the occupation would cost less than 60 billion USD etc. And don’t forget all those ‘mainstream’ media outlets pimping fake intelligence in 2002 and early- 2003.

My point is that there is something very wrong and short-sighted about cheering on a bunch of wannabe tyrants just because they are persecuting some unpopular person first. And this raises the even bigger issue of why protection of free speech is so important. Let me begin this part by saying that we have laws to protect free speech because it is implicitly understood that free speech is often unpopular speech. Nobody is going to persecute you if you shout “USA, USA” at some game or “thank some veteran for his or her service”. Protection of free speech is, therefore, exclusively about protecting unpopular speech.

Free speech is about calling an asshole an asshole. It is about openly criticizing unjust institutions and systems. It is about organizing and protesting against injustice and unfair treatment. It is about expressing viewpoints contrary to the popular narrative. It is about expressing a dissenting viewpoint in as colorful a manner as you choose. Free speech, especially unpopular speech, provides a feedback mechanism for society to find out and address problems, both temporary and systemic- if it chooses to do so. As you will soon see, there is a good reason behind my decision to put a photo of Alex Jones alongside MLK, Malcolm X and Larry Flynt in the attached graphic.

I am sure that a few of you might be scandalized by my decision to compare the current travails of Alex Jones to such historical and notable figures such as MLK and Malcolm X. That comparison is however far more accurate than many of you would want to admit. For starters, the biggest controversies surrounding MLK and Malcolm X during their lifetimes centered around what they said and the causes they openly supported. Let me remind you that Jim Crow laws, overt “legal” discrimination against blacks and generally treating them as less-than-human was the accepted way of doing things in USA as late as the mid-1960s. In other words, their speech was unpopular speech.

Now ask yourself, have you heard of any instance of either MLK or Malcolm X being denied phone connections by the Bell monopoly of that era, because of their unpopular views? I am sure many whites would have loved to see that happen, but it did not. But why not? Well.. there were laws and regulations that prevented monopolies such as Bell from denying service to people without due legal process. Long story short, they could not deny telephone connections to anyone who paid their bills on time and did not intentionally damage their rented equipment.

The same was true for gas, electricity and water utility companies. Similarly, it was quite hard for major public venues (even at that time) to deny them space for holding large meetings. Compare that to the situation today. Do you think FaceBook would have let groups which openly protested “existing laws” exist on their platform? Would YouTube keep hosting videos in which someone like MLK encouraged his supporters to break “existing laws” even when those laws were clearly unjust. Let me remind you that majority of whites in 1960s were against civil rights and racial equality.

To put it another way, even somebody like MLK would have been deplatformed by internet and communication monopolies such Google, FaceBook and Apple if they had existed at that time. Let us now talk about Malcolm X, or more specifically what he said in his more well-known speeches. Do you think he would be able to remain of social media platforms such as FaceBook, YouTube etc after his famous ‘The Ballot or the bullet‘ speech? Ever considered that a lot of what he said in his other speeches would have gotten him multiple strikes for “hate speech”.

Or what about Larry Flynt, whose first famous conflict with the establishment was over his decision to publish spread nudes of women in the 1970s. And yes, I know they were very hairy- because it was the 1970s. Was the telephone company able cut his connection because they disagreed with the ‘morality’ of his business decisions? What about the press who printed his magazines? Moving on a bit further, do you remember how he got himself into that famous supreme court case. In case you don’t, he used his magazine to incessantly troll religious and conservative frauds such as Jerry Falwell. He won the case and they made a film about it later.

The point I am trying to make is the laws to defend Free Speech are really about defending Unpopular Speech. There is a reason why the standard for what constitutes Free Speech is set such that it is not easy to suppress it with spurious claims of libel and slander- especially if you are a public figure. To be clear, this does not mean you can libel and slander people in a malicious manner. In fact, I know people who received satisfactory settlements against certain well-known news outlets who had libeled and slandered their good name.

If Alex Jones libeled and slandered people or actually incited violence against specific individuals, he should be sued by the affected individuals and the case should be tried before an independent judge and jury and under conditions where his legal counsel can cross-examine the plaintiffs and their witnesses. In other words, even somebody like Alex Jones deserves the benefit of due legal process. His fate should not be decided behind closed doors and on the whims of some petty and unaccountable tyrants employed by internet monopolies such as Google, FaceBook and Apple.

In the next part of this hopefully short series, I will talk about why corporate media outlets peopled with supposedly “professional” and “objective” journalists are a far bigger hazard to public well-being than an alcoholic clown continuously screaming at the camera and hawking nutritional supplements.

What do you think? Comments?