Pulling the Plug
Is Banning Trump a Blow to Free Speech?
PRIVATE COMPANIES CAN CHOOSE WHAT TO OFFER THEIR CUSTOMERS
SO, PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP HAS been booted off Twitter, as of now forever. Facebook also gave him the heave-ho. Apple and Google, meanwhile, have tossed the riot-friendly Parler app out of their stores.
Parler became a social media cave for the Trump-inspired looters, vandals, cop killers and other social misfits who rampaged through the Capitol. But Amazon may have delivered the harshest blow by refusing to store Parler’s data in its cloud-computing service.
Having lost the presidency, the Senate majority and now major platforms for disseminating lies and calls to violence, Trump World, or what’s left of it, automatically shifted into self-pitying snowflake mode. With quivering voices, its members accused the tech companies of censorship.
When Simon & Schuster announced it would not be publishing the book by one of the instigators, Josh Hawley, the Missouri senator called the move “Orwellian” and a “direct assault on the First Amendment.” A graduate of Yale Law School should know that the First Amendment bans only government censorship.
These are all private companies, and private companies have every right to decide what they do or do not offer customers. I demand that Fox News give me an hour of airtime every week. I’m not getting it? Well, those are the breaks.
There will be a time for thoughtful debate on these companies’ power to monitor the flow of information. That time is not this week. Having just endured a violent attempt to destroy the electoral process at Trump’s urging, American democracy is now in Code Red. We’re in a national emergency demanding an emergency response.
That’s why other companies are joining the media giants in isolating Trump and his fellow insurrectionists. Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and Marriott International said they would freeze donations to Republican lawmakers who challenged state-certified Electoral College votes for President-elect Joe Biden. Stripe, a tech company that processes card payments for online businesses, has cut off Trump’s campaign account. And the e-commerce company Shopify has pulled the plug on stores run by Trump and his campaign.
In addition to a shared revulsion to the Trump-fanned attack on the Capitol, the companies have business
reasons to stop the insanity. The American system of checks and balances and peaceful transfer of power has been good to business. Corporate leaders, including many who signed on with the president for the tax cuts, know that chaos unleashed by toxic Trumpian forces is bad for the economy and, therefore, bad for them.
One of the more muscular calls to isolate Trump and his enablers comes from Forbes magazine, which bills itself as the world’s biggest business media brand. The Trump insurrection, editor Randall Lane wrote, was rooted in “lies-upon-lies, repeated frequently and fervently.” From day one of this Orwellian presidency, he added, “up has been down, yes has been no, failure has been success.”
Lane went on to warn corporate America against hiring a former Trump White House spokesperson. Any of them—from Sean Spicer up through Kayleigh Mcenany—will be considered a “potential funnel of disinformation,” he said.
To repeat: No one has withdrawn Trump’s right to free speech. He can hold a news conference. He can issue press releases. He can open the window and holler.
And Hawley’s book could still see the light of day. The publisher may be less prestigious than Simon & Schuster. And he might be able to keep the advance. Conservative publisher Regnery said it would consider the book.
It bears noting that Apple did give Parler an opportunity to remove content that would threaten people’s safety. Its warnings went unheeded. Parler is dead, for now, anyway. All we can say is those are the breaks.