Without sounding like a radical conspiracist, we in the United States are dancing precariously on the edge of a knife.
The events that unfolded on January 6 at the Capitol in Washington have given the tech giants – Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Apple, and Google – the excuse they need to begin purging personalities and opinions that they deem to be harmful or dangerous.
The purge began with the banning of the President of the United States from Twitter and Facebook. Whatever you might think of Trump’s social media presence, the unilateral silencing of the President from one of the primary modes of communication in the modern world (a decision that ultimately would have been made by just two men – Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey) is disconcerting, to say the least.
Neither Zuckerberg nor Dorsey are democratically-elected politicians. However, their capacity to severely limit the reach of the President of the United States suggests that the tech oligarchs possess a degree of power that, at least in some ways, rivals that of the most powerful politician on earth.
However, the banning of the President was only the beginning. In the days since, Twitter has purged tens of thousands of user accounts that they claim are linked to the QAnon conspiracy theory.
Meanwhile, Amazon, Google, and Apple joined forces to shut down the alternative social media platform Parler – where many disgruntled conservatives have gone in recent years, to escape the growing censorship on the big platforms. Amazon yanked the servers on which Parler operated, while Google and Apple both banned the platform from their app stores.
Don’t Trust the Tech Oligarchs
To be clear, the QAnon conspiracy theory is deeply problematic. And there is no doubt that some of the accounts banned by Twitter or Facebook were posting problematic materials. However, you would have to be naïve in the extreme to think that the bans are just about stopping incitement to violence or the posting of demonstrably illegal material, or that the purge will stop here.
As noted in an article this week by Mike Solana, published by Pirate Wires, the purge reeks of a double standard:
Why has every [Chinese Communist Party] account and propaganda outlet not been permanently scrubbed from US social media platforms? Why has Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei, a holocaust denier and violent dictator who has repeatedly threatened nuclear war on Twitter, not been removed from the platform? … What about every single media personality who just this summer said rioting, and political violence, was justified? Are Apple and Google executives at all concerned about the insanity pouring out of Twitter and Facebook, and are they considering removing these platforms from their app stores? If not, why not? Are Twitter and Facebook protected from such action for no other reason than Dorsey and Zuckerberg promised to try their best to censor the bad guys? Does it not matter that they’re failing, every single day, dramatically and obviously?
The headquarters of all the tech giants are in extremely liberal Silicon Valley, California. An overwhelming majority of their employees are on the liberal/progressive side of the political spectrum. What this means is that even when they think they are being “fair” or “reasonable,” they are almost certainly blinded by the progressive groupthink within Silicon Valley.
In recent years, we have seen how many mainstream conservative viewpoints are increasingly being labeled by radical progressives as inherently “violent” or “hateful.” Across the West, so-called “hate speech” laws are being introduced to ban things as basic as arguing that sex is biologically determined, or that marriage is between a man and a woman.
Did you know, for instance, that official Twitter policy bans so-called “deadnaming?” Deadnaming is an Orwellian neologism that means referring to a transgender person by his or her biological gender or “pre-transition” name. For instance, if you were to speak of the famous athlete and reality TV star Bruce Jenner – who now claims to be a woman by the name of Caitlyn – as a man, or “Bruce,” you have just violated official Twitter policy, and can be kicked off the platform.
There is already evidence that pro-abortion activists are taking advantage of the heated political atmosphere to agitate for pro-life speech to be banned from the social media platform.
On January 7, Lila Rose, the founder of the excellent pro-life group Live Action, posted on Twitter: “Abortion is violence.” In response, abortionist Leah Torres posted on Twitter: “This is violent rhetoric. It is objectively false and meant to incite others to commit crimes against clinics, patients, and health care providers. This is what domestic terrorism looks like.”
Get that? Point out the scientifically demonstrable fact that an abortion kills a unique human being, and you are a “domestic terrorist.” The irony, of course, is that Torres herself has, in the past, been quite blunt about the violence of abortion. You might remember her as the abortionist who posted on Twitter a while back, “You know fetuses can’t scream, right? I transect the cord 1st so there’s really no opportunity, if they’re even far enough along to have a larynx.”
The question for the tech giants is, by what standard are they judging various personalities or opinions to be “dangerous”? What are the criteria? And what legal recourse do the purged or silenced have to regain their voice?
Freedom in Truth; Truth in Freedom
I have been in many countries where there is limited ability to speak on fundamental issues impacting life and family. The danger this poses is incalculable, especially to those who dare to uphold Judeo-Christian values. If anyone, for example, contradicts laws, political viewpoints and ideology, or the held positions of those in power, that individual or group runs the serious risk of being arrested and charged with a crime. This inability to freely address critical topics as they relate to authentic human rights, which flow from the inherent dignity of the human person, is always detrimental, not only to individuals but also to society.
People need to take serious notice of the actions of big tech, governments, and their agents that are censoring groups and individuals they deem inappropriate. The threat to free speech is so important because it is a threat to the human person’s capacity to search for and come into contact with truth.
As the Vatican II document Dignitatis Humanae notes:
A sense of the dignity of the human person has been impressing itself more and more deeply on the consciousness of contemporary man, and the demand is increasingly made that men should act on their own judgment, enjoying and making use of a responsible freedom, not driven by coercion but motivated by a sense of duty. The demand is likewise made that constitutional limits should be set to the powers of government, in order that there may be no encroachment on the rightful freedom of the person and of associations. This demand for freedom in human society chiefly regards the quest for the values proper to the human spirit. It regards, in the first place, the free exercise of religion in society. (Dignitatis Humanae, no. 1)
As I have mentioned in the past, a crisis of truth has led to a crisis of freedom. The unmooring of moral principles did not happen independently of a rejection of truth and a desire to be “free.” As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes. There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just. The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to ‘the slavery of sin.’” (no. 1733)
In other words, to be free, we need the truth. But to find the truth, we need to be free to search for it.
Freedom does not achieve its full capacity, its dignity, until it makes choices that reach out to what reason perceives as objectively good and true. Contrary to modern-day thought, freedom, when exercised in truth and reason, is not diminished but is rather fulfilled when one employs it to bring about a genuine good.
I am reminded of Pope St. John Paul II’s words in Redemptor Hominis when he quotes Jesus: “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” Continuing, he says,
These words contain both a fundamental requirement and a warning: the requirement of an honest relationship with regard to truth as a condition for authentic freedom, and the warning to avoid every kind of illusory freedom, every superficial unilateral freedom, every freedom that fails to enter into the whole truth about man and the world. Today also, even after two thousand years, we see Christ as the one who brings man freedom based on truth, frees man from what curtails, diminishes and as it were breaks off this freedom at its root, in man’s soul, his heart and his conscience. What a stupendous confirmation of this has been given and is still being given by those who, thanks to Christ and in Christ, have reached true freedom and have manifested it even in situations of external constraint! (no. 12)
Protect Truth, Protect Freedom of Speech
While Dignitatis Humanae only mentions the need to constrain the “power of governments,” in order to protect freedom, the language could easily be expanded to the big tech companies, which in many cases wield as much power as governmental authorities, if not more.
Some people make the argument that because these companies are privately owned, they can ban whomever they like. While this argument has a prima facie plausibility, it ignores the fact that these companies are not just one provider of a service among many. In many cases, they amount to monopolies exercised on the global scale.
These companies and platforms act as the gatekeepers of information, for billions of people. If they begin to flex their power, they can ensure that certain viewpoints are completely expunged from the public square.
My concern is that the pro-life and family movements pose a genuine threat to the power, desire for control, and ideological beliefs of the progressive elite who largely run these companies. Because of their opposition to liberal and modernist agendas and ideologies, pro-life and family leaders and their groups are prime targets for censorship. This is especially true with regard to the tenets of the sexual revolution that seek to normalize and enshrine sexual “freedom” – i.e. promiscuity and premarital sex, pornography, contraception and abortion, homosexuality and alternative forms of sexuality, and the destruction and redefinition of traditional marriage and the family – which these movements regularly confront.
In a great majority of cases, those endorsing the principles of liberalism and modernism are unable to respond to Judeo-Christian arguments, which are factual, scientific, and logical. So, they turn to bullying and vilification, censorship, threats of legal suits, confiscation of property and money, and imprisonment.
As history teaches, when the elites obtain too much power, they use their position of authority to shut down all truth against their false and ridiculous “arguments.” It is important that we make our voices heard now, before it is too late, courageously defending our right to be heard and the objective truth of the pro-life and pro-family viewpoints. It is also important to find creative ways to sidestep the tech monopolies as much as possible – using other search engines such as DuckDuckGo, trying to shop locally instead of at Amazon, and supporting alternative social media platforms where they are available.