Jared Lovell

October 23, 2019

Reason Magazine, the First Amendment, and the Culture War

Reason Magazine published a short piece here the other day in regard to the Dennis Prager's hearing before the U.S Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. Prager has accused YouTube of restricting access to his very popular Prager University videos because of their conservative message, claiming that this is amounts to a violation of the First Amendment. Reason writer, Jacob Sullum, reminds his readers that YouTube is indeed private company and, therefore, the First Amendment does not apply. The author warns conservatives not to sacrifice constitutional principles for short-term political gains. From a strict constitutionalist perspective and absent any context, the author is correct.

However, I find it quite interesting to see Reason Magazine talking about constitutional first principles. This is, after all, the same organization that argues that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right and doesn't mind invoking the Incorporation Doctrine when it suits them. Why is it tyranny if a gay couple cannot get married in nowhere-ville in middle America and liberty if global corporations restrict access to content posted on the forums they have created? Why can the Supreme Court be called upon to strike down local laws seen as insufficiently inclusive, but cannot touch giant corporations who are allegedly working to shape public opinion? At a time when all of our nation's major institutions are increasingly (if not overwhelmingly) Leftist, we trot out this tired line about how the First Amendment does not apply to private corporations. Throw in the fact that we are living under a leviathan state, are $22 trillion in debt, have tens of thousands of pages in regulations and tax code, have military bases in 140 countries, are enabling a genocide in Yemen, and have declared socialists running for President, it just comes off as wildly out of touch to say " we shouldn't complain about international corporations working to suppress conservative speech because gee, we wouldn't want to violate the constitution."

Don't misunderstand me. I am not suggesting that the government should step in to regulate private companies, nor do I have any interest in empowering the federal government to work for my side. I am not even addressing the degree to which Prager's claims of bias are justified. I am simply suggesting that the line between public and private is not as clear as it used to be. However, I do support people like Prager (with whom I have a number of disagreements) complaining and drawing attention to issues like this even if it is on the floor of the House in the form of Congressional testimony as he did in July. Just because the First Amendment does not apply to private corporations, does not mean we cannot complain and try to apply social pressure to the situation. Reason has no problem shaming social conservatives who are not in step with the latest progressive fad. Yet there seems to be the assumption among some libertarians and conservatives that the Right is never allowed to complain. We are supposed to fight the culture war with one hand behind our back. We cannot talk about shutting down Drag Queen Story Hour at a local library because the library is public and (according to David French) there seems to be an awfully slippery slope between restrictions on cross-dressing and pedophilia and a totalitarian Big Brother. In an era of "woke capitalism" these issues will deserve some more thought rather than the typical libertarian cliches that are usually applied.

About the author

Jared Lovell lives in Northeast Pennsylvania with his wife and three children. He actively works to corrupt the youth as a history and economics teacher at Memoria Press Online Academy and as an ESL teacher to Chinese students.

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