Saturday, February 22, 2020

The unionization of self-broadcast "free" speech

Today I noticed a story in a Richmond VA newspaper about proposed legislation in Virginia to protect people with disabilities from discrimination in receiving organ transplantation when medically necessary for lifesaving.  I had never thought about this as an issue.  My immediate personal reaction is that when families have children, there’s always a risk like this (which I would encounter in special education when I worked as a substitute teacher).  But this doesn’t happen in most well-off families or to single people who remain childless, usually.
So, here I go with in meta-post mode.  The Left will say to me, if you mention this at all, why aren’t you in the streets fighting for it?  To blog about stuff gratuitously, without skin in the game, would have been seen as just objective issue discussion ten years ago.  Now it is seen by the far Left as a form of indirect bullying, and the tech industry feels the pressure.

Indeed, I do fear that in a few more years we may well see an environment where you get to speak for yourself online only if you will speak to others first, as with the issue I have with Facebook’s constantly prodding me to “add a donate button” when I post about something yesterday (it happened yesterday when I quote the CDC talking about the possibility of ordinary people’s freedom of movement or activity being restricted if contact tracing reports they were in accidental close contact with someone infected with Covid-19).  
As far as the combativeness of the Left goes, I do get it.  Some groups feel more threatened when assembled in public, especially by the less-hidden extreme alt-right today than they were a few years ago (before Charlottesville and before Trump’s election) by radical Islam (Pulse, Bataclan in Paris, etc), which was perceived as “easier” to sift out in advance and less connected to western society.  Some also see a political threat of a return to authoritarianism, with Trump’s disregard of normal decorum when combined with “gratuitous speech” from those with no real personal stake in the difficulties that (intersectional) groups claim they have. In the view of the Left, no one should feel above having to march in protest or join a movement.
Big Tech really wants to see people run genuine consumer-oriented businesses online – see authors sell books themselves, for example (and compete with Amazon?).  In the past, persistent identifiers have hidden the problem that most people really are not in a very good position to do this if that is the only way to be known online, unless you raise money for somebody else first (and you “belong” to that somebody else).

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