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OPINION

Alex Jones, Ye West, And The Collapse Of Free Speech In America

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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Chris Pizzello

After an extended interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson full of lucid, insightful opinions and analysis, Kanye (Ye) West almost immediately went shockingly rogue with a disturbing tweet claiming he was going to go “death con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE.” The tweet quickly got him suspended from Twitter and, ultimately, sparked a notification from JP Morgan Chase Bank that it was ending its business relationship with West’s company, Yeezy, LLC.

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Lest people begin to think the rapper’s ugly comments were deserving of this kind of punishment from the private sector, conservative commentator Candace Owens, a friend of West’s, posted the bank’s notification along with some commentary on the frightening underlying issue:

“As I gather my thoughts about this, I want to say that I do not care what you think about Ye West— but I very much care what you think about this,” Owens tweeted. “We have reached extremely frightening times in this country. Who or what has landed us into these times is an ongoing discussion which I would like to open up.”

Now, in 2022, do I need to write a paragraph on why antisemitism is bad and how it’s hard to believe someone with West’s intelligence and clear grasp of so many critical issues would delve into such nonsense when so much is on the line? Nah, but I do share the frustration of everyone, particularly on the right, who is upset that the rapper sabotaged all the good he did with that Carlson interview by making such a ridiculous statement. 

But Candace Owens is right. At this point, it doesn’t matter what any of us think of Ye West or any opinion he has uttered. By closing his account, JP Morgan Chase Bank crossed a rubicon that should never be crossed in America. 

Here, as opposed to virtually every other country in history, our founders saw fit to protect freedom of speech because they understood, more than anyone, that totalitarian governments police the speech of their subjects to protect and grow their power. Thus, in this new country, every effort was made to constrain our government and protect it from the worst tendencies of the people who operate within its framework.

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The typical leftist libertarian-type response here is, of course, that the government isn’t restraining speech at all. Instead, we’re seeing private companies doing what they want with what is theirs. Don’t companies have the right to do business with whomever they wish? Isn’t that the logic behind conservatives supporting, say, a cake maker who doesn’t want to bake a cake for a gay wedding?

Except, that argument is failing on two levels. First, the government very much IS in the process of restraining speech. Just look at what just happened to Infowars founder Alex Jones, who last week was ordered to pay upwards of $1 billion because he theorized in 2012 that the Sandy Hook school shooting could have been "staged" by the government to enact gun control and “start a civil war.” Jones also accused parents who had lost their children of being so-called “crisis actors” whose job it was to sway public opinion in a favored direction.

“If questioning public events and free speech is banned because it might hurt somebody’s feelings, we are not in America anymore,” Jones said before the most recent trial. “They can change the channel. They can come out and say I’m wrong. They have free speech.”

Jones turned out to be massively wrong about Sandy Hook. He has since apologized, and rightfully so. However, does Alex Jones bring wrong about Sandy Hook mean our benevolent and loving government would never use such a tactic to sway public opinion at some point in the future? I mean, after all, we’ve seen over the past two and a half years, do you put anything past these jackals? Maybe they would and maybe they wouldn’t, but one thing is for certain - the chilling effect created by the Alex Jones trials and verdicts will work to prevent anyone of note from ever questioning such matters again. Is that a good thing? So, albeit in a roundabout way (for now), the government very much is in the business of constraining speech.

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The second reason the left libertarian argument fails here is that, while we aren’t yet seeing government-created speech codes, we are seeing large, multi-national corporations willingly sanctioning ‘unapproved’ speech, often - as journalist Alex Berenson has famously exposed - at the behest of entities within government. That alone would be bad enough, but it’s made far worse by the fact that the government has also refused to enforce laws against monopolies, creating a small cadre of multinational corporations that control far more than Teddy Roosevelt would have been comfortable with. 

Giant social media companies in particular have essentially become the de facto public square where key people go to exchange ideas. Remove a particular viewpoint from that public square, and, like a tree that falls in a forest with nobody around to hear it, you are effectively silencing that viewpoint from the overwhelming majority of the public. But it gets worst. How about when people who hold opposing viewpoints aren’t merely relegated to obscurity, but directly punished in other ways? When do internet service providers refuse to provide service to users or companies that go against the woke narrative (Parler, anyone?)? When Paypal and other platforms like it follow suit (impossible, right?)? What’s next, utility providers refusing to provide water and electricity to political dissidents? Banks refusing to allow them to operate financially? 

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That could never happen, right? 

Right?

Just ask Kanye West.

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