Even Sacha Baron Cohen knows he’s a lousy messenger to fight the growing tide of Fake News.
The star of “Borat” and “Who Is America” earned his fame by tricking unsuspecting subjects for cheap laughs and alleged enlightenment.
Now, he’s speaking out against the social media giants for allowing more free speech than he thinks we need. Cohen started his fight a few days ago while accepting an award from the ADL (Anti-Defamation League).
That caught plenty of people’s attention. Perhaps that triggered the liberal Washington Post to give him editorial space to build on his thesis.
The British performer says we need more restrictions, not less, on tech platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. It’s clear he hasn’t thought things out fully, or he hopes to eradicate views with which he disagrees from the digital space.
If it’s the latter, he’s hardly alone.
Democracy, which depends on shared truths, is in retreat, and autocracy, which thrives on shared lies, is on the march. Hate crimes are surging, as are murderous attacks on religious and ethnic minorities.
Actually, hate crimes aren’t surging at least in the U.S. So Cohen is spreading Fake News while decrying the rise of Fake News? Maybe he should fine himself?
Cohen gives away the game mid-essay.
British voters will go to the polls next month while online conspiracists promote the despicable theory of “great replacement” that white Christians are being deliberately replaced by Muslim immigrants. Americans will vote for president while trolls and bots perpetuate the disgusting lie of a “Hispanic invasion.”
This is all about the rise of Trump and the pro-Brexit movement. If Hillary Clinton won back in 2016 and the Brexit caused collapsed at the ballot box, would Cohen be penning this essay?
He later plays the Nazi card, unaware of what’s actually happening in America and elsewhere.
If a neo-Nazi comes goose-stepping into a restaurant and starts threatening other customers and saying he wants to kill Jews, would the restaurant owner be required to serve him an elegant eight-course meal? Of course not. The restaurant owner has every legal right, and, indeed, a moral obligation, to kick the Nazi out. So do Internet companies.
To be fair, Cohen is here with some solutions. They just happen to be deeply flawed.
Facebook could hire enough monitors to actually monitor, work closely with groups such as the Anti-Defamation League and the NAACP, and purge deliberate lies from their platforms.
Both groups lean to the left, the NAACP aggressively so. The ADL’s tilt is newer and more alarming.
Though it spent its first century of existence being careful to avoid getting labeled as a partisan outfit, in the three years since the ADL’s longtime national director Abe Foxman retired, [ADL CEO Jonathan] Greenblatt has steadily pushed the group farther to the left and, in so doing, more or less destroyed its reputation as being above politics….
In early 2017, Greenblatt didn’t hesitate to directly blame President Trump for what was being represented as a surge of anti-Semitic incidents. The surge was largely the result of a spate of bomb threats at Jewish community centers around the country. But it turned out that — contrary to the ADL’s charge that it was the work of alt-right extremists inspired or unleashed by Trump — a disturbed Israeli teenager had made the threats. The ADL never apologized for its misleading accusations.
Libertarians argue the move to remove “hate speech” is even more concerning for what could happen next.
And then there’s everything left out of Cohen’s op-ed.
What about the biggest conspiracy theory of our age, that President Trump colluded with Russia to steal the 2016 election? Does the comic actor want to punish mainstream media outlets that ran with that Fake News for two plus years?
Or consider how many news outlets said President Trump called Nazis “very fine people.” That’s a massive, provable lie. Where was Cohen’s outrage over the matter?
What about all the hate aimed at conservatives? Is he aware of it? Does he disapprove? Why didn’t that get included in his essay?
Hollywood routinely discriminates against conservatives, too. That’s an industry Cohen knows all too well. Where’s his critical voice on this matter?
Reason.com excoriated Cohen’s ADL speech, calling it a “moral panic.”
Facebook is far from the only platform for false advertising: Traditional sources of information, like TV, radio, and print, have been harnessed by liars and frauds since long before Facebook existed. People are particularly worried about social media because it’s a newer phenomenon. But so-called “fake news” is consumed by very few users, and most can identify it as such….
Cohen concluded his remarks with a call to stop “the greatest propaganda machine in history,” by which he means the cumulative impact of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Google. That’s ridiculous hyperbole: The companies are not engaged in some coordinated effort to spread lies or promote an agenda. In fact, the proposed solution—subjecting speech on social media to government approval—would in some sense create a much more easily recognizable propaganda machine.
Juggling free expression in our digital age is a deeply challenging problem, and Cohen deserves credit for tackling it in the first place. Some of his solutions, alas, are funnier than his recent comedies.