As an American, I’ve always felt proud of the cherished freedom that is our freedom of speech. It’s the freedom to speak recklessly without legal ramifications. It’s the freedom to criticize the most powerful people in our country, even to their faces, and there’s nothing they can do about it.
Most of all, it’s the understanding that although we may not agree with each other, we’ll defend each other’s rights to say exactly what we despise.
With all this said, I used to believe the greatest threat to our free speech would have been the government. However, it’s become increasingly obvious that private corporations are our nemesis as they have no problem encroaching on our ability to speak freely.
The days of the internet being the wild west are long gone. Our information superhighway has been set with speed traps & stringent police enforcement. Much like seeing a cop on the highway, we’ve all changed our behavior slightly to stay off their radar.
Specifically, we change what we say, much like when we decide to not speed in fear of the watchful eye of the law.
Our town squares have become centralized to a few platforms where we must always abide by their rules. But what if their rules are arbitrary or biased?
Detractors might say “start your own platform.” Well, some do, but big tech destroys others in a matter of days. Parler, for example, was crushed. It wasn’t for some greater good, but because it threatened the power of the town square that the few at the top control.
Many times, when you go to smaller platforms, you find that many Americans’ opinions have been excommunicated permanently from the discussion. They may be harmless people despite their, admittingly reckless mouths.
They chose to speed on the highway and not heed caution to the enforcement. As punishment, they’ve been banished to the lower realms of the internet, where their anger festers and their ideas become more extreme.
As Americans, we’ve become used to the idea of being censored. Nowadays, many of us advocate for it as long as our tribe’s words aren’t silenced. We’ve lost that essence of American edginess because we’re enamored with appearing right and watching our adversaries suffer.
It’s the selfishness of believing your words are superior in the battle of speech that has you believing censorship will never come for you, but it will.
When some of us win, we all lose in the battle of speech. The so-called winners lose because they live in their fortress of solitude, only listening to like-minded thoughts and logic. The losers, also known as the dissidents, lose as well because their solitude is filled with darkness and extreme beliefs that become inescapable.
The mildly combative men and women on Facebook & Twitter are now banished to the same places as extremists, conspiracy theorists, and paranoids. It’s the internet version of placing a petty thief into a maximum-security prison.
Censorship gives the illusion of keeping people and information in safe hands, but it’s causing the inverse. When you’re being treated as a criminal, you’ll start to believe it at some point. When you constantly tell people that they’re extremists, don’t be surprised when one day they act like one.
In the past two years, I’ve watched well-meaning and intelligent people gravitate towards illogical conspiracy theories and, in some cases, hateful rhetoric because they’re confused and frustrated. They are confused as to why certain information is disappearing at a time when there are so many questions to be answered. Additionally, they’re frustrated with being targeted for speaking openly.
When the social media giants make information about COVID-19 disappear, mark your personal opinions as being false, and smear you as being an extremist, you can’t be surprised when they move closer to the darkness.
Why would anyone believe that 5G is the cause of COVID-19? Because you are not allowed to ask questions about the origins publicly, only agree with our new arbiters of information. In a time when information changes hourly, the necessity to decipher information openly amongst each other has become even more paramount.
Shutting down these attempts to have open discussions only makes well-intentioned people go slowly insane, and makes well-intentioned people attracted to insanity.
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