If there is one thing you can count on, it’s the ever shifting 24/7 news cycle. Mostly, and appropriately, perhaps, the news cycle over the weekend focused on the combined American, British, and French airstrikes against the Syrian chemical weapon production capability. However, there was a more important story from last week that we should not so easily dismiss. It centers around the Senate and House congressional testimony of Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg. If we were paying attention to the very well scripted and rehearsed testimony of Mr. Zuckerberg, we would realize that he all but concurred with the assessment that Facebook does censor certain speech. No, I am not talking about Islamic jihadist material or even what he defined as “hate speech,” even that could be challenged. Mr. Zuckerberg acknowledged that Facebook is “located in Silicon Valley, which is an extremely left-leaning place.”
This should give us great consternation when we realize that Mr. Zuckerberg admitted to having some 20,000 employees who do indeed make determinations on what is “hate speech.” But what if these individuals based in Silicon Valley are making the critical determination as to what is acceptable speech in the public sphere? This is very disconcerting because, unless you have been under a rock, you know that Facebook recently told Lynette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson, also known as Diamond and Silk, that their Facebook page had been suspended due to being “unsafe to the community.” Mr. Zuckerberg was asked about this issue, and his response was more than lacking any clear, cogent, understanding. Of course, the immediate question we should all ponder – a rhetorical one actually – is who made the determination that the speech of Diamond and Silk was “unsafe to the community”? And exactly for what community was the Facebook page of two black female conservatives unsafe?
Yes, we can be concerned about the use of chemical weapons in Syria, but there is an even more dangerous weapon being unleashed on America. This weapon takes our most prized possessions, our speech, expression, and even religion, and empowers a certain ideological few to determine who is allowed to voice their opinion in the public sphere. We are living in an America where we see federal government agencies being weaponized along ideological lines of separation, but we have now crossed another very dangerous Rubicon, where we have so-called private sector communications platforms that operate in the public sphere who are making ideological determinations as to what they deem acceptable speech and thought.
This is not just an issue with Facebook. There have been examples of the same with other technology communications platforms – Google, YouTube, Twitter. Here we have someone at YouTube determining that Dennis Prager’s videos should be censored. Apparently, any instructional video of law-abiding Americans exercising their Second Amendment right also deserves censoring. The Twitter feed of Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (R-Tn) recently came under attack by Twitter because of its pro-life stance, Twitter deeming part of the Senate candidates’ campaign launch video to be “inflammatory,” according to Politico.
During Mr. Zuckerberg’s Senate testimony, he was asked by Texas Senator Ted Cruz about censoring of certain left-leaning, progressive, socialist groups, organizations, and causes. Mr. Zuckerberg’s lack of a coherent response was very telling, and yes, was a cause for concern. Of course, there are those who would say no one is being forced to use these social media platforms. However, if there is a monopoly – which appears to be what Facebook has become – where does one turn?
Do we realize that the prominent social media platforms in America are controlled – yes, that is the word – by those with a left-leaning, progressive, socialist perspective and philosophy of governance? And how does that shape the expression of varying or opposing thought in the public space? Again, as Mr. Zuckerberg testified, there are about 20,000 people at Facebook making determinations, but based upon what evaluative criteria?
Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking to young conservatives on two different campuses: Clemson University and the University of Texas. Sharing with these young men and women is so very important. The stories that they tell of their travails on these college and university campuses is not just concerning, they are infuriating. To know that they must keep their thoughts, beliefs, and perspectives quiet or else suffer consequences from the school administration, teachers, and fellow students is insufferable. These students, and some professors themselves, are being bullied, coerced, threatened, and intimidated just because they hold a different, conservative, viewpoint. Leftist students claim to need “safe spaces” from micro-aggressions, meaning a fear of being confronted by any opposing thought or perspective. There are domestic violent groups like Antifa who claim to be anti-fascist, and yet they promote fascism.
As I wrote this from Plantation, Florida in Broward County, just a few days ago, conservative millennial activist Charlie Kirk was denied a speaking opportunity at Stoneman Douglas High School just to my north. Can you imagine what the outcry would be if any leftist were denied a speaking opportunity at Hillsdale College? Lest we forget that even avowed socialist Bernie Sanders was granted a speaking engagement at Liberty University in Virginia.
The left constantly seeks boycotts against those who do not conform to their ideological agenda. As a sitting Board Member of the National Rifle Association, we are contending with these denigrations and disparaging assaults. Yet, an organization such as Planned Parenthood, founded by a known white supremacist and racist, Margaret Sanger, is praised by the left, and even receives over $500 million in American taxpayer funding. It was very telling to see the liberal progressive media’s coverage of the “March for our Lives,” as opposed to the annual “March for Life.” The cry about the NRA having “blood on its hands” is not just hyperbolic, it is false, a lie. Planned Parenthood has blood on its hands every day, so why no condemnation? Simple, someone has determined that killing unborn babies is acceptable, while simultaneously suggesting that a law-abiding firearm owning American is not.
Ask yourself, when MSNBCs Joy Reid all but condoned and presented a justification of the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La), done by a far-left assailant, due to his voting record, where was the outcry for her removal or any boycotting of her sponsors? When Joy Behar of ABCs “The View” demeaned Christianity as a mental illness, Behar barely uttered an apology, but after much pressure did finally apologize for her attack against Vice President Pence and all Christians.
The richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos, who owns Amazon, also owns the Washington Post, a media platform. And we all know the political leanings of Mr. Bezos.
We are entering a scary time in America. Censorship of thought in the public space is not a fundamental of our constitutional republic. It is, however, the foundation of progressivism, Marxism, socialism, communism, and Stalinism – none of which are congruent with our American principles, rights, values, and ideals. Therefore, the work of the Media Research Center is so very vital and integral to the functioning and sustaining of our liberties and freedoms. The chemical attack in Syria was troubling, but the censoring of speech in America is detrimental to our existence.
Allen West is a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army. Mr. West is a Senior Fellow at the Media Research Center to support its mission to expose and neutralize liberal media bias.