The only time I ever pay attention to Alex Jones is when somebody does a particularly funny compilation of his various screaming freakouts. I have no idea if Jones actually believes any of the nonsense he carries on about, but I don’t take him seriously and I don’t take his fans seriously.* He’s a ridiculous clown who sells cruddy “nutritional” supplements to gullible morons. I do not like him. If you like him, I’m glad you don’t like me.
Also, I think it’s a mistake to “deplatform” him. That’s the latest euphemism for “silencing people who say things we don’t like.” And the word “we” means anybody with more power than you.
Yesterday, within a matter of hours, Apple, Facebook, and YouTube all removed Jones’ content from their platforms. I don’t know how many years Jones has been doing the same stuff at those places, but suddenly all three of them decided that enough was enough. Just like that. Hell of a coincidence, huh?
Here’s what one of the faceless corporations had to say about it, according to CNN:
“When users violate … policies repeatedly, like our policies against hate speech and harassment or our terms prohibiting circumvention of our enforcement measures, we terminate their accounts,” said a spokesperson for YouTube.
As you may have noticed, “hate speech” actually means “speech we hate.”
I think silencing this guy is a mistake, for the same reason I think running up to Richard Spencer and punching him in the face is a mistake. Do I like Spencer? No. Do I agree with him? No. Is it right to run up to people and punch them in the face for saying things I don’t like? No.
The problem with #PunchNazis and #CancelAlexJones and other attempts to squelch speech we don’t like is that it doesn’t stop there. If it becomes okay to attack people in the street for being “Nazis,” pretty soon it’ll be okay to attack people like Charlie Kirk and Candace Owens for being “Nazis.” That actually happened yesterday. I’m not particularly a fan of Kirk or Owens, but I’m pretty sure they’re not Nazis.
“But Alex Jones says terrible things,” you reply. “He said Sandy Hook never happened. He said David Hogg is a ‘crisis actor.’ He thinks the government is putting things in the water to make everybody gay.” Yeah, I know. He’s nuts. I don’t like that he says those things. You and I have the right to publicly disagree and call him a freaking wackjob.
And companies have the right to kick him off their platforms if they suddenly decide he’s been violating some rule they just decided to make up. I’m skeptical that it’s “free markets at work,” because market forces don’t drive these decisions. But yes, in a free market, companies are free to make these sorts of decisions, no matter how arbitrary they may seem to anybody else.
And I have the right to tell them they’re making a mistake, and the unintended consequences may not be a lot of fun.
Preventing people from saying things you don’t like doesn’t prevent them from believing things you don’t like. It just drives them underground and convinces them that they’re martyrs. Jones’ whole schtick is that he’s saying the things “They” don’t want you to hear. And now “They” have proven him right.
If principles only applied to people we like, then we wouldn’t have the word “principles.”
I’d rather have people like Alex Jones out in the open. The same goes for Cenk Uygur and all the other crazy jerks on the left. Let them keep screaming.
*If that includes you, then I apologize for hurting your feelings. I’m so sorry this is happening to you.