A CNN contributor who also writes for a Pakistani newspaper says that people who criticize Muslims and their political agenda in the West are participating in “domestic terrorism.”
It is Islamists, who sometimes commit acts of terror, who are the real victims.
So suggested Rafia Zakaria in a CNN forum on the recent attack by social-media platforms on Alex Jones and his Infowars website.
In one a series of short commentaries on the issue, Zakaria said the censorship of pure speech, which would have been unconstitutional had the social media behemoths not been unregulated commercial enterprises, was important to recognizing “nativist, nationalist and white supremacist hate speech as a form of terrorism.”
There already are laws to prohibit speech that involves threats against individuals or groups.
Jones and his site engage in political arguments that confront what he perceives as dangers to America.
“In the aftermath of the decision of various service providers to stop carrying Infowars content, there are many who will say that this represents an unprecedented affront to free speech and First Amendment rights,” Zakaria said.
“As a Muslim-American who has seen the detestable anti-Muslim propaganda of Infowars content replicated across the worldwide web and popularized via Apple, Spotify and others, I know nothing could be farther from the truth.”
She then cites the case of a Virginia teen accused of providing material support for terrorism.
She said Jones, like the teen, should have been charged under the Material Support for Terrorism statute, but didn’t explain what material support Jones allegedly provided.
“Sadly, domestic terrorism, or Jones’ dangerous speech, in which he claims that he is in a holy war against Islam, is not prosecuted under that statute. This is a failing that has permitted the proliferation of platforms such as Infowars, their presence on popular platforms a legitimization of sorts for their content,” she said.
“This new decision is a step forward in recognizing that hate outlets, such as Infowars, are complicit in domestic terror, and a relief to Muslim-Americans, like myself, who have been the target of online assaults and threats,” she claimed.
The Information Liberation blog pushed back, arguing Alex Jones and Infowars have “consistently opposed all the Neocons’ wars in the Middle East for around two decades. CNN has pushed every lost one of them.”
“It Zakaria’s world, those opposing Islamic terrorism and mass Islamic immigration to the West should be considered terrorists while Islamists carrying out actual terrorism in the West should be considered victims,” the blog post said.
In the same CNN forum, which was headlined “We need to talk about Alex Jones,” others supported the idea of censoring political speech based on content.
Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a New York professor, said, “Jones may be partly silenced, but only a concerted and bipartisan effort will stop a crusade against truth that’s unparalleled in American history and of the utmost gravity, given the support it enoys from the apex of power. Those companies who don’t step up to the plate now should re-examine their priorities.”
John McWhorter, another teacher, likened censoring Jones to “free speech.”
“A Jones cannot be shut down completely. However, narrowing access to him is as morally advanced as calling for a general commitment to free speech. Speech is one thing; yelling ‘fire’ in an auditorium is another, and opinions that fall into the latter category challenge us with deciding where speech, sadly, must lose some of its freedom.”
Errol Louis, a political show host in New York, added, “They should have long ago shut down connetions with Jones, in the same way and for the same reasons they wouldn’t allow financial con men to operate a Ponzi scheme or check-kiting ring on their platofrms.”
LZ Granderson, a political analyst on ESPN, however, warned against the “liberals celebrating the censorship of Alex Jones.”
After all, he, “the last time I checked, has the same inalienable rights as those who oppose his brand of hate speech.”
Granderson said he opposes “systematically scrubbing him from the Internet.”
“Why? Because I enjoy hip-hop, Elvis Presley, and ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ – and at some point in our country’s history, all three were in the sights of people who didn’t approve.”
His warning, “Today the mob is for you, but tomorrow you could be Larry Flynt, who endured decades of court cases and was shot because people thought the content in Hustler Magazine was not worth of First Amendment protection.”
Marc Randazza, a First Amendment attorney, pointed out the dangers of the liberals’ position of endorsing censoring ideas they don’t like.
“There was a time when Silicon Valley policy ran on the same philosophical lines as the First Amendment. The internet promised to be the final incarnation of the Enlightenment – the true Marketplace of Ideas. Advocacy of violence or criminal activity might have gotten one banned, but not simply ‘incorrect opinions.’
“In today’s society, a few internet platforms dominate the public sphere – and they are the new public square. And society is better if all opinions and ideas are allowed to flourish – even those that might bother you,” he wrote.
“I am old enough to remember when liberals opposed corporate dominance of the marketplace of ideas. I remember us being aghast when corporate conglomerates took over the FM radio dial. I remember us being horrified when we realized media consolidation and some corporate overlords could begin to limit viewpoints or affect decisions about what got covered in the press.
“But then Silicon Valley decided to collectively put on an anti-conservative mask. Then the corporate goblins that liberals found to be so terrifying became their savior. Censorship became not only acceptable, but called for.
“First they came for the Nazis, and liberals not only failed to speak up, but they cheered – because they did not like Nazis. Then they came for Milo, and they cheered. Then they came for Alex Jones, and they cheer again,” he wrote.
But “censorship, like the guillotine, once deployed, does not stop only with its current targets.”
Of the liberals, he said, “when it comes for them, who will be left to speak up?