By Kevin D. Williamson
Why is Alex Jones permitted to have a telephone?
It’s a serious question.
Facebook on Thursday announced that a small assortment of kooks — Alex Jones, Laura Loomer, Milo Yiannopoulos, Paul Joseph Watson, Paul Nehlen, Louis Farrakhan — will be permanently banned from Facebook, Instagram and other platforms it controls. Jones’ publication, Infowars, also will be banned. Praise of these figures, and expressions of support for them, also are to be prohibited.
Facebook is a private company and is under no legal obligation to provide accounts to figures whose views its executives find objectionable.
But how far do we want to extend that line of thinking?
There are about 30 cellphone-service providers in the United States, although the market is dominated by four of them: AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint. Federal regulation might prohibit them from discriminating against customers based on their political views, but the principle is the same. Why should Louis Farrakhan be allowed to use a telephone to spread his hateful message? Why should anybody sell him paper — or a pencil, for that matter? Think of the damage he might do with them.
Why should people with unpopular political views be allowed to have jobs? If you employ people with ugly political beliefs, you are providing financial support for the cultivation of those beliefs. Imagine your next job interview: “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?” Communists murdered 100 million people in the 20th century. If that isn’t a hate group, I don’t know what is. In most states, there is no law against corporations discriminating against employees and job applicants for their political views.
Why should we sell them houses or rent them apartments?
Why provide them with medical care? A medical practice is a private business, too.
Facebook claims to be a neutral forum that does not discriminate politically but instead only imposes “community standards” that serve the interest of “safety.” That is, without question, a lie.
Milo Yiannopoulos is a danger to no one except for those unfortunate enough to be standing between him and a camera or hair-care products. Laura Loomer is a dope who once interrupted a play in New York (but did it with no panache). Facebook is excluding them because Facebook’s executives are sometimes embarrassed by the way their product is used, and they are easy to shame into submission in the political monoculture of Silicon Valley. The BS about “safety” is pure pretext.
There is blood on the streets in Venezuela. But the Democratic Socialists of America are free to defend the Maduro regime on Facebook. Why? Because socialists don’t embarrass tech executives, but Alex Jones does.
The idea that a Woody Allen book — not the man himself, but a memoir written by him — presents a public danger is plainly absurd. But he has been blacklisted by publishers, and Amazon has pulled out of a distribution deal with him. One publisher insisted the “risks of releasing a memoir by him were too daunting.” The moral posturing is dishonest. What’s happening here is not a profile in courage but its opposite.
This is purely a matter of tribal taboo. And if progressives are celebrating for the moment, it is only because they believe, wrongly, they have won a victory over their adversaries — when what has happened is that they have helped to establish the norm that our public discourse is to be moderated by the social sensibilities of the Fortune 500’s chief executives and their boards of directors.
Laugh all you like at Alex Jones. He is a kook. But Facebook, and other online platforms, are not going to stop with him.