Freedom, and freedom of speech in particular, has been a luxurious and rare commodity in the history of humankind. It has, however, appeared fairly abundantly in the history of Europe and in the broadly defined West. It was in many ways the preeminent feature of the West that underpinned all else. This legacy is increasingly receding into the past. We are once again seeing that the often accepted axiom that “freedom is only growing in our civilization” is simply not true.
The banning of president Donald Trump’s Twitter and Facebook accounts is a historic event, but one that bodes ill for mankind. Of course, this event is the crowning moment of long-term processes, but it is a symbol in of itself that two giant corporations arbitrarily decided to silence the leader of a great power who still remains in office. The web, which was meant to lead humanity to a previously unknown level of freedom and ease of communication, has led to laughably easy censorship stripped of any sort of control — be it legislative or judiciary. It has led to censorship to which there is no appeal, and which we appear to be completely powerless against. The decisions taken against Trump are drastic. It is hard to justify them even with the riots in Washington and the attack on the Capitol. Were the accounts of leftist Black Lives Matter supporters banned after days-long riots in several cities over the course of months? Of course not. What’s more, Trump is leaving, he lost and is abandoned.
He is not a real threat to the establishment. In 10 days, he won’t be president any longer. Banning him doesn’t even have justification in the logic used by Twitter and Facebook unless this is about using the opportunity to rapidly increase control over societies while at the same time move the entire public debate to the left. The challenges ahead are mighty and even dramatic. Censorship on social media coupled with another wave of the left’s revolution, including its “cancel culture” movement, suggests that something entirely new is being born in front of us which has nothing to do with classically understood democracy. Nation states, which should be reacting in these conditions and block the censorship practices of internet monopolies, while also caring for pluralism, either do not have the will to do so because they either support the goals of the censors or are too weak to do anything. The first step in escaping this trap is to realize the severity of the situation. The banning of Donald Trump will assuredly serve this goal.
The road to improving the situation is very far away and truly difficult moments may be ahead of us. It is difficult to be optimistic. Can nothing be done about this situation? Something can be. First and foremost, we should care for and develop those communication channels, even the small ones, which are outside the control of international censors. We cannot give up everything to them, as the threat at this moment remains so enormous.