By now, you’ve probably heard about both of Trump’s horrible proposals. The first was about banning all Muslims as we discussed Tuesday, and the second was his call to close up part of the Internet. He was speaking about the online recruitment and communication of potential terrorists, and so he suggested that shutting off a part of the Internet (you know, the part they use) would be a solution he might propose.
This is rightly getting a lot of attention in the media, but the wily Trump anticipated the condemnation and offered a compelling defense in advance. Here’s his full quote, which you have to read to believe:
We’re losing a lot of people because of the internet. We have to do something. We have to go see Bill Gates and a lot of different people that really understand what’s happening. We have to talk to them, maybe in certain areas, closing that internet up in some ways. Somebody will say, ‘Oh freedom of speech, freedom of speech.’ These are foolish people. We have a lot of foolish people. We have a lot foolish people.
You care about free speech? Well you’re foolish. Mic drop?
I’ll take for granted that you’ve already heard quite a bit of condemnation about this bit of stupidity.
What you may not have heard, however, is that Hillary Clinton is proposing essentially the exact same policy. Here’s her quote:
We’re going to have to have more support from our friends in the technology world to deny online space. Just as we have to destroy [ISIS’s] would-be caliphate, we have to deny them online space. And this is complicated. You’re going to hear all of the usual complaints, you know, freedom of speech, et cetera. But if we truly are in a war against terrorism and we are truly looking for ways to shut off their funding, shut off the flow of foreign fighters, then we’ve got to shut off their means of communicating.
Unfortunately, Clinton is not getting nearly as much attention for her horrible ideas. Many may be inclined to blame this on the liberal bias of the media, but to describe it as a liberal bias really misses point. Yes, MSNBC and the New York Times will tend to take the Democratic /progressive stance on an issue, while Fox will generally represent the worst form of conservatism. But both sides have a significant bias in favor of the establishment. The framing of issues is different, but the actual policies they support are remarkably consistent, especially on foreign policy and national security. The competing proposals from Clinton and Trump to close down parts of the internet are the perfect illustration of this fact.
The real reason Trump gets treated differently seems to be his unusual bluntness. Both Trump and Hillary want to crack down on the internet in the name of fighting ISIS. But Hillary describes her policy in the usual polished political sort of way that confuses and puts people to sleep. Trump describes it much more simply–in ways that virtually everyone understands. And this is precisely the problem. It almost seems as if Trump is letting everyone in on a secret. So he gets condemned, and everyone discusses how crazy of a proposal it is. Meanwhile, when the same idea is presented in more obscure language, no one is nearly as concerned. One can only imagine the internal discussions at MSNBC or The Daily Beast:
Journalist 1: How could anyone propose to close off access to part of the internet? This Trump guy is so ridiculous.
Journalist 2: I know, that’s why I support Hillary. She just wants to “deny online space”. That’s way better.
Both candidates are proposing to crack down hard on internet communications. Both are overtly dismissive of free speech concerns. And both are front-runners of a major political party. But one of these candidates is extreme and the other is moderate. I can’t wait to vote.
If you’re not frustrated enough about this yet, I’d encourage you to check out Glenn Greenwald’s thorough piece that elaborates on the theme. Trump isn’t the fringe anymore; the middle is just awful.