The Dangers of Censorship

Censorship, whether conducted by governments or private entities, is a very dangerous road for free societies to take.  I've talked about this issue before, but things may be changing for the better in some ways.  First let's talk about where we are today.  Traditional media companies and networks such as ABC, CBS, NBC, New York Times, Washington Post, and later CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, etc. who dominated mass media for decades have been supplanted over the past 10 or 15 years to a large degree by tech companies and their platforms.  Old media is still around, but to get their messaging out, they rely more heavily than ever on social media and tech platforms for distribution of their content, such as Google, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, and back-end providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Apple.  In the last few years, especially as the world has grappled with COVID-19, messaging on those platforms has been increasingly restricted and censored to promote a particular narrative and demote any narratives to the contrary.  This is very dangerous, indeed.

Google, and its subsidiary Youtube, as well as Facebook and Twitter are particularly well known for their extensive censorship of content creators they dislike or who don't support their narratives.  It's particularly strange that in 2022, the acceptable narrative from social media and tech platforms seems to be that we should judge people based on their skin color and sex, and we should blindly follow "mainstream" media, academics, government bureaucrats without thinking for ourselves.  This is completely upside down and backwards from what I was taught growing up.  I was taught that we are all the same regardless of our skin color, and that women could accomplish whatever they put their minds to in the same way that men could, and that we should do our own research and use critical thinking skills to question what we are told, especially when it comes from those in power.

In the past year, perhaps as pushback to these restrictions on speech, people seem to be breaking free of this control.  In 2021, Parler - a social media platform dedicated to the concept of free speech, was shut down by their hosting provider, AWS, and their apps were deleted by Apple and Google.  Parler has since returned on a different back-end platform, and other alternative platforms are rising in popularity, such as Rumble which competes with Youtube- now with Wall Street deep pocket investors behind it.  As if to throw a temper tantrum about this competition, Youtube recently banned Dan Bongino from its platform for no real reason.  Dan Bongino is one of the major players at Rumble, and he is also a Fox News contributor and ex Secret Service agent.

The tide of the traditional media and social media stranglehold seems to be turning.  As they tighten their grasp to control speech, they seem to be losing their grip on their audience.  Joe Rogan's podcast is the most popular in the world, with roughly 11 million monthly viewers.  Tim Pool, an independent journalist and commentator, also boasts millions of viewers.  Others such as Steven Crowder (notably censored multiple times by Youtube), Ben Shapiro, Mark Levin, Glenn Beck, and even Ted Cruz, boast large audiences that follow them outside of traditional mainstream media and social media platforms.  To put these millions of viewers into perspective, Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity on Fox News pull in around 3 million viewers, and they are the undisputed kings of "mainstream" media.  MSNBC and CNN struggle to reach a million viewers during primetime.  People are no longer beholden to the traditional gatekeepers or social media platforms and are intentionally bucking that system due in large part to the restrictions in place to push a particular narrative.

In 2020, Spotify, the largest music platform in the world, purchased exclusive rights to distribute the Joe Rogan Experience, his podcast, for $100 million.  Joe is known to interview a number of interesting people on his show, from Ed Snowden to Elon Musk.  He interviewed Dr. Peter McCullough in December 2021, who touts a very successful treatment regimen for COVID-19, and in January 2022, Dr. Robert Malone, who was one of the pioneers of mRNA vaccine technology, which many of the COVID-19 vaccines are based on.  Both offered perspectives that were outside of the mainstream media narrative.  Joe has also interviewed those with mainstream opinions such as Dr. Sanjay Gupta from CNN.  I welcome these perspectives, as we all should, to educate ourselves.  I took the Pfizer COVID-19 mRNA vaccine, after much research into its safety and efficacy.  Such research is only possible if all perspectives are free to be shared.  Censorship serves no legitimate purpose.

In January of 2022, due to Joe featuring the opinions of doctors whose views do not align with mainstream media, the singer Neil Young threatened to remove his music from Spotify if they do not censor Joe Rogan.  Spotify chose not to censor Rogan, and Neil Young's label removed his music from Spotify.  Spotify was responsible for 60% of Neil Young's revenue, with about 6 million monthly listeners on Spotify, so this was a gutsy move for him to take.  Joni Mitchell joined Neil Young in leaving Spotify.  Undoubtedly there will be others who follow in trying to strong arm Spotify and others to do their bidding.  Interestingly, Spotify's stock has increased in value since they made the decision not to censor Joe Rogan.  It seems that Spotify's decision to refuse to censor is playing well in the market and with subscribers.

These events seem to confirm that there is tangible public pushback against the "mainstream" media narratives, the big tech censorship, and the desire of some to control the information and perspectives that people are exposed to.  I have always believed that freedom of speech and information are critical to any free society.  If we are to be free, we must be free to make our own decisions - economic, political, medical, academic, and in all aspects of our lives.  It is up to each of us, as individuals, to research the facts, to hear all sides and perspectives and to come to our own conclusions.  We can only do that when we are exposed to all sides of a debate and have access to all of the information on a topic, not just that which is cherry picked and spoon fed by media elites, tech tycoons, and government bureaucrats.

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