Can You Hear Me Now?
Borrowing the catch phrase from an old TV commercial, this the question those of us in the Second Amendment community have. Censorship of the firearms industry or anyone advocating for Second Amendment protected rights is nothing new, although it has gotten exceedingly worse in the past few years. But now that censorship has expanded to include those who choose to hold and speak out on conservative held values or simply question the government narrative. Although many are speaking out, the message may not be getting through.
Censorship of the firearms and 2A community by mainstream news outlets and social media companies has been going on for years. Shadow banning, the practice of partially blocking or restricting the content and comments online to limit visibility is commonplace. Pages and commentators with thousands, hundreds of thousands or millions of followers have found their messages only reaching a tiny percentage of them. Why? It’s simply because those who own the platform don’t like their message. That’s all.
Then there are fact-checkers. Our nation’s free and independent press used to be our fact-checkers since they had an interest in the truth and exposing those who didn’t speak it. But with free and independent giving way to biased and prejudiced reporting, the press simply isn’t trustworthy anymore. Besides, traditional news organizations weren’t set up to handle a 24/7 immediate response model. Enter the fact-checkers.
These so-called fact checkers have emerged as anonymous, unaccountable, supposedly third-party organizations, often directly funded by the very same companies they are “independently” fact-checking for. It should come as no surprise that the sponsoring organization’s ideology and biases towards those they don’t agree with are mirrored in their checks of facts. All the fact-checkers need to do is find an article with an alternate version of “truth” and that becomes the basis of YOUR facts being wrong. Once tagged with a fact-check, even if the fact-check indicates your article is true, its visibility is further reduced.
And let’s not forget Terms and Conditions of Use or Community Standards, the ultimate restriction on content. Social media companies can define anything they want as being “otherwise objectionable” and completely ban it and the users who share it. They don’t have to justify it any further than that and they don’t have to apply the standards equally across the board. They get to decide all by themselves what is true, what is false and what is acceptable for YOU to experience on their platform. These convoluted documents are supposed to make you think they are applying their ideology in a fair manner in your best interest. They are not.
What kind of power do they have? They can ban the sitting President of the United States of America and a member of the United States Congress for so-called offensive content. Yet, at the same time, they permit those who advocate acts of violence against others, target members of political parties or those of a certain race. They also allow actual, bona fide terrorist organizations. Simply questioning an official government narrative or presenting actual / factual information that may cause others to question it, is enough for a permanent ban.
Of course, there is the argument that the social media platforms are private property you use for free. As such, First Amendment speech protections do not apply, and you are perfectly welcome to start your own social media platform. Well…. There are some problems with that logic.
First is the direct connection between one side of the United States government and the news and social media companies. If the White House, members of Congress or members of a political party are contacting these companies and asking them to limit or remove certain content, then you’re damn right the First Amendment applies. The government doesn’t get to do an end run around the Constitution and claim no free speech infringements when they are the ones directing the private companies to do it on their behalf.
Second, let’s not forget the case of Parler, the free speech alternative to Twitter. Liberal talking heads complained the platform was nothing more than a conversative “echo chamber” that attracted and encouraged extremists. In reality, it was simply getting too popular and didn’t employ the same nanny-level liberal fact-checking the other social medial platforms did. So, using the tenuous at best association with the events of January 6th, Google, Apple and Amazon conspired to take down the platform. Yes, it’s back online now with a new infrastructure and management, but the damage has already been done.
I’ve seen dozens of my favorite firearms related businesses and commentators have their content removed and the owners banned over the past few years. All their content was 100% legal, but none of that matters. Of course, they can appeal, but it’s a byzantine system of anonymous company drones who have the final say, and it should be no surprise it doesn’t go in your favor very often.
Keep in mind, banned content doesn’t let people have information that might help them in their own lives. Banned content can’t inspire someone else to speak out in support of a position. Banned content doesn’t allow people to unite around a cause. Banned content can’t question the only “facts” allowed to be shared. Banned content doesn’t exist, at least as far as you know.
There are some new platforms and more coming out soon which may help shift the tide of information sharing to those who have been censored. I believe their success will largely be dependent on the ability to attract the big-name content makers and get them to leave the current social media and news platforms behind. That should start a cascade of others who will be willing to leave and never look back.
For now, we’re all going to have to be creative and spread our message the best we can. There are a lot of us out there, and that’s exactly what they are afraid of.
Can you hear me now?
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