Big news today is that Facebook – which has, in recent years, become almost the fabric of the internet itself – has been gaming its trending news topics widget.
That widget, which is some valuable internet real estate in that it drives a huge amount of traffic and attention, is curated by a group of journalists who were apparently biased against right-of-center news Gizmodo (not exactly a bastion of right wing sympathies) reports.
More damning for Facebook than any specific ideological bias, though, is this:
Facebook’s efforts to play the news game reveal the company to be much like the news outlets it is rapidly driving toward irrelevancy: a select group of professionals with vaguely center-left sensibilities. It just happens to be one that poses as a neutral reflection of the vox populi, has the power to influence what billions of users see, and openly discusses whether it should use that power to influence presidential elections.
News on the internet was supposed to be about replacing the traditional gatekeepers to information with the will of the people. But at Facebook, it seems the gatekeepers are very much still in place.
But the news of Facebook’s biases come amid a larger problem with the left’s hostility to free speech.
Which isn’t to say that the left has a monopoly on this sort of thing. The right was certainly hostile to anti-war speech under the Bush administration. But in my lifetime I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such widespread hostility to different political views as is present on the left today.
The epicenter of the left’s assault on thought diversity is certainly the college campuses, where student activists are using a sort of weaponized victimhood to silence speech they disagree with. These “cry bullies” disrupt conservative events, and shout down conservative speakers, justifying their actions with the idea that conservative viewpoints are inherently hateful.
But this attitude goes far beyond academia. Remember when the IRS was targeting conservative groups for extra special regulatory scrutiny? What about those Democratic attorneys general who are out to prosecute global warming skeptics for thought crimes? Or the wedding photographers and cake bakers who face state sanction because they refuse to service at homosexual wedding ceremonies?
The left seems intent on not just espousing their point of view but enforcing it.
Thankfully I think this is all going to backfire. Last week I wondered if perhaps Trump looks like a sane choice for President among a vast swath of Americans because have all become so inured to the endless application of political correctness to every single facet of our lives that we just don’t take it seriously any more.
I’m not sure that the rise of Trump is any great boon for those of us interested in free speech and individual liberty, and he may well be the catalyst for the disintegration of the national Republican party, but his success does illustrate that a lot of Americans simply aren’t interested in the left’s rules for discourse any more.
If there is a silver lining in Trump’s rise, that’s it.