Freedom of Speech
At first I drafted this “letter” for Facebook, but since we are leaving Facebook platforms that seemed too little, too late, and quite frankly, would be largely ineffectual. As a medium for sharing one’s point of view and for the respectful exchange of ideas, Facebook is no longer a viable option for those in the political minority. But, I can no longer keep my mouth shut on the subject; the consequences of our inaction is too dire. Read on if you please, share if you agree.
Thank you, John
Democracy on Facebook
Here we have on Facebook a democratic state of affairs, a democracy in microcosm. Actually, not even in microcosm; if U.S. Facebook users alone were a country they’d comprise the 10th largest country in the world.
As in any country, state, county, city, town or hamlet, disagreements arise, and people take sides. It’s been that way no doubt since people have come together for the purpose of survival. Now in the United States, at practically every level of government, the people are allowed fundamentally two choices, A or B, vanilla or chocolate, Left or Right, Democrat or Republican; choose. And so factions form, with most people, a majority big or small, being in one group or the other at the end, depending on a number of factors, some people actually choosing a third or fourth group, which while attractive is ultimately disbanded or relegated to meaninglessness. The U.S. wasn’t originally designed as a two-party system, but it’s come to that. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your point of view, the minorities are, or were, protected from the majority by the Constitution and its design of the Republic; there were only certain things the majority could do to, or for, the minorities. At least that was true by the Constitution, as originally written. And it was good.
Again unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your point of view, no such constitution exists to protect minorities on Facebook, and so for the majority there really are no limits on its power. This is what’s called a “democracy,” pure and simple; Majority Rules, and Mob Rule. Majorities are like big amorphous blobs, moving, shifting position, increasing and declining in size, here one day, gone tomorrow; the majority everchanging, together with its rules.
“Democracy is the road to socialism.”
– Karl Marx –
As has been written by some very smart people going way back to Tocqueville, with the possibilities and probabilities fleshed out in additional detail by the likes of Orwell and Huxley, things can, probably will, and historically do, go wrong. For most of us these dystopian futures seem scary, and honestly, unimaginable. It just can’t happen that way. It certainly can’t happen that way HERE.
Yet HERE we are. The majority have decided that a person, a member of the boy-billionaires club, should make the rules. The irony of the fact that the current majority otherwise loves to hate the billionaire minority should not be lost on anyone. Still, a majority have allowed the boy to decide on their behalf, what is ethical, what is moral, what is and is not supported by “the science,” and so on. Of course, rules are nothing without enforcement. And so, a majority have allowed the boy to develop and train robots, quite literally, to police the goingson within the Facebook “community;” to actually control what can be said and not said, within their midst. Perhaps this billionaire is not, just yet, able to police thought, but he certainly has found a way to police speech, and if Orwell and Huxley are correct, thought will be not far behind. Better yet from the majority point of view, other boy-billionaires at Google, Apple and Amazon share in the burden of putting down the thought-minorities, whoever they may be today, and wherever they may be. The minority is being ostracized. And the majority says, it IS good.
I’m not arguing that Facebook has no right to run it’s anti-social network the way it does, quite the contrary, they have every right. I don’t want the government to label the tech giants as “public utilities;” no thank you to additional government oversight or regulation, which seldom improve a situation and bring with them a whole host of unintended and mostly negative consequences. I am arguing that the policing of speech by the tech giants, as if they have somehow become the authorities on morality, ethics, science, and the like, is harmful, to the community writ large, and since they have such broad reach, even harmful to the United States. In this vein, The Social Dilemma is a “must watch.”
I have my thoughts on the future of the United States empire, informed for better or worse by such books as Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, and Guns, Germs and Steel, both by Jared Diamond; and The Rise and Fall of Great Powers, by Paul Kennedy. One thing you can count on though, as with majorities in the political sense, the global great power structure is everchanging. Power is relative, and while I as an individual, or a group that I am a part of, or the country that I live in, may be at the height of my or its absolute power, that doesn’t mean that I am, have been, or always will be the most powerful individual, or associated with the most powerful group, or living in the most powerful country, relatively speaking. That power we relish and luxuriate in is here today, gone tomorrow, as the old saying goes. In other words, what goes around comes around, always has and always will; there is indeed nothing new under the sun.
“For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of triumph, a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeteers, musicians and strange animals from conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conquerors rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children robed in white stood with him in the chariot or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting.”
Advice to Majorities
Protect the rights of minorities, including the rights of the smallest minority, the individual. Pastor Niemöller’s poem at the top of this post was his lamentation that he, and the priesthood in general, had not said or done what they should have in the early days of the Nazi party, and the early days of the Nazi regime. We’re all too familiar with the results of that behavior. It can and it absolutely will happen HERE, if we let go of the principles on which this country was founded. In fact I argue often, it IS happening here.
“That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach.”
– Aldous Huxley –
Author of Brave New World
Our Commitment to Action
We are leaving Facebook and Amazon this month. It’s not a spur-of-the-moment decision; our dissatisfaction has been building for months if not years. The list probably won’t end there, and will almost surely include Apple and Google. Voting with our feet. Putting our money where our mouths are. Like that. This will be difficult technically, especially for Primal Woods, probably not without financial cost, and certainly not without social costs. We ask for your support. We will need it. We need our community. Getting closer to our community will be the greatest benefit we derive, and that we look forward to. On this page you can also sign up for our weekly Newsletter, and we hope that you will.
With warm regards,