The Corner


‘Hold Them Accountable’

Considering Internet-savvy alt-right entrepreneurs in Wired, Emma Grey Ellis writes:

Even with YouTube’s help, any solution that isn’t an eternal game of content moderation whack-a-mole is years away. So it’s time to stop being surprised when the far-right is good at the internet. It’s time to expect to see them trending, and hold platforms accountable when they do.

Ellis defines “far-right YouTube” as a group of commentators “who range in ideology from mainstream libertarian to openly white nationalist.”

In that context, what does her demand to “hold platforms accountable” actually mean? Part of this is just meaningless corporate-speak, a language in which the word “accountable” can mean anything, and often means the opposite of what “accountable” means in English. Politicians are particularly fond of “hold them accountable,” which is a way of saying, “Do something!” without proposing or committing to any particular course of action.

(I sometimes wonder if it really is the case that a few hundred million people in one of the most free and prosperous societies in the history of the world can really be so effortlessly buffaloed — but, unhappily, the evidence does point that way. Read the letters section in the New York Times and then meditate on the fact that these are the ones that were chosen.)

The implicit demand in Ellis’s column, not quite put into these words, is that media companies be used as instruments of suppression when it comes to unpopular political ideas. Or “mainstream libertarian” ones, apparently, which as Ellis informs us are part of the “far right,” another one of those terms so infinitely plastic as to be useless for the communication of actual political thought — which, of course, is not what that phrase is here to do.

We are supposed to conclude that YouTube has done something naughty or wicked if some adherent to a backwards ideology uses that tool of public communication to communicate publicly. The belief that YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, et al. have a moral duty to act as stand-in censors, that their suppression of unpopular views serves the public interest, and that “the public interest” is another way of saying “what progressives are comfortable with” has somehow become an almost unquestioned assumption without anybody’s having made an intelligent and persuasive case for why this must be so. The opposite case has been made, repeatedly, throughout the history of liberalism, liberalism being the philosophy most despised by the Americans who call themselves “liberals.”

It’s a funny old world.

Postscript: It’s “Whac-a-Mole.”

Most Popular


It’s Time for Colin Kaepernick to Move On

Colin Kaepernick. Remember him? Below-average quarterback. Above-average poseur. Not “activist,” not really. Activists actually say stuff. Kaepernick almost never says anything. He’s like the Queen or most popes — you have to read the deep-background musings of supposed members of his inner circle to get ... Read More

Trump and the Black Vote

"Donald Trump is a racist, white supremacist, white nationalist. So are his supporters." Some version of that refrain is heard almost hourly somewhere in mainstream media. Democratic politicians seem to proclaim it more often than that. Listening only to the Left, you'd conclude that more than half a ... Read More
PC Culture

Courage Is the Cure for Political Correctness

This might come as some surprise to observers of our campus culture wars, but there was a time, not long ago, when the situation in American higher education was much worse. There a wave of vicious campus activism aimed at silencing heterodox speakers, and it was typically empowered by a comprehensive regime of ... Read More

The Age of Miscalculation

On August 7, 1998, more than 200 people were killed in terrorist attacks on U.S. embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya. Americans learned three names most of them never had heard before: Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden, and al-Qaeda. On August 20, 1998, President Bill Clinton ordered a ... Read More