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Uninhibited speech is the ultimate weapon in the fight against misinformation

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Tech giants may rely more on European Union laws than U.S. laws to police what happens on their sites.

Words have no meaning; they are both malleable and subject to change at the whim of the powerful. Today, a Black person can be called a “white supremacist” and Jews can be called a “Nazis.” The reason is clear: These people, and many others, dare to deviate from the worldviews of the powerful. When words are used against political enemies of the powerful, they lose their meaning and become simply badges. They are badges that we place on those with whom we disagree, so that they can be identified in a crowd, pulled to the side, and “re-educated” or expelled by society. 

For too long, Big Tech has controlled what we say by imprinting into the minds of the masses a certain worldview. Big Tech has silenced dissenters, making those who dare to disagree with them outcasts. The “fact-checkers,” both manual and automated systems, review social media posts and censor them when they determine a post to be false or misleading. The very notion that a company would hire someone to fact-check private speech is outrageous. We should not tolerate lies, but it is not the job of a powerful few to label something as a “lie”; it is the job of the content consumer to do so. Giving a few entities the power to brand people as liars gives them disproportionate power to determine truth by labeling some lies as “fake news” but not others, according to their agenda. 

It is as if these companies have crept into our homes, placed monitors on our minds, and filtered our thoughts. Did we need fact-checkers to end the idea that slavery was “natural,” as Aristotle said? Did we need fact-checkers to guide our Founding Fathers’ hands in writing the Constitution? No, what we needed was the natural, unfiltered flow of ideas from one person to another. In the past, the free flow of ideas came at full throttle. Rational thought spread like wildfire without the need of social media, and irrational thought died with the few patrons who consumed it. The world was changed by the thoughts of a few ordinary people who dared to think. Of course, people disagreed, and some even became violent, but a person’s right to open his mouth and unleash volumes of unique ideas upon his neighbors should not be stifled by the vitriol that their thoughts create. 

Fact-checkers have shifted their focus to fight “misinformation” about COVID-19 vaccines. Every day, new, credible studies uncover information about the vaccination effort, and this changing information makes some people skeptical about the vaccines. Yet many insist on labeling those who are skeptical as “anti-vaxxers.” A better label, perhaps, is “pro-choice,” but that label was taken by the pro-abortion movement — although, in fairness to the skeptics, a certain movement did co-opt a phrase about the Holocaust for their own political purposes. 

Today, free speech apparently is reserved for the powerful few: the celebrities, social media companies, and traditional media companies. Any thought that deviates from their message can be met with swift, unrelenting punishment now known as “cancellation.” Too often we hear of individuals having their lives destroyed because of seemingly innocuous acts that hardly can be said to be representative of them. But atop a throne, it is easy to step on ants. Each day brings new ants for the powerful few to step on; the enemy of yesterday becomes old news, forgotten as they take aim at a new target to destroy. 

Labels make it easy to destroy people. They shift burdens of proof to the party being labeled, making it impossible to peel away the label one is given. If one is labeled as “anti-vaccine,” the labeler need not say why that label fits; instead, the person who is labeled has the burden of proving that they are not anti-vaccine. How can they prove this, might you ask? Well, they can’t. The label means whatever each individual wants it to mean — and, more importantly, what the powerful entity who labels a person says the word should mean.  

Many individuals who support the COVID-19 vaccines — and who have been vaccinated themselves — have been labeled as anti-vaccine and their social media accounts have been suspended or terminated because fact-checkers judged some of their posts as “False.” This is because  “anti-vaccine” evidently does not mean that one is against the use of vaccines; instead, it means that you do not fully support the studies that support the vaccine. In today’s society, something is credible only when the right people say it is.  

Despite our society’s reliance on dictionaries, it seems we would save far more time — and be far more successful — by using definitions of our own. After all, if words had concrete definitions, how could someone who fully supports the COVID-19 vaccine be branded “anti-vaccine” when Merriam-Webster defines this as “opposed to the use of vaccinations”? Evidently, the old adage is true: “He who controls language controls thought.” It simply takes one powerful individual to label someone as something they are not, and suddenly they will become that very thing — and the word used against that person will mean what it did not before.    

We should all continue to express our thoughts honestly, unfiltered and uninhibited. Every person should conduct his or her own research to determine whether something someone says appears to  be true. After all, what another person says could be wrong, but it is not a stranger’s — nor a “fact-checker’s” — job to tell you that. Each of us must consider the facts, connect the dots, and come to our own conclusions. Sure, we might get it wrong; everyone does that sometimes because we are human. But right always prevails over wrong, the truth overcomes fallacies, and good triumphs over evil. 

Do not shut your eyes, cover your ears, or silence your tongue to appease others. Freedom is a never-ending battle. Your natural right to speak up will prevail over any evildoer’s attempt to silence you. Just keep talking.  

Armstrong Williams (@ARightSide) is the owner and manager of Howard Stirk Holdings I & II Broadcast Television Stations and the 2016 Multicultural Media Broadcast Owner of the Year. He is the author of “Reawakening Virtues.”

Tags anti-vaccine Big tech COVID-19 vaccine Fact-checking free speech Social media

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