By Dan Carlson
Columnist Prairie Ponderings 

The Silencing

 

January 13, 2021

The storming of the nation’s capitol was not only illegal and reprehensible, but the extent of damage done to the maintenance of a viable democracy is not yet known.

That afternoon did more to reinforce the negative stereotypes already held by half the country about republicans and conservatives than the political left could have dreamed of, and the resulting footage of barbarians storming the gates will be seen in campaign commercials for the next decade.

Never mind that those who actually took part in the capitol invasion were only an estimated two to three percent of those who attended the rally earlier in the day.

The consequences of that dark day have included a massive crackdown by big tech companies on the social media accounts of conservative voices, but also the platforms and services that hosted those voices. Sudden removal of accounts and platforms effectively silenced many voices on the political right, some of which were guilty only of voicing views contrary to the narratives of the political left.


When I look at samples from Parler cited in the reason for its ban, I must agree that the content shown was dangerous, alarming and needed moderation. But why was there still similar content on Twitter (as of Sunday) advocating violence against Trump supporters and republicans. Any semblance of fairness is eradicated when rules are not evenly enforced.

Arbitrary elimination of political voices is ill-advised. A cause of both the BLM riots of last year and the recent riot in Washington is the perception held by a large number of Americans (both on the political left and right) that their voices are not being heard. Further reduction of the ability for public self-expression will only exacerbate that perception and, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said in his 1967 speech entitled “The Other America,”… “in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard.” I’m in no way legitimizing riots and violence, but calling attention to the fact that the current course taken by big tech, if unchecked, may be a contributing factor to even more violence and unrest in the future.


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People need to vent.

Sadly, we seem to have lost our ability to debate civilly. Rather than engage in the arena of ideas, some prefer to call for the silencing of those with whom they disagree. Why? Is it fear of discovering long-held beliefs may need modification? Or fear a persuasive argument might sway the views of others away from theirs? If so, we must remember the words of Master Yoda, “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”


In the last week there have been calls for the Sidney Sun-Telegraph to end my columns. The accusation is that they spread hate and conspiracies. Specific examples or quotations from my content were not provided, and review of my columns has found no hatred and nothing that cannot be verified. Nonetheless, the effort to silence has come even here. So now, more than ever, if you find enjoyment or value in reading what I write, the time has come for you to let this newspaper know. After all, who else quotes MLK and Yoda in the same piece?

 

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