free speech under technocracy

In a recent post I commented that Amazon’s deleting of Ryan Anderson’s recent book is not a free-speech issue. What I meant by that is that free speech is something guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and is relevant only to government action. “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech” etc. Non-governmental entities are, generally speaking and within certain limits, free to make their own decisions in these matters. When Amazon says, “We don’t sell certain content including … material we deem inappropriate or offensive,” the company is giving itself nearly absolute latitude to decide what it does and doesn’t want to sell — and is almost certainly within its legal rights to do so. 

However, as Glenn Greenwald recently noted, several of the biggest and most influential companies in America are tightly linked, in their ethos and increasingly their behavior, with one of the two major American political parties, in such a way that it is increasingly accurate to see the Democratic Party as the political wing of Big Tech, in much the same way that Sinn Féin used to be the political wing of the Irish Republican Army. Greenwald: 

The power to control the flow of information and the boundaries of permissible speech is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime. It is a power as intoxicating as it is menacing. When it comes to the internet, our primary means of communicating with one another, that power nominally rests in the hands of private corporations in Silicon Valley.

But increasingly, the Democratic-controlled government and their allies in the corporate media are realizing that they can indirectly and through coercion seize and wield that power for themselves. The First Amendment is implicated by these coercive actions as much as if Congress enacted laws explicitly mandating censorship of their political opponents. 

In other words, Congress need make no law abridging the freedom of speech if the companies that control the flow of information agree to do the abridging for the dominant party in Congress. And clearly they have, generally speaking, so agreed. 

As marriages of convenience go, it’s certainly effective — but may be more fragile than the wedding party believes. A great many people think that the GOP is finished, and Lord knows it looks to be in shambles. But remember this: the party was certainly in shambles when Richard Nixon resigned in 1974. And then, only six years later, Ronald Reagan was elected President, ushering in twelve consecutive years of Republican occupancy of the White House and twenty of twenty-eight. If Republicans can find just one politician capable of creating a coalition, the leaders of the big tech companies may find themselves devoting more time to testifying in Washington than to running their companies, and the decorous marriage of the Democrats and Big Tech may end up in a shotgun divorce.