2019 Jun 6, 6:48pm
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Imagine, if you will, that you owned a motel or a restaurant in the Jim Crow South. Odds are, your business isn’t killing it. America as a whole was much poorer in the 1950’s, and the South was then, as now, relatively poorer than the rest of the country. Under those circumstances, if you were a rational restaurant owner, you weren’t really in a position to be turning business away.So why would you discriminate against black people, when you were desperate for money?Certainly some business owners were racist enough to want to turn away business, but the problem was deeper than that. Racism was deeply embedded in the Jim Crow South. There were many racist whites who wouldn’t consider staying in a hotel that served black customers; the dynamic resembled the “untouchable” caste dynamic in India. Those whites were powerful enough to make defying them economic suicide. As a result, businesses had to fall into line with the prevailing Jim Crow orthodoxy or go bankrupt. The “aristocrats” of the south didn’t want integration, so there was no integration.In 2019, our blue-checked aristocrats are trying to wield their power to keep the new “untouchables” off of social media platforms.Granted, there are key differences between the economic position of monopolistic social media platforms, who have mostly escaped competition, and restaurants that were truly at the mercy of their racist customers. The pressure that our media aristocrats can bring to bear on the platforms is less economic than social.All of these platforms are headquartered in Silicon Valley, a deeply progressive area. All of the executives live in the area. Most are liberal. If their companies defy the blue-checks, they won’t go bankrupt. But they will have to deal with an immense amount of negative PR. They’ll have to deal with internal discontent within their organizations, which are staffed top to bottom with progressives. They’ll have to deal with the opprobrium of their friends, who will wonder why they haven’t banned that nasty Youtube star who insulted the friendly Vox journalist.As a result, these monopolistic companies pay attention when the progressive journalists complain. Peasant complaints, on the other hand? Easily ignored.THE SOLUTION: PLATFORM ACCESS AS A CIVIL RIGHTThe Civil Rights Act of 1964 solved the boycott problem in the Jim Crow South. Once it was implemented, if a racist white person went to a hotel and yelled at a hotel manager for accommodating black customers, the hotel manager could simply point to the civil rights laws and tell the customer to get lost. After all – there was nothing the hotels could do. They had to serve black people.This is more than a way to protect conservative speech; it’s a way to free social media platforms from aristocratic influence.These businesses were liberated by their constraints. Because they were prohibited from discriminating, they could serve everyone, and increase their bottom line. It was the racist customers who truly “lost” under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, not the common carriers.If we make platform access a civil right, Carlos Maza and his fellow aristocrats can whine and bleat all they want about how a conservative has been mean to them. None of it will matter. Companies won’t indulge them, because indulging them would be against the law. This is more than a way to protect conservative speech; it’s a way to free social media platforms from aristocratic influence.YouTube’s social media team shouldn’t be freaking out over whatever Carlos Maza says, because a bad actor like Maza shouldn’t have any real power.And he won’t, if we fight.