By Alexander Leslie
Over the past few decades, the meaning of liberalism has taken a sharp turn. The self-proclaimed liberals of today are supporters of progressive policies, such as environmental regulation, as well as social welfare, universal health care, and others. This is not to be confused with classical liberals, supporters of individual rights, and a free-market economy. These two philosophies have in common their support of free speech, or at least you would think so, given the philosophies are based on liberty.
Progressive liberals, however, seem to have forgotten the roots of their ideology, which has been most evident in the recent social media events regarding President Donald Trump. As everyone is aware by now, the outspoken President has been permanently suspended from Twitter. In light of the violence at the Capitol, he also faces either temporary or permanent suspensions from a whole host of other platforms, including Facebook, Spotify, Google, and Reddit. The news has been celebrated by lefties since it broke, though I find this behaviour baffling.
In the West, liberals and other left-leaning people have long advocated for a limited power of big corporations and the suppression of monopolies. In recent days, however, we have been exposed to the stranglehold that the likes of Jack Dorset and Mark Zuckerberg have over our society. Whatever your opinion on Trump, and whether or not he did incite this violence, it is ludicrous to suggest that banning Trump from Twitter would even limit the President’s ability to incite further violence. The most powerful man in the world will get his message across, whether that would be over Twitter, Parler, at his rallies, or through his press conferences. What’s clear now is that when the power of corporate oligarchs appears to benefit liberals, their actions are celebrated, however when the opposite is true, social media is flooded with messages of eating the rich, guillotines, removing their power through wealth redistribution, and so forth.
What’s also important to note is the attack on free speech that big corporations have made in recent weeks. While it must be acknowledged that they are a private company and are entitled to welcome whomever they choose to their website, the suppression of Donald Trump should be celebrated by no one, even if it is legal. First of all, while one social media website may deem the President not fit for their platform, the domino effect that followed his Twitter ban, his suspensions from other high-profile social media, suggests that there was a coordination between the sites, of which the future implications are dangerous. Not only does big tech hold tremendous power, but they are now working together to keep a certain ‘type’ of individual off of social media. When suppression and silencing occur, dangerous ideas thrive. One of these is Hitler, who was able to develop Nazism exponentially during his nine months in prison following his failed coup attempt.
Secondly, over the last few years, one of the easiest arguments liberals have made against the President is his constant activity on social media. In the modern era, especially during COVID times, we look to the social media of high-profile individuals to gauge what kind of person they are, which has been most evident with Trump. In fact, it is possible that if Trump had been allowed to remain on social media, the public’s dislike for him would rise, putting a halt to any future chances the President may have to regain his throne. His silencing, however, will certainly feed into the idea that Trump is the victim of a media attack, which is sure to build him more support than he previously had.
Since the suspension, Twitter has clamped down, banning as many as 70,000 QAnon related accounts. Of course, you would think that if President Trump was deemed to have been inciting violence, clearer calls to arms and the spreading of dangerous information would also be unworthy of circulating social media, though this is untrue. The Chinese Embassy in the USA has recently come under fire for a tweet in which they imply that the Uyghur retraining programme should be recognised as female empowerment and that in China’s attempt to eradicate extremism in the region, they have made the Uyghur population ‘more confident and independent.’ And while Twitter saw fit to remove the tweet, the account is allowed to remain. Steven Bonnar, the MP for Coatbridge, Chryston, and Bellshill, recently tweeted that Scots would fight to the death for their country. Now if that is not an incitement to violence, I really don’t know what is. And STILL, the account has been allowed to remain. While at an early stage you may have excused Jack Dorsey for trying to make Twitter a safer, less radical place, this hypocrisy is evidence of social media websites picking and choosing who gets to have a voice, and who does not. If this path continues, election tampering, corruption, and a whole host of other problems become extreme concerns.
What has been refreshing in light of the news is the liberals speaking against this suppression and acknowledging the potential dangers of suppressing political figures. One of these has been Emily Ratajkowski, who was vocal in her criticism of big tech following the ban. In her criticism she notes that the recent moves by big tech illustrate an attempt to seize total power, claiming that if they can shut up the President, they can shut up anyone they like. In the coming weeks, I am hopeful that more liberals will adopt the position that Ratajkowski has taken.