On Dec. 14, 2012, a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut resulted in the deaths of 20 children and six staffers. Alex Jones, a controversial far-right talk show host, called the Sandy Hook massacre a U.S. government hoax, staged using crisis actors, to serve as a pretext for gun control. Parents of one of the slain children filed a defamation suit against Jones, claiming that followers of Jones had harassed them and sent them death threats for years in the false belief that they were lying about their son’s death.
Jones’s defense was his right to free speech and that he was not responsible for the harassment. He lost. The jury awarded the parents $45.2 million in punitive damages on top of $4.1 million in compensatory damages — another example of outrageous damage verdicts that plague the legal system.
Freedom of speech is coming under attack from all directions. The primary assault is based on the existence of a new “right”: the right not to be offended. It is claimed by many on the left that the right not to be offended is more important than the right to free expression.
Our colleges and universities have fallen victim to this new “right.” The feelings of students often constitute sufficient justification for campus censorship. If a conservative speaker offends some of the students, that speaker can be denied a platform. “The belief that free speech rights don’t include the right to speak offensively is now firmly entrenched on campuses and enforced by repressive speech or harassment codes,” wrote attorney Wendy Kaminer in The Atlantic.
The problem is spreading to the mainstream. In the 2010 case of Nurre v. Whitehead, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld lower court rulings that school authorities can deny students’ rights to free speech just to keep other students from being offended. The courts are “allowing schools the discretion to let an offended minority control a cowed majority,” constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead wrote in the Huffington Post. “There is no way to completely avoid giving offense,” he said. “At some time or other, someone is going to take offense at something someone else says or does. It’s inevitable. Such politically correct thinking has resulted in a host of inane actions, from the Easter Bunny being renamed ‘Peter Rabbit’ to Christmas Concerts being dubbed ‘Winter’ Concerts.”
In a democratic republic, there can be no right not to be offended. If anyone can prohibit another person’s speech because it’s offensive, there is no limit to the restrictions that can be placed on free expression. As the late author Christopher Hitchens said, “[f]reedom of speech must include the license to offend.”
One of the main outlets who pushed the censorship of Alex Jones and others was Mother Jones. When Alex Jones was wiped from the internet, Mother Jones praised it, running the headline, “Facebook Finally Removes Another 22 Alex Jones Accounts.” This was one of several articles.
“These three add nothing to planet Earth by their existence, so I don’t mind banning them,” wrote Mother Jones contributor, Kevin Drum, in an article about the censorship of Alex Jones, Louis Farrakhan, and Milo Yiannopoulos.
But now, those words are coming back to haunt them and they are likely realizing the error of their ways.
Mother Jones is now waging a campaign to expose the exact same censorship used to wipe out their political rivals — because it is being used against them.
Joe Rogan debuted Monday night on Spotify. For two reasons, the licensing deal has dominated the media discussion: 1) it is worth $100 million; and 2) his wide-ranging listeners feared the deal would change the show.
Yesterday, the second fear proved well-founded. Spotify uploaded Rogan’s archive with past episodes but noticeably left off some of the most newsworthy: the appearances from Alex Jones.
Jones is wild, dangerously unpredictable, and the poster child of tech de-platforming. Which is why he’s so important to Rogan’s legacy. Personalities like Jones are what made Rogan’s podcast distinctive.
The Joe Rogan Experience welcomed everyone. And allowed them to think and say anything. From comedians to fighters, from pundits to entrepreneurs, from independent thinkers to conspiracy theorists. If JRE has an identity, it is that all conversations are permitted. — no holds barred.
Today, Rogan’s listeners are disappointed and vindicated. Just search “Rogan, Alex Jones” on Twitter.
The Feb. 27, 2019 episode with Jones has over 22 million YouTube views.
Jones wasn’t the only guest Spotify deleted. Newsweek pointed out the list is rather large. Milo Yiannopoulos, CensoredTV’s Gavin McInnes, Chris D’Elia, Jordan Peterson’s daughter, Mikhaila Peterson, Louis Theroux, Owen Benjamin, and Joey Diaz were also left out.
It’s unknown if Rogan signed off on this. Rogan, more than anyone else, has fought back against cancel culture and suppression of free speech. Rogan has yet to comment on the missing episodes.