Why YouTube’s Conflict With Infowars Should Concern Us All
A threat to one person's free speech is a threat to us all.
I have never been a fan of Alex Jones and Infowars. I strongly reject some of the conspiracy theories Jones has put forth. But if it is true that his channel could be removed from YouTube, we should not ignore this. It doesn’t matter if we are on the left or right or in between. Especially since The Daily Caller reported that “YouTube is getting help from the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center in its effort to identify extremist content.”
The SPLC? I would honestly have a hard time coming up with a major organization that I trust less than the SPLC to help YouTube. The SPLC has rightly been branded an anti-Christian hate group.
Writing for Polygon.com, Julia Alexander noted, “Whenever YouTube institutes a tougher moderation stance, a common debate emerges over censorship — especially from notable conservative voices.”
Specifically, she explained,
Questions over YouTube’s moderators and the power they hold were raised this week after notable conservative pundits, gun advocates, conspiracy channels and other right-wing voices received community strikes or were locked out of their channels. Creators who are affected by lockouts, strikes and suspensions are referring to it as the “YouTube Purge,” claiming that YouTube is purging all right-wing or pro-gun content. The move follows the company’s attempt to clamp down on dangerous content following the Parkland shooting.
To be sure, YouTube must do a careful balancing act. They must remove certain content without infringing on lawful free speech. And some content should be removed. For example, does anyone think someone should have the “right” to post a map to your house with pictures of your family? Replete with false accusations against you and a call to burn your house down? Obviously not.
But the so-called “YouTube Purge” raises many concerns. Even if Jones has not accurately represented his own situation in every detail.
When The Left and the Right Came Together for Rev. Moon
In the 1980s, a broad coalition from the left and right came together in support of Rev. Sun Myung Moon and the Unification Church. This was after Moon was found guilty on three counts of willfully filing false federal income tax returns and one count of conspiracy.
Among those filing briefs in defense of Moon were the Center for Law and Religious Freedom, the ACLU, and the National Bar Association. Leaders who vocally stood with Moon after he was imprisoned included conservatives like Jerry Falwell, liberals like Joseph Lowery, Harvard professor Harvey Cox, Senator Eugene McCarthy, and many others.
It was quite an unlikely coalition. It was surprising to see evangelicals and liberals rally around Rev. Moon. Both sides had ample reasons to reject him and his cult, but there were larger issues at stake. These leaders recognized that the threat to Moon was a threat to others as well.
Wikipedia notes that
A United States Senate subcommittee, chaired by Senator Orrin Hatch, conducted its own investigation into Reverend Moon’s tax case and published its findings in a report which concluded:
“We accused a newcomer to our shores of criminal and intentional wrongdoing for conduct commonly engaged in by a large percentage of our own religious leaders, namely, the holding of church funds in bank accounts in their own names. Catholic priests do it. Baptist ministers do it, and so did Sun Myung Moon.”
Sen. Hatch noted,
I do feel strongly, after my subcommittee has carefully and objectively reviewed this case from both sides, that injustice rather than justice has been served. The Moon case sends a strong signal that if one’s views are unpopular enough, this country will find a way not to tolerate, but to convict. I don’t believe that you or I or anyone else, no matter how innocent, could realistically prevail against the combined forces of our Justice Department and judicial branch in a case such as Reverend Moon’s.
The case was of such concern that Regnery, a leading conservative publisher, released a book by Carlton Sherwood entitled, Inquisition: The Persecution and Prosecution of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon.
Hatch’s cautionary words can be repeated with regard to Infowars and others today. “If one’s views are unpopular enough, this country will find a way not to tolerate” — or even “to convict.”
The Right is Being Censored
Prager U is currently in a legal battle with YouTube. Their web page announcing the lawsuit begins with a quote from former California Governor Pete Wilson:
This is speech discrimination plain and simple, censorship based entirely on unspecified ideological objection to the message or on the perceived identity and political viewpoint of the speaker.
Many others have voiced complaint with YouTube’s uneven, censorious policies. On a weekly (or daily) basis, my organization has to request reviews of videos on the AskDrBrown YouTube page after they are flagged as “Not Suitable for Most Advertisers.”
I’m not sure if we have trolls complaining about our videos or if it’s just part of YouTube’s very flawed system. But something is obviously wrong when YouTube flags and demonetizes videos like “What Made Billy Graham Special,” “A Common-Sense Discussion About Guns and Gun Control,” and “Overcoming Hatred with Love; and How Christians Can Regain Credibility in America.”
But YouTube allows vile, hate-filled, incendiary videos from the left to proliferate. Some would even argue that they promote such leftist videos. Meanwhile they while demote (or demonetize, block or remove) videos which express a conservative point of view.
Indeed, Jim Hoft on Gateway Pundit is now reporting that “Google-YouTube is shutting down prominent conservative and right-leaning channels” and that “Google-YouTube is also blocking conservative channels — Like the Official Gateway Pundit channel — from posting.”
Not only so, Hoft claims that “Google is also altering search results to portray far left websites and organizations as conservative. Today [March 4] if [you] search Google for a list of pro-life organizations you get this … Google lists Planned Parenthood as the top Pro-Life website.”
Will You Speak Out?
As ridiculous as this sounds, this is no joke. It is similar to what recently happened to Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer and others who warn against radical Islamic jihad.
And so, whether you’re an Infowars fan or you find their work distasteful, their potential removal from YouTube should concern you. Otherwise, soon enough, we’ll have our own version of Martin Niemöller’s famous poem, which will now sound something like this:
First they came for Infowars, and I did not speak out — because I found them offensive.
Then they came for Geller and Spencer, and I did not speak out — because I found them obnoxious.
Then they came for Prager U, and I did not speak out — because I found them opinionated.
Then they came for a host of others, and I did not speak out — because I have my own life to live.
Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.