Boy, if Republicans think South Dakota’s single-subject rule is so peachy, maybe they should explain it to Donald Trump, who is threatening to defund the soldiers if Congress doesn’t include in the pending military spending bill a repeal of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which has nothing to do with our warfighting capability and everything to do with Donald Trump’s lawsuit-making ability:
The veto threat is the latest move by the president in his war against social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter. He and other conservatives believe tech companies are biased against conservative political views — censoring posts they don’t like. However, the social media platforms say they are only trying to stop the spread of false claims and disinformation [Jaclyn Diaz, “Trump Vows to Veto Defense Bill Unless Shield for Big Tech Is Scrapped,” NPR, 2020.12.02].
First, let’s remember that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which says we can’t sue Facebook, Twitter, or other social media companies for allowing vulgarians to post offensive material on their platforms, may be the only reason any of the big players allow Trump to post his garbage on their sites.
Second, let’s remember that Section 230 protects more than big tech corporations. Section 230 protects Dakota Free Press, Dakota War College, Northern Valley Beacon, and every other one-man blog in America that offers a comment section. Section 230 says that if ne’er-do-wells jump on this blog while I’m out raking the yard and fill the comment section with libelous comments, death threats, calls for violent overthrow of the Aberdeen City Council, and other prosecutable speech, no one can take me to court for those folks’ fouls statements. The only people liable for naughty speech in my comment section are the naughty speakers themselves.
Repeal 230, and everyone responsible for a website, from Facebook on down to our humble South Dakota blogs, will switch off their comment sections. Even Facebook doesn’t have enough lawyers and enough algorithms to determine which comments constitute libel or actionable threats. Maintaining on open online forum would expose bloggers to intolerable legal risk.
And third, third, third! Section 230, liability protection for bloggers and web hosts, has nothing to do with paying soldiers to maintain their readiness to break things and kill people for Liberty. The Demander-in-Chief, who is supposed to lead our armed forces, is instead threatening to shut them down—not pay our soldiers, not help them feed their families, not help educate and employ their spouses, not provide soldiers and their families with health care, not pay pensions to retired soldiers and their families—unless he gets to sue Twitter for blocking his bunk while letting the masses mock his mediocrity.
There are plenty of good reasons to spend less on the military (one of which trickled incidentally and without conviction from Trump’s own self-serving mouth three months ago). But the ability of South Dakota bloggers to offer comment sections without legal liability is not one of them.
The final version of the National Defense Authorization Act that will soon be considered by the House and Senate won’t include Trump’s long-sought repeal of the legal immunity for online companies, known as Section 230, according to lawmakers and aides.
…Republicans on Wednesday showed some signs of exasperation with the president’s latest effort. As one GOP lawmaker put it: “Republicans are sick of this [poop].”
Another Republican, Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, put it more delicately. While he said he understood the president’s frustrations with Section 230, it was not worth imperiling the broader defense bill.
“The NDAA is so important to the men and women that wear the uniform that this should not be an item to veto the act over,” he said. “So I would hope he would reconsider his position on it.”
And Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) said his “preference” would be to pass the NDAA and then address Section 230 separately [Andrew Desiderio, Connor O’Brien, and Marianne Levine, “Congress Shoots Down Trump’s Threat to Veto Defense Bill,” Politico, 2020.12.02].
South Dakota’s Senators continue to lack the courage to rebuff their reckless leader as forcefully as is necessary, not for Trump’s sake, but for the sake of an American public that sorely needs moral leadership and clear-voiced rejection of Donald’s selfish nihilism. They deserve some minimal praise for minimally resisting the unhinged White House—minimal because they do so only on one of the safest issues possible—but does there never come a point, Senator Thune, Senator Rounds, where you acknowledge the plain fact that Donald Trump would drive soldiers, families, and the whole darn nation off a cliff if he thought he could make a buck or settle some personal score with that action?
Barack Obama says Democrats lost a big audience when some in the party ranks used “Defund the Police!” as a snappy slogan. Donald Trump is now essentially shouting, Let me sue Twitter, or I’ll defund the Marines! In Trump’s case, the “defunding” isn’t even shorthand for some broader, more complicated policy reform; he means to literally defund the troops unless he gets his way on a completely different policy tied not to “national security” but to his ego and personal vindictiveness. How Trump can so objectify and demean the troops and not lose his flag-waving, 21-gun-saluting audience escapes me.