Happy New Year! Free speech is threatened most when it is laid down freely. It is threatened more when public companies are allowed to threaten it. Prior to Hong Kong protests, the term “self-censorship” was tossed around like a fourth-grade sponge ball on a PhysEd parachute. Today, if Facebook doesn’t want someone’s name mentioned—even though the people not allowed to mention the name aren’t involved—then Facebook users won’t mention the name for fear of losing their connection to friends and family.
That is the usual blackmail, right?—friends and family?
Pacific Daily Times will not report the name of an ousted whistleblower unless it either becomes old news and is needed for discussion or there is litigation involving the whistleblower. But, that’s as far as things go. Should enough time pass or the whistleblower file private or civil action over being mentioned—or a disenfranchised social media user were to file private or civil action over being censored or banned—then the name becomes fair game for the Times. For the Times, it’s about being niche and newsworthy rather than alarmist and chasing the most recent fad. We want a name attached to a story that is unusual from what others will report.
But, Facebook, YouTube, and others in mainline media seem to have more in the game than just keeping things relevant and interesting. Banning users and removing content for naming a name already named seems to indicate that they are protecting the whistleblower because they support what the whistleblower did. That stacks up the best, anyway.
At the Times, others being banned for repeating the named name is far more interesting than the name itself. Banning or censoring users for mentioning an ousted whistleblower on publicly listed social media platforms is atrocious. We are headed for public utilitization of social media. The same could be argued for food, drug, and grocery giants, but that’s another editorial for another week.
This raises another question. What is a “whistleblower” anyway? Generally, the term is vernacular, referring to someone who sees foul play and “blows a whistle”. The problem is that whistleblowers wear special clothes to identify themselves, wave flags with bright colors, and make loud noises to draw the attention of an entire stadium. But, ever since Trump threatened an inbred political swamp in one of the most white-collar corrupt graft cities in the world, the term “whistleblower” seems to have been reassigned the definition “accuser in hiding who has a right to accuse without proof, then keep hiding”.
This “whistleblower” isn’t the actual whistleblower but a spectator in the stands. By the standard definition, the real whistleblowers were the Federal agents who acted upon the claims. Misapplying the term “whistleblower” to this anonymous, baseless coward of an accuser has only served to lionize the housecat.