Sunday, January 10, 2021
Systemically important media?
In the aftermath of the Capitol riot, book publisher Simon & Schuster cancelled a book deal they had with Republican Senator Josh Hawley, who had cheered the mob on. Senator Hawley called that "an assault on the first Amendment". It is pretty obvious that he is wrong on that, the first amendment doesn't give you the right to a book deal. The right of the publisher to cancel the deal is only determined by whatever termination clause is written in the contract they had with the senator. And as Senator Hawley is now a lot less popular, part of the cancelation was presumably for non-political, commercial reasons.
Having said that, I am not feeling totally at ease with Trump's cancelation on Twitter. Not that I would feel sorry for the guy, he surely deserved this one sting he actually feels. But as an example how a private company can make a decision that has a huge impact on the balance of power in national politics, this one looks pretty bad. At what point does a media outlet become so "systemically important" that it loses the power to decide who is allowed to use it? Forget about Trump, what if the next time it is *your* favorite politician or activist who gets canceled? It is not as if e.g. Bernie Sanders or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez aren't saying pretty radical stuff on Twitter sometimes, which could be construed as reason for cancelation if somebody more right-wing was in control of that company. Do we really want to have private companies to have that sort of power?