Opinion

Why It’s Absurd To Think Twitter Can Be Neutral

Republicans and conservatives have got to catch wise, and fast.

   DailyWire.com
In this photo illustration, a Twitter logo is displayed on a mobile phone with President Trump's Twitter page shown in the background on May 27, 2020, in Arlington, Virginia. - US President Donald Trump threatened Wednesday to shutter social media platforms after Twitter for the first time acted against his false tweets, prompting the enraged Republican to double down on unsubstantiated claims and conspiracy theories. Twitter tagged two of Trump's tweets in which he claimed that more mail-in voting would lead to what he called a "Rigged Election" this November. (Photo by Olivier DOULIERY / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)
Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

#DefundNPR is trending on Twitter. The reason for this is that National Public Radio — you know, that sinkhole where your tax dollars go — issued a statement about why it is not covering the developing story about Hunter Biden’s overseas business deals and the potential implications for his father, Joe. Much like Twitter itself — which blocked circulation of the story along with Facebook, and which shut down the account of the New York Post, one of America’s longest-running papers, for days after the Hunter story broke — NPR has responded to charges of censorship with vague grumblings about the validity of the sources. These of course are concerns that NPR mysteriously never raised while pumping 24/7 coverage of the ludicrous Steele Dossier and its Russian collusion canard into our ears.

The reality is, as everyone knows, these rules are made up by big tech and legacy media as they go along in a desperate effort to shut conservatives out of the public square before they tell too much truth about Joe Biden and hurt his chances at the presidency. In this case it seems to have backfired by drawing more, rather than less, attention to the Hunter story. But there’s something more important going on, which merits attention for the long term — and it has to do with how Twitter itself is reporting the #DefundNPR hashtag.

Trends on Twitter come with little explanations, and here is the one for #DefundNPR: “A contingent of Republicans want to ‘defund NPR’ after the non-profit media organization defended its decision not to publish stories on the controversial NY Post article about Hunter Biden.”

Almost every word of this is dishonest. It’s not some marginal “contingent of Republicans” that is appalled at the partisanship of our digital forums — plenty of centrists are appalled too. They have every reason to be. And the only reason the Post bombshell is “controversial” is because from the minute it broke, the clowns at NPR, Twitter, Facebook, the New York Times, and all the other dumpster fires we call media organizations have been fabricating ludicrous controversy about it precisely so they could discredit it.

So it’s not just the stories we’re reading online that are biased: it’s the way in which those stories are framed and presented to us.

Twitter knows what it’s doing when it swaddles a potentially explosive story in language designed to make it look like the fringe concern of partisan hacks. It’s shaping what we know and think by shaping the context in which we receive new information.

For my money, this completely explodes the naïve idea — which has long held Republicans back from legislating strongly on this issue — that human curators like Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey can run some sort of “neutral” public square. The comparison that is often made between Twitter and an internet or phone service provider is not just flawed: it’s a category error.

The reason for this is structural: when it comes to media venues, there is no such thing as a simple blank space into which all available opinions and facts are dumped equally without favor. There are human beings who build institutions, and those institutions make choices about what you will find out and how it will be framed. Some of them — like Twitter — lie about that and pretend to be neutral.

But in this case “neutral” is just another word for “my values are the ones which are non-negotiable because they don’t even count as values.”

Republicans need to wise up to this, and fast. If we are really going to have free speech in this country, we simply cannot allow platforms like Twitter to hold a functional monopoly on the attention of the American people. When conservative pundits make excuses for Twitter on the grounds of shoddy First Amendment arguments, and when Republican lawmakers block efforts to hold social media and search giants to account, they are being perilously naïve and playing with this country’s future.

Twitter isn’t some neutral platform: it’s a venue with a point of view, just like the Daily Wire or NPR. Only unlike the Daily Wire, Twitter gets to hide its values under the surface as if they were simply the rules of engagement. They aren’t, and they shouldn’t be—it’s high time Republicans figured that out.

Spencer Klavan is host of the Young Heretics podcast and assistant editor of the Claremont Review of Booksand The American Mind. He can be reached on Twitter at @SpencerKlavan.

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The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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