The recent violence of Charlottesville, Virginia, and the overwrought reactions to it in certain quarters were on Tucker Carlson’s mind on Wednesday in his introductory monologue and follow-up discussion with Mark Steyn.
Both agreed that big tech businesses have become very controlling of the behavior of citizens in ways that are quite alarming. Google is hugely powerful because of how much information it controls and the way the corporation chooses to use its influence to restrict freedom. That tendency was recently highlighted when it fired employee James Damore for writing a memo critical of diversity as practiced by the company.
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TUCKER CARLSON: The shock from what happened in Charlottesville over the weekend is still ringing in the air like a gunshot. People on every side recognize it was awful because it was awful absolutely and completely. The only thing that could make what happened in Charlottesville worse would be if we allowed a small number of people in power to make America less tolerant and less free in its aftermath. Let’s be honest — we’ve seen that before. It happened after 9/11. Almost nobody wanted to say so at the time for fear of seeming sympathetic to terrorists but it did. Secret lists, massive government spying on citizens, the feds rooting around in people’s bank accounts for no good reason. We allowed all of that to happen because we were upset and afraid.
Well this morning there were signs it could be happening again. The Wall Street Journal reported that big tech companies are using their power to silence certain political views. Both Google and web hosting service GoDaddy stopped providing hosting support for Daily Stormer: it’s a white supremacist website. Meanwhile the hotel website Airbnb announced it will permanently ban white supremacists from using its service to book rooms. PayPal says it won’t let white supremacist groups use its payment platform. Now nobody on the show is weeping for the Daily Stormer — even mentioning their name probably will get us written up by the Southern Poverty Law Center as dangerous alt-right subversives or something.
We don’t care; there’s a principle at stake here, and it’s worth defending regardless. We should be very concerned by the prospect of big companies using their power to enforce ideological conformity, even when it seems only to affect people we don’t like, as it does right now. Especially now we should be concerned because support for free expression appears to be fading on the left and especially among young people. A 2015 Pew poll found that 40 percent of Millennials already believe in restricting speech they believe is offensive. Those are the people who’re going to be running this world very soon: you think they’ll think twice before banning websites they don’t like? They won’t.
It’s the Daily Stormer today, fine, but who’s it going to be next week or next year? The National Right to Life, Foxnews.com, Catholic Charities? Why wouldn’t it be? And why wouldn’t Airbnb ban public supporters of Trump from getting rooms — they support terrorism. Why wouldn’t Facebook eliminate all reference — I don’t know — pro-life positions? Today’s political opponents could very easily become tomorrow’s designated Nazis or terrorists. Definitions change. Principles do not change, and that’s why it’s crucial to keep fighting for them. Keep fighting for an open society, even if people call you names when you do it.
Now the First Amendment is America’s most famous freedom, the strongest sign that our country is dedicated to the personal liberty of every person here. The fact that this right applies to the most hated members of society isn’t a weakness, it’s the whole point. It’s proof of how robust that right is. Now tech companies aren’t the government, and they’re not bound by the same rules as a consequence of that, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t push back and do it loudly.
The biggest tech firms are more powerful than any monopolies in the Gilded Age and they’re far less restrained and far less trustworthy. In some ways they’re more dangerous even an overreaching government, because they’re less accountable. They could make this country a place you would not want to live and they could probably do it quickly and they probably will do it unless they’re brought to heel.
Mark Steyn is an author, columnist and an all-around defender of freedom and a good guy who’s nice enough to sit in for the show last week. He joins us now. Mark, I am positive that this segment is going to get us both written up by the Southern Poverty Law Center. it’s pointless to say I’m gonna say anyway I’m not defending any of these creepy groups, to white nationalist groups, or anything like that. I’m not a part of them. I don’t like them, but I think that the principle is worth defending. It’s essential.
MARK STEYN: Absolutely. Freedom of speech enables you to argue for other freedoms, and that is the point of it. So if you don’t have freedom of speech, all you can do is, as they do in unfree societies, is blow things up and shoot people. And it is interesting to me that the less freedom of speech we have, the more we have what we saw over the weekend. We have guys rampaging through the street.
It doesn’t really matter what side they’re on, the minute you say that you can’t book a conference room and hold a debate, you can’t have a YouTube channel, you can’t go on Facebook, then the logic of that tends towards smashing stuff in the street, whether it’s toppling statues like the left did, or whether it’s camping about with tiki torches like the right did and rambling on about Jews and all the rest of it. That’s why it took place in conference centers, and the other point you made, Tucker, which absolutely needs underlining is that it always starts off with the Daily Stormer, but it goes further than that.
PayPal, for example, kicked off VDARE.com. VDARE.com has nothing to do with what happened in Charlottesville. It’s a website that is an immigration restriction website. It thinks post-1965 immigration has been largely disastrous for the United States, and you can say that that is a wrong position to hold, but you are doing something very dangerous when you say you cannot hold that position and use the main credit card processing service on the internet.
VDARE.com publishes Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin who are no strangers to this channel, and so there’s something actually very disturbing when PayPal boots them off what is essentially a monopoly provider.
CARLSON: I had no idea, and that kind of is the point. It’s a monopoly provider as is Facebook, as is Google. These companies are more powerful than any companies in American history and world history, and so as a free market conservative for all of my life, I’m now beginning to think. well wait a second — do they have too much power? Are they stifling speech?
STEYN: I think what you said last night, Tucker, is absolutely right, but I don’t see why if the United States government thinks in 1918 — no not 1918 — I think about ten years before that in 1909 whenever it was that Standard Oil had gotten too big. If Standard Oil was too big in 1909, what is Google now? And there’s a difference — the oil companies or MGM when they both made movies and owned cinemas — they’re basically in the movie business. Standard Oil is in the oil business.
Google is in the thought business. When you have someone who is actually in control of ideas who knows the data of just about all seven billion people on the planet and it is enforcing an ideological straightjacket. That is far more disturbing than if a Standard Oil or MGM are enforcing ideological straightjacket, so I actually think we’re moving into a very dark era where YouTube and and Facebook and Twitter will bounce more and more people off their monopolies, and that will lead to more violence in the street.
CARLSON: I’m afraid you’re right. If there were real liberals still extant as there were during the Progressive Era, they would understand this, but liberals today, so-called, err on the side of the moguls, on the side of the Facebook people, on the side of Jeff Bezos. Have you noticed this?
STEYN: Yes, as recently as 10-15 years ago, they’d at least pay lip service to that apocryphal Voltaire quote that they didn’t agree with what you said but they would defend to the death your right to say it. Now they will be out into this in the streets defending to the death their right not to have to listen to it. Nobody’s asking them. I don’t want anybody to defend me to the death or Daily Stormer to the death or VDARE.com to the death or any of them. I don’t even want a mildly supportive tweet or Facebook post. All I’m saying and you’re saying is that when we have monopoly providers, the idea that they can ideologically constrain that content is very very dangerous.
No, it’s terrifying. Thank you, Mark, for explaining that so well. I appreciate it.