Necessary and important speech will often, perhaps almost always, offend someone

LETTERS

In this time of cancel culture, mainstream media bias, and the extraordinary control of the information by social media giants, your recent opinion that “Freedom of Speech (is ) Not Without Limits” was appallingly shallow.

First, Trump is a man who is easy to dislike; prone to poor judgment and unsubtle communication. But Trump was not banned because his speech was hateful or contributed to the “cesspool” that is social media. If that were the case, the Twitter accounts of Antifa and the Ayatollah Khamenei would surely be banned. No, Trump was banned for political reasons. His message that the recent election was “stolen” was contrary to the preferred narrative of the left leaning media and tech industry. His speech was legal but upsetting to Democrats.

The limits on free speech in the United States were decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in a case called Brandenburg. There it was held that governments can only suppress speech where the speech “is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action, and is likely to incite or produce such action.” Trump is divisive but nothing in his communications meets that standard. If your editorial writer had read Trump’s speech to the protesters on Jan. 6 you would know that he said, “we’re going to walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators, and congressmen and women… We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing and only count electors who have been lawfully slated… I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully… make your voices heard.” And the vast majority of the thousands there did exactly that.

Which brings me to my second point. Twitter, Facebook, Google/Youtube and a few others now effectively control the information received by most people in the world. Their dominance gives them the ability to manipulate – which is exactly what they did in the recent U.S. election with their donations and refusal to report negatively on issues related to Biden. This unchecked power over information thus allows them to control the election process and who is elected. If Big Tech disagrees with your message, you are banned and prevented from communicating to your public. And so Twitter and their ilk have appropriated the role of deciding what is acceptable speech, imposing their standard in place of the standard established through a duly elected body and its Courts. As a result the West is now moving from a democracy to an oligarchy, with decision-making power vested in a few individual people, businesses and their nominees.

This should scare us all. Who is to be in control? Do you trust the billionaires at Big Tech, whose only interest is self- interest, to decide what information you will receive and who will govern you? There was a time in the not so distant past when liberals understood this problem of elites and thus fought against attempts by the powerful to limit speech. So Brandenburg, a Klan leader and detestable racist was in fact supported by the American Civil Liberties Union in his defense. Now, however, liberals are happy with the banning of Trump and other conservative points of view. They are now the zealots for limiting a fundamental freedom which allows each of us to make an independent and informed choice.

Speech which is necessary and important will often, perhaps almost always, offend someone. This is the trade-off we make in order to have freedom and to participate in a democracy. Sadly, your editorial writer seems not to understand this.

Howard Milner

Campbell River

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