The dynamics of news used to be that of current events, events of interest that captured the attention of the mainstream media and the public. Until recently, most of the media in the West covered, more or less, the same events at the same time, but with very different optics, orientation, analysis and opinion -thus, whoever wanted to see them from different points of view had them at their fingertips- and although the leftist bias of the bulk of the mainstream press in the United States -and even in Western Europe is nothing new, the public was, until not long ago, reasonably informed.
Today, that’s different. On the one hand, most of the information we receive, even if it comes from traditional or alternative media, arrives through social networks. The networks are the great opinion-forming filter, more so than the mainstream media used to be. And this is happening in the midst of a fierce radicalization of the old leftist bias of the mainstream media, of the rise of activist journalism, which proclaims the end of commitment to facts, to replace it with a commitment to radical ideological agendas.
Indeed, from a totalitarian culture of cancellation that extends from academia to the media and big tech. Thus, this privileged filter operates without editorial responsibility, but with an editorial line, and without the slightest commitment to net neutrality, which would be the only legitimate justification for its legal privileges.
However, there are still independent media, against the current of those who proudly conspired together with politicians, big technology companies and old union strongholds, to change the outcome of a presidential election through disinformation and manipulation, in the name of “saving democracy.” Agitation and propaganda, on a scale and with a uniformity and intentionality unknown outside the great totalitarianisms, are today part of the reality of the great democracies.
A new and unhappy world
It is a new and unhappy world. Democracies will not remain democracies under these conditions for long. There are still institutions that can and sometimes do resist; but we have already seen them give way -at critical moments and on critical issues- when the opposite was expected.
But even in the midst of this bleak picture, the old dynamics of current affairs continue to prevail in the few independent media and to some extent. Even in those committed to the agitation and propaganda of power. It is the columnist’s privilege to insist that what yesterday shocked us, today continues to threaten us and it would be bad to forget it. Not long ago, the big news of the independent press -another one that the mainstream press refused to report- was Bill Gates’ initiative on the “veracity” of information on the Internet.
Had I addressed it then, I would have focused on the ridiculousness of being told that the New York Times (NYT) was the measure of journalistic truth. It is a great newspaper, no doubt, and a very influential one. It was a key part of the great conspiracy to twist the last American presidential election -and they are proud of it. It has been a source of disinformation scandals on behalf of the radical left for decades. If the NYT had been the measure of journalistic truth. in the first half of the last century, no one would ever have known that Stalinism imposed a genocidal famine on Ukraine. And it is just one example among many.
But there is something more dangerous in Gates’ initiative and it is not limited to a technological update -in real time- of the Inquisition’s index of banned books and authors. The Inquisition, in terms of censorship -despite death sentences- was child’s play in terms of preventing what it censored from circulating, compared to the great totalitarianisms of the 20th century. And those totalitarianisms did not manage to put an end to Samizdat either, although they imprisoned, tortured and murdered without pause trying to do so.
Today it would be easy and can be much less bloody -unless they wish to make it bloody, and they are not lacking in intentions, if we are guided by the claims of that ultra-left from which the Overton windows of what they intend to impose tomorrow begin to run today- because if all, or almost all the information arrives through the Internet -and in the current dynamics of the publishing industry, printed books do not escape this- censorship is a problem of algorithms. It is technically possible to cancel information, opinions and people on the Internet. Beijing’s techno-totalitarianism is well aware of this. And it is what Gates -as well as other Silicon Valley tech giants- is announcing for the West.
But something else Beijing knows well was clear in Gates’ initiative. An initiative that was not clear in other similar initiatives, and that is traceability to users. The tracking of “dangerous” information, the identification and tracking of each and every one of those who saw it, the analysis of its dissemination patterns, the identification and tracking of nodes and networks. And let’s not fool ourselves, we are talking about people – and groups of people, formal and informal – who read what interests them and forward it. Not about anything else.
It is the universal map -online and in real time- of “the deplorables” to be cancelled, sooner or later. It is the first step to the great Internet gulag, first virtual and then physical. That is the threat. And it’s a very real threat, but it sounds so unimaginable that it’s easy to pigeonhole as a conspiracy theory. However, learning about Beijing’s techno-totalitarianism – its current scope and announced future development – is immediately noticeable because it is not difficult to adapt it to the West in the name of “best intentions” and implement it, hiding its darker side until it is too late.