I have never been a fan of Alex Jones and Infowars, and I strongly reject some of the conspiracy theories Jones has put forth. But if it is true that his channel could be removed from YouTube, we should not ignore this, whether we are on the left or right or in between, especially since the Daily Caller reported that, “YouTube is getting help from the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center in its effort to identify extremist content.”
The SPLC? I would honestly have a hard time coming up with a major organization that I would trust less than the SPLC to help YouTube, an organization rightly branded an anti-Christian hate group.
Writing for Polygon.com, Julia Alexander noted that, “Whenever YouTube institutes a tougher moderation stance, a common debate emerges over censorship — especially from notable conservative voices.”
Specifically, she explained, “Questions over YouTube’s moderators and the power they hold were raised this week after notable conservative pundits, gun advocates, conspiracy channels and other right-wing voices received community strikes or were locked out of their channels. Creators who are affected by lockouts, strikes and suspensions are referring to it as the ‘YouTube Purge,’ claiming that YouTube is purging all right-wing or pro-gun content. The move follows the company’s attempt to clamp down on dangerous content following the Parkland shooting.”
To be sure, YouTube must do a careful balancing act, removing certain content without infringing on lawful free speech. And some content should be removed. For example, does anyone think that someone should have the “right” to post a map to your house with pictures of your family, replete with false accusations against you and a call to burn your house down? Obviously not.
But the so-called “YouTube Purge” raises many concerns, even if Jones has not accurately represented his own situation in every detail.
In the 1980’s, a broad coalition from the left and right came together in support of Rev. Sun Myung Moon and the Unification Church after he was found guilty on three counts of willfully filing false Federal income tax returns and one count of conspiracy.
Among those filing briefs in defense of Moon were the Center for Law and Religious Freedom, the ACLU, and the National Bar Association, while leaders who vocally stood with Moon after he was imprisoned included conservatives like Jerry Falwell, liberals like Joseph Lowery, Harvard professor Harvey Cox, Senator Eugene McCarthy, and many others.
It was quite an unlikely coalition, and it was equally surprising to see evangelicals and liberals rally around Rev. Moon. Both sides had ample reasons to reject him and his cult, but there were larger issues at stake, and these leaders recognized that the threat to Moon was a threat to others as well.
Wikipedia notes that, “A United States Senate subcommittee, chaired by Senator Orrin Hatch, conducted its own investigation into Reverend Moon's tax case and published its findings in a report which concluded:
‘We accused a newcomer to our shores of criminal and intentional wrongdoing for conduct commonly engaged in by a large percentage of our own religious leaders, namely, the holding of church funds in bank accounts in their own names. Catholic priests do it. Baptist ministers do it, and so did Sun Myung Moon.’”
And, Sen. Hatch noted, “I do feel strongly, after my subcommittee has carefully and objectively reviewed this case from both sides, that injustice rather than justice has been served. The Moon case sends a strong signal that if one's views are unpopular enough, this country will find a way not to tolerate, but to convict. I don't believe that you or I or anyone else, no matter how innocent, could realistically prevail against the combined forces of our Justice Department and judicial branch in a case such as Reverend Moon's.”
Hatch’s cautionary words can be repeated with regard to Infowars and others today: “if one's views are unpopular enough, this country will find a way not to tolerate” – or even “to convict.”
Prager U is currently in a legal battle with YouTube, and their web page announcing the lawsuit begins with a quote from former California Governor Pete Wilson: “This is speech discrimination plain and simple, censorship based entirely on unspecified ideological objection to the message or on the perceived identity and political viewpoint of the speaker.”
Many others have voiced complaint with YouTube’s uneven, censorious policies, and on a weekly (or, daily basis), my organization has to request the review of videos on the AskDrBrown YouTube page after they are flagged as being Not Suitable for Most Advertisers.
And all the while, YouTube allows vile, hate-filled, incendiary videos from the left to proliferate. Some would even argue that they promote such leftist videos, while demoting (or demonetizing or blocking or removing) videos which express a contrary, conservative point of view.
Not only so, Hoft states that, “Google is also altering search results to portray far left websites and organizations as conservative. Today [March 4] if [you] search Google for a list of pro-life organizations you get this…Google lists Planned Parenthood as the top Pro-Life website.”
As ridiculous as this sounds, this is no joke, and it is similar to what recently happened to Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer and others who warn against radical Islamic jihad.
And so, whether you’re an Infowars fan or you find their work distasteful, their potential removal from YouTube should concern you.
Otherwise, soon enough, we’ll have our own version of Martin Niemöller’s famous poem, which will now sound something like this:
First they came for Infowars, and I did not speak out—because I found them offensive.
Then they came for Geller and Spencer, and I did not speak out—because I found them obnoxious.
Then they came for Prager U, and I did not speak out—because I found them opinionated.
Then they came for a host of others, and I did not speak out—because I have my own life to live.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.