New York Times Magazine has run a column which argues that free speech and the First Amendment are outdated in an “age of disinformation.”
The extensive column, written by journalist Emily Bazelon, argues that “scholars of constitutional law” and “social scientists” are calling into question “the way we have come to think about the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech.”
Bazelon uses a series of debatable topics and loosely links them to unlinked events to suggest “disinformation” is dangerous – perhaps even more dangerous than “authoritarian regimes.”
Is the American First Amendment the best way to protect free speech? For @NYTMag, I argue that the answer is … maybe not. At least, we should consider how democracies in Europe & Canada etc do it, by balancing free speech w *other* pro-democratic values.https://t.co/6LgM9fUKAf
— Emily Bazelon (@emilybazelon) October 14, 2020
The New York Times Arguing Against the First Amendment and ‘Disinformation’
The more obvious problem with arguing in favor of squashing ‘disinformation’ is who, exactly, determines what is and isn’t false?
For instance, in the column, President Trump’s doubts on the science behind global warming are linked to rumors about arsonists setting fires in California and the Pacific Northwest, allegedly resulting in people defying evacuation orders.
“As fires tore through California and the Pacific Northwest last month, the president cast doubt on the science behind global warming,” Bazelon writes.
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“And people in Oregon defied evacuation orders because of false rumors that Antifa, a loose term for left-wing activists, was setting the blazes and looting empty homes.”
What’s interesting here is that the columnist argues simultaneously that disinformation is a problem while making a link that is itself, disinformation.
Antifa was not associated with the wildfires, correct, but suggesting the President’s dispute of global warming science was a contributing factor ignores the fact that arson actually did play a role in the wildfires.
“Six men across Oregon have been accused of intentionally setting blazes during a disastrous wildfire season that has burned more than a million acres, killed at least nine people and annihilated homes, entire towns and beloved natural areas,” Oregon Live reported.
And suggesting any of this led to people refusing to evacuate is specious at best.
The New York Times actually reported that some people in Oregon “never got evacuation alerts” while “thousands of others in the path of the Almeda Fire on Sept. 8 had no clear direction from the authorities on how and when to flee.”
ah, and now the New York Times magazine has a big piece about “the problem of free speech” in an “age of disinformation.”
things are going really well.
— tsar becket adams (@BecketAdams) October 15, 2020
Think for a second here. In any case, the charge by Bazelon doesn’t make sense.
Does it matter what caused your neighborhood to start on fire in this instance?
If your house is on fire, would you sit inside of it, happily burning to death, because “Hey, global warming didn’t start this fire.”
Did anyone in Oregon? Truly?
Alleged ‘Disinformation’ Worse Than Authoritarian Regimes?
Perhaps most troubling in the argument against the First Amendment is the suggestion that debatable information makes this nation worse off than “authoritarian regimes.”
“Censorship of external critics by the government remains a serious threat under authoritarian regimes,” Bazelon writes.
“But in the United States and other democracies, there is a different kind of threat, which may be doing more damage to the discourse about politics, news and science,” she adds.
“It encompasses the mass distortion of truth and overwhelming waves of speech from extremists that smear and distract.”
Peppered throughout the column are 22 mentions of Fox News because apparently, presenting news from a more centrist viewpoint is ‘disinformation’ to the author.
President Trump is named 30 separate times.
Nowhere in the article can one find mention of false Russia collusion stories pushed by the Times.
— Jon Nicosia (@NewsPolitics) July 18, 2020
Nor will you see mention of the New York Times having to correct a report on an accusation of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
— The Hill (@thehill) September 16, 2019
Or any reference to the New York Times, in an epic display of revisionist history, having blamed Sarah Palin in an editorial for a mass shooting in Arizona in 2011.
Palin’s role in the shooter’s motivation is a conspiracy theory that was debunked almost immediately after the fact.
The Times ran with it anyway, prompting a defamation lawsuit by Palin that has since moved to trial by jury.
Instead, Bazelon accuses the President of having “trapped the country in a web of lies, with the sole purpose, it seems, of remaining in office.”
“It’s time to ask whether the American way of protecting free speech is actually keeping us free,” she opines before equating America today to Nazi Germany.
“Hannah Arendt finished her classic work on totalitarianism in the early 1950s, after barely escaping Germany with her life, leaving friends and homeland behind,” she wrote.
“She was a Jewish intellectual who saw the Nazis rise to power by demonizing and blaming Jews and other groups with mockery and scorn,” continued Bazelon.
“An information war may seem to simply be about speech. But Arendt understood that what was at stake was far more.”
Make no mistake – the First Amendment sets America apart.
It is the first freedom for a reason. Here, in this country, we don’t let our overlords define our reality, like the Soviets did.
We don’t get permission from urban brats before we speak.
And we never will.
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