Social media has been flooded with material glorifying terrorism
Social media has been flooded with material glorifying terrorism Palestinian Media Watch

Righteous indignation is a legitimate response to injustice and inequity, but selective outrage is not. Whereas the former is a gut reaction to senseless hatred, incitement, or powerlessness, the latter is a tool for disparaging political opponents and dissenting viewpoints while ignoring the misdeeds and biases of friends and allies. The selectively outraged among us typically have little regard for history and often manipulate facts to fit their resentments. And it was this kind of selective outrage that may well have facilitated the sweeping suspension of Donald Trump from social media following a chaotic demonstration by a mob of his supporters at the U.S. Capitol.

President Trump was excoriated for urging election fraud protestors “to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard” on Capitol Hill and for his initial response to the ensuing violence. He was then banned by Twitter “due to risk of further incitement of violence” and subsequently by other social media providers. Though private companies are free to ban users for violating platform rules (and while his messaging was certainly provocative), not everybody believes the rules are enforced uniformly. Nobody seemed to care in 2018, for example, when Sen. Elizabeth Warren stirred up crowds protesting Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings not long after tweeting a previously-altered video portraying him in a negative light. There was no condemnation then, despite reports that 164 rioters were arrested for pummeling the Court’s doors, threatening Kavanaugh supporters, and attempting to occupy the Capitol.

The social media establishment’s grandiloquence in banning Trump contrasts with its lack of outrage regarding Warren in 2018. Furthermore, its stated aversion to inflammatory rhetoric appears selective given its ongoing failure to shut down those who express anti-Jewish hostility but are shielded from criticism by sympathetic politicians and the mainstream press.

This is not to excuse Trump’s behavior but to highlight the inconsistency that permeates a media landscape in which conservative protests are routinely termed violent, anarchic progressive riots are glowingly described as democracy in action, and leftist or minority antisemitism is rationalized as political expression.

In permanently banning Trump from its platform, Twitter released a statement with the following preamble:

After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them — specifically how they are being received and interpreted on and off Twitter — we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence.

Taking these words at face value, reasonable people might question why similar sentiments are not expressed across social media to exclude those who disseminate odious antisemitic stereotypes, conspiracy theories, and revisionist mythology. One does not have to be a Trump apologist to see that incitement against Jews or the Jewish State does not seem to arouse sufficient concern to warrant expulsion from many platforms and websites.

Indeed, many continue to carry content from Louis Farrakhan, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Linda Sarsour, and others known for controversial, insensitive, or offensive views or comments regarding Jews or Israel. If stereotypes of Jewish financial control and dual allegiances constitute incitement – and if exacerbation of incitement is truly problematic – why do such themes continue to pollute the virtual universe?

This question applies to all forms of internet and social media. It took years of lobbying by Jewish groups, for example, before Facebook finally conceded in 2020 that Holocaust denial should be banned as antisemitic. Nevertheless, conspiracy theories regarding the Rothschilds and claims of disproportionate Jewish influence and control are still accessible on many platforms. And one has to wonder why ISIS was ever allowed access to social media – or how dictators like Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of Iran, and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey can maintain social media presences.

In some ways, the internet has come to resemble medieval Europe during the time of the Black Death, when Jews were accused of causing death and disease by poisoning the wells of Christians. Cyberspace is cluttered with bogus conspiracy claims that Israel created COVID-19 and refuses to treat or vaccinate Arabs; and these tropes often surface on multiple platforms, blogs and websites with reckless abandon. Demonizing Trump’s clumsy, provocative, or insulting comments – while ignoring the hawkers of repugnant myths used in past generations to justify ghettos, crusades, pogroms, and genocide – reflects gross moral blindness.

Trump’s social media critics wring their hands and cry that his presidency somehow compromised their freedoms. Yet, in expelling him but not dictators and antisemites, they display a disregard for free speech that actually does threaten societal norms. This lack of consistency should concern those in government but is instead enabled by progressive politicians and their constituencies.

Perhaps a more sober analysis regarding speech was offered by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who stated through spokesman Steffen Seibert that “this fundamental right can be intervened in, but according to the law and within the framework defined by legislators–not according to a decision by the management of social media platforms.” Seibert said Merkle “considers it problematic that the accounts of the [now former] US president have now been permanently blocked.”

Russian journalist Alexei Navalny, the Putin critic who survived two assassination attempts by poisoning, likewise criticized Twitter, calling its Trump ban “…an unacceptable act of censorship.”

It seems ironic that the leader of a nation with a dark totalitarian past understands better than American politicians the constitutional threat posed by unelected media elites whose actions chill speech and dissent. Conversely, many elected officials in the U.S. – primarily progressive Democrats – applaud such repressive excess; and in so doing dishonor the Constitutional values they swore to uphold in taking their oath of office.

Though social media platforms deny they are news organizations, they nevertheless have replaced the public square for disseminating information. Unfortunately, they do not simply present content from which readers can draw their own conclusions, but often manipulate it using criteria that are unevenly applied. And they do so consistent with political and social values that debase speech, discourage dissent, and legitimize prejudices (e.g., unbalanced hatred of Israel) deemed acceptable by the progressive left.

Long before the current imbroglio, U.S. lawmakers attempted to control speech through hate-crimes legislation, without regard for its restrictive impact on public discourse. Such laws might have been well-intended, but they may also have emboldened those who would criminalize belief, thought, and expression. Thus, concern for civil liberties is especially timely given social media’s attempted regulation of discourse through selectively-enforced standards of civility.

And despite pontificating about the dangers of incitement, the boosters and sages of social, internet, and mainstream media do not seem terribly bothered by the provocative antisemitism that often finds its way onto their platforms. Or by the presence of oppressive, totalitarian dictators.

As private companies, social media organizations can exclude anybody they claim violates their platform rules; and if Trump has in fact done so, then so be it. However, it is disingenuous to claim the mantle of social responsibility when “woke” antisemites are not blanketly precluded and progressive incitement persists with little or no criticism.

George Orwell couldn’t have written a more dystopian tale – or a timelier one.

Matthew M. Hausman, J.D., is a trial attorney and writer who lives and works in Connecticut. A former journalist, Mr. Hausman continues to write on a variety of topics, including science, health and medicine, Jewish issues and foreign affairs, and has been a legal affairs columnist for a number of publications.

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