Nor is Simon and Shuster deciding not to publish Josh Hawley’s book an “Orwellian” on the First Amemdment as Hawley claims.
Before explaining why I must admit to bias. I assume conservatives making this argument are not arguing in good faith. If Simon & Shuster or Twitter had deplatformed A-OC, the right wing would celebrate. Their concept of the First Amendment is that entitles them to say whatever they want (broadly true, with some limits) and never pay any sort of penalty (not true at all). But even if they’re making their case in good faith, their argument does not hold water. To use a non-political example, let me tell you about Piers Anthony.
About 30 years ago, I heard Anthony at a con complaining that some bookstores refuse to carry his books (I’m guessing because of sexism and pedophilia) which was censorship. He could understand not carrying his books if they didn’t sell, but as long as they were profitable, it was unethical and anti-free speech not to carry them.
This is bullshit. A bookstore is under no obligation to sell a book they don’t want to, any more than Simon & Shuster is required to publish one. Christian bookstores don’t carry The Satanic Bible. Publishers that specialize in serious literature (if there are any left) don’t reprint Mickey Spillane. It’s perfectly reasonable to criticize their standards but it doesn’t violate anyone’s rights to have standards.
It’s the same thing with Twitter and other internet giants such as Facebook, Instagram or Amazon. They have every right to set standards for what can be said/published/sold on their websites. The standards may be bad, but having standards and enforcing them is legit. There are exceptions — I imagine a blanket ban based on race/orientation/gender/religion would violate federal law — but “no, you may not call for insurrection against the government to keep yourself in office” isn’t in that class. Contrary to pundit Conor Friedersdorf, yes, I’d support that standard if Ihlan Omar or Hilary Clinton were calling for insurrection. If they were banned for being Democrats I’d say that was objectionable, but Trump’s choice of party is not the issue.
It’s true that being cut off from a major publishing deal or being shut out of Facebook or Twitter can sharply limit someone’s ability to find an audience, get their message out or sell products, but that doesn’t make it censorship. Particularly not in the 21st century: nobody’s censored or silenced if they have access to the Internet. We can spread conspiracy theories on our own website or through email (remember when that’s how we learned about the latest nutty conspiracy theory?) and sell books through channels besides Amazon. As president Trump can call news conferences, issue press releases, give interviews to right-wing media, make speeches; he may be able to keep doing that after he’s out of office. He hasn’t been silenced, he’s simply lost the ability to hurl his half-voiced thoughts into the public sphere. Hawley will probably have no trouble finding a right-wing publisher (there are several) to put out his book. He can also self-publish; financially it’s not as good a deal, but that’s not censorship.
If conservatives want to prove their concerned about free speech and fairness, why stop with Twitter? Sinclair Broadcast Group has bought up many local TV stations and pushes a hard conservative line in news segments. So far, conservatives don’t see Sinclair’s bias as an issue that needs addressing. Like I said, not arguing in good faith. Or even logic. I’m seeing arguments such as Trump’s ban being a violation of habeas corpus. Pundit Kathleen Parker argues that America is better off if we know what Trump’s thinking, as if we don’t already know. She also argues that as terrorists and hate groups organized and recruited pre-Internet, letting them do so online can’t possibly be an issue (for just one counter-argument, look at the impact of QAnon).
I’ll close with Alexandra Petri’s dead-on mockery of the right-wing use of Orwellian: “‘What is in Room 101?” he wondered. But he had always known. The thing that was in Room 101 was the worst thing in the world. He opened the door and quailed in the anticipation of pain. Yes, there it was: a sign asking him to put on a mask while he shopped in a store.”