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Alex Jones’ Supporters Still Don’t Understand What “Free Speech” Means

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More and more companies are banning Alex Jones from using their platforms to spew his hateful conspiracy theories and racist and antisemitic drivel. Facebook, Apple, Spotify, and YouTube have all removed Jones’ content from their sites. If you’ve spent any time at all on the internet, you can probably guess what that means. Yup, a lot of misinformed conservative supporters yelling about “freedom of speech.”

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I don’t know how many years its been since XKCD laid out the perfect simple explainer for this issue, but it’s definitely too many to still be having this conversation.

free speech first amendment skcd


Facebook, Apple, Spotify, and YouTube aren’t violating Alex Jones’ freedom of speech. They’re not “censoring” him. All of those sites are welcome to draw a line as to what violates their terms of service, which Jones would have agreed to when creating an account. If they decide spreading violent rhetoric around asinine conspiracy theories or saying the parents of murdered children are propagating a “hoax” is over that line, that’s their decision.

Speaking of terms of service, Alex Jones and Infowars have them, too. Basically all companies do. It seems like Jones should have familiarized himself with his own.

This is actually and truly what the Infowars terms of service say.

Maybe the best thing to happen in this conversation was this MAGA-loving Infowars reporter who doesn’t know how words work.

Twitter was quick and brutal in informing her that “private” and “privately owned” are terms used to distinguish private-sector business from government-run businesses. Turns out, Millie, words often have more than one meaning and context matters. In this case, the context is a discussion about First Amendment rights. The point is that Jones is dealing with businesses, not the government. (Not that it would be a free speech violation if the government didn’t want to host Jones’ videos. The First Amendment guarantees freedom from persecution based on speech, not guaranteed access to a platform.)

There are some people, at least, who know that this isn’t a violation of Jones’ First Amendment rights, but who try to play the “slippery slope” game, as in, if a company can ban Alex Jones, then they can ban anyone they don’t agree with and then we all have to live with Facebook Fascism. Ted Cruz recently told reporters in Austin, “As the poem goes, you know, first they came for Alex Jones. That does not end well.”

The problem with Cruz’s idiotic comparison, of course, is that the original anti-Nazism poem by Martin Niemöller warns against systemic, governmental oppression of people like socialists and Jews. Ted Cruz is trying to put the conspiracy theorists in that group, which is just ridiculous. Moreover, again, this is not governmental oppression. Doubly moreover, there is actual governmental oppression happening that doesn’t seem to bother the people being so vocal about Infowars losing its Facebook account. Those people are awfully silent on their government coming for refugee children, legal immigrants, trans people, or any other group facing actual oppression by this administration. Those people, in general, aren’t the ones speaking out against Trump’s persistent attacks on the actual legitimate press.

But Alex Jones supporters don’t actually care about censorship. They care about the perceived censorship of their viewpoints.

(image: Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.

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