“Democracy Dies in Darkness” is the motto of the Jeff Bezos-owned Washington Post. It may sound like a warning, but more and more it seems like a summary of the left’s aspirations to control debate and shut down any opposition.
A recent example of those aspirations appeared in a column by former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich on Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s big buy of Twitter stock. The original headline — changed after widespread mockery — was this: “Elon Musk’s vision for the Internet is dangerous nonsense: Musk has long advocated a libertarian vision of an ‘uncontrolled’ internet. That’s also the dream of every dictator, strongman and demagogue.”
The mockery was understandable. “Libertarian visions” of “uncontrolled” speech haven’t actually been the stock-in-trade of dictators, strongmen and demagogues. Typically, those authoritarian figures want to silence their opponents and ensure that their own voices, and those of their satraps and sycophants, are the only ones heard.
Reich’s defenders, to the extent he has any, might claim the headline is a poor summary of his real argument, which is this: “In Musk’s vision of Twitter and the internet, he’d be the wizard behind the curtain — projecting on the world’s screen a fake image of a brave new world empowering everyone. In reality, that world would be dominated by the richest and most powerful people in the world, who wouldn’t be accountable to anyone for facts, truth, science or the common good.”
The thing is, what Reich describes is what we have now: a world in which unaccountable oligarchs like Amazon’s Bezos and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg — people who are in fact “the richest and most powerful people in the world” — use opaque algorithms to mute criticism and disagreement.