Dean Clough

March 25, 2024

Portico Darwin: Depart Dallas + Censor Sensibility


3 Minute Read

Happy Monday and it's been a whirlwind of a visit to Dallas for your author.    Many thanks to cool kid Kevin Monza for a Killer long weekend in the Big D.

Let's start the week with a reminder of what freedom of speech means.  Elon Musk and those like him who wish to confuse us often distort this Constitutionally guaranteed right into something it's not.  Some wrongly believe the First Amendment is a federal law that assures their opinions - no matter how deceitful or worse - get aired on the digital platforms owned by private companies.

Add to that the potential TikTok ban and the associated hysterics about how that's a direct attack on our right to free speech, I thought some reality might be useful to start the week. 

Versus a rehash of my raging in Dallas with Kevin.

Let's Begin at The Beginning
Here is the complete text of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.  

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

That's it.  There is nothing more.  There is no mention of anybody but us, Congress, and the United States Government as a whole.

While private companies employ curation and editing and should do so more often, censorship, by definition, implies a role by a governmental entity.

Yet governments have made very few laws regarding what can and can't be said, printed, or shared.  Child pornography is rightly one such topic, as is public speech intended to incite violence against others.   And the old warhorse, you can't shout fire in a crowded theater.

(We could add Governor Ron DeSantis and others banning books, but I wrote about that last summer.) 

But that's about all you can't say - IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN.
Sorry for the shouting but that's the crux of the confusion:  Many conflate the proverbial town square and main street with X, Facebook, and now, TikTok.  

You have no right to publish anything whatsoever on those or any other privately owned platform.  Zero.  None.  Zilch.  As private businesses, they can publish whatever they choose or not.  It's no different than me not being able to join Augusta National Golf Club - a private entity can allow access to whomever they wish. 

Indeed, I join many in saying most social media platforms hide behind Section 230 in a way The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and TV networks can't.  They are derelict in their duty for letting too many people into the club.  In other words, if they elevated the speech of fewer, not more, people, we'd be better off.

Consider the billions of dollars worth of trouble the propaganda network Fox News got into for the slander and lies they spread about Dominion Voting Systems.  That happened because there is thankfully no Section 230 for traditional media companies.

Yet the algorithms of Facebook and TikTok intentionally elevate content that is factually wrong all of the time.  Because as we all know, the social media companies enrage you to engage you.  So they can show you more advertising.

The resulting harm is obvious everywhere you look, in terms of depressed girls, suicidal young males, and a polarization that has ended agreement on what facts are in the first place.  It might be as simple as:

Real Censorship = Bad
Non-Algorithmic Curating/Editing = Good

The Elephant in The Room I

Some conservatives recently needed their fainting couches when they learned the Biden administration requested Meta remove obvious misinformation from Facebook regarding the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines.   You know, easily disproved nonsense like

The vaccines are a secret plot to implant the Gates/Soros Microchip into your body!

The vaccines make you sterile!

So if someone or some group gets traction on social media saying eating 2 sticks of butter daily cures obesity, would you prefer the Food & Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission just let that go? 

What in the world is the difference? 

The vaccines were/are a miracle of science, and while not perfect, they saved millions of lives globally.  When the platforms were knowingly spreading bullshit about them, what would you rather have the U.S. Government do?  Allow the impressionable to read their Facebook feed, get scared, and then die because they didn't get a jab?

The Elephant in The Room II

The argument over TikTok is just as mindless.  There have been laws on the books since the dawn of radio and TV barring ownership by foreigners.  For obvious reasons:  It would be too easy to tilt public opinion malevolently.

Once you recognize TikTok's owner ByteDance is itself controlled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), what more do you need to know about a ban?  Do you think for one second the CCP is not doing what our own CIA would do, that being using a very popular platform to tip the scales of public opinion?  In whatever direction they wish, say maybe have America's youth be a bit less supportive of an independent Taiwan?  

That is why TikTok must be sold to U.S. owners, or banned entirely.  And I wish the Senate would hurry up about it, and get the bill to Biden to sign.

Because it would not be censorship, just smart governance.


Thank you for reading this newsletter.  


Leading off, appropriately, with "See No Evil," here are the influential Television, with their Diamond Certified Marquee Moon

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