There has been one salutary effect of the weeks-long efforts of Elon Musk to gain control of Twitter, and the debate over the freedom of speech that ensued: now the Left’s foremost individuals and institutions are out in the open about their hatred for the freedom of speech. The authoritarian heart of the Left has been exposed, as has their war against the foundational principle of any free society: the right to express oneself even if one’s opinions don’t coincide with those of the powerful and/or moneyed elites. Barack and Hillary hate the freedom of speech and want you to think it’s a dangerous toy, too dangerous for you to play with. And now three pillars of the unctuous and hypocritical Leftist “human rights” establishment, Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), have come out against it as well.
Reuters, adopting the solemn, even funereal tone it reserves for significant Leftist setbacks, noted Monday that Musk has described himself as a “free speech absolutist” and has called the freedom of expression the “bedrock of a functioning democracy.” That’s exactly what it is, and that’s why Leftists are enraged that someone who believes such things has gained control of one of the foremost means of mass communication in our age. They had become complacent in their control of such outlets, as confident of the rightness of their power as much as any medieval king was in his divine election; but now their hegemony has been severely challenged, and so it’s time to try to shape public opinion by calling out the self-appointed and reliably Leftist “defenders of human rights” to explain to us why this is so very, very wrong.
Deborah Brown, whom Reuters describes as a “digital rights researcher and advocate” at Human Rights Watch, asserted: “Regardless of who owns Twitter, the company has human rights responsibilities to respect the rights of people around the world who rely on the platform. Changes to its policies, features, and algorithms, big and small, can have disproportionate and sometimes devastating impacts, including offline violence. Freedom of expression is not an absolute right, which is why Twitter needs to invest in efforts to keep its most vulnerable users safe on the platform.”
See, it’s all about preventing violence. As the Left relentlessly insists, conservative speech not only leads to violence, but in itself amounts to violence. If Twitter allows freedom of speech, people are going to get hurt. This argument would have a great deal more force if Human Rights Watch had ever called out Antifa or Black Lives Matter violence, or if the “white supremacists” that Biden and Merrick Garland and other Leftists keep insisting are the biggest terror threat the nation faces today actually showed themselves, or if HRW had ever shown concern about Leftist violence against those who dissent from its agenda. But HRW is not remotely consistent; it has never shown any concern for the violence that might arise from Leftist speech. What’s more, the warning that speech can lead to violence ignores the fact that even the most ardent free speech advocate is not in favor of allowing the free propagation of actual calls for violence or illegal activity. Evans is just employing a tested tool of the Left: the claim that speech simply must be restricted, because if it isn’t, people are going to get hurt. This remains spectacularly unproven.
Meanwhile, Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU, declared that the real problem was Musk himself: “While Elon Musk is an ACLU card-carrying member and one of our most significant supporters, there’s a lot of danger having so much power in the hands of any one individual.” Yet that individual has declared his determination to let people speak whose opinions are marginalized and demonized by the political and media elites. The ACLU’s real concern seems to be that the cultural power that has been almost solely in the hands of the Left for so long may not be its exclusive property for much longer.
But Michael Kleinman, director of technology and human rights at Amnesty International USA, sees trouble ahead: “The last thing we need is a Twitter that willfully turns a blind eye to violent and abusive speech against users, particularly those most disproportionately impacted, including women, non-binary persons, and others.” Right. Those who call for violence and illegal behavior should indeed be deplatformed. But the self-anointed guardians of acceptable opinion have for far too long regarded any disagreement as violent, hateful, and abusive. If free society is to continue, that must end. All free people must hope that Elon Musk can actually make this happen. If he does, the reverberations will be felt far beyond Twitter.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of 23 books including many bestsellers, such as The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), The Truth About Muhammad and The History of Jihad. His latest book is The Critical Qur’an. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.