«In China you have a state-run media. In America you have a media-run state.» -Darren J. Beattie, former White House speechwriter
The wave of online censorship has once again shown the infantilizing face of progressivism that considers people to be passive and uncritical agents, incapable of filtering the information they are exposed to.
YouTube announced last December that it would no longer allow the publication of videos discussing alleged electoral fraud in the U.S. presidential elections. The announcement came as part of a series of purges that Google has undertaken in recent years. And these attacks look set to continue in 2021, as Big Tech looks to effectively banish President Donald Trump from the internet.
The turning point
Following the year 2016 that was marked by the populist revolt of the Brexit referendum, the election of Trump, and the rejection of the “peace” agreements in Colombia, the praetorian guard of the established order set out to prevent a repetition of the conditions that brought about those electoral setbacks.
Currently there is no such thing as a “free market of ideas.” Under normal conditions the forces of globalism can lose the battle of ideas. This is unacceptable to demophobic elites. According to their reasoning, people must be protected from their bad decisions.
They are aspiring towards a tutored democracy; a democracy understood not as a means to channel conflict, but to make it disappear in the shredder of consensus. The first step in creating that particular form of “democracy” is to build a truth, and the first step in building that truth is to reduce the limits of permissible discourse.
Privatization of the public sphere
Many of us have spent our lives on the internet, yet just a few have the ability to erase us from it at a stroke.
Those who preserve the mental framework of the Cold War and the classic conception of totalitarianism as it was applied in the last century are unable to notice the signs of the new, more sophisticated, and secretive totalitarianism. Today the “liberal” offensive that seeks to impose uniformity of thought comes less from governments than from the organs of popular culture, the large media corporations, and, of course, from social networks and digital platforms. The phenomenon of “cancel culture” therefore represents one of the greatest setbacks from freedom of speech in the modern world. .
Trump’s political career would never have succeeded without alternative media and social networks. Disguised suppression, demonetization, and closing the accounts of influential conservatives who support him have been vital to the strategy to end it.
The canary in the mine
Even Noam Chomsky, who hardly ever gets it right, is right about one thing: if we don’t believe in the freedom of expression of those we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.
When Infowars host Alex Jones was expelled in 2018 from all platforms where he published content, most of those who stand for diversity of thought fell silent. The fear of being associated with his conspiracy theories prevailed over principled considerations. The point is that when it comes to censorship and curtailment of freedoms, the slippery slope is real. The same actors who turned Jones into a digital pariah are now doing the same with the supposedly most powerful man in the world: the American president.
A dangerous and counterproductive strategy
The sad irony for Big Tech is that pushing these figures to the margins, cornering them, creates the impression of persecution, making them even more seductive for the young and whose with anti-establishment views. In some circles being “banned” from Facebook, Twitter or YouTube is a sign of validation.
Manipulation, lying, and collusion must be fought with verifiable information and data; not with censorship or passing of “hate crime” legislation, which only leads to the judicialization of public debates.
Trump’s executive order to “combat Internet censorship” achieved effectively nothing. Looking back, it seems silly that so much time was spent in think tanks and liberal-conservative media discussing the supposed dangers of such a lukewarm initiative. What the president should have done at the beginning of his term, when he had a majority in both houses (because this is not new), was to reform the antitrust laws and explore the mechanisms that limit the control of Silicon Valley’s CEOs.
The reaffirmation of a hegemony
We can hardly watch a movie, TV series, award ceremony, or sports competition without being bombarded with political messages: from kneeling athletes to campaign rallies. Today, progressive propaganda is so widespread that changing the channel is not enough. There is no neutral ground. A trend that dominated the old media guard has reached the digital world. The adversary, in the drunkenness of his victory, in the hybris of his triumph, reaffirms his hegemony.
Yet there is something prematurely defeatist and self-governing in migrating entirely to platforms like Parler and BitChute (substitutes for Twitter and YouTube, respectively), echo chambers where one can only preach to the converted. As long as there is no legislative solution, believers in freedom must circumvent the restrictions and continue spreading content through the regular channels, undermining this woke dictatorship from within.