I rest assured that I’m going to get a lot of flack for this post, but anyway….
Regarding the Alex Jones thing, honestly, I’m torn.
The most worrying thing about the manner in which Jones has been censored is that a handful of tech-entrepreneurs have so much power to censor. As a rule, these people tend not to have received broad educations. One of the differences between our own time and previous ages is that our new elites are only semi-educated, having received excessively specialized education.
All censorship is an exercise in social engineering, insofar as it is undertaken for its projected social or cultural impact. The problem with our new tech-elites is that they are extremely unlikely to understand social, cultural or historical processes well enough to be competent social engineers.
All societies engage in social engineering of one type or another
– having a background in the historical disciplines and the Geisteswissenschaften more generally will probably improve the prospective social engineer’s chances of not making a mess of the process. The capacity to make historical comparisons is invaluable.
So, regarding the censoring of Alex Jones, I’m less concerned about the censorship aspect per se than I am by the point that it represents an example of social engineering by people who are probably not competent social engineers.
I’ve never been a free-speech fundamentalist. Here’s why not:
Most of the rights which we have inherited were never intended to be sacralized – they were not conceived of as ends in themselves, or desired simply for their own sake. Rights have an INSTRUMENTAL value – they are social instruments.
That is to say, just as censorship is always an exercise in social engineering, the creation of a right is also an exercise in social engineering. Rights are created, not simply or their own sake, but for their desired social or cultural impact.
The right to freedom of self-expression was first argued for and enshrined in order to protect SERIOUS speech.
That is to say, this right was first argued for and enshrined in order to allow serious-minded people to publicly discuss matters of serious public importance SERIOUSLY, thereby offering some kind of check to bad governance.
The whole point was that this right was a social instrument which could operate as a prophylactic against bad governance.
Therefore, the right to freedom of self-expression is a meaningful right only insofar as it applies to serious speech, as opposed to trivial or un-serious speech.
Justin Bieber videos are not serious speech, so really, who cares whether they’re censored or not?
Porn is not serious speech, so really, who cares whether it’s censored or not?
Loonytunes holocaust-denial bullshit is not serious speech, so really, who cares whether it’s censored or not?
Alex Jones does not produce serious speech, so really, who cares whether he’s censored or not?
We’re not talking about Chris Hedges or Norman Finkelstein or Michael Parenti.
Now, you might argue, but couldn’t anybody then arbitrarily classify ANYBODY’S speech as “un-serious” as a pretext for censoring it? If the right to freedom of self-expression is meaningful only insofar as it applies to serious speech, then couldn’t the distinction between “serious” and “un-serious” be arbitrarily abused as a pretext for censoring something?
Yes, it could.
But that does not mean that the distinction in itself is an arbitrary one.
Most people would agree that Chris Hedges, Norman Finkelstein and Michael Parenti produce serious discussion, whereas Alex Jones does not.
And anyway, people who would arbitrarily abuse the distinction between “serious” and “un-serious” speech as a pretext for censoring something would be just as likely to simply arbitrarily censor without even bothering to make the distinction between one and the other, or to defend their decision at all.
All in all, I’m less concerned about the Alex Jones situation as an example of censorship per se than I’m concerned about it as an example of half-assed social engineering and as an arbitrary exercise of power more generally.