Where to draw the line?
It’s a good question.
Though I would never call myself an anarchist, due to the fundamental impracticalities of anarchy as a political system (at least in the current stage of civilisation), I do tend to subscribe to anarchist principals. I think that authority is the root of all evil. Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely and so on. That being true in my view, none the less, authority must be accepted as a given reality in our world. Some are stronger, richer and more connected than others. They have no plans to willingly give up this power and as such there is a hierarchy of agency on this planet that cannot be wished away.
I fully agree SER8 that “those enjoying power wealth and privilege under the status quo” have always used information control to shape narratives which justify their behaviours and I also agree that in the internet age, info-glut has increasingly become a key strategy in the way media is controlled. The quality of information has been degraded as the amount of information has been increased. This process has happened naturally to an extent but it has no doubt been facilitated and even instigated in no small amount by the powers who should not be. I would suggest that this started well before Trump, but there is no doubt the process has become turbo charged in recent years.
Seeing this situation, many people have developed an inclination to solve the problem by weeding out the “disinformation”. But who does the weeding? Who decides what is true? Is it the very same people who have facilitated this degradation of information?
Some people might have the view that Donald Trump and his cronies or Scott Morrison caused the problem and they might be quite happy for Biden or Albanese to fix it. Let our team do the weeding they may think. But I find this kind of partisan thinking very naïve. I ask, who actually are “those enjoying power wealth and privilege under the status quo”? Who is really controlling the narratives that permeate our media and social media environments? In my view the people with the most agency are those with capital and connections who are not hamstrung by political terms and political messaging requirements. Its people with board level decision making power in the world’s most influential media companies, finance companies, arms manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies.
It’s obviously a matter of contention because the operations of these entities are far less transparent than the already murky operations of governments. Never the less I have formed the view over many years of interest in how power works on the planet, that team red and team blue are both subservient ancillaries of the corporate class. I generally see modern politics, at least in so far as it is presented to the broader population, as more akin to news media than executive power.
In this context I certainly agree that Musk’s takeover of twitter is indeed part of an information degradation strategy on the part of the billionaire class. However in my view, it does not automatically mean the information being allowed on twitter (but not on Facebook or Instagram) is wrong. It’s not as simple as that. The point of disinformation, as is inferred in SER8’s original post is to cast doubt on actual true facts that might threaten the legitimacy of the ruling class’s status quo. To confuse and polarize the population. Whatever anyone thinks about the executive power of western governments, most objective people can agree that in general, populations are confused and polarized to a large extent.
This increasing discombobulation and polarization has among its effects, an increasing willingness in the broader population to accept censorship of information, at least if it seems as though it’s part of a political struggle against the “other side”. And this is where the narrative managers are a lot smarter than you might think. 20 years ago, the antiwar message was primarily on the “left”. At that time the right was in power in the US with the support of the media establishment and the so called war on terror was being orchestrated to the benefit of the ruling class. 20 years later there has been a political inversion. The antiwar message is now primarily on the “right” as the left is in power in the US and are extracting hundreds of billions from their tax base for war, and are inching the world towards WWIII, again for the benefit of the ruling class. This is just one example of narrative control.
It’s a complex world with many conflicting narratives. But this is where freedom of speech comes in. Ultimately, one hopes truth can prevail in the marketplace of ideas. Given a level playing field one imagines that the mechanism of logic can slowly overcome the partisan biases. But when the powers that shouldn’t be are gifted censorial control by a compliant public, the marketplace will be selling the products that produce a profit for the ruling class. This is the path to totalitarianism. It might be argued that we are a good distance down that path already. Check Mussolini's definition of fascism and cast an eye over the political situation in the world.
So where is the line?
I agree with ElectricEagle. In so far as instigating violence is against the law, so should it be on the internet, provided there is due process and the speech constitutes a credible threat or instigation.
What absolutely should not be censored is opinions about science, sociological or philosophical issues and politics that go against the dominant ideological framework being presented at any one time by the political/media class, because we can be assured that the dominant ideological framework is so because “those enjoying power wealth and privilege under the status quo” want it to be. You may not believe they own the politicians as I do, but you surely believe they own the media companies and control the social media algorithms.
It’s kind of separate to the censorship/freedom of speech topic, but if you ask me, the primary strategy that “those enjoying power wealth and privilege under the status quo” are enacting is social division. Keeping people focused of cultural issues and continually promoting narratives that are bound to be controversial on a cultural or social level. They seem to be herding people into clearly defined socio-ideological teams and then seeking to enrage them by presenting them with click bait that goes against their cultural sensitivities. In this way they prevent groups who actually agree on economic matters, war and class disparity from coming together to resist the architects of the sorry state of affairs the world is becoming, due to distaste about the “other side’s” cultural proclivities. Personally, I think social polarization is the barrier to real change in the class situation, so an activist who want’s real change in the class situation should be looking at de-polarization as a key strategy.