My USA Today Op Ed on Josh Hawley, Freedom of Speech, and Threats to Liberty From Left and Right
This morning, USA Today published my new op ed on how Sen. Josh Hawley’s “national conservatism” is a menace to free speech (especially online) and liberty generally. I also point out how similar ideas are prevalent in many quarters on the left. Here’s an excerpt:
Simon & Schuster recently terminated its contract to publish Republican Sen. Josh Hawley’s book, “The Tyranny of Big Tech,” because of his role in promoting dubious objections to congressional certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election. Hawley responded by condemning the decision as “a direct assault on the First Amendment.”
Numerous commentators justifiably derided Hawley’s claim…. Under Supreme Court precedent, Hawley has no constitutional right to force Simon & Schuster to publish his book. Indeed, any such effort would be a violation of the publisher’s own First Amendment rights to refuse to publish authors it disapproves of.
Nonetheless, Hawley’s statement is not simply the result of ignorance. It is rooted in a broader worldview under which government should have vastly expanded power to control the private sector and thereby restrict constitutional rights. That vision is widespread on the right, among “national conservatives.” But it also has close analogues on the left. Both variants are menaces to liberty….
Hawley and other national conservatives claim that Big Tech firms wield too much influence over the marketplace for political speech, and thus can be pressured into posting material they object to. The government, of course, would have to decide what qualified as appropriate nondiscrimination. This line of argument is similar to progressive claims that the influence of tech firms on political discourse justifies breaking them up (as Sen. Elizabeth Warren and others advocate), or forcing them to exclude political expression governments deem to be inaccurate, “hate speech” or otherwise dangerous. Here too, the government would have to decide what qualified as a firm so big that its influence must be curbed, and what qualified as speech too inaccurate or prejudicial to permit on
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