Is the Left bailing on free speech in social media?

March 26, 2021 • 12:30 pm

I haven’t read much from Matt Taibbi, nor do I know much about him. Finally, I can’t vouch for a lot of assertions in his substack column below, but I thought it was interesting enough to post (click on the screenshot to read).

The headline was what grabbed me, for I wouldn’t be keen on somebody important in the Biden administration having “troubling” views on free speech. It turns out that I’m not sure how important Timothy Wu is (Biden appointed him to the National Economic Council), but he does write op-eds for the New York Times and has spent a lot of time criticizing the biases of social media networks like Facebook, so let’s see what he says.

Taibbi’s point is that although the First Amendment isn’t in danger—not with the Supreme Court as it is—the actions of Twitter, Facebook, and other such venues do endanger speech. It happens, argues Taibbi, because the Left is now trying to get those companies to censor the kind of speech they don’t like. (I’m not arguing, of course, that only the Left is censorious. We know that the opposite is true: remember Donald Trump and the “fake news” trope?) But now that the Left is in power in the executive and legislative branches, Taibbi’s worried that they are going to control what can be said on social media.

Here’s Taibbi’s take on Wu’s views (Taibbi’s words):

The Cliff’s Notes version of Wu’s thesis:

— The framers wrote the Bill of Rights in an atmosphere where speech was expensive and rare. The Internet made speech cheap, and human attentionrare. Speech-hostile societies like Russia and China have already shown how to capitalize on this “cheap speech” era, eschewing censorship and bans in favor of “flooding” the Internet with pro-government propaganda.

— As a result, those who place faith in the First Amendment to solve speech dilemmas should “admit defeat” and imagine new solutions for repelling foreign propaganda, fake news, and other problems. “In some cases,” Wu writes, “this could mean that the First Amendment must broaden its own reach to encompass new techniques of speech control.” What might that look like? He writes, without irony: “I think the elected branches should be allowed, within reasonable limits, to try returning the country to the kind of media environment that prevailed in the 1950s.”

— More ominously, Wu suggests that in modern times, the government may be more of a bystander to a problem in which private platforms play the largest roles. Therefore, a potential solution (emphasis mine) “boils down to asking whether these platforms should adopt (or be forced to adopt) norms and policies traditionally associated with twentieth-century journalism.”

That last line is what should make speech advocates worry.

Why should we worry? Because, says Taibbi, authoritarian “progressive” liberals may be looking not to break up companies like Facebook, but rather to influence them to ban just those sources that they don’t like.  As evidence for this, Taibbi posts this video of Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez grilling Mark Zuckerberg before Congress (“AOC” is, of course, the face of “progressive Democrats”):

His take:

You can see this mentality in the repeated exchanges between Congress and Silicon Valley executives. An example is the celebrated October 23, 2019 questioning of Mark Zuckerberg by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in a House Financial Services Committee hearing. The congresswoman, as staunch a believer in the new approach to speech as there is in modern Democratic Party politics, repeatedly asks Zuckerberg questions like, “So, you won’t take down lies or you will take down lies?” and “Why you label the Daily Caller, a publication well-documented with ties to white supremacists, as an official fact-checker for Facebook?”

Grasping that everyone who’s ever thought about speech issues throughout our history has been concerned with the publication of falsehoods, incitement to violence, libel, hate speech, and other problems, the issue here isn’t the what, but the who. The question isn’t whether or not you think the Daily Caller should be fact-checking, but whether you think it’s appropriate to leave Mark Zuckerberg in charge of naming anyone at all a fact-checker. AOC doesn’t seem to be upset that Zuckerberg has so much authority, but rather that he’s not using it to her liking.

While the first bit of the grilling didn’t seem so bad, I could see by the end what Taibbi was worried about. Zuckerberg isn’t concerned about angering the Right; he’s worried about angering the Left, who now have the power to monitor him and, if he doesn’t act the way they want, to shut him down.  While of course companies like Facebook should and do monitor First Amendment violations like false advertising and threats or defamation, they should, in my view, conform as closely to the First Amendment as they can, realizing that they do this voluntarily since they’re not arms of the government. Why should “offensive” but legal speech be allowed in public but banned on Facebook?

To prove libel or slander, which are not permitted under the First Amendment, you have to show that the poster deliberately lied knowing it would cause damage to someone. And that’s not easy to do on a platform the size of Facebook. I tend to want them to err on the side of permitting speech, and I’m not sure that AOC is on that boat.

Finally, Taibbi has one more worry: Wu’s comment, “I think the elected branches should be allowed, within reasonable limits, to try returning the country to the kind of media environment that prevailed in the 1950s.”

Taibbi’s take:

Wu’s comment about “returning… to the kind of media environment that prevailed in the 1950s” is telling. This was a disastrous period in American media that not only resulted in a historically repressive atmosphere of conformity, but saw all sorts of glaring social problems covered up or de-emphasized with relative ease, from Jim Crow laws to fraudulent propaganda about communist infiltration to overthrows and assassinations in foreign countries.

The wink-wink arrangement that big media companies had with the government persisted through the early sixties, and enabled horribly destructive lies about everything from the Bay of Pigs catastrophe to the Missile Gap to go mostly unchallenged, for a simple reason: if you give someone formal or informal power to choke off lies, they themselves may now lie with impunity. It’s Whac-a-Mole: in an effort to solve one problem, you create a much bigger one elsewhere, incentivizing official deceptions.

That 1950s period is attractive to modern politicians because it was a top-down system. This was the era in which worship of rule by technocratic experts became common, when the wisdom of the “Best and the Brightest” was unchallenged. A yearning to return to those times runs through these new theories about speech, and is prevalent throughout today’s Washington, a city that seems to think everything should be run by people with graduate degrees.

And his conclusion:

Going back to a system of stewardship of the information landscape by such types isn’t a 21st-century idea. It’s a proven 20th-century failure, and signing up Silicon Valley for a journey backward in time won’t make it work any better.

Well, I don’t know whether to worry, but I’ll put this on the back burner, for there are real violations of the First Amendment going on in organizations like public schools and universities that must adhere to Constitutional freedom of speech. However, some readers must have thought more deeply about this issue than I, and I welcome your thoughts below.

______________

UPDATE: In his latest Substack column (paywalled, but you can see the entirety in an email if you subscribe), Glenn Greeenwald faults Zuckerberg for being scripted and robotic, but also the Democrates for favoring social-media censorship:

But it is vital not to lose sight of how truly despotic hearings like this are. It is easy to overlook because we have become so accustomed to political leaders successfully demanding that social media companies censor the internet in accordance with their whims. Recall that Parler, at the time it was the most-downloaded app in the country, was removed in January from the Apple and Google Play Stores and then denied internet service by Amazon, only after two very prominent Democratic House members publicly demanded this. At the last pro-censorship hearing convened by Congress, Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) explicitly declared that the Democrats’ grievance is not that these companies are censoring too much but rather not enough. One Democrat after the next at Thursday’s hearing described all the content on the internet they want gone: or else. Many of them said this explicitly.

 

43 thoughts on “Is the Left bailing on free speech in social media?

  1. “Taibbi’s point is that although the First Amendment isn’t in danger—not with the Supreme Court as it is”
    In other words, it’s good that we have a conservative Supreme Court to protect our freedoms. It’s amazing and disheartening that the left has become enemy of civil rights.

    1. But the ‘left’ knows better than you and me!

      (I used to consider myself center-left, but being common-sensical is right wing today.)

      1. Neither the right nor left have any common sense. Both sides get money/clicks/fame/votes by lying and demonizing. Commonsense is attacked and shouted over by both sides. I would advocate for a third party but that has not worked well in Europe where the extremism just gets worse.

        The majority of American who have common sense need to quit paying/clicking/voting for the nonsense being peddled by the red and blue tribes and support the intelligent nonpartisans. If you live a blue state, vote red. If you live in a red state, vote blue.

      2. If you think today’s rightwing is the source of commonsense, you haven’t been paying close attention.

        The rightwing may currently be taking a more fundamentalist approach to free speech (a position with which I heartily agree), but that’s only because it’s the rightwing’s ox more often getting gored by today’s censorship.

        As even the most cursory review of the the boundless disinformation and arrant nonsense pouring forth nonstop from today’s rightwing demonstrates, a font of commonsense, it ain’t.

  2. I have followed civil liberties issues for decades and there is no question in my mind that, while the right wing is scoring points and posing as saviors of the 1st amendment, it is the left and its liberal useful idiots who are the greatest threat to freedom of speech and dissent today. One need only look at the obeisance of the mass media (NYT, etc) and the abject collapse of universities before the rage of
    jokesters and identity Politics that has exiled professors in the name of social justice, to conclude that the left and its allies are conducting a major purge of dissent akin to the Stalinism of the 1930s. Along with this is a suspicion if not hatred of science, as witness proposals to end the STEM curricula, and the dismissal of western white thinkers, writers, and creative artists. This is at its core a profound and
    nefarious anti intellectualism disguised as progressive and humanitarian, though it is the exact opposite in the outcome. Resistance is appearing, including that of black scholars like McWhorter and
    Loury, and in the new blogs Weekly Dish, Persuasion and now Bari Weiss as well as Matt Taibbi. This blog and Jerry Coyne deserve much credit for recognizing and exposing what is going on. Bret Weinstein, another victim, now states that he fears for the integrity of the republic because of Critical Race Theory, BLM and all the other manifestations of irrationality and fealty to fearsome ideologies of one variety or another. We all need to be vigilant and support the dissidents because the future of our society, media and universities are in deep danger.

    1. Most of what you are saying could be tallied up as nonsense. You think the integrity of the republic is in danger because of CRT and BLM ideologies. You are in a bubble and not paying attention to reality. Did you not see the insurrection at the capital on Jan. 6? Are you aware of what red states are doing to voting rights? The democracy is in danger for sure but it is not from the left. Stop looking at schools for a minute and look at the real world.

    2. The threat is nowhere near as large as you claim. Yes, we see that there are proposals to end STEM curricula but how successful do you think that will be? Our economy runs on technology and many people are involved in science, engineering, and medicine. All of those people are horrified at these proposals but no one is going to let them go too far. We live in a time when any crazy idea has its supporters and the means to publicize them. It is scary to think they might catch on but it would be far worse, IMHO, to overestimate their power to the extent you do here. This kind of scare mongering is a common tactic by those on the Right that want to deflect attention from coup attempts, disenfranchising of voters, and other real abuses of power.

    3. Lorna, you are absolutely right. Thank you for sharing your sage analysis on the threats to honest speech and research posed by today’s progressive cultural warriors. The far left’s social justice arm has captured the conscience of the blue machine and the societal and political policies they desire are being adopted in the bluest of blue Seattle/Portland area where I live. Once the protests and riots started last spring, our city councils couldn’t act quickly enough to cut police budgets and prohibit the use of crowd control techniques. Youngsters may break windows, burn buildings, threaten bystanders, loot, assault police, and take over roads, freeways, and public spaces, all consequence-free if done in the name of an approved social justice cause. If Trump had run and won as a blue instead of red machine politician, I shutter to contemplate the parallels to Mao’s cultural revolution we could have had. Luckily, we dodged that bullet.

    4. … the left and its allies are conducting a major purge of dissent akin to the Stalinism of the 1930s.

      That kind of hyperventilating hyperbole isn’t helpful. Sure there are disquieting problems with today’s authoritarian Left. But there is nothing occurring in today’s United States even remotely similar to the Holodomor terror-famine, the mass execution of dissidents, the Siberian gulags, or the reign of terror conducted by Lavrentiy Beria and the NKVD — and nothing even remotely like it threatening to happen. To maintain otherwise is to demonstrate a glib ignorance of what the 1930s Soviet Union was actually like.

  3. Well, I don’t know whether to worry, but I’ll put this on the back burner, for there are real violations of the First Amendment going on in organizations like public schools and universities …

    It’s very much part of the same problem, since one can only know about and openly criticise those organisations if people can do that using the dominant modes of communication, namely MSM, Facebook, Twitter, Google, Amazon etc.

    We are not far off a cabal of Big Tech acting in cohort to “control the narrative” — literally. Events such as the censorship of the Hunter Biden story and the destruction of Parler are worrying

    We need to regulate big companies that have dominant market share to require them to be politically neutral.

  4. This makes me skeptical of this editorial:

    Speech-hostile societies like Russia and China have already shown how to capitalize on this “cheap speech” era, eschewing censorship and bans in favor of “flooding” the Internet with pro-government propaganda.

    China is well-known to censure and ban things they don’t like on the Internet. They have their so-called “Great Firewall”. In Russia, don’t they arrest or assassinate press people who they don’t like? While both must deal in propaganda, it is not as a substitute for censure. I await experts to set me straight on this.

    Assuming I’m right, is this a really bad take by Wu or misguided Cliff’s Notes by Taibbi?

    1. While China and Russia engage in massive amounts of online censorship, their “need” is already mitigated by the fact that their national governments are broadly popular. Might well have something to do with censorship, as quite a few 20th-century mass murderers managed the same trick.

      I don’t think you get the editorial wrong. It is probably US-centric and only cares about Russia or China to the extent that their governments try to influence public debate in the US. I understand that countries don’t like that (though the double standard of the US regularly interfering in other countries’ elections makes me puke), but there is more to it: Under the guise of fighting election interference, any contentious view can soon be shut down as support for foreign enemies, not least because the population is to be shielded from such propaganda. Perhaps the authors do not see this problem because they genuinely believe that Russia successfully shapes public opinion in the US through frogposting Facebook accounts or that the awfully inept Chinese PR has proceeded past the trolling stage. I would add that they are no right-wingers and thus less aware of the damage that has already been done.

  5. AOC is mostly playing games I suppose to show that Facebook does very little to regulate what happens on their platform. Anyone with a brain should already know this. To make someone one of the richest guys in the world you really would not want much regulation. Congress is just being lazy as usual. They should be applying regulation to the major platforms on the internet but they do not. If you are the regulator and you do not regulate, what are you complaining about? The internet is the wild west where nearly everything goes. Compared to the television or newspaper business they have no regulation. They steal everyone’s data at no cost to themselves and sell it to anyone who wants it. AOC was kind of asking questions about that in a round about way – I do not understand her method or what the hell she thinks she is doing? I guess you have to be a politician to get it.

  6. Matt Taibbi is a well known and respected writer or journalist.

    That the left controls the majority of the media, censors the media and its distribution platforms, and wants cable companies, etc. to not carry center-right and right media is obvious and well under way. That horse has left the barn!!

    The question is, can it be reined in before the authoritarianism is insurmountable.

    https://thehill.com/opinion/white-house/545090-the-disgrace-that-was-the-biden-press-conference

    1. When the right divorces itself from reality, any attempt at reporting the truth will seem Leftish. If you are saying authoritarianism is going to come from the Left, you must has been out of the country for the last 4 years. Sure, the Woke are practicing authoritarians but they aren’t trying to run the country and won’t likely be successful. On the other hand, January 6th was an actual coup attempt.

      1. An actual coup attempt on the 6th and earlier as Trump and most elected Republicans pushed the narrative that the election was stolen. Now Republicans are passing laws designed to disenfranchise voters.

        Actual authoritarianism by Republican elected leaders but somehow according to some the left is the real danger.
        ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  7. Taibbi’s worry about the government using Facebook etc. to censor the way they want resonates with me. When the vast majority of “public speech” occurs on privately owned systems, that means (IMO) we should think hard about the how much power of censorship to allow those private entities, and maybe the best answer isn’t “my system, my rules.” Extend those private entities untlimited censorship power, and pretty soon the government is going to get in bed with them just the same way he notes happened in the ’50s.

    I have no perfect solutions for this, but a partial one may be (IMO) public-private partnerships, where the private organization agrees to limit censorship activities in a certain way in exchange for federal insurance against liability in cases where they get sued because someone on the platform said something other people don’t like. The private corporation essentially acts as a host for a public space, and the government in return agrees to take responsibility for legal issues resulting in/from that public space. You build the park, but if you agree to make it public, we the county will deal with the injury suits.

  8. When lawyers talk about “lies,” they generally mean falsehoods that are uttered by a person who knows and believes them to be false. This is, for example, the standard for perjury. It is a pretty high standard. And if the suppression of “lies” in social media were allowed only after convincing proof that the speaker knew and believed she was lying, there would probably be little damage to the First Amendment or its ideals.

    I suspect, however, that most people in political speech actually believe what they are saying, no matter how untrue it may seem to others. A key purpose of free speech is to allow the truth to be hashed out by discussions among people who mosly have incomplete information. It does not help this process if some of the people with incomplete information try to shut down the free expression of others with incomplete information.

    1. There are different kinds of truth (not ways of knowing), The crowd size at the 2016 presidential inauguration is something that can be determined and shouldn’t be subject to pro/con discussion. When people talk about an issue that needs to be “hashed out”, it is quite a different kind of truth. We need to distinguish between truth and opinion. It is not always easy but probably is quite easy most cases.

      1. Only analytic truths can be determined with certainty. Truths based on observations (inferred by a process of induction) cannot be determined absolutely but only to a very high degree of certainty. The idea of free speech is that even those who have determined truths to a high degree of certainty should only seek to persuade others to accept, not take the shortcut of suppressing their expressions of dissent.

        1. Is it really that hard? Only in the abstract. How about if we deal with the obvious lies? Take the inauguration crowd size as an example. Sure, it doesn’t matter much to how the country is governed but that makes it a good example. It also has a reasonable amount of fuzziness. At what point in the day are we measuring it? Do we adjust for the size of the US population? Still, these things can be answered and Trump’s lie could easily be seen as such.

          1. There’s not much need to suppress lies that are obviously lies. What the enemies of free speech fear are statements that people might possibly believe. Unfortunately, most of the politically important issues are not so factually transparent and beyond debate.

            1. Ok, what about the Big Lie? Most of the GOP told their voters that fraud was rampant in the 2020 election even though officials in Trump’s own government said there wasn’t. If one asks how many fraudulent votes were there, it is a difficult question but everyone with any real knowledge says there’s not many, certainly not enough to change the outcome of the election. Also, many court cases failed for lack of evidence of fraud. Clearly, a jury would decide that the Big Lie was, in fact, a big lie.

  9. I don’t recall a great hue and cry of imminent threat to the first amendment when newspapers used editorial discretion to publish letters or not publish letters. Papers were (and are) not required to publish rants by the KKK, neo Nazis, lunatics or other fringe viewpoints, even though they often did publish letters by fringe voices.

    Anyone who thinks they don’t have a voice on Facebook, Blogger, WordPress or Twitter can build their own web server right in their home, in the basement, closet or under their bed. Indeed, that is very similar to what Taibbi, Greenwald and many others have done.

    And here we are talking about them and their ideas.

  10. I think the core of the problem is the constant blurring between opinion and reporting of news which implies an attempt to deliver the truth. Fox News is notorious for playing this game. During the day they are a more ordinary news outlet but later in the day it is pretty much all opinion. This division is only partially real and it is unlikely their viewers make the distinction. In fact, they count on this distinction being hard to make. The other news outlets do this too, of course, but not to the extent that Fox News does.

    Another way of blurring the opinion/news line is to have a host, pretending to only be interested in the truth, who interviews people allowed to give their opinion (ie, lie). It can be portrayed as reporting the controversy or getting the opinion of the person-in-the-street but it really is just a way of broadcasting lies with a veneer that makes it look like fact.

    If I were in charge of solving this problem, I would make laws establishing that this distinction be made explicit. If you are going to offer news, you need to mark it as such and be responsible for the truthfulness of the content. People should be able to sue such a news outlet when it deliberately misleads people. If a media outlet is going to offer opinion, it needs to be clearly marked.

  11. I have criticized Bernie Sanders here for his leftist views. But I do admire his forthright stand for freedom of speech. He is a good old-fashioned leftist/socialist in that regard.

  12. “While of course companies like Facebook should and do monitor First Amendment violations like false advertising and threats or defamation, they should, in my view, conform as closely to the First Amendment as they can, realizing that they do this voluntarily since they’re not arms of the government.”

    I don’t think it is done voluntarily. I think Facebook is compelled by law to not allow false advertising, threats, or defamation. Letting them through could result in criminal charges or civil findings against them.

    I think the same applies to Twitter. Both companies are reacting to what are financial and legal threats to their business, by shutting down accounts that are posting potentially illegal content. They are also concerned for their business model, and don’t want their advertisers or subscribers to flee.

  13. Taibbi writes a lot about cancel culture and the massive shifts through (social) media, news or propaganda. I recommend (again) checking his work. There are a couple of articles like this, building the case some more. You’ll also find a similar segment as yours, discussing cases of, and often interviewing “canceled” individuals, especially leftists, liberals and academics.

  14. I read Tim Wu when he has pieces in the Times. Sometimes I disagree, but he’s always seemed pretty thoughtful. So without reading Wu’s longish piece from 2017 that Taibbi cites, I wouldn’t want to say too much. A capsule summary that he supports a “1950s media environment” doesn’t sound too bad to me: pre-Friedman notions of corporate responsibility, fairness doctrine, more diverse ownership of the major outlets, local journalism financially viable– all sound good.

    Taibbi recognizes, but slides over, the fact that Wu is mostly known for net neutrality and anti-trust advocacy, and the latter is what his position on an economic council is more concerned with.

    There’s an important debate to be had on what media environment is desirable in a digital age, and I’m interested in what Wu has to say about it now, but I won’t take Taibbi’s word for what that is.

    GCM

  15. Debating whether the contemporary Left or the Right poses the greater threat to democratic values makes me think about the situation in Weimar Germany around 1929. In those times, one could well wring one’s hands over the frequent brawls between the Nazi’s Sturmabteilung and the Kommunist’s Roter Frontkämpferbund, or between either of them and local authorities. It is also worth recalling that
    the Kommunisten routinely denounced the Social Democrats as fascists (or even worse than fascists), a rhetorical vein revived nowadays by the wokies. Maybe, beside comparing the threat level posed by each side, one should worry about the outcome when political discourse begins to have this character,
    and when both sides reveal clear authoritarian features. In the Weimar case, it did not end well.

    1. I’d say it is reversed. First, US politics is completely different from other countries and has its own spectrum shaped around the two big parties. The Republicans are so,e

      What’s certain is that woke is not left in the sense everyone in other countries, and across history understood the term. p

      the woke go along very well with the DNC establishment, and are fairly right wing. Americans just don’t see it that way, because stridency is parsed in the US as extremism (cp. strident atheists), minority identitarianism as “left”.

      1. Garbled comment from accidently hitting reply (editing does not work when posted from wordpress’ interface).

        Anyhow, what this was supposed to say:
        * Republicans are only somewhat conservative, but rather paleo-libertarian.
        * Democrats are mostly neo-liberal.
        * Woke culture is concerned with their diversity and minority-identity stuff, but otherwise are fine with Biden and the DNC core. They were overwhelmingly in support of Clinton before, and rather strongly opposed to Sanders.

        That is, these comparisons between woke and left wingers in other countries don’t make much sense. It’s reversed in the sense in that Bernie is the moderate social democrat, and furthest left US politics has to offer; woke are right-wards of that.

  16. To prove libel or slander, which are not permitted under the First Amendment, you have to show that the poster deliberately lied knowing it would cause damage to someone.

    The problem here — and I think this gets, at least in part, to the heart of the conundrum that is social media — is that libel and slander are not crimes; they merely give rise to civil causes of actions for monetary damages measured by the diminution to the victim’s reputation. Accordingly, libel and slander cannot be prohibited from being published in the first instance, under the First Amendment’s so-called “prior restraints” doctrine.

    Under 47 USC section 230, “interactive computer services” such as social media companies are not treated as the speakers or publishers of material that appears therein and, as such, they enjoy immunity from any civil liability that would otherwise attach to such material. This removes any disincentive such companies would otherwise have for permitting such material from being posted.

    On the other hand, if such immunity from civil liability were to be removed from social-media companies, they would undoubtedly adopt restrictive speech codes that go well beyond the “terms of usage” currently in effect, since they would have a great incentive to decline to allow the posting of any material that might expose them to civil liability, thereby chilling free speech on such platforms to a great degree. It would also likely lead to social media companies having every potential post vetted by a team of lawyers, the same way traditional book publishers have teams of lawyers vet the books they publish, cutting social-media posting to a trickle.

    1. Perhaps there needs to be categories of social media authors, each having to meet different standards. Possible criteria include number of followers and, perhaps, an optional public author commitment to truth. Those that claim to be news, not opinion, are guaranteeing the truthfulness of their postings and agree to substantial penalties (eg, banned from the site) if they fail to live up to their promise. Those that want to tell lies must claim to be opinion. Their content is subject to much less stringent filtering.

      1. One person’s truth is another person’s opinion… or lie. That may be because of the way the brain processes value laden information. According to Jonathan Haidt, when a person encounters that type of information, our gut, instinct, intuition, whatever has a reaction to the info that our brain then explains. If our gut thinks the info is true, we filter it through a “can I believe this?” framework and if there is anything in the info that is/seems true, we accept the whole thing as true. If our gut balks at the info, we filter it through a “must I believe this?” framework and if anything about the info is/seems off, we disbelieve the whole thing. If Haidt is correct and if I understood him correctly, our perception of truth may be based on our values. How can anyone justly and humanely perceive and regulate truth under those circumstances?

        1. You’re talking about the kind of truth contained in a statement like “2001: A Space Odyssey is the best movie of all time”. The number of people that attended a presidential inauguration is a different kind of truth, one that can be determined by the simple process of counting.

  17. Oh you’re missing out if Taibbi isn’t part of your media diet – he’s excellent and runs all over Sullivan imho. I find Sullivan’s (ignorant) drug warrior stance and his Catholic based moralism incredibly tiring for one. He has good points on the Woke but …

    Taibbi is not always right but I think he’s more up your alley (and mine) certainly than Sullivan and absolutely Glen Greenwald (Woke Warrior).

    Take note of him and you won’t be disappointed by a lot of what he says. He has a podcast which is pretty good as well as his old column in Rolling Stone, etc.
    D.A.
    NYC

  18. The first time I came to really fear the Authoritarian Left was when it became “plain as a pikestaff” that it would feed and enable Trumpism; that otherwise rational people would look at that behavior, hold their nose and vote for Trump. And that Fox news wouldn’t have to lie about it as they typically do- they could just let the cameras roll, no commentary needed. The Left couldn’t be any more effective enabling Trump or some Trump-wannabe if they were out campaigning for them. In fact, they would be far less effective if they were out campaigning for them.

  19. the Left, who now have the power to monitor [Zuckerberg] and, if he doesn’t act the way they want, to shut him down.

    I think Zuckerberg needs to be about as worried he will be shut down as a 900 pound gorilla needs to be worried about being shut down by a mouse. The Left might be able to break Facebook into pieces, by allying with the center, but first they (we) would have to coordinate on that goal. And breaking it into pieces would be more of a “cloning Facebook” than a “shutting Facebook down”.

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