My old friend, the late Nat Hentoff, referred to the First Amendment as the First Freedom.
I always liked that. Though we had some political differences over the decades, I found him to be a true and enthusiastic lover of the First Amendment.
I dearly wish Nat were here today as America faces what I see as an existential threat to free speech, freedom of the press and freedom of religion.
It is as if no one sees what is coming. Generally speaking, liberty is usually attacked by government – but not in this case. This time, it may well be inaction by government that allows it to happen.
I refer to what few others understand to be a scorched earth, search-and-destroy mission from the Internet Cartel of Google-YouTube-Facebook-Twitter-Amazon against independent media. But, I believe, that is only this cartel’s first target. Ultimately, the goal will be impose speech codes and left-wing political correctness standards on search, social media and internet content that will make today’s major university campuses blush by comparison. This cartel is already using its vast control of digital advertising, politically and religiously biased algorithms, bandwidth and money to drive all independent media voices out of business.
What do I know that you don’t?
I founded the very first independent online news-gathering company in 1997 – some 21 years ago. We’ve faced many crises over those two decades, but nothing like we are experiencing at the hands of this cartel that shares a worldview so narrow, so tyrannical, so bullying and so disrespectful of dissent that all five of these companies count on an extremist organization called the Southern Poverty Law Center to help them police content. Is that a coincidence?
The combined clout of these companies makes them the de facto gatekeepers of all media in the U.S. If they like your content, it is treated favorably. If they don’t like your content, they treat you … well, harshly. That means your content doesn’t show up in searches, you don’t get much if any advertising, social media outreach is strictly limited. Thus, independent media are in crisis. They’re dying – and not slowly. It may be too late to save what’s left.
What do I mean by independent media? WND was the first, aside from the DrudgeReport, which is a genre all its own – perhaps the inspiration for all efforts that followed.
- I use the term to describe media efforts created specifically for the digital online age. When I started WND, I was a refugee of the so-called “mainstream” print media. I saw in the promise of the internet, a chance to level the playing field in such a way that an upstart, strictly digital enterprise could compete head to head with the corporate media established in the print and broadcasting era. For 20 years, we proved it could work. Others followed. Another old dearly departed friend of mine, Andrew Breitbart, took it to new heights with Breitbart.com. Tucker Carlson introduced innovations at the Daily Caller before moving on to Fox where he has become one of the finest hosts on cable news. Glenn Beck left television to start TheBlaze.com. There are now dozens of such efforts. And they are all experiencing what I am experiencing – a fight for survival, with some closer to losing than others, but none with answers for long-term prosperity.
- Independent media are also defined by independent thinking. We don’t all agree politically. But we all agree the establishment media are part of the problem, not part of the solution.
- Independent media also tend to be skeptical of Big Government and other big institutions, cultural, corporate, political or otherwise.
The Internet Cartel disdains us. Thus, we no longer play on an even playing field as we once did.
But it’s not just the future of the independent media that is at risk. It’s the First Amendment.
No, Congress isn’t about to repeal it. Effectively, though, the cartel is. For us, it already has.
Even while we in the independent media are feeling the harshest effects of this war, so are individuals, religious organizations, conservative bloggers and ordinary citizens who just want to express their opinions. Their voices are being muted by the cartel because their views don’t pass muster with the censors in the cartel.
There needs to be hearings in Congress on this threat to the First Amendment, not to mention possible anti-trust actions.
Donald Trump needs to use his bully pulpit not just to call out the fake news machine, but to help save the independent media from extinction.
Time is short. The hour is late. The First Freedom is at stake.
What can you do as an individual? Support your favorite independent media outlet(s) directly with financial donations – and your prayers!
Read Farah’s previous columns on the impact of the Digital Cartel: