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Bruce Bialosky

Hoorah for Hate Speech

You, like I, certainly are stunned that there would be a day in the United States where people are talking about banning certain forms of speech and branding it as “hate speech.” As someone who is a free speech absolutist, I find the entire matter repulsive. I applaud that the opportunity to offend me by speech exists. It is an essential American freedom.

First, let’s define a “free speech absolutist.” One can’t encourage violence against a group or a person. One can’t yell “fire” in a crowded place when there is no emergency. Other than that, Americans are free to speak as they wish.

The problem with hate speech is it is in the eye of the beholder. For example, almost any time Elizabeth Warren or our current White House press secretary says something, I want what they are saying banned. What is said by the head of the NEA or AFT (teachers’ unions) almost universally is hate speech to me and is likewise racist. Any of the people whining and saying there is hate speech that needs restricting is a perfect example of people who actually need to be stifled. It is a good bet they can’t possibly think of anything they say qualifies as hate speech, and therein lies the problem.

There are two factors as to why we have reached this point. First, those politically right of center have developed a burgeoning voice separate from the legacy media. When I was growing up, we thought we were getting the straight scoop. We did not realize how much the establishment was filtering what we received. They chose what stories to expose and that has become more pronounced since.

Then came William F. Buckley and National Review. Next was the emergence of talk radio exemplified by the master – Rush Limbaugh. Finally, the ultimate offender — Fox News. Today there are myriad internet sites representing “objectionable” thought, but to the Left the major evils are those voices on Fox News and talk radio.

I remember having a discussion with Jill Stewart, the former managing editor of the LA Weekly. Jill told me about when she worked for the Los Angeles Times for seven years. She would constantly include information in her articles to educate the readers about the going-ons in Los Angeles. Her editors would consistently cut those relevant facts stating, “That is inside baseball.” She grew disgusted with their perverse desire to hide information from their subscribers and left.

Today it is overarching attitude of what is now referred to as the Legacy media.

Do you remember the first time you heard that funny word – Google? Little did you know your life would be so changed as the internet took over and we became married to smart phones. The internet was touted as “liberating” our lives. It would allow free information to flow for all to see. It turned out not to be that way as power was consolidated in the hands of a few companies and their over-educated and wisdom-free employees.

We have now become largely dependent on Google, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and the Apple app store to get and send our information. When we signed up for these sites, they all had their intended purposes, but we never thought they would become omnipresent in our culture. We never thought they would exert control over our communication like they have.

This has evolved from the 1996 Communications Decency Act and the now infamous Section 230. This act was developed during the infancy of social media. Platforms are allowed to “restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected.” In today’s world that covers just about everything.

It seems you can get away with obscene, lewd, lascivious and filthy today as opposed to in the past. Excessively violent once had a clear interpretation, but now has connotations never conceived. Harassing or otherwise objectionable is fairly broad and is being used to suppress the speech of those who express things unliked by certain elements of society. And all of this is justified because of the last phrase – whether or not such material is constitutionally protected.

We have come to find out that not everyone is treated equally because these companies get to define what they believe is “appropriate speech” under the guise they are private enterprises and not subject to First Amendment rules. They establish what they call their “moderation policies” that clearly appear to tilt one way politically. The one most orientated to the use of the written word is Twitter. It is now clear they worked in conjunction with the federal government to restrict free speech – a clear First Amendment violation.

There are third party operations that like to be guardians of what is supposedly “right and just.” Snopes is the most well known, but it is clear they have a political agenda. Then there is Newsguard. They say “We help you decide which news sources to trust — with ratings from humans, not algorithms. With trust ratings for over 7,500 websites produced by real journalists.” Well, there is an operation you can trust and believe me they have no agenda – yeah, right.

There have been positive developments against this organized attempt to shut down free speech and tell people what they can and cannot say. Many left-of-center journalists have jumped ship and gone to publish on their own on sites like Substack. Real journalists are free to do in-depth journalism without a snotty editor telling them what they are writing is “inside baseball.” As it turns out, without the albatross of news operations like the New York Times where group think is hung around their necks, they are producing down the middle real journalism.

Then there is the drama going on at Twitter which is playing out in front of our eyes. Yet we know the Legacy media is doing their best to ignore that story just like they ignore the stories buried by Twitter.

The only thing I find to be true hate speech is people constantly calling out hate speech.