It’s time to stand up to get the government and society we deserve

CHAMBERSBURG – History has shown that the one thing we can count on is change. Time alters power. Time alters who’s in charge. Time alters whose voice is loudest.

In order for anything to be altered, though, it requires people in the moment to take a stand.

State Representative Paul Schemel talked with Pat Ryan and Michele Jansen recently on First News about the need for people to speak up on issues that concern them.

The conversation began with the social media titans and the squash-down they do to anyone they disagree with, including Donald Trump.

Schemel said, “Let’s talk ‘should’ and ‘could.’ Could first. Anti-trust law, that’s anti-monopoly law. There are some legal theorists that say that should apply because of the dominant position that Facebook and Twitter have and by effectively shutting someone out, they’re preventing a competitive marketplace for ideas. That’s on the theory that Facebook and Twitter and so forth are news agencies. They could do that.”

When talking about “should,” that’s where things take a slightly different turn.

Schemel said, “I’m a free market theorist so I think we should do nothing, personally. I don’t like the fact that they’ve shut him (Donald Trump) out, but our history is replete with examples of dominant industry players like Facebook is today that get knocked off by someone else who’s able to offer the services or offer the content that people want. If people want Donald Trump, then enterprising businesses will find a way to bring Donald Trump or whomever, whatever voice there is.”

Then there’s the issue as to whether social media meets the standards used in anti-trust legislation before.

“It’s not a utility,” Schemel said. “There’s no government license. There’s no government easements or things like that that railroads or water companies enjoy. It’s not a natural monopoly. So I personally don’t think it meets the qualifications of a monopoly, legally, personally. And as a free marketeer, I don’t think we should. I think hands should be off. Let the free market determine what should happen.”

Jansen asked, “What about the fact that it’s effectively the public square and that by pushing people off you’re effectively putting them in a technology ghetto? You’re not allowing their faces and voices to be heard and then…there’s this weird mob pressure also that exists. It’s not just these companies making a decision on their own not to do it. They’re being pressured by activists who utilize their platforms to get those messages out, loudly. Then that also makes them fearful of losing money that they do these things.”

Schemel admitted, “I don’t use Facebook and I don’t use Twitter, but many people do. Those of you who do, think back to when you first contracted with those businesses. How much did you pay? You paid nothing, right? In exchange, they use you for advertising so that’s the contract. What’s the public space that they occupy? The public square. I mean I’m looking at the public square in Chambersburg right now. If we had a law that said only one person could stand on that square and speak, well that’s a limitation of speech. But instead we’re looking at an electronic platform that any enterprising business can take advantage of.”

And, using the theory that began this article, history shows that some enterprising business likely will.

Schemel said, “Just ten years ago there was concern with anti-trust claims on Myspace. Anyone use Myspace anymore? It has been supplanted by Facebook. Sears has been supplanted by Walmart, which has been supplanted by Amazon. All of them were dominant players. All had at their time of dominance all these accusations that they were effectively leaving everyone out, but the free market came to the rescue. And I think the free market will here too.”

Schemel continued, “And conservatives have other outlets. They have Fox News. They have 103.7. They have Breitbart. There are many different places you can get news if you’re a conservative or whatever your viewpoint might be. Not just Facebook and not just Twitter. Those are forums. And they’re not exclusive forums. It’s a platform that anyone who wants to put the money in can take advantage of starting their own platform. All they have to do is have something that people want. That’s what Facebook has. They’ve offered something people want. Anyone else that is enterprising can do the same.”

Jansen asked about the server farms and Amazon that ruled over Parler and basically shut them down, although the microblogging and social networking service is working on coming back around again.

Schemel said, “The server farms that are once again on a platform that anyone else can start their own server farms. Just because it’s a dominant industry doesn’t mean that they have a monopoly that can’t be broken and I think history demonstrates to us that they don’t and they will be broken. It just is a matter of time and a matter of someone with resources and there are plenty of people out there who have the drive and ambition to want to offer something that people want. The space is free in that legally it’s free. It’s open. You just have to put the money and time into developing it.”

Jansen pointed out, “People will say there’s actually not enough time because we’re having an ideological takeover. Unfortunately we’re seeing in company after company people acquiescing to a certain, one viewpoint of the world idea.”

She pointed to the Basecamp worker exodus as an example.

“It only took six employees throwing temper tantrums that totally disrupted this company over their being offended by a funny name list that had been kept there for ten years and it didn’t concentrate on any one ethnicity,” Jansen said. “But because these little woke-ists who just recently graduated university probably, have been conditioned to see racism and hate everywhere, they made a fuss about it. And because one, almost 20-year employee made the comment in a meeting, they decided to have with these six employees. I totally agree we had problems in the past and those all need to be addressed. I’m all for that. I just don’t agree that this country is a systemically white superior culture. Because of that, he was put on suspension. He was so demoralized, he quit. There was going to be an investigation by the heads of the company. If that ideology takes over I don’t know that you’ll have people brave enough to actually put their money and go ahead and try to make these stands because people’s lives are being destroyed.”

Schemel said, “So, people get the world that they deserve. If we aren’t as a citizenry brave enough to stand up in our workplaces, in our social settings, for what is right, then we certainly can’t insist the government do it for us. I don’t disagree that there aren’t problems. I just don’t think that the government is the solution to those problems.”

He pointed to the NBA and other sports organizations that put an end to demonstrations.  

“At the end of the day it was a business decision,” Schemel said. “They wanted viewers. The marketplace is the place where these things should be meted out and people get what they want. Yes, sometimes we have extremist groups that kind of get their day in the sun, but that ultimately comes to an end so long as people say I’m not interested in that. I want to be entertained. Or I just want to buy products. Or I want my kids to go to school and just learn about history and math and not all these other crazy theories, but that does require us standing up and saying I’m not going to buy Coke anymore. I’m not going to watch Major League Baseball. I’m going to put my child in another school and thank heavens we have the ability to do that if you don’t like your school system. Although it’s somewhat limited but we do with charter schools.”

Talk then turned to the anti-discrimination laws sweeping the state concerning LGBTQ+ rights. More than 60 municipalities have adopted these laws in Pennsylvania.

Schemel said, “They want to add to the list of protected classes, even though there’s not really evidence of widespread discrimination against that class. This is all done under the auspices of the state Human Relations Act from 1955 and that act really is broad in the power that it gives the statewide commission. The statewide commission can establish local affiliates which I guess Chambersburg is exploring that can report people up and to be investigated and adjudicated and fined. There’s a lot of danger there for the good intentions that I’m sure the act had.”

Ryan asked, “Say I say something that the folks on this Human Relations Commission, if it goes through here, they don’t like what I’m saying on the radio station that I get investigated, adjudicated and I get enforced. Is that how dangerous that we’re talking about? Maybe a church. They don’t like what a church is saying just around the corner here. Is that how this goes?”

“It shouldn’t,” Schemel said. “First of all, churches should be protected in their speech and you should be too because you’re a member of the press. The act actually talks specifically about employment and housing. You’re not denying anyone the ability to rent an apartment here or get a job. I don’t think they have any enforcement mechanism under those.”

The act does claim to educate, which might be the most worrisome piece of this.

“How that gets into our local schools, that could be really the danger,” Schemel said. “Not so much stopping speech as stifling speech in places where kids should be learning about the freedoms of speech that they have.”

Jansen added, “It’s the programs that I’m worried about. It’s not the textbooks. I’m not worried about the curriculum per se. I’m worried about the message that’s going to be done because if you can start defining harassment as disagreeing with your world point of view, which they’re doing, that’s where I think we get into danger. One of the activists told me that day, your free speech ends at the tip of your nose and if you hurt my feelings you’re violating (it).”

“That belies the notion of free speech,” Schemel said. “That’s absurd. Remember, we get the government and society that we deserve. So it takes people being courageous and getting out of their homes and speaking up on these things.”

What kind of government and society to YOU think we deserve?