The world noticed when two billionaires, Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey, pushed a button and de-platformed Donald Trump from their social media empires. “After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the content around them,” Twitter wrote, “we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence.” Eighty-eight million Twitter followers and another 35 million from Facebook will have to look elsewhere to follow Trump’s daily rants. But there is no comparable “elsewhere” in this largely monopolized private-for-profit – not free speech – industry whose unprecedented reach covers the globe. With Twitter’s generous algorithm assistance for sure, Trump’s magnified tweets since he became a member in 2009 boosted Twitter’s corporate profits big time – capitalism’s bottom line endgame. No doubt, Twitter or Facebook accounts that challenge these prerogatives are accorded the reverse end of the algorithm spectrum, if not banned outright. The latter is the growing experience leftists concerned with social justice, antiwar, anti-racist and Palestinian rights. Many of their websites and/or posts are increasingly removed outright, with little or no recourse.
Kevin Roose’s Jan. 11, 2021 New York Times Interpreter column is explicit in telling us that in the world of privately-owned social media the rich have every right to ban any ideas that counter their interests. Says Roose, “No serious thinker believes that Twitter and Facebook, as private companies, are obligated to give any user a platform, just as no one doubts that a restaurant owner can boot an unruly diner for causing a scene.” True enough! Under capitalist rule, the billionaire elite’s private media and/or their government can “legally” boot us out at their discretion. They maintain a substantial ideological monopoly. What was a “free press” long ago no longer exists. And if today’s monopolies happen to be sued for any users’ posts or tweets or lies, they are home free/immune under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which shields social media companies from legal liability for their users’ posts.
The same generally holds for the entire spectrum of corporate media, from television to radio and print. Even the time-honored soapboxing where we stand on community street corner addressing an audience of passers bye has been constricted when modern-day mall owners order the arrest of leafleting activists on the grounds that they are encroaching on private property. Need we mention the capitalist monopoly on elections wherein “democracy” resides in two multi-billionaire parties and their corporate media dominating the discourse? In the society that we seek to establish, an egalitarian socialist society aimed at the emancipation of humanity from capitalist exploitation and oppression in all its manifestations, the working class through its own democratically-chosen representatives will preside over a nationalized social media system aimed at social enlightenment and the free expression of ideas. The democracy that we fight for consists in the institutionalized rule of the majority, socialism, not the one percent! In the meantime, we fight against all manifestations of corporate and government censorship knowing full well however, that success is direct proportional to our power in the streets as opposed to necessary but subordinate engagement in “legal” battles for free speech. The 20-plus million liberation fighters that mobilized in 2,000 U.S. cities last summer defending the Black Lives Matter movement did more to expose capitalism’s systemic racism and racist history than the handful a lawsuits our movement supported for the right to march down the streets and otherwise disseminate our views.
Trump’s worldwide soapbox
Trump’s unimpeded soapbox allowed him to saturate the internet with endless waves of racist, sexist, anti-LGBTQI hatemongering, war threatening mendacious fabrications on the subject of his choice while pillorying his enemies and basking in the adoration of his ever misinformed followers. In June, he retweeted, without penalty, a video that featured a person yelling “white power.” He had a direct line to every newsroom in the country. “Without the tweets,” Trump told the Financial Times in 2017, “I wouldn’t be here.” Shortly before his inauguration, he bragged that his @realdonaldtrump account was so powerful that, “I could go bing bing bing, and they put it on and as soon as I tweet it out — this morning on television, Fox, ‘Donald Trump, we have breaking news.’”
No prior Twitter/Facebook challenge to Trump
Before the Jan. 6 Trump-instigated mob attack on the Capitol no Twitter or Facebook executive seriously challenged his “right” to lie, cheat and steal, to threaten nations with “obliteration,” to openly advocate and initiate military coups, threaten nuclear war, orchestrate regime change wars, officially order assassinations, (Qassem Soleimani in Iraq), impose deadly economic sanctions on 37 nations, order the bombing of Iranian nuclear research facilities and assassinate Iranian scientists. Trump and his sycophants promoted and sought to implement discredited “herd immunity” COVID-19 theories and related anti-scientific notions aimed at discrediting mandated mask wearing. These horrors, to mention just a few, effectively led to mass murder in the U.S. and around the world. None were censored in the corporate media world.
Trump’s endless lying hyperbole about stolen elections, while inciting a few hundred fanatics to storm the Capitol, pale before the multiple atrocities he committed over the past four years. In the main, his acts of global terror and $trillion bailouts and tax cuts for the rich have been the bipartisan policies of the U.S. ruling class, whether U.S. capitalism’s titular head was an Obama, or Clinton or Bush, or, today, Joseph Biden.
Trump’s Twitter/Facebook ban
Nevertheless, social justice activists would be making a serious mistake if they applaud Trump’s being banned from Twitter and Facebook. History records without exception that such bans are invariably aimed at the left. In the modern era free speech, as guaranteed by the First Amendment, is protected, restricted or abolished depending on the needs of the one percent, on the one hand, and the power of mass social movements on the other.
In decades past at the height of the mass in opposition to the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movement the previous 1950s McCarthy era limitations on fundamental civil liberties were lifted to some extent and Federal Communications Commission regulations were modified to allow for a moment of “equal time” on television that saw a handful of socialist candidates briefly appear, once or twice, on television during election times. More often however, dissident views were banned in one or another manner with court and government rulings that subordinated First Amendment free speech and association rights to specious “national security” Patriot Act and mass surveillance legislation.
The arrest, persecution and prosecution of free speech fighters like Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden stands out as glaring examples of free speech repression not to mention the more insidious daily exclusion of dissenting views from the corporate media.
2020 election: a $14 billion affair
The most recent Trump-Biden election charade was nothing less than a $14 billion affair endlessly promoted by the corporate media to decide which billionaire-backed candidate would be the titular head of U.S. capitalism. Indeed, it was Trump’s attack on the 2020 election results that brought him down as opposed to his multiple daily atrocities committed against the world’s people.
Today, free speech applies with full force only to the corporate media institutions. They broadcast and write whatever they please, free from government regulation, plus or minus an occasional adjustment. They are the Manufacturing Consent purveyors of the Orwellian, Truman Show/Potemkin Village world of lies, distortions and half truths. Media magnate multi-billionaire Rupert Murdoch (family wealth at $16.9 billion) presides over the News Corp empire that includes The New York Post, The Times of London, The Wall Street Journal and Fox News. Murdoch’s “free speech” allows him to simultaneously call for Trump’s impeachment via one outlet and to denounce the 2020 election results on the other! His “truths” are subordinate to profit, wherever he can find it. In sharp contrast we are allowed to utter a few words to the precious few until the thought control czars consider that we present a threat to the status quo. Then the full force state repression is set into motion, limited only by our power to resist with mass forces in motion.
Exposing corporate media censorship
A glimpse of the operational guidelines of today’s print media was provided by a Jan. 2021 Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) survey of the major media’s reportage on recent events in Venezuela.
Over a three-month period analyzing some 78 articles (1/15/19–4/15/19), FAIR found that “Not a single commentator in the Washington Post, New York Times or on the big three Sunday morning talk shows or PBS NewsHour… challenged the Trump administration’s coup and sanction actions aimed at forcing Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro to step down.” Not one dissented from the Trump administration’s designation of the crook Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s president.
“Race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot”
That Trump, the unexpected and accidental 2016 presidential winner, is and has been a lying, whacked out, egomaniacal narcissist is common knowledge among most everyone in the Washington, D.C. political community. A sampling of assessments from leading Republicans prior to Trump’s emerging as their 2016 candidate is instructive.
Florida Senator Ted Cruz stated that: Trump is “utterly amoral,” a “serial philanderer” and “a narcissist at a level that I don’t think this country has ever seen.” Cruz again: “This man is a pathological liar. He doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies. He lies practically every word that comes out of his mouth.”
South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham stated: “He’s a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot. He doesn’t represent my party. He doesn’t represent the values that the men and women who wear the uniform are fighting for. … He’s the ISIL [ISIS] man of the year.”
And from Florida Senator Marco Rubio: “We’re on the verge of having someone take over the conservative movement who is a con artist.” Trump is the most “vulgar person to ever aspire to the presidency.”
Mike Pompeo, Trump’s Secretary of State, warned in March 2016 that Trump would become “an authoritarian president who ignored our Constitution.”
But Trump won – an embarrassment to the ruling rich who they tried to “civilize” for four years with little success. But generally, Trump satisfied their overall needs. He posed no threat to capitalist interests.
Today, and immediately following Trump’s 2016 election, most of these same Republican buffoons ape Trump’s every word and deed, each vying for the loyalty of his “base,” eyeing an expected easy future ride to fame and fortune, if not the presidency in 2024. They are exemplars of the degenerate level of U.S. politics practiced on both sides of the aisle but with a bit more prettification, tact and finesse on the Democratic Party side.
Trump has been impeached by the House of Representatives in a vote where some ten Republicans, for the first time, joined in. A Senate trial is in preparation likely to be scheduled after Trump leaves office. Whether or not Trump is convicted will be a measure of whether the section of the ruling class that found Trump useful, albeit often repulsive, in promoting their interests now decides that he is more of a liability. To date we are witnessing a divided ruling class calculating the merits or demerits of relegating Trump to future obscurity. Working people have zero interest in these machinations. The construction of alternative working class organizations, including a mass independent fighting labor party based on qualitatively expanded and revitalized trade unions in alliance with the oppressed, is the road to the future, as opposed to another descent to “lesser evil” politics. Whether or not Trump is convicted and subsequently removed from the political arena and/or excluded from the corporate media falls into the purview of ruling class politics, not ours. His banishment and conviction and even punishment for lying, cheating a stealing are the penalties occasionally imposed on a handful of figures that break the rules of capitalist civility. The disgusting list of corrupt and imprisoned millionaires, many elected officials, that Trump pardoned /commuted in his last days gave proof of his moral degeneracy. But it also revealed that the base corruption that he “liberated” is commonplace in U.S. society.
Convicting Trump and the bipartisan capitalist system of mass murder, human degradation and environmental destruction is the task of a united working class fighting for the socialist future, a future aimed the liberation of all humanity from the horrors of capitalist barbarism. We fight for a future with sweet bread and roses for all, for the prioritization of human needs, quality jobs, education, housing, culture and healthcare – for the restoration of a clean sustainable environment, for a world of peace and solidarity among all peoples.