If it’s a day ending in Y, odds are that Jonah Goldberg is lying about something or someone.
The latest example is his May 10 G-File at National Review, which discusses the latest round of right-wing personalities to be banned from Facebook as “dangerous individuals.” As has become Goldberg’s trademark over the last three years or so, it’s high on condescension and low on familiarity with the actual facts and arguments in dispute.
We’ve never been in this kind of situation before and that should cause thoughtful people to have a little humility before setting their hair on fire about the obvious injustice of denying, say, Laura Loomer the “right” to spread bigoted lies and conspiracy theories about staged mass shootings on a privately owned platform. And I think it’s deeply revealing that so many people can muster blind rage for the “silencing” of people like Loomer and Milo what’s-his-name but can’t rouse themselves to criticize any of the stuff these people did or said that got them in hot water in the first place. Most of the same people wrapping themselves in the First Amendment for Milo cheer every time the president talks about opening up the libel laws and taking away broadcast licenses. So forgive me for not seeing them as champions of principle here.
First, an aside: there are few more grating examples of SwampCon mindlessness than their hysteria about “opening up the libel laws.” Apparently Jonah forgot that Roger Kimball set him straight on this very point in January.
Anyway, I’m perfectly willing to criticize Milo, Loomer, Jones, Watson, and Nehlen. Their banning troubles plenty of mainstream conservatives who are clearly against cranks, like Ben Shapiro. So fixating on the dubious company kept by some Facebook critics won’t work as a shortcut around the “debate” part of the debate.
But to hear Goldberg tell it, the issue is just a bunch of people who “believe they have an unalienable right to have their jackassery boosted over someone else’s microphone,” whining that “any consequences for our own asininity are definitionally unjust.” As long as you don’t “lie,” “be a jerk,” or “encourage bigotry and thuggery,” he suggests, you should be fine.
This tells us one of two things: either Goldberg is oddly comfortable with opining on subjects he doesn’t follow without putting in a minimum level of effort to familiarize himself with the facts, or he simply doesn’t care because it doesn’t (yet) affect him or his clique.
If he had been following the issue, he’d know that while the tech giants have so far reserved their harshest measures for the least sympathetic targets (because they know people like Jonah Goldberg will bog down the Right in squabbling about personalities instead of hashing out the speech issues), crackpots and bigots aren’t the only ones who’ve been affected. Not by a long shot.
Dr. Michael Brown. Dr. Robert A.J. Gagnon. Dr. Ray Blanchard. Steven Crowder. Dave Rubin. Elizabeth “Activist Mommy” Johnston. Prager University. Rod Dreher. NEWSREP. The Unplanned, Gosnell, and Roe v. Wade movies. The Radiance Foundation. The American Pregnancy Association. Abortion Pill Reversal. Live Action. Human Coalition. Susan B. Anthony List. ChoiceForTwo. Jesse Kelly. LifeSiteNews. Elizabeth Heng. Islamist Watch. Legal Insurrection. Peter LaBarbera. Franklin Graham. Matt Margolis. The Claremont Institute. Marsha Blackburn. Numerous other Republicans. An upcoming religious freedom conference in Australia. CodeIsFreeSpeech.com. Firearms Policy Coalition. The Tactical Sh*t gun-parts company.
All these and many others have seen individual posts and/or entire accounts deleted, demonetized, suppressed, or otherwise penalized based on opaque criteria or false pretenses. Or were they all just liars, jerks, bigots, or thugs, Jonah?
For God’s sake, was he under a rock when Twitter declared that “misgendering” now qualifies as “hateful conduct”? Is he even a little curious about these companies consulting with the Southern Poverty Law Center—or with CAIR?
The closest Goldberg gets to grappling with the simple point that it’s about more than the fringe is by “addressing” this tweet:
Goldberg’s rebuttal? “Come on.” That’s it.
Even if the heads of all these outfits were secretly meeting in the bowels of their volcano headquarters to plot how to kill “conservatism of all stripes” — right before they ban the semicolon and right after they give Steve Gutenberg’s career a boost — the notion they could succeed is sophomoric nonsense betraying a wildly perverted understanding of what conservatism is.
And what is this “wildly perverted understanding of what conservatism is”? Goldberg doesn’t say (longtime readers know that he’s pretty hit-or-miss on whether he actually bothers to make a case for his various claims). But this flippancy betrays another way in which Goldberg is scandalously ignorant of his subject: it’s not speculation to say that Big Tech is deliberately suppressing conservatives.
Is Jonah Goldberg truly unaware of all the reporting that’s been done on Google manually manipulating search results, Facebook’s deboosting practices and stacked News Feed Reduction Strategy, or Twitter’s general counsel admitting that near the end of 2016 it hid 48% of #DNCLeak tweets and 25% of #PodestaEmails tweets? Did he miss the Facebook insiders who’ve admitted to “routinely” suppressing conservative topics, or Mike Waker’s various revelations about discrimination at Google?
At this point, you may be wondering what a pundit who does less research than a high-school newspaper writer could possibly have to contribute to a discussion of an issue. The answer? Straw-manning!
Still, the hilarious thing about the calls from the right for the government to step in is that they think that will solve the problem. Yes, by all means, let’s give government bureaucrats the power to determine what speech should be permitted, they’ll always give conservatives the benefit of the doubt.
Who has called for empowering government “to determine what speech should be permitted”? Goldberg doesn’t say. He’s too lazy to examine any specific proposals on the table, and too weaselly to name anyone whose actual position can be compared to his characterization.
Yes, tech companies obviously have their own speech and property rights. Just as obviously, no conservative should want a Fairness Doctrine of our own. But if (unlike Jonah) you’ve been paying attention, you probably know multiple options have been floated that take all of the above into account.
Dennis Prager’s lawsuit against YouTube seeks to hold a platform to its own Terms of Service, raising the question of whether law could better clarify and enforce the contracts platforms make with their users. Ted Cruz points out that Congress isn’t obligated to keep giving Big Tech special privileges that are predicated on viewpoint neutrality. Former Bush official James Robbins argues there’s an antitrust case to be made against Google without a single new law. Human Events publisher Will Chamberlain lays out a case for legislation guaranteeing platform access for any otherwise-legal speech.
Of course, all these ideas are debatable; I’m personally not certain about all of them. But Goldberg doesn’t debate any of it; he just demagogues the fact that better conservatives than he are discussing it at all.
Finally, let’s recall that Goldberg wasn’t always this indifferent to private entities silencing certain voices.
A little over a year ago, The Atlantic—which, unlike Facebook or Twitter, actually is a publisher, whose express business does entail editorial judgment about which perspectives it wants to promote—fired Kevin Williamson over idiotic past comments about hanging women for abortions. Because Williamson was a personal friend and part of the tribe, Goldberg bemoaned The Atlantic branding him a “thought criminal” and declared that “editors should not have any control” over “what their writers are allowed to think.”
No, he wasn’t calling for legal action to reinstate Williamson, but he certainly found it outrageous for a magazine with its own editorial views and target audiences to stop giving its own money to one writer over his views. Yet when platforms that reap legal benefits from the pretense of being “neutral public forums” and don’t pay a dime for voices (but make plenty off their data) engage in political discrimination and punish or boot users on the basis of vague, subjective, or nonexistent criteria, that’s less outrageous?
For all the “conservative” swamp set’s droning on about the dangers of “tribalism,” the truth is that they’re among the most nakedly tribal cliques in America. Principles only matter when it’s in their interest for principles to matter. If you’re outside the clique, or offend the clique’s sensibilities, you can go to hell as far as they’re concerned—as can the country.