A Nation of Vice Principals


Writing in Gizmodo, Michael Nunez reports the least newsy of Muppet News Flashes: Facebook systematically suppresses conservative views.

Meaning no slight to Nunez’s excellent reporting, this story is about as surprising as Katt Williams getting arrested or Donald Trump telling an obvious lie. The Eagle soars in the summit of Heaven, the Hunter with his dogs pursues his circuit, and social-media companies try to bury conservatives. It’s a day of the week ending in “y,” isn’t it?

Nunez interviews a former “curator” of the Facebook trending-news section. Facebook presents the trending-news feature as though it were simply a neutral report on what people are discussing on the site at any given moment. In fact, the feature is tightly controlled by an editorial team. Facebook has been getting the stuffing knocked out of it by Twitter when it comes to delivering breaking news, and so Facebook pays people to watch Twitter and “curate” its own trending-news feature to make sure it seems to be keeping up.

As Nunez reports, that’s not all Facebook does. It suppresses news about Facebook, for instance. It works to elevate coverage of issues politically important to Facebook’s largely left-leaning staff, such as the Black Lives Matter protests. When there’s energetic discussion of a hot story originating on a conservative site, Facebook’s curators look for a link to a non-conservative outlet, such as the New York Times, rather than directing Facebook users toward (angels and ministers of grace defend us!) a conservative publication.

Where the Left has power, it will use that power to try to crush dissent, debate, and criticism.

And it tries to smother conservative discussions entirely. As the Facebook insider tells Nunez, the curators deep-sixed discussions about Rand Paul, CPAC, and Scott Walker. Entertainingly, Facebook attempted to suppress discussion of Lois Lerner, the IRS executive who abused her powers to try to suppress conservative groups in the run-up to the 2012 elections. That’s a nice tag-team: The Obama administration tries to silence conservatives, and Facebook tries to silence conservatives’ complaints about being silenced. Well done, ladies and gentlemen.

This is hardly without precedent. Twitter famously revoked the coveted blue checkmarks denoting “verified” accounts belonging to a number of conservative commentators and suspended the accounts of others. Federal workers have written to me complaining that their office firewalls will allow them to access pornography sites but block National Review. (The consumption of internet porn seems to be the main federal occupation.) This is all painfully normal.

RELATED: If a Conservative Speaks — and Facebook Censors Him — Does He Make a Sound?

Where the Left has power, it will use that power to try to crush dissent, debate, and criticism. It isn’t conservative student groups chasing nonconformist speakers off of college campuses or demanding indoctrination sessions. But it isn’t just the campus P.C. police, either. No, it’s the real police, too.

#share#For those of you who aren’t keeping score at home: In Texas, Democratic politicians have in three high-profile cases attempted to lock up Republicans for engaging in ordinary political activism. The most recent case was the indictment of Rick Perry, then the state’s governor, on two felony charges for having vetoed a spending bill, i.e. for having performed an ordinary gubernatorial function. Democratic and progressive activists have for some years been calling for the arrest and imprisonment of people holding nonconforming views on global warming (see “Arrest climate-change deniers” and the subsequent pronouncements of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.) and in response there is a multi-jurisdiction effort involving California, New York, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, among others, to prosecute Exxon and activist groups such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute for communicating unpopular views on the subject of climate change.

RELATED: Galileo Redux: The War on Free Speech on Campus and Beyond

When the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government could not ban the showing of a film critical of Hillary Rodham Clinton, practically every Democrat in the country lined up behind efforts to censor that movie, and Harry Reid introduced a bill into the Senate repealing the First Amendment in order to facilitate such censorship. Mrs. Clinton of course supports banning films critical of her, but so does Bernie Sanders. Senator Elizabeth Warren idly dreams of prosecuting corporate executives who think — imagine! — that they can go around “saying whatever they want about Washington policy debates.”

The people who have the audacity to call themselves “liberals” are busily building an emerging police state. Don’t look for the heroic entrepreneurs behind Facebook or Twitter to spread the word about that.

RELATED: Democrats Push to Criminalize Dissent

Over the weekend, Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times published a column headlined, “A Confession of Liberal Intolerance.” He is mainly worried about the environment on college campuses and in the media. “The stakes involve not just fairness to conservatives or evangelical Christians,” he wrote, “not just whether progressives will be true to their own values, not just the benefits that come from diversity (and diversity of thought is arguably among the most important kinds), but also the quality of education itself. When perspectives are unrepresented in discussions, when some kinds of thinkers aren’t at the table, classrooms become echo chambers rather than sounding boards—and we all lose.”

The people who have the audacity to call themselves “liberals” are busily building an emerging police state.

A very sweet and noble sentiment to be sure, but one that also is several years out of date. The question is no longer whether conservatives will be marginalized and stigmatized on university campuses but whether Mrs. Clinton and Harry Reid will succeed in having them imprisoned for their views. The question is no longer one of manners and intellectual honesty on college campuses but whether Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren will succeed in instituting federal censorship of political speech under the guise of “campaign-finance” regulation. The Left has been very clear in its aims: Defending the government’s position during the Citizens United arguments, Deputy Solicitor General Malcolm L. Stewart told Justice David Souter that the law should allow for banning books if the government decides those books constitute illegal political advocacy. The fact that money changes hands when a book is commissioned, printed, and distributed makes that a “campaign-finance” issue.

Unfortunately for conservatives and civil libertarians, the Republican party’s presumptive nominee is as bad as Mrs. Clinton when it comes to government censorship, and possibly a bit worse, given his desire to loosen up libel laws to make it easier for politicians to silence their critics through ruinous litigation.

As things stand, the partisans of free speech — both the legal protections and the necessary culture of openness and transparency — are men without a party. Neither of the likely major-party presidential nominees will stand up for the First Amendment — indeed, both would like to see it gutted — and the self-righteous “curators” of political discourse at Facebook and Twitter are undermining the norms of openness, liberality, and transparency as quickly as they can.

This is what happens when the Goskomizdat culture meets a nation of vice principals.

— Kevin D. Williamson is the roving correspondent for National Review.


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