Rod Miller: Ban Human Ignorance, Not the Free Press

Columnist Rod Miller writes, "If politicians are worried about surveillance of the American public, they need to repeal the Patriot Act. I’m less worried about Facebook spying on me than I am about my own government doing the same damn thing."

Rod Miller

March 17, 20244 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

I’m picking up signals on the Sagebrush Telegraph that some knucklehead politicians want to ban certain social media platforms because some folks are confused and disturbed by what they read. 

Human beings, the social animals that we are, will always chatter back and forth with one another about what is going on in our world.

Sometimes through town criers, sometimes around the ol’ campfire, sometimes in the newspaper and sometimes digitally. That interaction is a fundamental part of our progress as a species.

Trying to stop that from happening is trying to stop human intellectual evolution. Good luck with that!

The realization that communication is a necessary human tool is what prompted Madison to draft the First Amendment to our Constitution.

He, like the rest of his grizzled, white compadres who founded our nation, recognized that the free communication of ideas among a citizenry is necessary to a nation’s growth.

While our Founders never heard of, or could hardly conceive of, a Twitter or a Facebook or a Tik-Tok or any other app, they would recognize what they are...the free press and organs of speech that are the circulatory system of ideas in a pluralistic society like ours. 

I wasn’t in the room when the First Amendment was drafted. But I can guess what was on the minds of the authors.

I’ll go out on a limb and claim that they had great faith in the intellectual acuity of a citizenry that had just defeated the British Empire.

They recognized that, if we are to be a free nation, we must depend on the innate intelligence of our citizens. We must trust ourselves to read and critically think about any information that is presented to us.

Rather than put blinders on us as citizens, our Founders liberated our eyes to see everything that is all around us, and trusted us to make our own damn decisions about what is true and what is bullshit.

For my money, they never gave us a greater gift.

Without question we hear some gnarly stuff these days, and there’s certainly no lack of goofball dangerous ideas floating around.

But trying to muzzle the vehicles that bring that weirdness to our eyes and ears is simply the wrong thing to do.

That slippery slope leads to us being spoon-fed only that information that the powers that be want us to consume. “They” will decide for us what is truth and what are lies. 

This notion, to me, assumes government believes that we all possess simple minds that are a couple centuries behind the times, and that our noggins just aren’t up to dealing with a world full of propaganda and deepfake deception.

Politicians who want to censor the free press want us all to remain at the intellectual kiddie’s table.

I’d much prefer that government trusted us to grow as thinking human beings, to develop and maintain good bullshit detectors, and to make our own decisions about what we read, hear and see. 

A political system that sets itself up to do our thinking for us, is setting itself up to do a lot of damage to our society. It is empowering itself to control our minds.

That’s why, when it comes to the First Amendment, I’m a strict Constitutional constructionist. 

It's the First Amendment that most starkly differentiates us from, say, China or Russia.

Now, if those same politicians are so worried about social media platforms gathering all our personal data and spying on us, that’s a horse of a different color.

If they are so worried about surveillance of the American public, then the first thing they need to do is to repeal the Patriot Act. 

I’m less worried about Facebook spying on me than I am about my own government doing the same damn thing. Selah.

Rod Miller can be reached at:

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Rod Miller

Political Columnist