by: Brent Smith
Technology has proven to be a very worrisome double edged sword. On one hand, it has never been easier to disseminate your views and opinion.
You can self-publish an entire book for next to nothing, start your own news, opinion or entertainment website. You are able to “go live” on the internet whenever the spirit moves you.
But on the other hand, if your news, opinion or entertainment is somehow displeasing to the corporation providing you the platform, the corporation, not the government, is who you have to fear from them shutting you down.
It is a strange time we live in that we have to fear both the power of the government and so-called private industry. But which is to be feared most?
from the Federalist:
Is Big Business Now A Greater Threat To Free Speech Than Government?
As I wrote in a preceding essay, the First Amendment was written to limit the government’s power. In the 18th century, only the state was conceived as possibly wielding the power to keep free people from speaking their minds. Thus, if maintaining a free people requires free speech, it followed that the government must be kept from controlling speech. For a long time, no more was necessary, but that would change.
As the United States grew in population and prosperity, there was very little agitation against business. There did not need to be. Most businesses were small affairs, owned by one man or one family, employing a handful of workers. Relations between labor and management were dealt with between individuals.
In 1854, Abraham Lincoln summarized this small-scale economy, speaking of a system in which a man “may look forward and hope to be a hired laborer this year and the next, work for himself afterward, and finally to hire men to work for him! That is the true system.”
Yet as corporations grew in size and power, that “true system” changed. Instead of one apprentice negotiating with an owner, a company that employed thousands would tell workers what they would get: take it or leave it.
In response, workers began to join together in trade unions, leveling the playing field, although diminishing their own independence. The balance between workers and management was restored, but the growing power of corporations still overpowered that of individual consumers.
Antitrust and utility laws were the response, but none of this much affected the realm of free speech. There was no news monopoly — newspapers were more plentiful than today — and restrictions on the new technology of radio came from the government, not the station owners. The biggest threat to the practice of free speech remained the state.