The Alex Jones social media ban across a plethora of platforms reminded me of the problems that I have with American conservatism. Quite a while ago Steve Bannon suggested to “regulate social media like a public utility.” Whatever that means it is trying to make regulation palatable to a conservative/libertarian audience.
As a European onlooker I see the twists and turns this argument makes. Every dollar that makes it from the government to the companies is used to “explain” to conservatives that the tech companies are quasi Hitler…sorry I was just in the mood of criticizing conservatives …quasi the government.
The logic is that if Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and so on are the government, they would have to guarantee First Amendment neutrality. I hate to break it to my dear conservative friends, but Google is not your government.
It also does not have to be your government just to pass a law that requests political neutrality. All companies are regulated. Only because you dislike regulations in general does not mean that there should be NO regulation. The issue is treated as if “companies can do what they like” was a statute of the constitution. It isn’t. It is your general preference.
Congress spews out tons of laws week after week and feeble conservatives have a moral breakdown over a potential one-liner that says something like “Social media platforms must not discriminate against their users based on their political views.” Geezes, look at the laws that regulate your business. There is also a fine line between conservatism and anarchy. You cannot just declare yourself a business and “do whatever you want.” Private businesses cannot do whatever they want.
The most annoying thing is that conservatives don’t see the wider reaching global ramifications. If the government would require neutrality, they would put up a fight against other, less free countries abroad. Facebook would not give up the rich American market only to serve Iran. They would insist that Iran either respects whatever is put up on Facebook or block the service. At the moments less free countries, spearheaded by Germany, are forcing social media into a censorship regime. Their mentality adapt to the German mentality and the consequences in the home market are a taste of that.
Wouldn’t it be great if America stood up for its values again? Some conservatives also insist that the First Amendment does only protect you from your government. The problem is that they confuse it with freedom of speech itself. The First Amendment is only the legal materialization of the moral principle to create a free market of ideas. The principle is more important than the words in the constitution which – being the constitution – do only materialize the idea to restrain the government. It is also not enough to look only at what entities do that are legally a part of the state. In practice it makes no difference if a king encroaches on your rights or if he rents a private torture chamber to have somebody else do it for him.
A last, more separate flaw of American conservatism is the futile discussion on individuality versus collectivism. Freedom is not decided on this line. Ayn Rand is an interesting intellectual, but her ideas are not necessarily true only because they are popular. People need to guide their lives and rights belong to them individually, but we must also acknowledge that these rights are protected by the community. It is not sophisticated self-interest if one sacrifices himself for others and the “wisdom” is even that we shouldn’t do that. Without people doing something against their own interests, no large fire would be put out, no enemy troops defeated, no scientific breakthrough would come to be.
The last flaw is alleviated in the movement because more religious groups are having a momentum at the moment and set a counterpoint to Rand’s “objectivism”, which I believe will ultimately disappear.