At any given moment, hundreds of thousands of Americans are railing about their constitutional rights, mainly focusing on the First or Second Amendment. It's too bad 95 percent of the noisemakers have no clue what either liberty entails.
At the moment, fans of President Donald Trump are wailing about the "censorship" social media platforms have imposed upon him and other purported agitators who had a role in what happened at the U.S. Capitol last week. They claim Twitter and Facebook committed illegal acts by refusing to serve as a mouthpiece for fomenting discord, inciting violence, and spouting vicious lies.
Got news – real news: The social media companies don't owe Trump or anyone else a soapbox. Neither does any newspaper, TV or radio station, or internet forum. When the First Amendment refers to "freedom of the press," it's referring to "the press" itself – not an individual person, even the president. Those who own "the press" – which includes any type of media – have the liberty to do with it as they will. That may include even a solitary blogger who, in theory, owns the "right" to his platform.
It's unlikely that any reader of the Tahlequah Daily Press doesn't grasp this concept, because we've said it repeatedly. But just in case a clueless type happens to home in on this particular message, the thrust is this: "Censorship" – in the sense that it's illegal – is the suppression of free speech or the free press by the government. When the free press sets standards that quell hate speech or limit attacks on readers, viewers, listeners or followers, it has the right to do that – and some would argue, the responsibility to do it. Others may question the wisdom of it, but that's beside the point.
In this country, the media are private businesses and corporations – the product of that "free enterprise" system conservatives used to tout before Trump waddled to the forefront – to paraphrase former Sen. Tom Coburn, bloviating and blustering. Hate speech, threats, and inciting riots aren't covered under the umbrella of protected speech. Lies aren't covered, either. If a newspaper like TDP printed lies such as those spewed daily by many politicians, we'd be sued out of existence. In our world, that's called libel; in the broadcast world, it's slander.
Even Trump's most ardent supporters have to admit that his firebrand speeches, even if somewhat disjointed, spurred a certain group of violent bigots, crusading under the false banner of patriotism, to attack the Capitol. Many are calling it a failed coup; others, an insurrection. Whatever label one chooses to bestow, five people lost their lives, and the riot hit at the very heart of our democracy.
When Twitter, Facebook and other social media outfits put the kibosh on Trump's rhetoric, they were exercising their own rights. He and his core supporters are going to have to come to grips with the fact that he got what he deserved. People inclined to follow down that dark path on other social media timelines – including TDP's – can expect to hit the same brick wall.