The political and cultural aftermath of the Capitol riot is already upon us, with Big Tech opting to ‘cancel’ the Parler social media platform that has become a go-to refuge for conservatives and Trumpists unhappy with Twitter’s increasingly censorious ways. That I don’t agree with the Right’s demands that Google, Apple, Amazon, and the secondary tech players who’ve followed in their footsteps be “brought to heel” by government coercion doesn’t mean I condone Big Tech’s actions.

I don’t. I think it’s aggressive, presumptuous, hubristic, and illiberal to blanket-silence a major chunk of the electorate, even if we consider the possibility (I don’t) that their move is one based in dispassionate legal or bottom-line-business considerations. These firms have made it clear that they apply some self-originated ‘moral compass’ to their actions, meaning they’ve already declared they’re going to employ considerations beyond shareholder value in their decisions. While I can appreciate a desire not to allow their products to be used to promulgate violence or oppression, the facts on the ground make it pretty clear that they fall way short of that desire, with political partisanship being a far more obvious criterion for censoring.

Still, as I’ve previously blogged, I think it a bad idea to demand that government coerce them into re-platforming Parler and desisting from partisanship. Such efforts rarely produce the desired results, and are far more likely to result in even greater protections than they already enjoy under Section 230 of the CDA, protections that may, ironically, reduce the ability of market upstarts to challenge them and offer alternatives. History suggests that such is a common outcome when regulators and big companies pretend to wrestle with each other.

My disapproval is, I’m sure, of great concern to Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Stripe, et al. I am one person, and I’m unlikely to boycott their products and services as a result (apart from refusing to click their ads). But, I did establish a Parler account and a MeWe account when Twitter and Facebook made it clear that they intended to continue putting their fingers on the political scale.

I was hardly alone. The heavy-handedness of social media’s response (a 150 member Facebook group, assuredly Trump-critical, that I belonged to for four years and only recently departed, was ‘Zucked’ and its admins nuked off the platform, for reasons that remain obscure but assuredly had nothing to do with advocating or supporting the riot), drove people en masse to other platforms, with Parler apparently being first-favorite. It’s no coincidence that Parler was singled out for Sledge-o-Matic treatment.

This move against Parler, which is being blackballed to the point of having to shut down for a week, is a huge mistake. Bullied people, and make no mistake, this is bullying, don’t simply shrug their shoulders and say “Ok, you win, I’ll bend the knee and behave by your rules.” Big Tech may succeed for a while in stifling options for those who won’t conform to its left-leaning boundaries on speech, but market forces are inexorable, it’ll become a game of whac-a-mole for them, and the most agitated will descend even deeper underground, where they will seethe into ever-greater anger (Gab, described as a “service known for its far-right and extremist userbase, was reportedly gaining 10,000 users per hour). Such anger is not healthy for any nation, no matter its degree of liberty or authoritarianism, and it can only be contained for so long.

Trump was a reaction to big-government excesses, not a phenomenon unto himself. He certainly turned into a focal point for a broad range of discontented constituencies, a few of them legitimately “deplorable,” but most of them ordinary citizens who felt the government was “doing unto” them rather than serving them. A ‘big squeeze’ by Big Tech, encouraged by the Angry Left and power-drunk Democrats about to take the reins of government, may very well produce another Trump, one that’ll be less abrasively “id” and more slickly presenting, but more aggressively populist in the worst sorts of ways.

It remains to be seen how Biden et al run things, whether they’ll play the exclusionary “we won” game that Obama tried at the outset of his first term or if they’ll seek to moderate to a more bipartisan middle. But, make no mistake, if Big Tech thinks that it can bring the nation around to its way of thinking via bully-boy tactics, it’s wrong.

I can think of no quicker way to split the country than for the most powerful to go thug-life on the recently defeated.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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