Speech is about the right to say what you want. But being heard is all about market power. That's why two antitrust cases, one in publishing and one in online video, matter.
I have seen a similar, though not identical, "speech bottleneck" dynamic at work in local journalism. In the city where I formerly worked there used to be two daily newspapers, many smaller weekly newspapers serving niche audiences, a few alt-weeklies and small magazines, and a smattering of TV and radio stations. Now there is one newspaper, one alt-weekly, one city magazine, and a reduced number of TV and radio stations. Almost all are owned by the consolidated chains, and they are trying desperately and valiantly to scrape together a connection with their audiences that isn't intermediated by a tech giant. That kind of environment has very real consequences, which I experienced firsthand: a noticeable lack of diversity and idiosyncrasy in the ideas that made their way into the city's public square, and a lack of decent-paying career opportunities for mid-career journalists/local writers. Needless to say: it sucked.
Thanks Matt for your in-depth discussion about an industry I have little knowledge of. Monopolization in any form destabilizes democracy. Unregulated and unfettered industries lead to concentration of market power which has created the severe income inequality in America. Free speech is also fighting to survive.
The funny thing about the Rumble case is that it really has nothing to do with censorship in practice. It's a straightforward market power argument, similar to Microsoft/Internet Explorer years ago. And frankly, it's a pretty compelling one, considering how much of the internet Youtube has eaten up over the years.
Independents are coming back, partly BECAUSE the big monsters have leaned so far into superstar financialization that they're missing some profit.
I write courseware that is bundled with college texts. At first our texts were published by a very small outfit. The small outfit was bought by a big-name outfit, and we were carried along. The big outfit was then LBO'd by an even bigger outfit. As part of the stripping out of assets, our entire subject area was removed. So we returned to a small outfit that had been founded by the daughter of the original small publisher. They have only a dozen full-time employees, so they can't afford Corporate Imperatives. They have to produce quality work, and they have to serve their customers instead of their bankers. I enjoy direct customer service immensely. [The big LBO publisher offshored service to India.]
".... not direct proscription of what people can or can’t say, but limits on where they can be heard"
Rather like if a tree falls in the forest and there is no one around to hear it does it make a sound ...
I have believed, and went to trial for the belief, that the freedom of speech by definition must include a freedom to be heard by the ones the speech is directed to - it seems to me that's what the 1st amendment is all about - not just the right to speak but the right to be heard ...
I realize this may well not be considered germane here - but your phrase I started with is what immediately made the connection for me - you can write all you want, but if no one publishes it, or if your writings cannot reach the audience you are writing for seems to me the same as being free to speak, while being prevented access to the audience the speech is directed at ....
While no one is required to publish what you write, just as no one is required to broadcast what i speak, anything that stands in the way of that writing to be seen or speech being heard by its intended audience seems to me to be a violation of the 1st Amendment - unless of course the right to write or speak is indeed divorced from a right to be read or heard .... in which case, why bother with such a "right"
Just a thought ...
If publishing consolidation continues I wonder what the odds of a book like Goliath being published by a monopoly publisher would be in the future? The people who work in monopoly corporations are not inherently “bad”, but it’s apparent that consolidation of power can lead to bad behavior from otherwise “good” people, and that’s why it must be stopped.
“consolidation, though more subtle, also limits what kinds of ideas can get into the public square“
Yes, and note that it’s has been historically called the “public” square and not the “private” square. The square is now owned by private monopoly corporations who act in the interests of shareholders (including Saudis, foreign sovereign wealth funds and others who have no interest whatsoever in free speech), so what is the likelihood the private square will act in the interests of American citizens? Probably zero.
Privatization should not extend into certain sectors (fire departments, police forces, politics) and I’d suggest it has exceeded itself by fencing off large parts of the public square from the public.
Matt - your comments in the Rumble vs Google discussion characterize Google’s ability to limit free speech as monetary, driven by its monopolistic position. You’re being too nice to Google. See all the Twitter disclosures that show Google’s interactions with the FBI at: https://jordansather.substack.com/p/running-list-of-all-twitter-files. It appears that Google’s motivation is more than money.
Yeah, sure, good stuff, but we don't want more crazy rightwing disinfo/misinfo in our googling, youtube, or social media, but less. If that takes more centralization, so be it. Some public goods need monopoly protections, no?