On Tuesday night, it took exactly 30 seconds for two establishment news personalities to demonstrate how free speech is now increasingly perceived as “right-wing.” They did so in reaction to Tucker Carlson announcing that he was bringing his popular television program to Twitter.
Watch it. It’s amazing. It’s quick:
Establishment journalists worry Elon Musk and Tucker Carlson want a “free for all” for speech.
Um… what do they think free speech is?
Brian Stelter says Twitter allowing and desiring free and open speech cements the platform as “rightwing.”
Free speech is now rightwing. https://t.co/agPfFCNTgp
— Jack Hunter (@jackhunter74) May 10, 2023
Sitting in on MSNBC’s ‘Hallie Jackson Now ‘, guest host Tom Costello said, “Twitter was already under fire for misinformation, disinformation, all-out lies, anti-semitism, racism before Elon Musk took over and now it’s gotten kind of crazy, right? Seemingly unmoored, if you will.”
Let’s say for argument’s sake that how Costello portrays the current state of speech on Twitter is true. (In fact, it’s highly debatable.) Even if it features the craziest “lies” and the worst kinds of racism—all of this is protected under the First Amendment and a broader societal value of free speech. The ACLU once defended Nazis’ First Amendment rights back when free speech was still a Left value, for heaven’s sake.
Costello then said to his guest, former CNN personality Brian Stelter, “Will anybody be able to police what Carlson says?”
Hey guy—is someone SUPPOSED to “police” what Carlson or anyone else in America says?!? Isn’t the point of free speech in America is that you can say whatever you want (with extremely narrow exceptions) and your right to do so is protected by law?
Costello followed up, apparently dismayed that no one would be able to “police” Carlson’s speech on Twitter, “Or is this the point? It’s just a free-for-all?”
(YES. THAT’S EXACTLY THE POINT.)
Stelter immediately reinforced Costello’s glaring illiberalism.
“This move by Tucker may cement the idea of Twitter as a right-wing website,” Stelter proclaimed.
Translation: If Twitter owner Elon Musk is promising a free speech environment on his platform—in the way that most Americans for most of our history have understood that principle since the Constitution was ratified—allowing unfettered speech is right-wing.
You read that right. That’s where we are now.
One year ago this month, I published a piece at BASEDPolitics titled ‘Free speech as a right-wing value’ in reaction to the Biden administration announcing a new ‘Disinformation Governance Board’ that coincided with the news that Musk was buying Twitter.
I wrote, “Seemingly overnight, the old consensus about free speech as an American ideal was now being painted as a partisan cause that Musk and others were somehow misguidedly obsessed with.”
I even cited the old free speech consensus that was once a bedrock value for American liberals as expressed by then Democratic President Barack Obama in 2015.
Eight years ago the Charlie Hebdo attack happened in Paris, France, where two Muslim extremists shot up the office of a satirical newspaper that had published a cartoon that was offensive to some in the Muslim community.
In light of that tragedy, some wondered if we should begin to limit certain speech in the West. Yet Obama boldly defended free speech.
“Free expression and a free press are core values, they are universal values, principles that can be attacked but never eradicated,” Obama said then.
He continued, “We’ve spoken repeatedly about the importance of upholding the freedom of expression that is enshrined in our Constitution.”
“If somebody is able to intimidate folks out of releasing a satirical movie, imagine what they start doing when they see a documentary that they don’t like, or news reports that they don’t like,” Obama warned.
Take that Tom Costello and Brian Stelter! You don’t have to like what Tucker Carlson or anyone else says to recognize their right to say it!
Obama had a killer next line.
“Or even worse, imagine if producers and distributors and others start engaging in self-censorship because they don’t want to offend the sensibilities of somebody whose sensibilities probably need to be offended.”
“That’s not who we are,” Obama insisted. “That’s not what America is about.”
Unfortunately, by 2022, seven years after the political rise of Donald Trump and post the COVID-19 pandemic, Obama had joined the same anti-First Amendment Democratic mindhive Costello and Stelter expressed in their half minute clip.
Defending Biden’s proposed Disinformation Governance Board, the former free speech advocate told an audience at Stanford University that when it comes to social media companies and “disinformation,” “regulation has to be part of the answer.” Obama would go on to say that current “content moderation” by the companies themselves “doesn’t go far enough” in tamping down on “clearly dangerous content.”
This was before the Twitter Files revealed that the federal government was working in tandem with social media to censor speech, but obviously in defending a state-run “board” to stamp out “disinformation” was an admission that Obama believed the government must intervene.
In other words, speech must be regulated. Tucker Carlson must be “policed.”
The exact opposite of what Obama promoted in 2015. The exact opposite of the spirit of the First Amendment. An accurate reflection of how Costello and Stelter now view the parameters of allowable speech in America.
After spending a decade or so insisting that American liberals no longer believe in free speech — in fact, they believe it's a dangerous and crypto-fascist value — it's bizarre but weirdly gratifying to watch them have to explicitly admit it:https://t.co/P0szv6nUdI
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) April 30, 2022
Obviously, not all right-wingers are consistent supporters of free speech and you can find examples of Republicans actively working against this all-American value. Too many examples for my taste.
But while not all rightwingers support free speech, merely upholding free speech is now considered right-wing. There is no longer a pro-free speech consensus on the Left like there used to be. The new Left consensus is that speech should be regulated, censored and “policed” according to central authorities’ definitions of what’s true and not.
For today’s Left, the First Amendment is now outdated and the principle of freedom of expression is dangerous.
You don’t have to take it from me. MSNBC straight up admitted it. Without even trying.