Reading comments on websites is kind of like watching fringe channels that traffic in conspiracy theories. There’s a lot to wade through that is at best a waste of time, but if you persevere you will eventually find information of great interest that cannot be found anywhere else.
If you want to control what people see and what people learn, that is a threat. Comments must go.
This is why back in June 2020 The Federalist was forced to disable its comments section in order to keep Google ads. At the same time, Google banned ZeroHedge outright, taking away their ad revenue, alleging “racist” comments on the website. The following month, Yahoo News “temporarily” disabled its comments section.
Each of these incidents had one thing in common: comments posted introduced readers to information that was inconvenient. In Yahoo’s case, comments leaned conservative, and almost always exposed the article’s lies, omissions, distortions, and bias. Six months later, Yahoo’s temporary ban is still in force.
Now another right-of-center online source of news and analysis, American Thinker, has also disabled its comments section. In a post on January 14, the editor wrote: “It is news to almost nobody who reads American Thinker that a political witch hunt is underway. Parties in and out of government are looking for excuses to suppress and destroy voices that oppose the left. Because AT lacks the ability to monitor comments in real time, and because our position that comments are a forum, not something we publish, is being called into question, we can no longer publish comments.”
It is true that comments are often offensive. But how the tech companies that enable hosting and ad revenue choose which websites to intimidate is selective, either driven by leftwing bias within companies like Google and Amazon, or driven by complaint mobs that the Left is very good at organizing and targeting. If you have any doubt that enforcement is selective, just read the comments on DailyKos articles. For that matter, read the comments on Washington Post articles. They don’t hold back. They don’t get banned, either.
Ultimately what the establishment fears is open forums that lead to shifts in what is “acceptable political discourse.” An article published in July 2019 by the BBC made the establishment position embarrassingly plain on the threat represented by right-of-center narratives, writing that “The more mainstream these narratives become, the greater the tension will be over whether they really are extreme or whether they represent acceptable political discourse, and the views of a substantial number of real people.”
Comments on websites, like posts and videos, are protected speech. Just as platforms where people add posts and videos enjoy Section 230 immunity from liability for the content of those posts and videos, the website forums where comments are made are entitled to the same immunity. Unfortunately, big tech and their mobs of online warriors are seeing to it these forums are shut down anyway, one by one.
This is yet another front in the battle to preserve online free speech. Perhaps at the least, the Right needs to organize its own complaint mobs!
* * *