Recently Hillary Clinton blasted Facebook, Tweeting:
Facebook's decision to allow false information in political advertisements is appalling.
Voters are being confronted by millions of pieces of misinformation.
A world where up is down and down is up is a world where democracy can't thrive.
Other Democrats joined in. Virginia Senator Mark Warner said: “Facebook's new ads policy allows politicians to run demonstrably false advertising on its platform. I don't think that's right.”
Both Clinton and Warner were referring to Facebook’s announced policy of exempting political ads from fact-checking. But in a world where Snopes fact checks the satirical Babylon Bee, we should all be skeptical of the fact-checking they have in mind.
It’s hard to imagine good intentions motivate these politicians. In any case, good intentions are not enough. Media fact-checking can easily be biased and result in censorship of views critical to various candidates.
Imagine, for a moment, what might happen if various Democrat politicians came under attack by opponent ads. Let’s say Hillary Clinton runs for president again. Would she demand the media ban an ad that begins, “Hillary Clinton says she is a champion of women’s rights. Then why does she protect powerful men suspected of rape?”
If Elizabeth Warren gets the Democratic nomination, would she ask for a ban on a hard-hitting ad that says something like:
Elizabeth Warren is a serial liar. Now she is lying again when she says the middle class won’t pay for her vast new spending programs. Economist Antony Davies says: ‘The 550 US billionaires together are worth $2.5 trillion. If we confiscated 100% of their wealth, we'd raise enough to run the federal government for less than 8 months. Perhaps our problem isn't how much billionaires have but how much politicians spend.’ Senator Warren, your facts are wrong again.
If Bernie Sanders gets the nomination, he’d be outraged by an ad questioning why Sanders cozies up to communist dictators or one questioning his wife’s financial dealings.
How about a potential ad targeting Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan Omar? “Minnesota has a proud history of tolerance. There is no room for an anti-Semitic hate monger in Congress.” Will a future fact-checker reject this ad because Omar and her supporters claim critics are “twisting her words”?
But let’s go beyond politicians. What about ads for public policies?
Should ads that argue for a ban on exposing young children to bewildering information on gender dysphoria be banned as “hateful”? Just over ten years ago, confusion over sexual identity was called gender identity disorder; no professional would have recommended that a seven-year-old boy begin transitioning to a girl at the urging of a parent.
Or imagine the outrage over a campaign ad calling for an overhaul of welfare programs saying the worst poverty “is not material poverty but poverty of soul.” Fact-checkers might say the ad blames innocent victims of poverty and is therefore false.
Since the official verdict is that Jeffrey Epstein committed suicide, would a fact-checker reject an ad demanding an investigation into the coverup of his possible murder?
Recently Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook's Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg held a two hour “no-holds-barred” meeting with Al Sharpton and other “civil rights activists.” The meeting took place at Zuckerberg's home; discussions centered on Sharpton’s objections to Facebook’s “decision not to fact-check ads and other content from politicians.”
Al Sharpton was one promoter of the infamous Tawana Brawley hoax. His history of accuracy is about as good as Alex Jones’, who initially claimed that the Sandy Hook school massacre was a hoax. I don’t expect that Zuckerberg will sit down with Alex Jones to hear his demands soon.
Political commentary and political ads have long included elements short on facts. Vigorous campaigns are a strength of our political system, not a weakness. Unlike other countries where “slandering” the leader can lead to imprisonment or death, politicians in America are not above criticism.
In Nazi Germany, it was an official fact that Jews were Untermensch, subhuman mongrels. In pre-Civil War America, it was a fact that slaveowners could treat blacks as property. Freedom of speech allows individuals to challenge “facts.”
Collectivists, including democratic socialists, always aim to suppress speech. Because their plans never stand up to reality, they must stifle the resulting dissent. Is that why Hillary Clinton and others want to suppress alternative views?
“Whether you can observe a thing depends upon the theory which you use,” observed Einstein. Often what is being disputed in politics are not facts but interpretations of events. If you have the right politics, there are very few things the media will not overlook.
Suppression of speech – not “false information” – threatens our Republic.
[Image Credit: Pixabay]
Barry Brownstein is professor emeritus of economics and leadership at the University of Baltimore. He is the author of The Inner-Work of Leadership. To receive Barry's essays subscribe at Mindset Shifts.