Hickok45 is a beloved figure in the gun community. For many of us, his YouTube channel has been a place to see guns new and old being tried out by a calm gentleman who doesn’t need special effects or a funny accent to educate people about guns. (I’m talking to you, FPSRussia. Hickok45 sounds just right.)
But as reported by Daniel Terrill, YouTube shut down the Hickok45 channel, claiming that he has violated the terms of service on Google+, though the channel was brought back in short order. The outrage from many viewers over the idea of having to miss the greeting, “Hickok45 here,” several times a week must be audible all the way to Mountain View, California, their filter bubble notwithstanding.
Google is well known for anti-gun policies, blocking gun advertising on Google Shopping and requiring age and geographical restrictions for gun-related content on Google+. The company’s push for One Account to Rule Them All—excuse me, One Account, All of Google—makes negotiating the web of terms of service a challenge.
It seems that Google is following the pattern of so many corporations that grab a huge portion of a particular market. At one time, the company had the motto, “Don’t be evil.” This, apparently, is being treated as more of a punch line now than as an organizing principle. Your privacy is something for sale if you use Google’s services, and as I referred to above, search results are “customized”—read forced upon you—by Google’s belief about what you should be shown, based on your previous activity.
In the interest of full disclosure, I have to acknowledge that I use YouTube and Gmail. The latter is the result of my Hotmail account crashing. I’ve been avoiding Google’s search page for several years, using DuckDuckGo or the Ixquick and Startpage search engines to get outside the filter bubble and out from under the use of my personal information.
But in many respects, I feel that I’m fighting a losing battle. Americans seem to have accepted the idea that companies will gather information about them and use or sell that information at will. George Orwell got many things right, but his one failure was in not foreseeing that it would be corporations—at least in America—not governments who would monitor our every move and our every expression.
This seeming censorship of Hickok45 illustrates that our fight to defend rights must include all of them, not just the ones that are of immediate interest or application. The value of the Internet, far more than giving everyone access to cat videos and porn, is its function as the modern town hall, the modern agora that allows discussion of issues across the nation in real time and without geographic barriers. It allows people in all social classes to talk to each other without allowing gates, ghettos, or gulfs to get in the way.
What can we do to preserve this openness? I have to wonder if Guns.com could host Hickok45, but that’s a subject above my pay grade. People who value gun rights have to make their voices heard on social media, have to refuse to surrender those spaces to advocates of control. If every gun owner would go to YouTube’s “Send feedback” tab at the bottom of the front page to express our irritation at censorship of topics the company finds objectionable, the message would be clear and more importantly loud.
The bigger point here is that we don’t need to silence our opponents to protect our rights. We do have to point out the times when supporters of gun control force us to be silent if we expect to win.
The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of Guns.com.