We should be thankful that the Idaho State Journal (ISJ) gives folks in our area a platform where we can speak freely. You just have to have the passion and courage to put your name on your thoughts, avoid naughty words and don’t shame private folks. In my experience, if you follow those rules, the ISJ will print what you’ve got on your mind. Of course, it doesn’t hurt if the letters or articles are informative or entertaining.
Almost every week when I submit a column for the ISJ editor’s consideration, I think to myself, “They’ll never publish this,” but they do. Almost every week I find something in the ISJ that I admire, even if I don’t agree with it. And every week I also find at least one article or letter to the editor that leaves me wondering, “Why in the world did they publish this banal drivel?” All of which is exactly as it should be in our country.
It’s hard for newspapers to compete with the internet news cycle when up-to-the-minute news is available right on your phone. If not for legal notices, advertising flyers, the comics, obituaries and really local news and sports the ISJ would be even thinner. However, there is the ISJ Opinion section.
Technology and media preferences will change, but an open marketplace for thoughts and opinions is both an important safety valve to depressurize emotions and a garden in which new ideas and perspectives may grow. Newspapers have their challenges, but so do the proprietary social media platforms.
The oligarchs and elites who own and control much of the mainstream media and the most successful social platforms aren’t confident that their ideas and values can stand on their own merits. Inflation, biology, virology, crime, polls and recent elections all testify in one way or another to the failures of the left’s policies and principles.
In self defense, the ideologically committed social media companies have been censoring content and customers that don’t toe the liberal party line. The forms of censorship range from simply not allowing comments, to blocking whole discussion topics, and finally to banning individuals from their social media platforms forever.
The censorship rules are all very hazy and even bewildering as befits the shifting and sometimes contradictory talking points of the Biden-Harris administration. Yesterday’s buzz words and slogans can quickly fall out of favor if they don’t poll well or if they offend a favored voting block. Even quoting from yesterday’s approved sources is no defense from the censor.
The social media giants make the point that as private companies they can simply ignore their censorship critics and claim, “My ball, my rules.” However, unless the government itself imposes censorship or monopolies block natural change, market forces will eventually prevail. Start-up costs are high, but new or reinvented social media platforms will emerge to meet the needs of a more inclusive customer base. For example, there’s Elon Musk’s $43 billion offer to buy and reinvent a more open, bias-free Twitter.
I suppose it’s because they are so financially successful that so often the mega-rich who own media platforms feel it is their right, even their obligation, to limit intellectual diversity and saturate the national dialogue with their personal world views and values. But are staggering totals on a balance sheet evidence of a person’s sounder, more wholesome value system or an indicator of their wisdom regarding public policies? Our country was founded on a very different set of principles with protected free speech at its core.
Money talks, but it mustn’t gag.
Here are a few examples of billionaire owned companies that cancel ideas, content and customers that run counter to their “correct” world view:
• New York Times, owned by Carlos Slim, Mexico's richest man
• Washington Post, owned by Amazon's Jeff Bezos
• The Atlantic, owned by Steve Jobs' widow
• Facebook and Instagram, owned by Mark Zuckerberg
• YouTube, owned by Google
• Twitter, Parag Agrawal, the CEO who openly disdains the First Amendment
Perhaps the most aggressive and capricious censorship is found in Twitter. It certainly operates with obvious bias and arrogance. But as we’ve seen, it only takes one committed rich man and four words to change the status quo. This time it’s the wealthiest man in the world, Elon Musk, and his four words, “I made an offer.”
The mainstream media, the Biden-Harris administration, and the Democratic Party are all clutching their pearls and quivering with terror at the prospect of an uncensored Twitter. They tell us democracy will die without their flavor of censorship, though the exact opposite is true. Some on the left assert that a reinvented Twitter will start WWIII! (I did not realize that President Biden was posting his war mongering gaffs on Twitter.) The mere threat of Elon Musk owning an uncensored Twitter has smoked out the media’s burning desire to have partisan censorship regardless of the Bill of Rights.
Ignore all the whining about “the end of democracy.” What the left really fears is an avalanche of uncensored Tweets that will open up the national dialog and return PresidentDonald Trump to the White House with a friendly congress behind him. It would be more winning for the USA’s “the land of the free” brand than the left could stand.
Sometimes brand name products become so popular and widely used that they move into the public domain. Items such as “popsicle,” “bubble wrap,” and “dumpster” were once proprietary properties, but have become “types” and generic labels. It’s high time for Twitter, the nation’s de facto town hall auditorium, to stop operating as a biased proprietary platform and operate civilly, without partisan biases. If it takes the richest man in the world to make that happen, so be it. Twitter would hardly be the only billionaire-owned media platform, just the only one not totally in the tank for the Democratic Party.
Just think how stimulating, how empowering, and indeed how American it would be if Twitter were as committed to free speech as is the ISJ. Today I doubt I would be allowed to publish my thoughts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or YouTube. The New York Times and Washington Post would likely unleash their buddies in the three letter agencies on me for speaking out as I do in the ISJ. You may think that would be a fine thing, but at least I put my real name on my words, avoid naughty language and I don’t flame, doxx or insult private citizens.
So congratulations and many thanks to the ISJ for standing up for free speech, but can’t they please do something about all those insufferable, liberal articles? (Insert winking smiley face emoji here.)
Paul Entrikin is a resident of Pocatello. He grew up in Baton Rouge and has two degrees from Louisiana State University. Following a tour in Vietnam as an Army officer, he began his career in information technology. The last 35 years of his career were with ExxonMobil at a variety of foreign and domestic locations.