EVANSVILLE  — Another mass shooting or two and we have another wave of everyone arguing about the 2nd Amendment. Unfortunately, most arguing the point either don’t understand the matter at hand or they are situational opportunists serving a preexisting agenda. 

But another interesting debate seems to be bubbling to the forefront: What to do about the subculture breeding mass shootings. It is obvious by now there is a self-perpetuating shooter subculture with an ideological infrastructure. How do you take it down? Many have already begun a movement to strike at this subculture’s sources of alienation and radicalization. 

One proposal has been to take down 8chan. Not just 8chan, of course. There are plenty of other fora for the dissemination and activation of mass-shooter ideology. And there is an even wider ecosystem of fora plausibly adjacent to them. You can end up scooping up Gab, parts of Reddit, some of Twitter, some of YouTube, and so on. 

Once you do that, you’ve achieved the critical, and perhaps even decisive, step of disconnecting alienated and potentially violent young single males from their single most important source of motivation and validation, one another. 

The problem of course is that all this quite plausibly violates the 1st Amendment, the foundation of our freedoms. Our government is well practiced in executing this sort of Internet/communications takedown when the target is Al Qaeda or ISIS. No one disputes the legality of that. Nearly everyone would dispute the legality of this. 

You’d see outright opposition even from the left if the effort hit coordination and activation mechanisms for its own apparatus of civic violence in Antifa, et al.

So how do you do it? You sidestep the 1st Amendment issue entirely by having the corporations controlling the infrastructure do it. Acting on behalf of elite consensus and strong encouragement from the state, the controlling firms themselves will do what the government will not. 

I want to be clear that I am not prescribing any of this, nor rendering judgment on any one thing here. This is strictly descriptive and predictive. Anyone disclaiming or dismissing complexity in this matter is less than honest. Two points to make on all this. 

First, having the corporations execute the hit on the communicative apparatus will be a tremendous furtherance of one of the defining phenomena of modern American life. As traditional institutions collapse in public trust and esteem, the profitmaking institutions step into the breach and attempt to dictate morality in the public square on their own. Swapping out Billy Graham for Tim Cook will have follow-on effects. Also, after the corporations comes the military. 

Second, the big bet in the establishment of American democracy nearly 250 years ago was that individual citizens could be trusted to communicate and organize freely with one another. No mediating or moderating aristocracy or hierarchy was required; our liberties could be absolute. This mostly worked so long as the citizenry retained among themselves, at the individual level, a common ethic of restraint and prohibition. Now that this common ethic is gone, the viability of the American proposition becomes a live issue once more. 

To those who labored tirelessly for the destruction of institutions, the sundering of community, and the replacement of tradition with a cult of accelerating newness and materialist progress: You won. 

Your world is here. 

Claybourn practices law in Evansville and is the author of the book “Our American Story: The Search for a Shared National Narrative” (Potomac Books, 2019).