An Essay on Social Media Companies and Free Speech
Subtitle: An Analysis of The Parasitic Mind by Gad Saad
by Collin Wynter
Gad Saad states in The Parasitic Mind:
“Many people in the West have a poor understanding of the concept of free speech. Whenever I mute or block someone on social media, a cacophony of fools will accuse me of being a free speech hypocrite for ‘silencing their voice’. They do not understand that I have a right to walk away from their online taunts, insults and idiocy. To do so is not ‘restricting’ their speech but expressing my right to avoid listening to them. This is an obvious point, and yet many people are confused by it. A second mistake is the mindlessly aped line: ‘Social media companies are not the government. They have the right to choose which content will be carried on their platforms.’ In a sane world, this would be a laughable position to hold, and yet it is endlessly repeated without any reflection on its nefarious implications. Google, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter have more global control over us than all other companies combined. It is not hyperbole to say that they have more collective power, in terms of information they control, than all the rulers, priests, and politicians of history. If knowledge is power, then these social media giants are nearly all-powerful when they decide which information we can have and whether we can be allowed a social media platform. Big tech companies routinely ban right-leaning commentators, but of course this is all an unfortunate ‘algorithmic coincidence.’ What could be more sinister?” (Saad, pg 41-42)
In Steven Pinker’s, The Sense of Style, Pinker states good writing starts strong, “Not with a cliche…not with a banality…but with a contentful observation that provides curiosity” (5). And Gad Saad does not disappoint. Making such a provocative statement as: “Many people in the West have a poor understanding of the concept of free speech”, must astonish the reader. How can anyone in the West, the bastion of free speech, not understand that of which is most fundamental? He enthrals his reader to read on, with a hook such as this.
In this section of his book, The Parasitic Mind, Gad Saad begins by refuting the contradiction that muting or blocking “online taunts, insults and idiocy” on social media is a form of “silencing their voice”. By painting the dissenters as a “a cacophony of fools”, the analogy draws on the insanity of social media threads. The label of “fools” in particular allows him to explain why such people cannot seem to see to the obvious. That being “[that he is] not ‘restricting’ their speech but expressing my right to avoid listening to them.” Contrasting “restriction” with right to express, he contradicts the attack of being called a “hypocrite”. He demonstrates that the dissenters are actually the ones trying to restrict his freedom to walk away. Clearly and logically falsifying his opponents’ argument, he builds a relationship of confidence with his reader for his next, more considerable, foe; the belief that free speech is by default authorized on social media from the tech giants.
Beginning the second point of his argument with a qualified maxim “mindlessly aped line”, he presents the upcoming statement to be something that one does not normally think about. Instead, the statement will be bereft of meaning, uttered as an echo. A mimic. A mere shadow of actual conceived thought. That statement being: “Social media companies are not the government. They have the right to choose which content will be carried on their platforms.” He proceeds to eviscerate the flawed belief that just because social media is not the government, they deign to operate in the best interests of the public. “In a sane world this would be laughable” sets the stage for recognition that the current state of affairs are not playing by common sense rules. This follows the theme of reason as an answer to nonsense. He then uses an insidious remark “[that there are] nefarious implications” at play. This implies that events may be controlled by other actors. Those being the four tech giants: Google, YoutTube, Facebook, Twitter. They have “more global control over us than all other companies combined”. A global perspective thus envelopes the known world wherein no one can escape. Using the larger than life term: “all other companies combined”, encapsulate the enormity of the scenario. Including the statement: “[that they have] more collective power, in terms of information they control, than all the rulers, priests, and politicians of history [as part of their behavioural tactics]”, brings the allusion of George Orwell’s Big Brother in 1984 comes to mind.
Saad escalates the seriousness of this situation by using the maxim “knowledge is power” and caricaturing the tech oligarchs as “giants” which are “nearly all powerful”. In doing so he presents us with a David versus Goliath moment. Stating facts about the banning of “right leaning commentators”, while highlighting their generic response “algorithmic coincidence” as a cause, leans weight to his dictum that the tech giants have too much control over digital laneways. He finishes this topic by applying a powerful move in rhetoric, the use of a question: “What could be more sinister?” Not only does he tie in the insidiousness of tech’s involvement in dissemination of free speech, but he leaves the reader hanging onto the question, what is next?
Gad Saad is the god father of ‘death by a thousand cuts’. Utilizing all resources made available through reason, scientific evidence, history and satire he creates a nomologically cumulative base from which to attack his adversaries. Cut by cut, he dismembers his opponents arguments through logical and clear application of language, while allowing the reader to stay at pace and absorb what is being intoned. His sharp wit is his greatest tool.
In Pinker’s lecture Linguistics, Style and Writing in the 21st Century, Pinker points out a “Classic style [defined as] the model: [a] prose as a window onto the world, where the writer has seen something in the world, and he positions the reader so she can see it with her own eyes,” (8:42). Saad follows this classic method. He situates his reader in a personalized scenario at first. That being a negative social media experience, which is something we all probably have experienced. By providing the reader with an equal footing as the author, he then presents the deeper idea of the tech giants gate keeping freedom of speech. Taking the reader to the end point, that “Big Tech” is antithetical to our rights, he leaves off with a question. The question provides a springboard for the audience to their own exploration in the rights of freedom of speech and censorship throughout social media.
Pinker, Steven. “Linguistics, Style and Writing in the 21
st Century – with Steven Pinker.” YouTube, uploaded by The Royal Institution, 28 October 2015,
Pinker, Steven. “Good Writing.” The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in
the 21st Century, Penguin Books, 2015, pp. 11-26
Saad, Gad. “Non-Negotiable Elements of a Free Society.” The Parasitic Mind, Regnery Publishing, 2020, pp.41-42