Let’s face it: we are living in a millennial world.
Not since the baby boomers has a generation transformed the country, and by extension the world, as has America’s largest voting bloc. From gender fluidity to their disdain for their own country, millennials are throwing a monkey wrench in decades, and in some cases centuries, of conventional wisdom without so much as thirty years’ life experience.
For instance, millennials represent the first generation in American history to profess a preference for socialism over the capitalism that allows them to drown in Tom’s shoes, iMacs, and organic, free-trade coffee. Perhaps the only thing they relish more than cognitive dissonance is their social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and the rest are without a doubt the millennial generation’s defining contribution to society thus far.
“Contribution,” of course, is a subjective term, particularly in light of the news that Facebook has been actively censoring conservative stories from its “Trending Topics” sidebar. For those of us who follow this type of thing, however, these revelations hardly come as a surprise.
For instance, I remember well Facebook’s censorship of a page known as “Chicks on the Right” and a post by conservative commentator Todd Starnes.
And despite Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s claims that Facebook is a neutral forum, his opinions on free speech, or lack thereof, are well documented. Just months ago he promoted censorship on his social network while on a trip to Germany to meet with Angela Merkel.
“Hate speech has no place on Facebook and in our community,” said the bro-billionaire in response to a growing online refutation of Europe’s policies towards migrants. Sounds great, until you consider that the definition of “hate speech” rest in the hands of the party in power — a slippery slope indeed.
And it’s not just Facebook. This past January Twitter revoked the “official” status of Breitbart rabble-rouser Milo Yiannopoulis to become yet another social media colossus pulling ideological strings under the guise of neutrality.
In one sense it can be argued that these companies are simply attempting to appeal to their largest demographic in a capitalist country. After all, 88 percent of millennials regularly receive their news via Facebook, and if these morons want a nanny state, who are Facebook and Twitter to challenge their worldview?
These social media titans certainly have no moral obligation to challenge millennials’ political beliefs. In fact, as corporations their chief concern is rightly not to alienate their largest customer base.
But in a country where liberal professors outnumber their conservative counterparts by five-to-one and journalists that identify as “Democrat” dominate those that identify as “Republican” by four-to-one, the censorship of conservative thought by the world’s most visited website, and across the rest of the social media landscape, may well prove be the death knell for America’s beloved “marketplace of ideas.” For those too far removed from college, the marketplace of ideas essentially envisions public discourse like a free economic market; lots of ideas are introduced but only the best win out, much like products in today’s hypercompetitive capitalist economies.
So while some right-leaning publications are correct, from a capitalism perspective, to ridicule recent inquiries by Republican lawmakers into Facebook’s news distribution tactics, these conservative politicians are also simply ensuring that America’s marketplace of ideas remains overflowing with a cornucopia of choices for curious consumers (and besides, the public has a right to know when left-wing Silicon Valley jackasses are screwing with its news).
While companies such as Facebook and Twitter may well be simply appealing to their largest demographic for the sake of profit, they are also practicing the sort of blatant dishonesty and ideological censorship common among several socialist regimes, particularly those in Latin America — with similar dire consequences.
For just as the supermarket shelves in socialist paradise Venezuela run empty, so too will the diversity of thought slowly disappear from America’s hallowed ideological marketplace. Just as Venezuelans wait in lines for hours for food, often to return home empty-handed, so too will Americans be forced to sift endlessly for a kernel of truth or difference of opinion in a sea of orthodoxy and groupthink. And just as doctors in South America’s fourth largest country are forced to operate on patients, often without the proper drugs and instruments, American citizens will be forced to judge important policies with incomplete information.
It seems the outcomes of informational socialism, in which social media platforms, major media conglomerates, and liberal professors, under the guises of neutrality and objectivity, decide what information best suits the people aren’t all that different from those of economic socialism, in which corrupt governments, under the guises of wisdom and justice, decide how best to spend the peoples’ money. In the end it is the people that suffer, whether intellectually or financially.
While I am by no means insinuating that Facebook is involved in some grand, socialist conspiracy, I am wholeheartedly insinuating that it carries great political weight among a segment of the population that has already spent a lifetime being bombarded with a liberal worldview via public education and an overwhelmingly left-leaning media. Social media, as a forum for free expression, in many ways represents millennials’ best opportunity to hear the rebuttal. And Facebook’s censoring of that free expression, in many ways, robs them of that opportunity.
But I’m not ready to slap a red star on Zuckerberg quite yet.
Following an internal investigation by the social network into how it handles its “Trending Topics” and a powwow with major conservative media figures in an attempt to salvage its “neutral” reputation, Facebook has announced changes to the way topics are listed as trending, including additional training for staff.
Good on Zuckerberg I suppose. And let’s hope he means it, lest the shelves of America’s marketplace of ideas come to resemble those in Venezuelan grocery stores. For the only thing even remotely as sad as a nation starved of actual food is one founded on freedom of expression now starved of dissenting opinions.