Internet Liberals Give, and Internet Liberals Take Away

This has been an ominous month for the right wing.  Until now we had lived with the vestiges of "free speech" and believed, erroneously, that the internet would allow truth to be spread.  The truth about said truth is that people were in charge of the internet, and that this chaos of ideas gave birth to new powers of censorship, and that as men were capable of giving us speech, they were also capable of making us mute.  We had escaped the hounds of the New York Times only to run into the nets of Mark Zuckerberg.  Before, we were worried we could hear only "all the news that's fit to print."  Now we wonder whether our neighbors can see what we post.

They clamped down on us in the war against "fake news."  The Russians tried to meddle in our elections and were caught.  Moscow had tried, with questionable success, to tell us things that were not true, and the Democrats in charge of the internet, believing that these untruths were responsible for giving us a Republican president, decided to make war on whatever they deemed false.  Thus they scrubbed YouTube, overnight, of prominent Republican vloggers.  Amazon deleted God knows how many reviews of right-wing authors.  Facebook unpublished accounts and restricted the audiences of its right-wingers, and Reddit and YouTube, following the massacre at Parkland, deleted all videos pertaining to gun maintenance.  We are in the midst of a purge, and the most troubling thing about all of it is that few of us know that it is happening.

The question is how we got to this point.  I believe there are several explanations, the first of these being that conservatives are always on the losing end of things.  This is not in the sense that free markets and freedom of speech and an armed citizenry are a proven concoction for failure, but in the sense that the side of conservation, in a universe where change is the only constant, is eventually a losing game.  You fall in love with something and try to hang on to it, and the end result is that you find you can't really hang on to anything.  It's romantic, but it's foolish, and the best thing any "conservative" can do in any circumstance is his best to slow things down.

This bring us to the second problem.  The conservative, by nature, isn't generally a cutting-edge man.  His satisfaction with the way things are leads him to leave things the way they are; and this general contentment with his surroundings leads him not to dream of how things could be.  In other words, he likes to paint within the lines.  The Founding Fathers, on the other hand, were inventors and renaissance men because they were dreamers, and classical liberalism was a young dream.  Today, classical liberalism, or what's left of it, is no longer a dream, but a memory.  The young dream today belongs primarily to leftists, who believe in a new order of things and a new way of doing them.  These dreamers invented and organized the internet, and now, because they organized the internet, they decide what we say on it, and if they don't decide what we say on it, they decide who can hear it.

To prove this theory, you need only ask yourself how many respectable men, in your lifetime, have ever made any piece of art worth looking at, or listening to, or reading.  Nearly all of it has been done by scoundrels and radicals – people who didn't fit in the lines and because of this asked us to draw new ones.  Conservatives, on the other hand, didn't invent Facebook or YouTube or Google or Amazon or Paypal, and they didn't write Game of Thrones or make a hit musical about Hamilton.  They gave us such duds as God's Not Dead and National Review.  The Founding Fathers were inventors because they were changing the existing order of things – you might even go so far as to label them leftists.  Today, the existing order of things is the framework left by the Founding Fathers.  We're left with all the stodgy men because all the fun and weird and really imaginative ones are out trying to remake the world in their image – a lousy image, but theirs nonetheless.  The hallmark of a creator is dissatisfaction.  The future belongs to our scoundrels.

There have been moments like this before, and there will be moments like this again.  The Gutenberg press wasn't without its terrors to power and the subsequent repressions, and beyond this, America itself is a product of a similar revolution.  The truth is that America is almost the product of an accident.  Our spiritual forefathers, the English, were on an island, and so they depended most heavily on a navy.  Capital throughout Europe grew, a nation in Europe raised a standing army, so the other nations had to raise standing armies to defend themselves against this standing army (see Macaulay's History of England).  One by one, this revolution in warfare became a revolution in statehood.  The public was no match for the new police force.  Power was centralized in the executive branches.  Liberties were snuffed out overnight.  Absolutism became the reigning fashion of the day, and kings like Louis XIV proved they could rule absolutely.

But in England, everything was different.  They watched as one by one, the somewhat free peoples of Europe succumbed to standing armies, and, noting the danger, they seized on some solutions.  Separations between executive and legislative powers were strengthened.  The power to fund the army, if not to direct it, went to Parliament.  King Charles, attempting to raise a standing army by raising funds illegally, was beheaded by the republicans, and a series of checks and balances and rights and procedures, created in the aftermath, were passed on to a group of people who became known as the Americans.  England remained free, and because England remained free, the world experienced the Enlightenment.

As such all technological revolutions require social evolutions.  Every new power requires new laws and new regulations.  The question we have before us today is not whether free speech lives on or dies.  It is whether democracy lives on or dies.  It's whether Republicans, who at this historic moment control the House and Senate and the presidency, are willing to craft laws to protect the American public from our elites, who own everything else.  We are at the point, as our ancestors were yesterday with the Gutenberg press and the standing army, where the way we deal with a new power either saves us or destroys us.  I believe that the internet can save us – but only if we're willing to develop safeguards to protect us from the owners of the internet.

Jeremy Egerer is the author of the troublesome essays on Letters to Hannah, and he welcomes followers on Twitter and Facebook.

This has been an ominous month for the right wing.  Until now we had lived with the vestiges of "free speech" and believed, erroneously, that the internet would allow truth to be spread.  The truth about said truth is that people were in charge of the internet, and that this chaos of ideas gave birth to new powers of censorship, and that as men were capable of giving us speech, they were also capable of making us mute.  We had escaped the hounds of the New York Times only to run into the nets of Mark Zuckerberg.  Before, we were worried we could hear only "all the news that's fit to print."  Now we wonder whether our neighbors can see what we post.

They clamped down on us in the war against "fake news."  The Russians tried to meddle in our elections and were caught.  Moscow had tried, with questionable success, to tell us things that were not true, and the Democrats in charge of the internet, believing that these untruths were responsible for giving us a Republican president, decided to make war on whatever they deemed false.  Thus they scrubbed YouTube, overnight, of prominent Republican vloggers.  Amazon deleted God knows how many reviews of right-wing authors.  Facebook unpublished accounts and restricted the audiences of its right-wingers, and Reddit and YouTube, following the massacre at Parkland, deleted all videos pertaining to gun maintenance.  We are in the midst of a purge, and the most troubling thing about all of it is that few of us know that it is happening.

The question is how we got to this point.  I believe there are several explanations, the first of these being that conservatives are always on the losing end of things.  This is not in the sense that free markets and freedom of speech and an armed citizenry are a proven concoction for failure, but in the sense that the side of conservation, in a universe where change is the only constant, is eventually a losing game.  You fall in love with something and try to hang on to it, and the end result is that you find you can't really hang on to anything.  It's romantic, but it's foolish, and the best thing any "conservative" can do in any circumstance is his best to slow things down.

This bring us to the second problem.  The conservative, by nature, isn't generally a cutting-edge man.  His satisfaction with the way things are leads him to leave things the way they are; and this general contentment with his surroundings leads him not to dream of how things could be.  In other words, he likes to paint within the lines.  The Founding Fathers, on the other hand, were inventors and renaissance men because they were dreamers, and classical liberalism was a young dream.  Today, classical liberalism, or what's left of it, is no longer a dream, but a memory.  The young dream today belongs primarily to leftists, who believe in a new order of things and a new way of doing them.  These dreamers invented and organized the internet, and now, because they organized the internet, they decide what we say on it, and if they don't decide what we say on it, they decide who can hear it.

To prove this theory, you need only ask yourself how many respectable men, in your lifetime, have ever made any piece of art worth looking at, or listening to, or reading.  Nearly all of it has been done by scoundrels and radicals – people who didn't fit in the lines and because of this asked us to draw new ones.  Conservatives, on the other hand, didn't invent Facebook or YouTube or Google or Amazon or Paypal, and they didn't write Game of Thrones or make a hit musical about Hamilton.  They gave us such duds as God's Not Dead and National Review.  The Founding Fathers were inventors because they were changing the existing order of things – you might even go so far as to label them leftists.  Today, the existing order of things is the framework left by the Founding Fathers.  We're left with all the stodgy men because all the fun and weird and really imaginative ones are out trying to remake the world in their image – a lousy image, but theirs nonetheless.  The hallmark of a creator is dissatisfaction.  The future belongs to our scoundrels.

There have been moments like this before, and there will be moments like this again.  The Gutenberg press wasn't without its terrors to power and the subsequent repressions, and beyond this, America itself is a product of a similar revolution.  The truth is that America is almost the product of an accident.  Our spiritual forefathers, the English, were on an island, and so they depended most heavily on a navy.  Capital throughout Europe grew, a nation in Europe raised a standing army, so the other nations had to raise standing armies to defend themselves against this standing army (see Macaulay's History of England).  One by one, this revolution in warfare became a revolution in statehood.  The public was no match for the new police force.  Power was centralized in the executive branches.  Liberties were snuffed out overnight.  Absolutism became the reigning fashion of the day, and kings like Louis XIV proved they could rule absolutely.

But in England, everything was different.  They watched as one by one, the somewhat free peoples of Europe succumbed to standing armies, and, noting the danger, they seized on some solutions.  Separations between executive and legislative powers were strengthened.  The power to fund the army, if not to direct it, went to Parliament.  King Charles, attempting to raise a standing army by raising funds illegally, was beheaded by the republicans, and a series of checks and balances and rights and procedures, created in the aftermath, were passed on to a group of people who became known as the Americans.  England remained free, and because England remained free, the world experienced the Enlightenment.

As such all technological revolutions require social evolutions.  Every new power requires new laws and new regulations.  The question we have before us today is not whether free speech lives on or dies.  It is whether democracy lives on or dies.  It's whether Republicans, who at this historic moment control the House and Senate and the presidency, are willing to craft laws to protect the American public from our elites, who own everything else.  We are at the point, as our ancestors were yesterday with the Gutenberg press and the standing army, where the way we deal with a new power either saves us or destroys us.  I believe that the internet can save us – but only if we're willing to develop safeguards to protect us from the owners of the internet.

Jeremy Egerer is the author of the troublesome essays on Letters to Hannah, and he welcomes followers on Twitter and Facebook.