James O'Keefe Panders to Populist 'Conservatives' Who Think Silicon Valley Is the Greatest Threat to Freedom
They used to call themselves supporters of limited government. Some still do.
James O'Keefe's latest "investigation" with Project Veritas focuses on "censorship" at Twitter, focusing on "shadow banning" and other methods Twitter employees allegedly said they use to regulate user behavior.
Twitter has found out being an open space for racist trolls doesn't entice new users or encourage existing users to stick around, and so in recent months it has tried to impose new policies to minimize that. It should be free to adopt whatever policies it wants—it's a private company, after all.
The idea that Twitter might want to prioritize its bottom line over its users' ability to say whatever they want to whoever they want on the platform has given many modern conservatives the vapors.
"This represents the most sinister threat to free speech in history," Media Research Center President Brent Bozell said in a statement. (You see, "social media is the communications vehicle of the future," and Twitter is a social media company.) Tucker Carlson, who has masterfully co-opted the right's prevailing populist mood to propel his prime-time Fox News show to the top of the ratings, tweeted this week that "the Federal Government is no longer the main threat to your privacy and freedoms. Big corporations are. The Orwellian future is increasingly the Orwellian present, and tech barons are becoming our new commissars."
"It's increasingly clear that tech giants aren't just a threat to our privacy they are a threat to our basic American freedoms," Carlson added in a subsequent tweet.
Twitter lets Carlson claim the company is a threat to basic American freedoms, so it doesn't seem to be curtailing his freedoms. Twitter even lets a right-wing competitor—Gab, which claims to be a "free speech alternative" but looks more like a safe space for right-wing trolls—promote itself on Twitter's platform. Some threat.
Twitter has the right to regulate the use of its platform in a way that it believes will make it profitable. A cesspool of rando trolls doesn't attract users that add value. The motivations shouldn't be hard for people to understand, particularly if they claim to be proponents of the free enterprise system. Even if all of O'Keefe's allegations are true (and that's highly dubious), Twitter's policies aren't a threat to our "basic American freedoms."
Progressives often argue that private companies "owe" the government or the people something, particularly if they profitably offer a good or service that progressives can claim is a right. In many a liberal worldview, business is innately predatory, waiting to exploit consumers that willingly pay for a good or service they want. Carlson and friends are making largely the same point, while managing to use even more histrionic language than many mainstream liberals.
Increasingly, the "new conservatism" in the age of Trump appears to be little more than contemporary progressivism plus white identity politics.