How big tech is playing with fire

Photo courtesy of Micah Veillon

Ensuing the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, President Trump has been suspended or banned from a total of 15 media platforms.

I do not wish to explore whether or not Trump directly incited the riots in this piece, for I find something far more troubling in all of this madness: the removal of Parler from online stores.

I find it’s removal from these platforms deeply unsettling.

Big Tech is playing with fire by means of tampering with the culture. Whether it’s direct or indirect, it’s remarkably dangerous.

I would like to begin with exploring the power of the people in democratic republics, hopefully developing a clear understanding of the influence and weight of culture in democracy.

In a letter written to his wife, Abigail, John Adams states “The new government … will require purification of our vices, and an augmentation of our virtues or there will be no blessings.

The People will have unbounded power.

And the People are extremely addicted to corruption and venality … ”

The People will have unbounded power.

The majority opinion in the U.S has a direct effect on legislation, for the legislatures are elected by means of pure democracy.

Such unbounded power is incredibly frightening, as explored by Tocqueville in his magnum opus Democracy in America.

The majority opinion, states Tocqueville, should be feared as any tyrant would be.

For, if by definition, a majority is that which opposes the passions and interests of a minority, it possesses the power to tyrannize the minority.

As he states, “Men are not apt to change their characters by agglomeration … ”

Thus, if an individual can be tyrannical, so can a group.

If it poses such a threat, why should such unbounded power simply be entrusted to a number of individuals?

This question is answered by James Madison, although, might I add, not directly.

In Federalist No. 10, Madison is trying to find a remedy for the fatal disease of republics: factions.

He states that the problem lies in the fact that you can’t simply rid the world of factions because factions reflect the passions and desires of free men.

He states that Liberty is to faction as air is to fire, and one wouldn’t suggest dispensing with air in order to rid the damage of the fire.

Thus, Madison arrives at a brilliant conclusion: faction must check faction.

Diverse systems of factions can keep each other’s passions in check.

This is how you keep the majority opinion at bay without absolving its liberties.

These reasons point to why culture is crucial to democracy.

In Democracy In America, Tocqueville posits that American democracy works because of its culture, laws and fortunate situations (mirroring what Polybius thought made Ancient Rome great).

Our democratic republic is not likely to collapse by the hands of a fascist tyrant, but rather a fascist culture.

A culture where one majority faction dominates society. Tocqueville claims that a tyrannical majority will not state to the minority “You will think as I do or die,” but rather, “You are free not to think as I do.

You may keep your life, your property and everything else. But from this day forth you shall be as a stranger among us.”

With the removal of a platform for conservative views, like Parler, Big Tech is disturbing the cultural checks and balances crucial to democracy through removing a faction from social discourse, making it an impure stranger.

In order for us to withstand the malicious passions of a tyrannical majority, we must have a culture of tolerance and free speech.

Dissolving this could mean losing to the dark side of our human nature our founders sought to conquer.

Madison found the remedy, but will our fate attest that even this is not enough to tame the passions of men?