by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
In an interview with MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt, The New Yorker’s Steve Coll contends that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s “profound” support of free speech — oh, how I wish that were true — is problematic because “free speech, a principle that we hold sacred, is being weaponized against the principles of journalism.”
Journalism has turned on free speech, the one belief that had been somewhat impervious to the ideological tendencies of most editors and reporters. There’s absolutely nothing in Coll’s comments — nor in Hunt’s begging a question about the alleged corrosive effects of unfettered speech — which demonstrates that either are particularly concerned about the future of free expression, much less that either hold the principle as “sacred.”
The notion that Facebook’s reluctance to limit users is akin to neglecting efforts to “preserve democracy,” as Coll ludicrously suggests, is also another example of how the contemporary usage of “democracy” means little more than “fulfilling the wishes of liberals.”
If you believe Americans are too stupid to hear wrongthink, transgressive ideas, and, yes, fake news, you’re not a fan of the small-l liberal conception of free expression. That’s fine. Those ideas seem to be falling into disfavor with many. But the sanctity of free speech isn’t predicated on making sure people hear the right things, it’s predicated on letting everyone have their say. Because as always, the question becomes who decides what expression is acceptable. I’m not keen on having the fatuous media reporters at CNN or activist “fact-checkers” at the Washington Post adjudicating what is and isn’t permissible for mass consumption.
Facebook, of course, has no duty to provide us with a platform. It was Coll, however, who brought up free speech as “a principle.” And this obsession among journalists with pressuring platforms into limiting speech exposes their illiberal inclination.