Not to be outdone by rest of the establishment media, The Los Angeles Times recently published its own article railing against the First Amendment and calling for government restrictions on speech. Here we go again.
In a piece entitled, “Speech in America is fast, cheap and out of control,” Richard L. Hasen discusses how “cheap speech” has transformed the way Americans receive information regarding news and current events. You can already tell where this is going, right? In the article, Hasen argues that the abundance of online media is “endangering the health of our democracy.” One of the reasons he believes this is because the establishment media are no longer the primary distributors of information.
“In the old days, just a handful of TV networks controlled the airwaves, and newspapers served as gatekeepers for news and opinion content,” the author writes. “A big debate back in the 1980s and earlier was how to enable free expression for those who did not own or work for a media company and wanted to get a message out.
Hasen seems to yearn for the days when only a few media outlets controlled the information they provided to the American public. Of course, if you’re a leftist, you might find yourself pining for those days as well – even before the advent of online publishing, the establishment media was biased against the right.
The author acknowledges the benefits of a more democratized environment for media. He notes that cheap speech has helped people who are “fighting oppressive regimes around the world.” These types of regimes typically suppress the flow of information as much as possible – social media gives the oppressed a means by which they can share the truth about what is happening in their country. Nevertheless, the author then argues this abundant flow of information isn’t good for the United States.
To begin with, Hasen sees cheap speech as a force that undermines “mediating and stabilizing institutions of American democracy, including newspapers and political parties.” Moreover, he believes that this carries “negative social and political consequences.” The newspaper industry has suffered greatly over the past twenty years. They employ less than half the number of workers than they did in 2001. Their advertising revenue has plummeted. Now that media is no longer scarce, publications like The New York Times are experiencing a myriad of financial woes. In today’s media environment, Americans are inundated with information whenever they pick up their phone or turn on their computer.
“In place of media scarcity, we now have a media fire hose. Because the barrier to entry is so low — virtually nonexistent — it’s easy for both domestic and foreign sources to spread falsehoods and propaganda for political or pecuniary purposes,” Hasen argues. “People no longer rely on Walter Cronkite to tell them ‘the way it is’ or the Los Angeles Times to screen out kooks.”
Hasen blames this phenomenon on the vast proliferation of fake news online. He also asserts that if there are less local newspapers in business, it could open the door for more corruption in state and local governments. Since newspapers will not be around to expose wrongdoing on the part of politicians, it will be easier for them to engage in shady behavior. The author believes that the proliferation of content online poses a threat to political parties.
Lastly, the Mr. Hasen states that cheap speech may make political parties irrelevant because politicians can now communicate directly with the American public. Not surprisingly, he uses President Trump’s use of Twitter as an example. The president does not have to rely on the news media to get his message to the American public – he can just address them through his cell phone. Of course, many conservatives see this as a positive – since the media is obviously biased, they would rather hear straight from the president. So, what does Hasen think we should do about this?
Predictably, he believes the government is the answer. He writes:
Still, in the era of cheap speech, some shifts in 1st Amendment doctrine seem desirable to assist citizens in ascertaining the truth. The courts should not stand in the way of possible future laws aimed at requiring social media sites to identify and police false political advertising, for instance.
The notion that the government should use legislation to involve themselves in policing online speech is disturbing. Is fake news an issue? Of course, it is – but forcing social media sites to weed out certain points of view could set a dangerous precedent. What types of stories will be considered fake? But this isn’t the worst part. This type of legislation could easily turn into a slippery slope that could result in the government silencing inconvenient opinions.
As conservatives, we know where this leads; it will be used to silence right-wing views. Social media platforms like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter already target conservative content – banning accounts, demonetizing videos, and removing conservative posts. There are plenty of examples of conservatives who have been unfairly penalized for sharing or posting content that does not conform to leftist ideology; this is a rarity to purveyors of left-wing content.
Make no mistake; the left is engaged in a battle against the First Amendment. They are not concerned with the distribution of fake news – many of their establishment news outlets are already guilty of reporting news stories in a way that is misleading. What they aim to do is suppress opinions that conflict with leftist ideology.
If we are serious about liberty, we must not take our Constitutional rights for granted and must fight against all efforts to limit, restrict or otherwise silence differing opinions. President Reagan’s comment that freedom is only one generation away from extinction now seem prescient.