Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media & culture: 01/31/22

Illiberal liberals. Folks who very likely self-identify as liberals are pushing to have the Joe Rogan podcast removed from Spotify over the COVID vaccine skepticism often  voiced on his show by the host himself and guests like Dr. Robert Malone, a once-respected scientist involved in the mRNA research that led to the shot.  Now, however, Malone has emerged as a leading vax critic and is therefore deemed something of a modern heretic. As result, his appearance on Rogan’s podcast has been banned from YouTube and Spotify has just announced a “content advisory” warning for podcasts discussing COVID. Per Spotify CEO Daniel Ek “This advisory will direct listeners to our dedicated COVID-19 Hub, a resource that provides easy access to data-driven facts, up-to-date information as shared by scientists, physicians, academics and public health authorities around the world, as well as links to trusted sources.” So, the warning is only against one side of the debate as Spotify identifies who your “trusted sources” are. Wouldn’t a standard “the opinions expressed are not necessarily endorsed by Spotify” be enough? Let the people decide who they trust by considering what both sides have to say.

This disturbing trend toward labeling and banning objectively debatable subject matter as “misinformation” extends beyond COVID to issues like climate change and election integrity to name two. Now, I personally am fully vaccinated and support the vaccine and I’m not in this space wading into those other issues. My point here is that I’m less concerned about coming across some erroneous opinions than I am about a government, media and tech establishment that thinks it is their right to control speech. CNN says we’re in a battle between “truth and falsehood.” Like most of what CNN says these days, that’s true but it’s a truth that is taken to a dangerous conclusion. Instead of speaking out in favor of rigorous debate the so-called news network seems to be in favor of squelching free speech to supposedly protect us simpletons from “misinformation.” That, to say the least, is an arrogant mistake.

Rather than cracking down on heretics, we need to allow for more of them. One of the most important lessons from the story of Galileo and his clash with the Catholic Church over the issue of the Earth’s relationship to the Sun is the plain fact that, historically, over the long run heretics often end up being proved right. In 1992, no less than Pope John Paul II very belatedly conceded that Galileo was correct and the supposed experts of his time (i.e. the clergy) were wrong. And, though he’s perhaps history’s most famous scientific dissenter who put put out condemned ideas that went on to be validated, he’s far from the only one. Check out this impressive list of Historic Heretics and you may conclude (as I have) that so-called “misinformation” often turns out to be important insight that moves the needle of progress forward. Not always, of course. But, I for one, find controversial opinion to be less of a threat to society than censorship.

Liberals used to say that the bad speech is more speech. Where are those people now? Why are they allowing the cause of liberal democracy to be subverted by corporate and statist totalitarians? It’s time for liberals to be liberal again.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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