The “marketplace of ideas” is a libertarian fantasy for discussing opinions. It operates in a fundamentally capitalist form in which “bad ideas will be discarded by the people, and only good ideas will remain.” This is the same principle by which libertarians argue in favor of the “free market,” that somehow consumers will be able to determine what is the best product and drive the other products to adapt or die. This theory advocates against regulation and pushes hard the notion that businesses will have to self-regulate in order to survive. This is so deeply and obviously bullshit that it’s hard to believe any sane person could truly believe it. And yet they do. The so-called marketplace of ideas operates in the exact same way. Regulation is a death knell to the advocate of the marketplace. Regulation is censorship. But is it? Is it really an infringement of the first amendment? There are plenty of regulations on the first amendment. You can’t falsely yell FIRE in the middle of a crowded movie theater. You can’t threaten someone’s life. You can’t commit slander or libel. These things are explicitly not allowed. But why? If the marketplace of ideas is intended to oust the bad or evil ideas, why not let someone yell fire in a theater? Won’t the people in the theater see that there is no fire, and simply discredit the individual trying to create fear? Obviously not, because that’s not how people work. The desire for self-preservation is so strong that a random individual screaming about imminent death overrides the logical part of the brain enough that we don’t care about whether there actually is a fire or not. We run. The marketplace of ideas cannot function without these regulations according to the Supreme Court. Yet proposing any regulation on the marketplace appears as a silencing of free speech. Can we regulate the market without censoring people?
But frankly we shouldn’t care. The reality is that the marketplace is not just selling rotten goods. The marketplace itself is rotten. We’re operating within a system that fundamentally cannot function. Just like in the free market, the marketplace desperately needs regulation. From the very first moment of our education, we are being misled. Lied to. Deceived. The United Daughters of the Confederacy is partially responsible for this deception. They created textbooks in the late 1800’s that were filled with lies designed to make the Confederacy more sympathetic. It was not a civil war, it was the “War of Northern Aggression”. The Confederates were not fighting for slavery, they were fighting for “states’ rights.” These lies are obvious, but when they are taught in your class as a child, they are fact. Those “facts” become propagated into even more lies, and those lies turn into outright disinformation campaigns. The rise in fascism over the past 60 years stems directly from this corrupted marketplace of ideas. When ideas are capital, lies are power. Fascism is incongruent with the advancement of the people. When fascism is allowed to exist, nothing else is. Censoring fascists is not an infringement on the first amendment, because fascism is an infringement on basic human rights, which fundamentally supersede the first amendment. If we allow the fascists to control the marketplace, we lose the ability to use the marketplace. We must reclaim the marketplace from the fascists and capitalists to ensure the dissemination of ideas is not fundamentally corrupted.
By Felix Thibodeau, Contributor