Thinking about Jack Phillips’ martyrdom at the hands of the QueerBorg leads me to a proposal for ending Leftist social media and search engine monopolies.
Jack Phillips, the Colorado baker, is rapidly being forced into martyrdom thanks to rabid Leftists intent upon making him an example of the need to bow down before the LGBTQIYKWIMAITYD+ monolith that has, in merely eleven years, come to dominate America’s politics. Indeed, for those of you familiar with Star Trek : The Next Generation, the LGBTQWYSIWUG+ monolith is the Borg: It’s a collectivist hive that has as its motto “We are the QueerBorg. Lower your shields and surrender your rights. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile.”
To me, it’s patently clear that Phillips, one of many bakers in his community, has a First Amendment right to exercise his religion freely and to choose those with whom he wants to associate. Anyone is welcome to come into his store and buy his products without discrimination. The Colorado government, though, is trying to coerce him into hanging with people whose values are antithetical to his (and that’s true even if we’re not talking about religious values) and to force him to use his artistic talents in the service of those same people.
The QueerBorg, to advance its demand that all surrender before it, is trying to frame its battle as a civil rights battle and to liken Phillips’ refusal to bake a cake to the closed doors a black man would face in the Jim Crow South when he tried to rent a room for the night or dine in a restaurant. The way in which Congress broke that monopoly of closed doors was through the notion of “public accommodation,” something it enshrined in Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The relevant language states as follows:
(a) Equal access All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, as defined in this section, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.
(b) Establishments affecting interstate commerce or supported in their activities by State action as places of public accommodation; lodgings; facilities principally engaged in selling food for consumption on the premises; gasoline stations; places of exhibition or entertainment; other covered establishments Each of the following establishments which serves the public is a place of public accommodation within the meaning of this subchapter if its operations affect commerce, or if discrimination or segregation by it is supported by State action:
(1) any inn, hotel, motel, or other establishment which provides lodging to transient guests, other than an establishment located within a building which contains not more than five rooms for rent or hire and which is actually occupied by the proprietor of such establishment as his residence;
(2) any restaurant, cafeteria, lunchroom, lunch counter, soda fountain, or other facility principally engaged in selling food for consumption on the premises, including, but not limited to, any such facility located on the premises of any retail establishment; or any gasoline station;
(3) any motion picture house, theater, concert hall, sports arena, stadium or other place of exhibition or entertainment; and
(4) any establishment (A)(i) which is physically located within the premises of any establishment otherwise covered by this subsection, or (ii) within the premises of which is physically located any such covered establishment, and (B) which holds itself out as serving patrons of such covered establishment. (42 U.S.C. § 2000a.)
The most obvious distinction between the LGBYOB+ and African-American situations, of course, is that the statute is directed at “race, color, religion, or national origin.” That’s why there’s such a big push on the Left to enact The Equality Act, which would raise sexual orientation and claims about gender to the same legal level of protection afforded race, color, religion, or national origin. The Equality Act, though, is another post entirely, and not a subject I wish to explore here. Instead, I’m interested in the monopoly of closed doors.
Keep in mind that, as I noted in passing above, the Civil Rights Act did not arise in a vacuum. It was a direct response to a very specific problem: The fact that Jim Crow laws in the South, backed by the personal preferences of bigoted people all over America, meant that places ostensibly held open for walk-in customers could arbitrarily refuse customers based upon the customers’ race (or color, or religion, or national origin). Under this all-encompassing regime, blacks theoretically could travel throughout the South without ever being able to obtain either food or lodging. (As the recent movie Green Book shows, blacks responded to this monopolistic denial of service by identifying hotels, restaurants, and other “open to the public” establishments that would serve them, but it was an imperfect solution and one that was both deeply offensive to human dignity and antithetical to the promise of our Declaration of Independence.)
In other words, that portion of the Civil Rights Act relating to Public Accommodations was intended to break a monopoly that was driven by culture and backed by legislation. The legislation, of course, was the real kicker. As Milton Friedman famously noted, had Jim Crow not been legislated, it likely would have died away as hoteliers, restaurateurs, and the owners of entertainment establishments ended up competing for the only color that mattered: the lovely green of dollar bills. However, legislation, backed by societal prejudice, created an insupportable hurdle to free market sources, and created a monolithic wall that blacks could not breach.
Jack Phillips clearly does not fall into the category of a monolithic monopoly on all institutions open to the public. First, no one can deny that he held his doors open to all customers who walked into his store and sought to buy any of the products on display. He reserved only the right to withhold his services from specific ceremonies (not customers, but ceremonies) that offended his religious sensibilities. Second, Phillips was/is anything but a monopoly. The LGBTQLMAO+ community in Colorado has a lot of choices when it comes to custom baked goods prepared for QueerBorg ceremonies.
While Jack Phillips’ little bakery is manifestly not comparable to the type of public accommodation contemplated under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, once I started thinking about public accommodations, the principles driving the legislation fit today’s social media giants. Within a very short time, these giants have come to monopolize the way in which Americans communicate with each other. They have become the tech equivalent of the old time public square. If you want to get a message out today. You don’t stand in the forum in ancient Rome. You don’t go to the Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park. You don’t stand on a platform on the Boston Commons. You don’t pin a notice to the board outside the General Store.
Instead, in the modern marketplace of ideas, unless you’re a media outlet yourself with control over the means of information dissemination, you place your message on Facebook, on Twitter, and even on Pinterest. In 2019, it should not be open to question that these outlets have a virtual monopoly on the dissemination of information and ideas.
And if people want to find you or your message, they don’t look in the Yellow Pages. They don’t go and gaze on the notice board at the general store. They don’t step over the sleeping homeless people in and around the public library to check dusty volumes and arcane publications. Instead, they conduct their search on Google or Bing or Yahoo. These outlets have a virtual monopoly on locating information and ideas.
That there are several different entities in the world of social media and search engines — Facebook, Twitter, Bing, Google, etc. — does not change their monopolistic nature, because they all pull in the same harness. They are guided by and employ people who have identical cultural and political values, among which is the belief that all ideas that do not harmonize with theirs must be stifled. They are ideological bigots, every bit as hate-filled and narrow-minded as the old-time Jim Crow Southerners who closed their businesses to people because of their skin color.
Think of it this way: Today’s censorious tech giants, rather than being in the business of selling food or lodging, are in the business of selling and re-selling ideas. If they close their doors to classes of people, their monopolistic status means that the targeted class is out in the ideological cold.
The Constitution did not talk about sodas and beds, or movies and bars, although its underlying promises and premises were enough to make legitimate legislation ensuring that all Americans had equal access to sodas and beds, movies and bars. Instead, it was obsessed with the world of ideas. After all, that’s what the First — the very first — Amendment is all about: Ideas. Let me remind you:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Perhaps the most basic premise of the United States is that the free exchange of ideas is essential to a free country. If the government can break up monopolies in oil, in transport, in lodging, and in dining, it’s inconceivable that it cannot break up a monopoly on the most important thing that matters: the free exchange of ideas and information.
Indeed, I would go further and argue that there is no need to create special legislation, as was necessary to break Jim Crow. Because the Constitution is about the spread of ideas, and because the tech giants are impairing the 21st century method of spreading ideas, their behavior is a prima facie violation of the Constitution that can be barred without any legislative acts.