Hillary Clinton: Free Speech is "Authoritarian"
So the former Secretary of State and twice-failed presidential candidate has made a few comments about social media to The Atlantic, and rarely have I seen Orwellian doublespeak laid out so plainly. I don't know if she lacks the self-awareness to realize how she sounds, or if for her, saying this stuff publicly is just an expression of power: I will say what I want because this is my world and all you little people just live in it.
In the linked article, Atlantic executive editor Adrienne LaFrance reports on comments made by Clinton to that magazine's editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg at the Sundance Film Festival. (I wonder if they were in a wine cave at the time.) Clinton has a big problem with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg--and no, it's not that he sells your private data for profit. (That's just a sensible business model.) Clinton's issue with Zuckerberg is that, according to her, he prefers not to act as an official censor on his platform, instead letting users post and read whatever they want and decide for themselves what they choose to believe.
There was the time, last spring, when a slowed-down video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi caught fire online. The distorted speed, which made Pelosi appear as though she was slurring her words, seemed designed to make her appear cognitively impaired. “Google took it off YouTube … so I contacted Facebook,” Clinton said. “I said, Why are you guys keeping this up? This is blatantly false. Your competitors have taken it down. And their response was, We think our users can make up their own minds.”
Now I had thought two of the most important principles of free speech are that it protects sleazy crap like that and it isn't curbed at the request of the powerful. But I guess my views on the matter are just out of date. The former Secretary of State is kind enough to update me on the latest NewThink:
When I asked Clinton today whether she too sees a Trumpian quality in Zuckerberg’s reasoning, she nodded. “It’s Trumpian,” she said. “It’s authoritarian.”
And just for good measure she adds that "I feel like you're negotiating with a foreign power sometimes." (I wonder which country she wants readers to think of.) I could point out to Secretary Clinton that Mr. Zuckerberg has quite a history of engaging in the same kinds of censorship that she accuses him of being insufficiently enthusiastic about. But my words would fall on deaf ears because Zuckerberg's crime is that--actual censorship aside--his platform is a populist one where anyone can log on and say anything they want. It's not the influence of "foreign powers" that worry people like Clinton, it's bus drivers in Ohio and plumbers in New Mexico. She longs for the days when in order to criticize an article in the New York Times, you had to write an article in the Washington Post, effectively excluding 99.9% of the public from the debate. Now that bus driver in Ohio can just go on Facebook and drag the shit out of it.
By laying out the populist/elitist divide in such stark terms, Clinton--and The Atlantic--have clarified things quite helpfully. The article seems to think that legitimate discussions of what limits should be placed on our freedoms are best held "at the highest levels," while it describes populist anger as "crawling out of the depths of the web." Censoring ordinary people is the right and proper thing to do, while letting them say whatever they want is "authoritarian" and "Trumpian." Since Facebook is a private platform, if they removed articles or videos at the government's request, that totally, 100% wouldn't violate the principle of freedom of speech. We're through the looking glass now, folks.
Of course, blatantly false stories are nothing new. I think I can safely say I speak for everyone here when I say I don't want Mark Zuckerberg deciding what's true or false, and I'm glad that--to at least some extent--he doesn't. But after RussiaGate, Syrian chemical weapons "attacks," Iraq WMDs, babies in incubators, the Gulf of Tonkin, and all the way back to the fucking Maine, I think we can all agree that the government has the credibility of an abusive, drunken sociopath. If there is any daylight left between Washington and Silicon Valley on issues of censorship, it should be guarded aggressively. And if the price of freedom is fake videos of Nancy Pelosi looking like she's had a few too many appletinis, then I say bring them on.
But what do I know? I'm just one of those "Nobodies" who likes Bernie Sanders.