Texas Senator Ted Cruz took some time out of his busy schedule of being generally hated by everyone on Saturday to defend conspiracy theorist and Infowars grifter Alex Jones against a temporary suspension on Facebook.
For once, Cruz struck a centrist position, albeit one between him and Infowars: He disapproves of what Jones says, but he will defend to the last bad tweet Jones' right to defame mass shooting survivors and their families to hundreds of thousands of Facebook followers.
"Am no fan of Jones — among other things he has a habit of repeatedly slandering my Dad by falsely and absurdly accusing him of killing JFK — but who the hell made Facebook the arbiter of political speech?" Cruz wrote. "Free speech includes views you disagree with. #1A"
Am no fan of Jones — among other things he has a habit of repeatedly slandering my Dad by falsely and absurdly accusing him of killing JFK — but who the hell made Facebook the arbiter of political speech? Free speech includes views you disagree with. #1A https://t.co/RC5v4SHaiI
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) July 28, 2018
In other words, there's a war on for your mind!
Saying Cruz's dad shot John F. Kennedy is, however, extremely low on the list of bad things Jones and Infowars has done.
Recently, that list includes promoting far-right personalities like white supremacist Faith Goldy, who endorsed "ethno-nationalism" on the anti-semitic Red Ice media network and does video reviews of fascist literature, as a candidate for mayor of Toronto. (Infowars ran a somewhat confused front-page spread on Friday calling her a "pro-Trump nationalist.") More broadly, it's included targeted harassment of mass shooting survivors, the official reason for Jones' temporary Facebook suspension and one of the many things Jones is currently facing lawsuits over.
Jones' suspension is thus not so much suppression of "free speech," as Cruz claimed, as it is a penalty for violating Facebook's terms of service. To the extent that it raises any concerns at all, it's that it follows weeks of criticism over Facebook's refusal to ban Infowars and CEO Mark Zuckerberg claiming Holocaust deniers are merely ignorant, leading one to suspect that Jones' ban was simply an arbitrary half-measure designed to calm down the critics rather than coherently enforce its policies across the board. (Importantly, Jones' 30-day suspension reportedly only affected the reach of his personal account and not Infowars'.)
Conservatives have long been paranoid about social media companies based in liberal San Francisco controlling the airwaves in general, and they have been specifically touchy about any penalties that affect the reach of other conservatives. For example, after a Gizmodo article last weekend reported that Twitter appeared to be demoting certain far-right accounts with a history of hostility on the platform in search results, VICE News grossly mischaracterized the change as "shadow banning," leading to this similarly unhinged tweet from the president:
Twitter “SHADOW BANNING” prominent Republicans. Not good. We will look into this discriminatory and illegal practice at once! Many complaints.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2018
This is a pattern: Tech companies deeply want to avoid the headaches that come with riling up conservatives, but they also want to reassure users that they're doing something about rampant trolling, misinformation and harassment. So they end up bungling it on both ends, and then the conservatives close ranks and yell about it anyhow. It's a small miracle the president hasn't weighed in on Jones yet as well.
In any case, by amorphously framing the issue in terms of "free speech," Cruz can ignore the context and content of said speech and further the ultimate conservative endgame: having no accountability for anything they say whatsoever. They don't want Facebook to play fair so much as they want it to play by their rules and on their terms, and if making the Pizzagate pusher who thinks the Illuminati puts chemicals in the water to make "the friggin' frogs gay" into a martyr helps, so be it.
Gizmodo has reached out for comment to Cruz's office, and we'll update this article if we hear back.