Judging by some voices that have been gaining traction among corporate media, journalism has a new and totally unexpected enemy: free speech.
And while allowing and fostering free speech in the media is still held in high, if not the highest regard when the state of democracy is gauged in some countries, the tide seems to be resolutely turning toward vilifying it.
Steve Coll, Columbia Journalism Dean, who also writes for The New Yorker, recently spoke about US Constitution’s First Amendment free speech protections as being “weaponized” simply to disseminate “disinformation.”
This is not a new concept, saying that bad actors, i.e., those who deviate from the “official version” abuse free speech and therefore must be silenced – it’s a mainstay of authoritarian regimes. However, at least until now it wasn’t that usual to see it so freely expressed (pun intended) in the US to make a case in favor of censorship.
Coll, who has been given time and space on MSNBC to say his piece about what more Big Tech could do introduce even more censorship, is not the only one flaunting the idea that free speech is a relative concept that can and should be reexamined; they all seem to have been been emboldened by the November election and sometimes appear to be reading from the same script.
Overall, the goal seems to be to keep up and ramp up pressure on the likes of Facebook to be even more strict in its purge of non-conformist content that is still legal as free speech.
Coll is happier with the way Facebook has been reined in this election cycle by constant pressure from corporate media and permanent political centers that continue to exert a great deal of influence regardless of who sits in the White House – but he still thinks that hasn’t been enough, and that more censorship is needed.
Perhaps most tellingly and worryingly, Coll is no longer convinced free speech is necessary for journalism, and even had to ask “what to do about it. (The answer, sadly, is not, “uphold it at any cost.”)
“Those of us in journalism have to come to terms with the fact that free speech, a principle that we hold sacred, is being weaponized against the principle of journalism and what do we do about that,” he said.