Don’t fall for the conservative censorship victim complex
The events of Jan. 6, 2021 need no introduction.
A month ago, the nation and the rest of the free world watched in horror as the Capitol building was breached by a fanatical Trump-supporting mob that sought to overturn an election and execute several elected officials. In the aftermath, five people, including a Capitol police officer, died, and hundreds more were injured. Several high-ranking cabinet members resigned, and representatives and senators both Republican and Democrat strongly condemned the riots, explicitly placing the blame for the incitement of the irate horde on the shoulders of former President Donald Trump himself. Trump and his repeated, unsubstantiated claims of election fraud stoked the fear, anger and prejudice of millions. Unfortunately, this is where the unity ended. In order to both prevent the spread of dangerous election-related conspiracy theories and the future planning of violent terror, nearly every social media platform, from Twitter to TikTok, banned former President Trump and suspended the accounts of thousands of his supporters. One platform in particular, the right-leaning, “free speech”-supporting Parler, was deplatformed entirely, with the App Store and Google Play Store banning its presence, and Amazon Web Services refusing to host its servers.
Predictably, the outrage present on the right in the face of such bans far eclipsed that associated with real human casualties and the desecration of a sacred American landmark. Many compared the bans to an authoritarian snuffing out of the opposition. This mantra, frequently coming from the right, is not new. Such advocates of this belief, from Prager University to Donald Trump Jr. have cited George Orwell’s dystopian science fiction novel “1984,” where an autocratic superstate maintains an iron grip over the Americas, Europe and Australia and seeks to puppeteer its subjects on virtually every possible level. Basic facts of life and reality are contradicted on a regular basis, and even the way people speak is manipulated by a regime concerned for no one and nothing, save for its own power. The instilling of a mob mentality within the people, seeing themselves as perpetually at war with the rest of the world and anyone who dares to think or speak contrary to what the state tells them, make for an impenetrable fortress of deception. The citations of this novel on the right attempt to paint conservatives and Republicans as engaging in these novellically rebellious affairs, where liberals and leftists are manipulating and controlling views of reality itself, seeking to annihilate any sort of disagreement and opposition.
Besides being a simplistic interpretation of Orwell’s cautionary tale, the arguments on the right that cite the novel, particularly in light of the attack on the Capitol, are incredibly hypocritical. Consider, for example, the events leading up to insurrection. In the months since Election Day, former President Trump and a great many of his fellow Republicans, alongside nearly every conservative media outlet in existence, have parrotted his baseless claims of election fraud. Nearly every host on major networks such as Fox News, Newsmax and OANN as well as internet personalities such as Steven Crowder and Charlie Kirk gathered behind former President Trump and his claims of a stolen election, as his campaign and accomplices at both the state and federal level engaged in unprecedented attempts to overturn its results. Finally, when the lawsuits, conspiracy theories, threats of violence against poll workers, state election officials and electors all proved futile, the spotlight was placed on former Vice President Mike Pence, whom Trump depicted as being both able to and obligated to simply ignore the certification of the votes by Congress and declare him president. The denial persisted, and, strongly resembling the militaristically contrarian mindset Orwell tried to warn us of, tens of millions believed it.
Now, it should most definitely not come as a surprise that the events of Jan. 6 were fueled by not only a foaming at the mouth, cult-like worship of one man, but by mainstream Republican support for a reality that did not exist. The storming of the Capitol was started at a rally called the “March to Save America,” depicting the attempt to overturn the election’s results as a fight for the country’s very survival, conditioned upon a successful reversal of the election’s legitimate results. The insurrectionists in the Capitol saw themselves as engaged in a just war for the fate of their idealization of America, and the otherwise mundane process of Congress affirming the results, with Pence presiding over the session as an opposing faction in denial of their perceived reality. Knowing this, the goal of the insurrectionists was never to simply wreak some havoc or delay the certification of the vote, but to impose their deluded sense of what is real upon the rest of the nation through hostage taking and public execution. Indeed, chants of “hang Mike Pence” were heard in and around the Capitol building as it was being stormed.
This, one of the most shameful days in American history, occurred precisely because this electoral charade had gone on unchecked for months, leading to the coordination of very real violence in the process. The subsequent bannings and deplatformings were directly due to the presence of a bottomless pit of lies, fomenting deep-seated feelings of militarism and the idea that anyone who dare defy the president, even by doing one’s job, is a traitor to the American people. Real-world violence and the deaths of self-perceived enemies was not an unfortunate side-effect of this hallucinatory drivel — it was an intended consequence.
Contrary to the claims that conservatives are being actively silenced, suppressed or censored, the events of Jan. 6 show the exact opposite. It is because of their massive presence on social media and news channels that these unchecked lies, broadcast for months with little to no consequence or verification, were able to reach the virulency they did. The blind worship of one man and the taking of his endless barrage of lies as the only trustworthy thing in a world that they are told is out to get them could instill nothing but anger and hatred towards those who, more objectively speaking, stand in opposition to this grand deception and big lie by virtue of simply doing their jobs. On the evening after the riots, Fox News talk show host Laura Ingraham, as if to prevent future criminal investigations and lawsuits into the network, addressed the audience of her talk show “The Ingraham Angle” directly, saying “anyone, by the way, who told you that Mike Pence would or even could overturn the decision of state electors was deceiving you.” It does not take much to realize where the deception had come from, and why it had to be stopped.