To Defend Conservative Media, GOP Must Defend The Constitution
Authored by Rick Santorum via RealClear Politics (emphasis ours),
Republicans have long understood that the modern Democratic Party has little patience for free expression. Leftist speech police shut down debate on college campuses; biased media outlets like MSNBC lambasted President Trump’s language instead of discussing his policies; and now congressional Democrats are looking to cancel conservative media outlets like Fox News and Newsmax.
It is critical that conservatives don’t allow the left to ignore the First Amendment or make it irrelevant. Free speech is a core value that has made America the best country in human history. That’s why last summer I asked conservative consumers to press social media to allow more conservative content. Unfortunately, some conservatives have made the mistake of thinking the government can force platforms to host content in violation of their policies. As our wise Founding Fathers knew, the government is not the savior or protector of our rights, it is the biggest threat to them.
Some conservatives are asking the government to use antitrust law and changes to Section 230 to pressure social media to host more conservative speech. These requests for government intervention are likely to blow up in our face — and will prevent us from being able to take a principled stand against the left using government to attack our free speech rights.
Democrats just held a hearing where House members laid into right-leaning television channels for spreading disinformation about COVID and last year’s presidential election. And House Democrats issued a letter to cable companies and streaming providers demanding to know why they are carrying programming from Fox News, Newsmax, and One America News.
Here we see Democrats using government power to do precisely what our founders prohibited in the First Amendment when they wrote, “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.” Now that Democrats are in control of the federal government, they want to kick the First Amendment aside and intimidate broadcasters and social media into removing conservative content they don’t like.
Republicans are rightfully irate at this authoritarian power play, but I have been warning them for months that threatening Big Tech with government action for barring content would open the door for government to bar content! When are conservatives going to figure out that joining hands with the left to call for government sanctions against companies exercising their legal rights never ends well for us or the country.
Unfortunately, some conservative are still pushing the government to get involved in speech issues. In a dozen Republican-led states, we see legislation designed to punish social media for their content moderation policies by denying tax exemptions and empowering private lawsuits. These state laws surely will not survive First Amendment court challenges, which will only embolden social media to use more political bias in content moderation. And through unconstitutional attempts to make social media sites carry our content, conservatives give up the constitutional high ground we need when criticizing Democrats for undermining the First Amendment.
If conservatives are to protect free speech, we must show America that Democrats‘ attempt to cancel Fox News is unconstitutional. We must show how, once again, the American left is willing to sacrifice our core national ideals to silence their political opponents. But conservatives can’t do this if we too are willing to use the heavy hand of government to enforce our own speech codes. Instead, we should ensure Section 230 remains intact so competitors to Big Tech social media outlet, like Gab, Rumble, and Parler, can continue to thrive. And we should avoid politicizing antitrust law to allow leftist bureaucrats to go after any American company that’s not living up to the left’s social justice agenda.
As I wrote last September, “Liberal Bias and All, Social Media Is Still Conservatives’ Best Electoral Tool. We shouldn’t help progressives destroy it.” Now we see what’s happened once Republicans opened the door for government to circumvent the First Amendment — Democrats are ripping that door off its hinges. If we want to protect the American right to free speech, we must not hand the left the tools they need to silence us once and for all.