Mikhail Minakov

This column was written on a basis of the web-conference “The Freedom of Expression on the Net: Possible Implications of Banning Mr. Trump from Social Media” organized by Prof. Olena Horoshko

I support criticism of the decision of owners of Twitter and other social networks to prevent the head of state from communicating with the citizens, which I see in texts by Oleksandr Kulyk and Stephen Roach. My critical analysis of the same decision, however, comes from a different perspective. The privately-owned “social networks” are not only ruining the communicative nature of the political community and undermining democracy, this decision manifests that contemporary capitalism is moving against its only legitimizing factor — “corporate citizenship.”

Contemporary capitalism is undergoing yet another restructuring. When the West-led “First World” survived the competition with and the self-destruction of the Socialist Block (or else “Second World”), the Washington Consensus has become a hegemonic model for the all-encompassing development of the nations around the world. This model, in addition to its neoliberal economy, consumerist culture, and democratic politics, also offers an ideal structure of the Lifeworld. In the terminology of this model, the ideal contemporary nation should consist of a good society, a good politics, and a good economy — as guiding principles of coexistence of the social, political, and private spheres of human existence.

A Good Society is an ideal type of society that strives at granting its members to achieve happy life in the ongoing process of debate on political ideas and actions against its core values: equality, democracy, and sustainability. A Good Politics is another ideal type — this time of political system — that ensures that power groups and centers are under democratic control, authorities cannot control freedom of expression and communication, and public governance is not corrupt. And the both — a good society and a good politics — need (here Marxists would agree with the champions of capitalism) a Good Economy, which is a private sector with an ideal balance of private interest and the public good, which respects the happiness of people, good government’s regulations protecting its “constituents against distress, insecurity, and calamity,” and which behaves like a good “corporate citizen” — in return for the respect of the private property and for privacy.

This ideal model is of ideological nature, which means it is real in terms of human intentions and collective practices’ orientations. However, their capitalist system is known for its super-contradictory development: whichever school of scholars we take, all direct at the fact that the evolution of capitalism is going on from one crisis to another. And the history of political economy shows that these crises are connected with the creative destruction which first manifests itself in ideological distress. The current crisis of capitalism can be seen as a confrontation of the driving forces in the social, public, and private spheres.

So, as you can see, I start with the assumption that a good society, good politics, and a good economy can exist if three spheres — public, private, and social — cooperate, but do not interfere in the exclusive business of each other. This means, that individual pursuit of happiness in a vibrant diverse social peacefully coexist; public equality before law and freedom of communication is respected by all — which is granted by effective and law-abiding government; and that the legitimate pursuit of private gains by private means is granted unquestionably.

However, if the actors from these three spheres do not respect the boundaries of each other, they corrupt the order and lead to the crisis — which is the state of creative destruction order that may lead to new — better or worse — order.

Joseph Schumpeter came up with the term “Creative Destruction” to developed on Marx’ idea of specific capitalist self-contradictory development into an understanding that the constant creation of contradictions between old, new, and newer economic forms and processes is the precondition of capitalism’s existence: it requires “the perennial gale of Creative Destruction.” Even though Schumpeter defined this concept in 1940ies, in a totally different historical context, the general idea is now tested in the situation when the corporate sector intervenes into the public and social spheres at unprecedented levels that can lead to the new order with new capitalism denying public freedoms, rule of law, and social autonomy.

The case of President Trump’s social networks’ ban is in a nutshell a corporate ban on communication between legitimate head of government and citizenry, which represents a symptom of the current capitalist crisis.

This corporate owned “social networks” ban on the head of government — even if one accepts the explanation that this ban was driven by the will for the defense of public order — shows that private organization can interfere into the core of public politics, into the communication of government and citizenry.

I disagree with those who call it an act of censorship. Censorship is a policy of the government to control political competition by public tools through public institutions. The Social networks’ ban on President is also a form of non-freedom, but another one. It is not censorship. And censorship in any possible way is an acceptable tool to defend the public good. Censorship is the exclusive tool of unfreedom and public bad, and there is no justification for its use in any other way.

In the “social networks” ban on the head of government case, the private sector enters into the exclusive public sphere’s space of action. If this interference is driven by private gain then it is just another form of corruption. If it is indeed driven by an extended understanding of “corporate citizenship,” then we witness an attempt at a new feature of the becoming order.

The “corporate citizenship” from an element of a good economy and a good society turns into a source of risk for a good politics and a good society. “Corporate citizenship” that used to be a factor of legitimate participants in private-public partnership is turned into a highly questionable issue because of the process that recently took over the world. Today a considerable part of communication — of private, social, or political actors — is done through the so-called “social networks,” but which are private communication channels where rules are rules of the private sphere: they regard service provider and individual user of these services. So far, attempts of governments to put the private owners of “social networks” were not successful. This corporate sector grew into a huge center of power that avoids public limitations, but hugely influences the public processes outcome, also in terms of power distribution. Basically, none of the branches of power can remain immune from the corporate influence.

To rebalance the system and grant that civic freedoms and political communication remain free, ownership of “social networks” and new media must be put into “rule of law”-driven legal context, where neither private owners, nor citizens, nor legitimate public institutions are not deprived of any their rights.

Such legislation — in international and national forms — should also deal with other political and criminal aspects of life in “social networks,” where bullying, cancel culture acts, misinformation is persecuted in accord with the public law and through the accountable legal process.

Free expression and assembly must remain intact — intact by governments, by corporations, and by toxic groups of bullies.

В оформлении использована картина Никласа Янссона “Touched by His Noodly Appendage” (2005; источник).