We need to have a talk about Alex Jones.
I would rather hope many of our readers don’t listen to Alex Jones or affiliate themselves with the beliefs of InfoWars, but if you do, hey, you do you. It’s not his beliefs I wish to defend or attack today, but the state of the Internet and his place – or currently lack thereof – in it.
Apple removed access to the InfoWars podcast from their systems. The InfoWars app is still in the app store, but the podcast is no longer available on its podcasting network. Facebook banned the InfoWars page. Spotify removed the podcast from its network.
These are private companies. If you are screaming about censorship, you’re wrong. You may not like that I’m calling you wrong, but censorship is a government issue, and these are private companies. They are free to refuse service to Jones if they want.
Jones still has a website. He has a show. He has listeners – I would argue that banning him from notably liberal-leaning platforms will only serve to increase his listener count, but whatever – and he has an audience that will see him as a martyr. Nothing except for his listener count is going to change. He hasn’t been “banned from the Internet” as many are claiming.
However, it is the reasoning some of these companies gave that is most troublesome. Facebook cited repeated violations of their terms of service, but they have a habit of, at best, quieting voices they don’t agree with. Apple, which is the most powerful company in human history, labeled Jones “hate speech.”
That label is the problem. “Hate speech” is a phrase that has become overused in the modern era. In many cases, it is something as slight as someone taking offense or disagreeing with the material. For these companies to use the term as their reasoning for getting rid of his material is that tiny snowflake at the top of the mountain that tumbles down the slope.
It will grow and grow until it flattens someone.
I wouldn’t care about this story nearly as much had they just said “Jones’ views on the Sandy Hook shooting victims, as well as other tragedies, do not reflect the views of our community and for that reason we have removed his content.” I would actually be okay with that. But, that’s not what they did. They gave a hugely broad reason for their actions and that reason is virtually guaranteed to become an umbrella term for the future banning of “disagreeable” content.
I’m not down with that. I’m not down with mob mentality having that much power.