From HUSTLER Magazine
Crippling the First Amendment
The First Amendment is the single most important keystone of our Constitution. Without the absolute guarantee of free speech, the Founding Fathers understood that no democracy could survive for long. Thomas Jefferson proclaimed, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
Over the last year the First Amendment has suffered what may be the most serious challenges in its history as the big tech giants—Google, Facebook, Twitter—attempt to suppress “fake news” and “hate speech.” I put those phrases in quotations because they can be elastic, stretched to fit differing definitions and interpretations. The three internet titans are now more powerful than CBS, NBC and ABC in their heyday, and they have begun acting as unelected censors, deciding what we are allowed or not allowed to see.
Facebook, where nearly half of American adults now get a majority of their news, has contracted with the Atlantic Council to screen and weed its News Feeds. The Atlantic Council is a hawkish think tank, whose funders include Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, General Electric and other defense contractors, all lobbying for never-ending foreign wars to keep their profits flowing. A worse media cop cannot be imagined—Zuckerberg might as well have handed the keys over to the Pentagon.
Then, responding to criticism that Facebook was filtering out conservative opinion, Zuckerberg contracted with The Weekly Standard to be a fact-checker—the warmongering neocon rag founded by Bill Kristol. The Standard promptly condemned a ThinkProgress article about Brett Kavanaugh as “false,” causing the liberal site’s post to lose 80% of its potential Facebook audience.
This summer Facebook, Google/YouTube, Apple and Twitter all banned Alex Jones from their platforms. As reprehensible as Jones can be, outright banning is not the answer. Private corporations deciding what news and opinion we are allowed or not allowed to view is an extremely dangerous slippery slope.
For over four decades HUSTLER has proudly defended our right to free speech—and that includes the right to speech that some may find offensive, disturbing or insufficiently patriotic. We are concerned that such precedents could lead to outright censorship of perspectives that challenge the herd instinct and mainstream consensus.
There really is no way to “police” free speech without crippling that guarantee. As long as you’re not yelling “fire” in a crowded theater, your right to think and speak freely must never be infringed for any reason.