In 1945, liberal Democrat Frank Sinatra recorded a song about the meaning of America, “The House I Live In.” It was a perfect match for the honeyed voice of the young Sinatra, one that Sinatra continued to sing as his voice matured and his politics moved rightward. I have been vaguely familiar with the song since childhood, but I didn’t listen closely to the lyrics until a few years ago. These lyrics jumped out:
The ‘howdy’ and the handshake, the air of feeling free
And the right to speak my mind out, that’s America to me.
How quaint, I thought, that Americans used to believe that. The list of topics that can be discussed in public, even in moderate and respectful ways, shrinks by the year. Americans, at least conservative ones, are increasingly reluctant to express their beliefs in public, even on the internet, a medium whose early proponents often championed unfettered freedom of expression.
Indeed, many on the right had seen the internet as the key to bypassing leftist domination of other media. In 2020, however, the internet became just another venue in which the left could assert its cultural dominance, as tech monopolists used algorithms, content warnings, suspensions, and bans to limit the spread of ideas they didn’t like, a process that came to include even the president of the United States. The impact of such open censorship is amplified…