Something Totalitarian This Way Comes
Daniel J. Flynn
by

At the urging of other journalists, YouTube demonetized and deplatformed various voices this week. Steven Crowder, an actor, comedian, and activist with nearly four million subscribers on his YouTube channel, remains on the site but stripped of the ability to support his show with advertisers. Carlos Maza, a Vox writer and frequent target of Crowder mockery, decried YouTube for “creating a platform where only monsters feel safe enough to talk about s#!+ that actually matters” in arguing for the company to remove Crowder entirely. MeTube, not YouTube.

The censorship follows similar moves by tech companies, including Twitter bans on American Spectator writer Robert Stacy McCain, political consultant Roger Stone, and radio personality Anthony Cumia, and Google rigging its search engine to suppress results for numerous conservative outlets, including The American Spectator.

Why do progressives censor? Because it works. While a muzzle resulting in a megaphone surely results from censorship on occasion, the more likely outcome involves suppression.

Progressives understand this. “Milo’s deplatforming was so swift, and so just, that the man found himself in several million dollars’ worth of debt following the utter collapse of his book deals, national tours and television appearances,” Harry Todd writes at Paste regarding an equally anonymous figure throwing a milkshake at Yiannopoulos in the United Kingdom. “The virulent bigot used to be nigh-inescapable, his xenophobic remarks following you at every turn on the internet like the eyes of a creepy portrait in a haunted house. Then he got the boot from social media, and today we don’t even hear about an act of severe dairy-based political violence until nearly a full week later. In other words, as we argued in April, deplatforming works.”

Consider also Lauren Southern, who announced her retirement from the great conversation this week — at 23. “Farewell,” she tweeted followers. “I’ve enjoyed this all greatly but it’s time to start a new chapter of my life.” Patreon deplatformed her after she reported on non-governmental organizations trafficking illegal aliens from the Middle East into Europe. She did not peddle falsehoods in her documentary on illegal immigration, but truths, which serve as a big offense for journalists when they traffic in the wrong truths. An activist dumped urine on her in Vancouver. Governments detained her and blocked her from speaking.

Big Tech duct-tapes a mouth more effectively than the government. Consider the report this week that Americans, for the first time in history, spend more time on their devices than watching television. This is how we communicate to a mass audience in 2019. Google enjoys a 92 percent share of the search-engine market. YouTube’s market share exceeds three quarters. Facebook’s market share reaches 70 percent.

At its peak, Standard Oil’s domination of the American oil refining market did not match Google’s domination of the worldwide search engine market, and by the time the government splintered John D. Rockefeller’s creation into Esso, Arco, Chevron, and other entities, Standard Oil’s market share did not approach the current market share of Google, Facebook, or YouTube.

Inaction against Big Tech monopolies strikes as especially unusual given Big Government taking a special interest in monopolies that involve the free exchange of ideas, especially ones pertaining to the public airwaves.

The federal government aggressively regulated the internet of the interwar years. Every hour of every day ABC broadcasts the precedent of the federal government breaking up media monopolies. During the 1940s, the FCC and the courts cleaved the Blue Network from NBC, which resulted in ABC — and the Red Network effectively remaining as NBC. Both companies soon added television networks to their existing radio empires.

After initially refusing to run radio broadcast schedules, newspapers that could not beat ’em joined ’em. WGN (World’s Greatest Newspaper), WTAG (Worcester Telegram & Gazette), KRNT (Des Moines Register & Tribune), KTAR (Keep Talking Arizona Republic), and other stations broadcast the symbiotic relationship between radio and newspapers during every station identification. Though the call letters remain, the association of such stations with the local newspapers largely ended after the FCC restricted media companies from owning a broadcast station and a daily newspaper in the same city in 1975, a prohibition lifted in recent years.

The government, which regards the airwaves as public, purports to regulate broadcast media in the public interest. The internet, which relies on those airwaves for wifi, somehow escapes this precedent dating back nine decades.

For those squeamish about the government dictating to private companies, even ones controlling nearly all of their communication sector, that it cannot tell people what not to say — David French cautions against this course at National Review, writing that “what conservatives cannot and should not do is use the government to erode freedom for the alleged purpose of saving freedom” — another option exists. In the mid-1990s, after decades of complaints about the bias of network news, Rupert Murdoch launched the Fox News Channel. As a result of it filling a void, it quickly became the dominant cable news channel.

Given the brazen partisanship and politicization of various Big Tech companies, and America remaining, however tenuously, a Center-Right nation, one wonders when some enterprising billionaire realizes that challenging Twitter or Facebook or YouTube or Google pays dividends. The appeal of such a venture involves not its philanthropy but its money-making potential. Tens of millions of people want to read or hear the thoughts or jokes or ramblings of Steven Crowder, Milo Yiannopoulos, Jesse Peterson, Gavin McInnes, Meghan Murphy, and others, some with an audience but really not worth an intelligent person’s attention, suppressed by Big Tech.

Perhaps an entity as dominant as Google remains beyond challenge, but other Big Tech behemoths, relying as they do on content produced by unpaid third parties, seem ripe for competition. Currently, social media finds itself in a spot analogous to television in its early days — ABCCBSNBCDuMont — when a big country looked to three or four channels for news and entertainment and much else. Today, television sets offer thousands of choices on hundreds of channels. That’s the inevitable future of social media, perhaps hastened by the Big Brotherism of Big Tech.

Daniel J. Flynn
Daniel J. Flynn
Follow Their Stories:
View More
Daniel J. Flynn, a senior editor of The American Spectator, is the author of Cult City: Harvey Milk, Jim Jones, and 10 Days That Shook San Francisco (ISI Books, 2018), The War on Football (Regnery, 2013), Blue Collar Intellectuals (ISI Books, 2011), A Conservative History of the American Left (Crown Forum, 2008), Intellectual Morons (Crown Forum, 2004), and Why the Left Hates America (Prima Forum, 2002). His articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, New York Post, City Journal, National Review, and his own website, www.flynnfiles.com.   
Sign Up to receive Our Latest Updates! Register