As a group, Conservative Christians in North America seem to be hypersensitive to persecution to the extent where they are susceptible to a persecution complex or persecutory delusion. As a case in point, consider an article posted just today by Michael Brown titled “Why YouTube’s Conflict With Infowars Should Concern Us All.” Brown raises a voice of protest against the prospect that YouTube might boot that deplorable conspiracy theorist Alex Jones off their platform. The problem, presumably, is that YouTube is getting sick-and-tired of providing a platform to this nutjob and his dangerous delusions. (For example, Jones has argued that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was, in fact, a staged event using child actors.)
To be sure, Brown is no fan of Jones. But he does interpret this threat as the beginning of a growing “purge” of “conservative” voices from YouTube. He concludes with this ominous warning:
And so, whether you’re an Infowars fan or you find their work distasteful, their potential removal from YouTube should concern you. Otherwise, soon enough, we’ll have our own version of Martin Niemöller’s famous poem, which will now sound something like this:
First they came for Infowars, and I did not speak out — because I found them offensive.
Then they came for Geller and Spencer, and I did not speak out — because I found them obnoxious.
Then they came for Prager U, and I did not speak out — because I found them opinionated.
Then they came for a host of others, and I did not speak out — because I have my own life to live.
Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.
I see things rather differently.
To begin with, YouTube is a private company. They are under no obligation to provide a continued platform for Mr. Jones to perpetuate his hateful bile. And if they do remove his conspiracy channel (and I can only hope that they do), he is free to launch a new platform — ConspiracyTube, perhaps — from which he can continue to shovel his verbal dung.
But what if Christian voices — and conservative Christian voices in particular — also are “purged” from YouTube, as Brown fears? What then?
First off, let’s be reasonable about the concern. Evangelicals make up more than one-quarter of the population of the United States. YouTube is a for-profit company which has little interest in alienating a quarter of their potential market en masse. Thus, if conservative Christian channels do get removed, it will presumably be for some specific reason particular to those individuals and not part of a mass “purge” of conservative Christians (still less of “conservatives” simpliciter) as Brown fears.
And if/when that ever happens then those Christians can go on over to another platform like Vimeo or perhaps GodTube and let YouTube suffer the loss of their revenue-generating Christian channels. Heck, they can also organize a boycott of YouTube, if they like. It’s a free country.
Let’s go back to the question of why YouTube would bar particular individuals like Alex Jones in the first place. The action is borne of the recognition that YouTube is not merely a neutral purveyor of content. And as such, they have a responsibility to the general public to provide some minimal curatical oversight of their service.
The fact is that this idea of minimal curatical oversight is no different from the Christian bookstore manager who must decide whether to stock Christian kitsch he believes trivializes and commercializes the faith or bestselling books which contain heterodox but popular teachings. That Christian bookstore manager will inevitably allow some content she disagrees with. But she will also draw a line at some point and recognize that some products are irreconcilable with the principles and mission of the store.
That’s precisely the kind of socially responsible vetting process that YouTube is engaged in right now. If they decide that Alex Jones is beyond the pale, I will cheer on their decision. If they decide not to host a conservative Christian teacher like Michael Brown, I will disagree. But YouTube’s decision not to host a particular Christian channel would not provide justification to speak of a “purge,” still less to invoke the shocking specter of national socialism.