Oct 31, 2019

In Defense of Facebook Against the Narcissism of Aaron Sorkin

A voice from Hollywood is attacking free speech on social media as non-authoritative voices continue to cast dissent at variance with proper discourse as determined by one Aaron Sorkin.

Sorkin pens an open letter to Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg this morning in an op-ed in the New York Times fretting that "lies have unfettered access to the American electorate."

After first extolling the virtues of free speech, Sorkin makes the point that what he regards as assaults on truth need to be better policed, lest lies infect the public consciousness (and children) to ill effect.

Writes Sorkin:

I get a lot of use out of the First Amendment. Most important, it’s a bedrock of our democracy and it needs to be kept strong.

But this [Facebook] can’t possibly be the outcome you and I want, to have crazy lies pumped into the water supply that corrupt the most important decisions we make together. Lies that have a very real and incredibly dangerous effect on our elections and our lives and our children’s lives.

Sorkin says he loves the First Amendment, but while Sorkin is able to sift and winnow the content posted on Facebook without being corrupted, others are not equipped with Sorkin's powers of discernment.

I wonder if Aaron Sorkin is able to discern his narcissism and silly condescension. Underneath Sorkin's self-adulation is the censor and wanna-be tyrant.

While Sorkin's regard for himself is laughable, his attacks on free speech are not.

Free speech need not be defended on grounds that consequences of liberty make for a healthy classical liberal society, ala New York Times v Sullivan (1964), an inspiring statement for liberty against those advocating for authoritative selection of published views.

However, the words of Justice William Brennan and other 20-century jurists speak forever to those who believe only they are immune from the corruption of unorthodox thoughts.

Writes Brennan in Sullivan:

The First Amendment, said Judge Learned Hand,

presupposes that right conclusions are more likely to be gathered out of a multitude of tongues than through any kind of authoritative selection. To many, this is, and always will be, folly, but we have staked upon it our all. United States v. Associated Press, 52 F.Supp. 362, 372 (D.C.S.D.N.Y. 1943).
Mr. Justice Brandeis, in his concurring opinion in Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357, 375-376, gave the principle its classic formulation:
Those who won our independence believed . . . that public discussion is a political duty, and that this should be a fundamental principle of the American government. ... Believing in the power of reason as applied through public discussion, they eschewed silence coerced by law -- the argument of force in its worst form. Recognizing the occasional tyrannies of governing majorities, they amended the Constitution so that free speech and assembly should be guaranteed.
Thus, we consider this case [New York Times v. Sullivan] against the background of a profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials. (New York Times v. Sullivan).
Aaron Sorkin ought consider the foundations of Sullivan today, because free speech protections may not be around forever.

Facebook well serves our national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited.

Facebook recognizes that underlying discussion of public issues are the inalienable rights that define human beings in the American experiment.

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