The Empire Strikes Back

A lot of us remember the early days of designing and launching a webpage.

How important the font choice seemed to be. Little did we know. And how many teenage nieces and nephews, and friends’ kids, were drafted into the thankless task of helping us dinosaurs with the basics of  start-up.

One of the things I remember is how hopelessly inept the government was. From the federal level on down, they were stuck in the past, with IBM mainframes and floppy disks, and this new revolution was going to pass them by, while dramatically changing the game for citizens’ free speech.

Which it did. Free speech had a heyday.

Then, the empire struck back, as it always does.

We talked on the show about Supreme Court Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, describing the impediment that 1A free speech represents for the government, hampering its ability to do things it wants to do.

On one level, it seems like a poor read of what a “right” actually is. But, as Glenn Greenwald reminds us, she speaks for many American liberals. He puts it this way: “We can’t allow free speech anymore. It’s too dangerous”.

We have known this about them for a long time. The “15 Days to Slow the Spread”-era, for example? The unspoken part was “freedom kills!” Remember crime scene tape around playgrounds? Basketball hoops unbolted from backboards? Police chasing surfers?

At the brazen behest of teachers’ unions, schools closed and children, who were not suffering from COVID, suffered and still are set-back.

Politicians who had always been pretty cavalier about entrepreneurship, destroyed jobs (which they then bragged about “bringing back”) and seemed to take sadistic pleasure in crushing small, local businesses. Always with a finger-wagging lecture about “saving one life”.

It was, of course, a story of bipartisan incompetence and medical fecklessness, but it was also a pogrom against freedom of speech. Those years would have gone very differently with a robust debate and forthright exchange, which didn’t happen, thanks to the collusion of pols and tech.

They caught up to the Internet.

All over the world, otherwise democratic nations seem to have arrived at the conclusion, as Greenwald puts it, that “free speech is no longer a luxury we can afford because disinformation is something that is too dangerous to permit”.



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