Sunday, September 16, 2018

It's time to free all speech again

(My Eastern New Mexico News column for August 15, 2018)

Last week some of the biggest social media corporations colluded to silence a voice they didn't like.

No matter how you feel about Alex Jones and his Infowars media brand, this wasn't good for free speech. It was the escalation of a war which has been building for some time, where voices running counter to the political biases of the dominant social media empires are being silenced.

If your argument is so weak you feel the need to silence the other side rather than respond with your own well-thought out points, then your opinions are probably wrong. Censorship is a loser's move.

It's not just voices from the political right which have been silenced. Libertarian activists are being targeted as well.

Private companies have the right to kick anyone off their platform for any reason. However, is a corporation, which has sought and received special privileges from government, still a "private company"? Corporations, through this special relationship with government called "crony capitalism", have become, in all but name, a branch of government. They use this relationship to encourage legislation which makes entering their field too expensive for most newcomers, thus stifling competition. In exchange, they sell your data to government.

Considering this special relationship, they should be held to the same standards the rest of government is supposed to be held to, which includes the responsibility to abide by the Bill of Rights even when they don't agree with it.

If they don't like the deal, they can remain private and stay out of government's bed.

Even if you still believe they have the right to censor those they don't like, in spite of this special relationship with government, it wasn't smart. If it becomes acceptable to silence voices you don't like while you are in power, you make it seem OK for others to do the same to you once the tables are turned.

What if they use liability as their justification? It's a valid concern, due to tyrannical government overreach. Government has already prosecuted a website owner for things others published on the platform, in the case of the Silk Road site, and has threatened to do the same to others. It's a dangerous, speech-stifling situation.

I'm never in favor of government regulating companies, even when they do things I don't agree with. Nor am I afraid of hearing dissenting voices. In fact, they often help me put my own thoughts in order. It's time to free all speech again.

Thank you for helping support

The day cops surrounded me

(This is a re-run from August, 2008)

I used to give a presentation on the mountainmen of the Rocky Mountain fur trade each year for fourth grade at the local elementary school. I went to the classroom in full mountainman gear and talked about the history and the tools. I gave a few demonstrations to the kids, such as showing how to set a steel trap, start a fire without matches (both with flint and steel and with a bow drill; the kids' favorite), and how to load a muzzleloading rifle.

For years, there was no problem. Then one year my wife-at-the-time needed to use the car during my presentation. "No problem", I thought. I was mistaken.

That day I finished my program and went to the parking lot to wait for my wife to arrive. I sat down upon my blanket-roll near the school sign; holding my rifle upright at my side. After a few minutes I saw a cop car drive past slowly, but the cop inside didn't look at me. I thought that was odd. He pulled into a driveway and turned around and parked. A minute or so later, another cop car pulled up a little ways from me and also parked along the street. He sat in his car for a minute before getting out and approaching me with his hand on his gun. Out of the corner of my eye I could see the other cop now approaching from behind. I don't appreciate being stalked.

The cop greeted me politely and asked what I was doing. I explained the situation while the other cop stood off and watched. Then the principal of the school made an appearance. We explained what was going on to him, mentioning the teacher who had arranged my program. He knew nothing about it. A passing motorist had reported an armed person at the elementary school. Had I had mayhem in mind, the event would have been over by the time the cops arrived.

The teacher later apologized to me for forgetting to inform the principal of my presence. As it turned out, that was the last year I did the program since I moved away several months later. Amazingly, I survived to tell my tale, but for months townspeople would tell me they saw me sitting there between the two cops, looking rather unhappy.

This blog is my job.
YOU get to decide if I get paid.