Canadian Mainstream Media Finally Says the Quiet Part Out Loud: They Hate Free Speech

For a long time, Canadian mainstream media has danced around the topic, but one piece finally straight up argued against free speech.

For years, mainstream media has been doing everything they could to portray social media in the worst possible light. Outs spend hours scouring social media platforms trying to find some random video and try and inflate the status of the video as some sort of massive trend that is destroying society. When these wild claims by mainstream media are actually investigated, it often comes out that the video in question wasn’t even that popular in the first place.

Sometimes, content creators on these platforms hit back when the mainstream media tries to portray various platforms in the worst possible light at every turn.

Personally, I’ve long held the view that the mainstream media portraying social media in the worst possible light at all times is no accident. It’s a very intentional and deliberate effort by the media companies because they view the platforms as competition to their traditional operations. More people viewing social media, for them, means less people watching their TV shows or listening to their radio stations.

It’s a problem born out of laziness on the medias part. Rather than working to harness innovation and a now not so new wave of technology, large media companies have chosen to fight it so they can go back to business as usual from back in, say, the 80’s. The net result of simply dismissing the internet as a fad that would go away on its own is that they have a financial motivation to fight the internet tooth and nail.

Ultimately, for the mainstream media, the goal is to reclaim that captive audience that carried them through the boom years. If you don’t like what is on TV, well, tough. Just go outside to the local fishing hole if you don’t like it because there’s very little speech that can be heard outside of their monopolistic networks.

Still, I also firmly think it’s not too late for the mainstream media to fully embrace technology and reap the rewards it brings. This is whether they choose to use existing platforms to reach an even broader audience or create a whole new platform for which they can thrive on. Both options are, indeed, workable if done right.

Boiled down to the most fundamental level, the mainstream media’s fight against social media is actually a fight for having the biggest megaphone. It’s a fight between the speech of a handful of members of the cultural elite and the speech of the rest of modern society. It’s a fight that the mainstream media has little to no chance in “winning”, yet it’s a fight that the mainstream media has chosen to pick out of nostalgia of the bad old days where their speech is the only speech people can hear.

So, you can imagine my surprise when one intrepid writer working for the mainstream media published a piece in the Globe and Mail finally saying the quiet part out loud. That being that they hate free speech and they are calling on government to curtail this pesky menace to society. No, really:

The states of Missouri and Louisiana accused the government of stifling their speech by pressuring platforms to downgrade or drop their posts. But the justices, including conservatives Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, didn’t sound like they were buying it.

Good. Hopefully the court’s final decision will tell the complainants where to get off. It would be a victory for regulation of the internet. But no one should get too excited. The genie is already out of the bottle and there is little likelihood of getting it back in. The greater likelihood is that extremes of free speech will continue to be tolerated, creating a pathway for more Donald Trumps.

The extremes came following the arrival of the internet and social-media platforms. They created a tsunami of free expression. Despite the grumblings we still hear about the lack of free speech, these platforms gave more of it to the masses than anything ever before.

When other communications revolutions like the printing press, radio, and television came along, they were still largely controlled by the elites. But when the internet came along, regulatory bodies like Canada’s CRTC backed off. It was open season for anything that anyone wanted to put out. No license needed. No identity verification.

With the multitudes given megaphones, what a wonderful democratic advance it was. But it came with a rather massive irony. Free speech became as much a slayer of democracy as an enabler.

Unchecked, the internet dumped megatons of raw sewage on the public square. With filters that had been around for ages now removed came mountains of misinformation and disinformation. And propaganda, polarization, child pornography. And threats against leaders and bigotry and conspiracy claptrap.

Would the rise of the hard right and Mr. Trump have been possible if the internet had been given guardrails? Not a chance. The internet gave him – before his account was suspended in 2021 – 88 million Twitter followers. With that came the freedom to circumvent traditional media and create an alternate universe, a smearsphere wherein he could lie like he breathes and get away with it.

That’s quite the comments under a headline decrying “excessive free speech”. Now, obviously, the author here is conveniently leaving a lot of things out of the equation. For instance, before Donald Trump was finally banned from then called Twitter, numerous tweets also fact checked his comments. When Trump declared that he had won the election, the Twitter fact checks quickly accompanied his comments, pointing out that the votes were still being counted at the time his comments were made. It was a long-running series of fact checks which were frequently backed up by various media sources to set the record straight.

What’s more, Trump isn’t on social media in a vacuum. For instance, President Joe Biden is also on Twitter amassing a following of 34.6 million followers. Vice President, Kamela Harris, is also on Twitter with a following of 19.8 million followers. The net result is that if you don’t like what Trump has to say, there are plenty of other people you can follow instead. Heck, if you don’t like politics in general, you can follow non-political people instead.

This is what makes working social media, and all the free speech the author decries, such a great thing. You choose who you want to listen to. Even better, if you don’t like, say, the algorithm of X/Twitter, you can not only decry it, but also create or join alternatives. If you don’t like the mill of hate that is pushed by the X/Twitter, you can join something like Mastodon or Bluesky where things work differently. If you want to stay on X/Twitter and fight against “misinformation”, then the best way you can do so is with more speech. You are in control and you choose what you want to see and what you don’t.

What’s more, decrying the internet for amplifying Trump is also a hypocritical complaint to be making in the first place. To this day, major media outlets frequently amplify Trumps voice by reporting on things he said posted to his failing social media platform, Truth Social. The examples are, of course, numerous, but here’s a couple of them. From USA Today:

“She should go to Jail along with the rest of the Unselect Committee!” Trump said Sunday in a Truth Social post.

Here’s another post on NBCNews:

After Nikki Haley dropped out of the 2024 race, former President Donald Trump responded on Truth Social mocking the former South Carolina governor and called on her supporters to join his “movement.”

Here’s another post on the New York Times:

After the event ended, Mr. Trump’s accounts on Truth Social and Instagram featured a video in which Snapchat-like filters toggled over what appeared to be Mr. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris at the 2023 State of the Union.

One segment showed Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris with googly eyes and wide, menacing smiles while he discussed the Buy American Act; another gave them cowboy hats and braided hair as Mr. Biden talked about insulin caps.

Then there’s CNN with a video quoting Trump on Truth Social.

One more example is Forbes which posted this:

Former President Donald Trump broke his silence on Alexei Navalny’s death on Truth Social, in two posts that seemingly compared his current legal woes to the Russian dissident—and did not condemn Russian President Vladimir Putin.

You want to complain about Trump’s voice being amplified? Look in the freaking mirror. If you are quoting Trump on Truth Social, you are amplifying his voice. Plain and simple.

Now, another thing that has been long noted is the decline of mainstream media. Outlets have had their ranks reduced and the quality of their product suffered as a result. Today, media companies are simply hawking talking points of whatever major political party they happen to back, or pushing outright disinformation on legislation they happen to support (Bill C-18 is a huge example of this). Bizarrely, the author of the Globe piece blames the internet for that:

The internet undermined the established newspaper business model, greatly reducing the number of papers and coverage and creating a void for Mr. Trump and the like-minded to fill. His cries of fake news had the impact – it’s charted well in former Washington Post editor Martin Barron’s book, Collision of Power – of compartmentalizing the media landscape into left-right silos, which helped bring on the extremes of polarization.

Uh, does the author not realize that others might actually be reading this? After all, the media companies themselves control what they publish. If the content is poor quality, that is the media companies problem, not an internet problem. The thought that it’s all the Internet’s fault for making the media companies produce garbage content is extremely laughably. Pro tip: You wrote that garbage. No one pointed a gun at your head and made you write terrible articles. You are at fault here, no one else.

Now, we could have a debate at where the cause within the media company is. Is this just garbage journalists writing garbage content or is it media heads shooting down quality ideas in favour of producing garbage? There are plenty of examples where it is the companies leadership that is at fault there. So, honestly, it’s probably a debate that can be handled on a case by case basis. Again, though, you can’t blame the freaking Internet for you writing awful articles.

yet, rather than the obvious choice of “do better”, the author says that the solution is to curtail the speech on social media through heavy government regulation:

The way to reverse the trend is with rigid regulation, but the free speech lobby in the United States is as fierce as the gun lobby. The historic triumph the internet gave free speech is all but forgotten. The amnesiacs scream censorship. Joe Biden is out “to crush free speech in America,” Mr. Trump ludicrously charged recently.

A New York Times analysis this week spelled out how Mr. Biden was intent on regulating the big tech companies, but in the face of the opposition from the free speech lobby he has pretty much given up.

Wow… just… wow. The historical significance of a media outlet publishing a piece like this decrying freedom of expression cannot be understated here. Media companies have long been considered a check to government power. They so often consider themselves things like the “fourth estate” or the “fifth estate”. They report the news and hold power accountable through… drum roll… speech.

In fact, there have been many landmark court battles fighting for this. There have been governments trying to silence media companies when they publish stories of outright government corruption in the past (and that will likely happen in the future as well). I’m willing to bet money in saying that, in those cases, the media will have no problem being highly pro free speech there. They have rights to freedom of expression in doing their work! They are journalists and their rights to do their work are constitutionally protected!

Yet, when others have that same power to freedom of expression, suddenly, their tune changes. Suddenly, we are debating whether or not there is “excessive free speech”. What’s more, people who think freedom of expression are some sort of anti-democratic shadow lobby group trying to destroy democracy. What this piece clearly demonstrates is “free speech for me, but not for thee”. Ultimately, that is not a rallying cry for free speech.

The article then concludes with this:

In Canada, the Trudeau government’s regulation attempts are being met with intense opposition – deservedly so in some cases, because legislation such as Bill C-63 goes way overboard in calling for life sentences for speech crimes and needs to be redrafted.

But the dangers of the deregulated informationsphere are nowhere near what it is south of the border, where Mr. Trump and company have turned free speech into warped speech and could take the country off the rails. Small victories like we saw from the Supreme Court this week are too little too late – not enough to rein in the demons that have been set loose.

Yeah, just to let you know, the demons he speaks of is actually democracy. Don’t get me wrong, I think Trump should be answering for all the crime he has committed, but calls for government to curtail speech is completely irresponsible for anyone in the journalism sector.

It’s extremely dangerous because the person in power can very easily be someone you don’t like. If you want government to control speech, it will apply to a Prime Minister who has an axe to grind against you. Invariably, it will bite you in the rear sooner or later. By that point, though, it would be too late to go back to that free speech you are currently decrying. That’s a big reason why people like me are so dead set against such calls for government to control speech. After all, this is one of the foundations for which dictatorships are formed – the control of expression.

(Hat tip: @Pagmenzies)

Drew Wilson on Mastodon, Twitter and Facebook.

1 thought on “Canadian Mainstream Media Finally Says the Quiet Part Out Loud: They Hate Free Speech”

  1. The Supreme Court case mentioned by the writer has nothing to do with regulating the internet as the writer claims. It deals with whether the US governments violated the first amendment by encouraging, not requiring, social media companies to remove covid misinformation from their platforms. Claiming the case is about internet regulation is simply misinformation.

    Also, blaming all the current division on social media ignores the impact of talk radio, FOX News, and others have had on the culture wars.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top