ROMNEY WORDSWORTH – In Part 1, I discussed how internet censorship is on the rise, and that there are now calls for social media platforms to actively police and censor speech that the Left now defines as “cyber-violence” and “cyber-harassment”. In Part 2 I will discuss other trends and technologies that are coming together to take away your freedom of speech.
Recently Facebook unveiled its new “Universal Search Engine”. What is Universal Search? Facebook is indexing the entirety of Facebook’s 2 trillion posts and making them searchable. Universal Search will now provide a way to see what the internet is talking about in real time, due to the fact that Facebook commands the lion’s share of internet users’ time spent online. Facebook hosts a huge percentage of the links users share from around the web and the discussions they have around news, personal interests, and everything else about their lives that they share online. Facebook’s search team is now turning that flood of human thought (1.5 billion daily searches) into a vast repository of discussion, searchable by anyone.
Heretofore, such a database was only at the disposal of the NSA, and it still is. But this unveiling underlines the pervasive archiving going on of everything you type online. At the same time, there is a push in certain government quarters to do away with internet anonymity (and in fact the NSA already has back door keys to find out who “UZER113” really is through Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc) and, as discussed in Part 1, to expand the definitions of “violence” and “harassment” to encompass mere disagreement with someone else’s opinion. Hold the “wrong opinion”, hold a Politically Incorrect belief, and the government will have the ability to search and identify everything you’ve said that they don’t like, going back years and years ago!
Would the government go after you, retroactively, for something you said long ago that is now deemed to be “racist”, “sexist”, “homophobic”, or “hateful”? Well we have just experienced that very thing when it comes to the Confederate Battle Flag. All my life the Stars & Bars were considered an innocuous historical relic—and I grew up in the state of Connecticut, not exactly what you would call the Deep South! Now, all of a sudden, it is as if the Civil War just ended yesterday.
We are living in a mad, Maoist style Cultural Revolution. The Left has unleashed they cadres of cultists who are descending everywhere on cultural landmarks, defacing and demanding the removal of statues that have stood one hundred years, digging up dead corpses, and banning the display of flags. How soon before the Gadsen Flag and the Founding Fathers come under the same treatment? Not long. There are already calls to remove statues of Thomas Jefferson on grounds that he was a slave owner, and therefore MUST be a racist.
The Left feels the same way about the American Flag itself. School officials at Corona del Sol High School in Tempe, Arizona recently banned the wearing of pro-Donald Trump and patriotic clothing at an upcoming football game because the clothing is “racist.” Now, this is truly unprecedented. Remember that a School District is an arm of the government. It is government action that the Bill of Rights is supposed to chiefly apply to. The Bill of Rights, in turn as part of the Constitution, is supposed to be the Supreme Law of the Land. Yet here we have a governmental body, acting under color of law, declaring that the leading presidential candidate of one of the two major political parties in America is “racist” and can therefore be banned. This was done without any sort of due process hearing. No evidence was heard, no opportunity to speak a defense, no judicial determination made. Just a mere diktat of a governmental agency wielding authority over the people.
They, meaning the Left in perches of governmental power, are getting away with this. A South Carolina high school similarly ordered a student to remove an “offensive” U.S. flag from his truck in May because “some people were complaining.” A school official at York Comprehensive H.S. had even unbolted the flag from 18-year-old Peyton Robinson’s truck and laid it down in the truck bed, which is disrespectful to not only the flag but also the student’s property.
Why defend the serial failures of communism, or the existential threat of unrestricted immigration and a borderless country, when you can simply declare your political opponents “racist” and ban them? This is how your freedom of speech will be taken away from you. First it is declared “racist” or “hateful”, and then it is banned.
Schools often proffer the excuse of “safety concerns” when they ban displays of patriotism or the American Flag, saying it might lead to fights or violence with those who are living here and yet are offended by the sight of American colors. The Courts let them get away with this excuse, but it wasn’t always this way. Supreme Court case law used to defend the right of Free Speech over what is known in legal parlance as “the Heckler’s Veto”. Thus, even though a man giving a political speech on a street corner got the crowd mad, the proper course of government is to protect the speaker from mob violence, not to silence the speaker to placate a mob. See, Feiner v. New York, 340 U.S. 315 (1951). It was this legal doctrine that allowed a bunch of Illinois Nazis the right to march and give public speeches. See, National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie, 432 U.S. 43 (1977). Likewise for marches by the Ku Klux Klan.
Today, school districts only refer to anonymous individuals who might be offended as reason to ban and censor via prior restraint the free speech of patriots, conservatives, and Christians, without even being able to show a “clear and present danger” of violence. See, Feiner, above. But of course, Feiner was a Progressive Socialists, Nazis are Socialists, and the KKK was the terror arm of the Democrat Party. Funny how the red carpet got rolled out for them while the Supreme Court supports tearing down crosses and the Ten Commandments from the public square.
Finally, the last dangerous precedent threatening your free speech was a little noticed, recent court ruling by an Administrative Law Judge in Colorado. The case, captioned Barela v. Liberty Common School, held that a Facebook post by the Defendant Charter School constituted an in kind political contribution to a school board candidate.
Why does this matter? Because this ruling could easily be imposed on individuals and because there are caps on how much an individual can contribute to a campaign. I have no idea how a court will value a Facebook post, and that doesn’t matter. Once your political speech in favor of a candidate, or against a candidate that inures to the benefit of his opponent, is deemed to be a contribution to a campaign; that means you will be severely limited in what you can say, what venue you say it in, and how often you can say it. It isn’t too hard to see this being extended to any social media platform either, and even old news print editorials. The wider the audience you reach, the more “valuable” the post is. Once you reach your “limit”, you are then barred from further speaking on a political race, or subject to sanctions. This becomes a de facto TAX on your political speech, which is a big wet dream for your garden variety Leftist who hates the whole idea of free speech, and elections for that matter. If this were applied to my weekly Wednesday column on Donald Trump, I’d probably already be getting criminally prosecuted by the FEC for exceeding my donation limits.
This, Dear Reader, is how The Powers That Be plan to take away your Free Speech.