FPI / October 7, 2019
Leftists in politics, the media and on college campuses have become increasingly conflicted on the issue of free speech since the landmark free speech movement at UC Berkeley in 1964. Led by graduate student Mario Silva, those leftist protests marked the first mass act of campus civil disobedience in the 1960s and targeted the Vietnam War.
On Oct. 4, however, The New York Times openly declared war on the First Amendment.
In an article titled “Free Speech is Killing Us”, writer Andrew Marantz said he has “spent the past few years embedding as a reporter with the trolls and bigots and propagandists … I no longer have any doubt that the brutality that germinates on the Internet can leap into the world of flesh and blood.”
Citing Charlottesville and the El Paso Walmart shooting, Marantz claimed "noxious speech is causing tangible harm."
Marantz prescribed more government regulation, intervention and funding to crack down on free speech online.
“Congress could fund, for example, a national campaign to promote news literacy, or it could invest heavily in library programming. It could build a robust public media in the mold of the BBC. It could rethink Section 230 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act — the rule that essentially allows Facebook and YouTube to get away with (glorification of) murder. If Congress wanted to get really ambitious, it could fund a rival to compete with Facebook or Google, the way the Postal Service competes with FedEx and U.P.S.”
Observers noted that repealing Section 230 would single-handedly destroy free speech on the Internet.
Marantz also called on America’s tech executives to further extend their role of policing speech: “Tomorrow, by fiat, Mark Zuckerberg could make Facebook slightly less profitable and enormously less immoral,” Marantz wrote. “He could hire thousands more content moderators and pay them fairly. Or he could replace Sheryl Sandberg with Susan Benesch, a human rights lawyer and an expert on how speech can lead to violence.”
Does Marantz’s claim of speech causing “tangible harm” hold up?
“It does not,” Robby Soave wrote for Reason.com on Oct. 4. “Today the U.S. has greater protections for free speech and less violence. The Supreme Court has recognized increasingly fewer exceptions to the First Amendment over the last several decades. The result has not been an increase in violence: The violent crime rate has plummeted since the early 1990s.”
To Marantz’s citation of Charlottesville and El Paso, Soave noted that “ideologically motivated killings comprise a very tiny portion of overall violence. We are talking about dozens of deaths each year. In the year 2018, there were vastly more homicides in the city of Chicago (1,400 killings) than known homicides by domestic extremists anywhere in the country (50 killings). And those 50 killings include not just actual hate crimes and terror attacks but completely non-ideological murders that happen to have been committed by extremists.”
Soave added: “If the argument is that free speech protections must be curbed in order to stave off an epidemic of violence, then the argument should be heartily rejected. Domestically, our capacity for free speech has increased, but violence has not.”
It is not just violence that Marantz rails against, as Breitbart senior technology correspondent Allum Bokhari points out.
Bokhari notes that Marantz also “whines that the Internet was once seen as ‘surely only a force for progress’ but that ‘No one believes that anymore. Not after the social-media-fueled campaigns of Narendra Modi and Rodrigo Duterte and Donald Trump; not after the murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, VA; not after the massacres in a synagogue in Pittsburgh, two mosques in Christchuch New Zealand, and a Walmart in a majority-Hispanic part of El Paso.’ ”
Bokhari wrote: “It’s hard to feign shock at a New York Times writer equating the election of populist leaders with white supremacist massacres. That’s just what the mainstream media does these days — and every time they do it, Americans’ contempt for the media sinks a little lower. Just 35 percent of Democrats and 12 percent of Republicans say information from national news organizations is ‘very trustworthy.’ ”
Bokhari continued: “Massacres and madmen have always existed. The Oklahoma City bombing happened before the Internet had attained widespread use, as did (as the author ironically acknowledges himself) the Rwandan genocide. Anti-Semitic pamphleteers drove pogroms in Russia and parts of Europe at the turn of the 19th century. There’s nothing about the Internet that makes violence more likely than in previous eras, all of which were far more violent than modern times.”
Free Press International