Not a good month for the high and mighty of Silly Con Valley. First, Phony Stark made an ass of himself again when his toy sub was not the chosen instrument of rescuing a bunch of trapped kids in Thailand, and he may have left himself wide open for a legit libel suit. And then, Ol’ Fuckerberg thought he could go one-on-one with high tech’s cranky bullshit-proof lesbian aunt and coughed up the notion that Holocaust deniers were just misinformed in good faith (which, if nothing else, shows that the Jewish experience at Harvard must ain’t what it used to be). And I’m going to assume someone at Twitter is apologizing for something galactic ally stupid, because it’s a day that ends in Y.
I once said something to the effect of “beware the man who thinks the one thing he knows is the only thing worth knowing.” Thus the fallacy of “everybody needs to learn to code” (of which more later) because if all you know is code, then obviously Full Stack Developer is the only meaningful aspiration for anyone in society. There are way too many guys (and Elizabeth Holmes) who have mistaken the warm tongue-bath of an utterly credulous press for complete irreproachability in the wider world, and then flip out when the wider world confronts them with the holes in their thinking.
Take Zuckerberg. Please. He somehow got in his head the notion that to deny Facebook’s platform to the likes of, say, Infowars would somehow be an infringement on free speech. Thing is, there are other platforms out there – like the San Francisco Chronicle, say, or KTVU channel 2, or KCBS radio. They don’t routinely broadcast Alex Jones and his spittle-flecked insanity, and yet nobody sane thinks they are abusing free speech. Time was, we were circumspect about radio and television and the press because the opportunity cost of access to the airwaves was enormous, and distribution of media was expensive. Nutters had to mimeograph their conspiracy theory and pass it out on the corners. Nobody considered that somehow the rights of the Klan were being abused because they weren’t freely given a half hour on NBC at 6 PM.
And comes now Mark Zuckerberg with the notion that somehow he is obligated to let the mental defectives who are destroying Western civilization run rampant on his platform. Which completely misunderstands how free speech works. They are entitled to their speech. No one is obligated to provide them with a soapbox, let alone the opportunity to monetize it. I have this blog through the good offices of a member of my family, and if he had concerns about how I was using it, I would certainly be obliged to take them under consideration, but I could also up sticks to some other hosting provider, set up shop there (albeit with some difficulty), and carry on with no regard for his opinion whatsoever.
It’s the same reason I have no objection to bloggers with no comment section, like John Gruber at Daring Fireball. The logic is that you’ve built this sandbox to broadcast your own speech and opinions, and if someone else wants to broadcast their speech and opinions, they are entitled to build their own sandbox. You are under no obligation to share your printing press with someone else. That’s where Zuckerberg, and Dorsey, and all the other “free speech wing of the free speech party” assholes run on the rocks. Twitter loses nothing by throwing the Nazis off the site tomorrow; they have their own elsewhere. Neither would Reddit, but then, if you were to give the Internet an enema, you’d feed the tube into Reddit. You’re entitled to your free speech, but nothing says I have to let you sit in the front seat of my megaphone truck and drive you around town and then defend you against the people you pissed off.
At some point, Silly Con Valley will have to re-learn these lessons, the same way they are with other forms of regulation. Too much of the tech sector in the 21st century has built itself on loopholes and dissembling about the obvious. A correction is way past overdue. As the Commander said, sooner or later the day comes when you can’t hide from the things you’ve done any more. And come soon Lord. Meanwhile, we run the very real risk that Facebook will do for the First Amendment what the NRA did for the Second: abuse and misuse it to the point that enough people start to think that other countries get along fine without it and maybe we should too.