Lazy Sunday LXV: Techno-Weirdos II

The New Year is chugging along, with Democratic primaries and caucuses mere weeks away.  Early voting has already started, as I noted yesterday.  “Tom Steyer’s Belt” continues to drive surreal amounts of traffic, which I suppose is one metric for the ubiquity of his ads.

Perhaps the greatest ally the eventual Democratic nominee will have is Big Tech.  We’re already witnessing the preemptive deplatforming of various conservative and anti-Leftist figures.  Attempts to weed out “fake” news—which to the Left is any news not reflexively critical of Trump—and to “fact check” conservatives are going to pick up as the election approaches.

Tech censorship raises a number of thorny questions that our traditional understanding of rights and obligations struggles to answer.  The question of free speech is particularly tricky, as it does seem that the monopolistic power—and the active collusion between them!—of Big Tech companies effectively strangles dissent.

That might be constitutional in a strictly literal sense—at least it’s not the government infringing on our rights—but it certainly violates the spirit of freedom of speech.  And, seriously, who doesn’t think the apparatchiks in The Swamp aren’t eagerly working hand-in-iron-fist with Google to keep tabs on us?

Does anyone have a copy of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act sitting around?  Maybe we should dust that off.  Trump would make a good trust-buster, as would Attorney General Bill Barr.  I’d sure love to see a political cartoon of the ursiline Barr swinging a club at a computer screen.

With that, here are two recent pieces I’ve written on tech companies and censorship:

  • Free Speech in the Private Sector” – This post looked at a lengthy essay from science-fiction author Cory Doctorow, in which he argued that our traditional understanding of freedom of speech is insufficient in addressing tech censorship.  The old libertarian canard that “a private company can set whatever limits on speech it wants” is a worthy ideal, but when the “private company” dominates the public square and effectively makes some forms of expression or some ideas unspeakable, then do we really have free speech?
  • Mailchimp Monkeys with Molyneux” – As if on cue, Mailchimp obligingly proved Doctorow’s point when it deplatformed Stefan Molyneux in a Twitter-induced panic.  Mailchimp might not be monopolistic in the way, say, Google is, but it’s all part of that cabal of freedom-hating e-litists.  Molyneux is a bit grandiose, to be sure, but he’s been maligned as being all sorts of unacceptable -isms and -ists that he simply isn’t.

That’s it for this week, folks.  Here’s to another week of selling our data to faceless technocratic overlords.

Happy Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

Free Speech in the Private Sector

Assaults on free speech may be the most pressing issue of our time.  Anyone reading this blog has surely witnessed the deplatforming of conservative figures under nebulous “community guidelines,” as well as the personal and professional ruin that tend to follow.

Indeed, I occasionally fear that my dashed-off ramblings might, in some none-too-distant Orwellian America, be misinterpreted or misapplied as “hate speech”—all it takes is the wrong person complaining.  Of course, this blog’s obscurity is perhaps my best defense—I’m too small to matter.  That said, that fear is one reason I’m pumping up alternative income streams and attempting to boost my SubscribeStar subscriber base; the authoritarian maw of the SJWs grows ever wider.

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Corporate Grind II: The Return of Corporate History International

It’s been a golden week for reblogging, as some of my blogosphere buddies continue to generate some amazing content.  It looks like I may have to do another Dissident Write feature soon (here are I and II).  Armistice Day always brings out the best material, too.

As we head into the weekend—mercifully free of professional obligations—I’m pleased to note the revival of my buddy fridrix’s blog, Corporate History International.

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Support Milo

I hold a soft spot in my heart for conservative gadfly and Internet provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos.  I recall fondly his heyday in 2015-2016, when he championed free speech in the Babylon of Progressivism, Berkeley, California.  I still wish President Trump would appoint him White House Press Secretary—it would be must-see TV every day.

Behind the flamboyant, cartoonish homosexuality and the over-the-top trollery, though, is a talented journalist and writer; indeed, Milo’s work is some of the best long-form journalism I’ve ever read.  His writing, like his public speaking, is engaging and well-researched:  he really checks his facts and his sources, while still delivering that withering Coulterian death strike upon his unfortunate target.

Unfortunately, even fewer Americans will have the opportunity to read his work, as he’s apparently sold his website, Dangerous.com.

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Lazy Sunday XXV: Techno-Weirdos

Big Tech companies routinely run roughshod over free speech, working hand-in-glove with the Deep State of our government to curtail our rights.  This kind of public-private tyranny is designed to allow the government to control speech when it legally and constitutionally cannot, by allowing large tech companies to write vague, ever-changing “terms of service” agreements that are weaponized to silence or smother conservative voices.

With the potential to control what citizens see or don’t see, Big Tech firms like Facebook and Google have the power—given their incredible market share—to suppress news favorable to the president (for example), burying news that doesn’t fit their hip, Leftist viewpoints.  Even when third party websites can exist, they face demonetization:  get dropped by PayPal, and your ability to take donations or collect subscription fees withers.

All that power means Big Tech companies will likely play a huge role in the outcome of the 2020 election.  President Trump and conservative Republicans will be fighting an uphill battle against a blackout of the techno-elites’ making.

As such, this week’s Lazy Sunday is dedicated to four pieces about the techno-weirdos that lord over our society like the robber barons of the Gilded Age:

  • Banned! Techno-Elite Deplatform Alex Jones” – this piece chronicled the surreptitious, cross-platform, nearly simultaneous deplatforming of InfoWars, Alex Jones’s alternative news and commentary site.  The coordinated nature of Jones’s deplatforming was such a stark example of collusion across multiple companies in the same industry, it practically begged for a Department of Justice investigation.  As far as I know, the government never looked into it.  Naturally, I immediately purchased a bunch of InfoWars stickers, because now we pretty much have to support Alex Jones, even if he is a bit wacky.
  • First They Came for Crowder” – earlier this summer, lisping, totalitarian gay apparatchik Carlos Maza convinced YouTube to demonetize conservative comedian Steven Crowder with a single limp flick of his wrist.  The fallout was that a number of content creators—even non-conservatives—began to see their videos demonetized, as clueless YouTube execs tried to figure out what to do.
  • Creepy Techno-Elites Spy on Users” – as if all this malfeasance weren’t enough, Facebook—owned and operated by an autistic intellectual property thief—was paying scribblers to transcribe the contents of voice calls made over its Messenger app.  Even the NSA never (allegedly) listened to calls without a warrant, but Facebook “is a private company, so it can do whatever it wants,” scream the libertarians.  Even more shocking, Google is rewriting its algorithms to suppress search results related to conservative content.  Break ’em up, DoJ!
  • Friday Reading – Dystopian Short Story” – this recent post is a review and summary of the story “Das Woke Capital,” a chilling vision of what is to come if we don’t disrupt the nexus of progressive governance and progressive corporations.  Just a day after writing that post, Terror House Magazine published a similar story, “Chip,” about a near-future in which users willingly get a cybernetic chip implant that allows them to share content mind-to-mind—only, the designers have taken control of users’ minds to put them to work on massive undertakings like uncovering light-speed hyper-drives.  Sound ludicrous?  Don’t be so hasty.

We’re living in strange times, when technology has the potential to destroy our fraying social fabric—and to suppress the views of anyone who disagrees with the mercurial beta soyboys that run these companies.  I am loathe to recommend government intervention, but these companies represent an existential threat.  Break them up!

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

Friday Reading – Dystopian Short Story

It’s been a good, but long, week—I’m still recovering from a nasty cold that’s lingered for almost three weeks now—and the three-day Labor Day Weekend will be a welcome respite.  Classes are going well, and my Advanced Placement United States History students seem, in the whole, engaged and eager to learn about our nation’s history.  I’m just looking forward to some rest.

So, what better time to skip politics and do a little reading?  I occasionally read short stories from Terror House Magazine, an online literary magazine that will publish pretty much anything.  They run a monthly prize with a $10 purse for the best submission, but otherwise the submissions are (it seems) completely open.

Because anyone can submit pretty much anything, some of the work is basically smut—be forewarned.  But after weeding out the trash, they publish some truly excellent literature.

Such was the case with a chilling little tale, a vision of an America just a blink away:  “Das Woke Capital.”

Read More »

Creepy Techno-Elites Spy on Users

If you weren’t convinced that techno-elites are working hand-in-glove with the Deep State, news that Facebook hired scribblers to transcribe voice calls on the Messenger app should wake you to the fact.

That’s a level of creepy beyond merely selling your data or using an algorithm to use facial recognition software.  That’s creepy, to be sure, but when it’s some faceless formula it doesn’t seem as bad.  When a living, breathing humanoid is pouring over your voice conversations (salacious or otherwise), it adds a whole other layer of skin-crawling chilliness to creepiness factor.

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TBT: Banned! Techno-Elites Deplatform Alex Jones

It now seems like an eternity ago, but Alex Jones’s Infowars was banned from multiple social media platforms last August.  Given Facebook’s freedom-killing decision to deplatform “controversial” right-wing figures like Milo Yiannopoulos, it seemed germane to look back at the Infowars deplatforming, as it was an instructive moment.

Conservatives have been complacent on this issue.  Yes, many conservative bloggers and YouTube personalities have denounced the Facebook deplatforming, but there’s still this sense that, “Well, it’s just Milo and Gavin McInnes, they are pretty outrageous, and so dreadfully lacking in decorum.”  We can’t have that kind of cuckiness in the conversation.  Milo might be outlandish, and McInnes makes some over-the-top, overly general statements, but that’s the whole point of free speech.  Why are we giving these tech companies a pass?

It’s not going to stop at Milo.  Indeed, it’s unclear if it even started with him.  As I detail in the post below, even more mainstream figures like Stephen Crowder have struggled against YouTube demonetization and other “soft” forms of deplatforming.  I know Milo is crass and a bit of a troll—but he’s also right and factually accurate on almost every topic.

Note, too, how Facebook threw in anti-Semitic radical Louis Farrakhan as a clear smokescreen.  “Oh, we’re not just targeting conservatives—here’s a Leftist race-baiter, too!”  Nice try.  Notice that whenever there’s been a controversial conservative figure banned, the Right always points out that Farrakhan is still on [insert social medial platform here].  Facebook couldn’t have missed that, and went for the low-hanging fruit of Farrakhanean craziness.  But even Farrakhan should be able to say his wacky, hateful stuff—“sunlight is the best disinfectant,” as I wrote in August.

As for the cuckier types on the Right, I’m getting so sick of this excessive focus on presentation-as-message.  Milo and McInnes present their ideas in funny ways, but that doesn’t mean the ideas themselves are worthy of condemnation.  Further, we’re almost too good at policing our own on the Right.  Can’t we give Milo some leeway?  The stakes are too high to get caught up on semantics.  “Oh, he texted something mean.”  Who cares?  I’m not Milo’s mom, and Ben Shapiro shouldn’t be either.

This tweet from Dissident Right babe Lauren Southern sums it up nicely:

Free speech isn’t free, and just because Facebook is a “private company” doesn’t mean it should be able to trample our freedoms.  We’re in uncharted territory, but we have to do something to protect speech for all Americans.

So, here is August’s “Banned! Techno-Elites Deplatform Alex Jones,” sadly relevant once again:

The explosive news Monday was that tech giants Facebook, Spotify, YouTube, and Apple banned Alex Jones and Infowars from their respective platforms.  While Jones is a controversial figure who peddles in rumor, conspiracy, and innuendo, the concerted actionfrom separately-owned and -managed Silicon Valley entities is unsettling.

Historian Victor Davis Hanson wrote a piece for National Review arguing that Silicon Valley giants should be regulated—or even busted up—to prevent monopolistic and anti-competitive practices, drawing parallels to the muckraking reformers of the early twentieth century who brought down Standard Oil.   I’m wary of such solutions-by-government, but Hanson was anticipating a problem that has become all-too familiar:  the massive social and cultural clout the unmoored tech giants wield.

Steven Crowder of online late-night show Louder with Crowder often pokes fun at—and complains loudly about—the various murky “terms and services” and “community guidelines” rules that are ever-shifting in continuously updated apps and platforms.  A slight change in a Facebook algorithm—or a Twitter employee having a bad day—can lead to massive reductions in traffic for a YouTuber or blogger.  Reduced—or eliminated—traffic means less revenue.  YouTubers like Crowder who helped build the platform now find their videos demonetized for the most mysterious of reasons.

Candace Owens was kicked from Twitter because she rewrote recent New York Times hire and anti-white racist Sarah Jeong’s tweets by replacing disparaging uses of “white” with “black” or “Jew.”  Razorfirst posted a video some months ago of him literally just talking about nonsense for five minutes… and it was immediately demonetized.

Now Alex Jones is banned across multiple platforms from multiple platforms—which is absolutely chilling.  Jones is certainly not without controversy, and I wouldn’t take his ramblings to heart without a heaping helping of salt, but just because he’s a kinda nutty conspiracy kook who enjoys ripping his shirt off doesn’t make his situation any less terrible.  If we write off Jones because he was “asking for it” by being kooky, then we’re missing the whole point of free speech.

And, yes, the usual objections are inevitable:  “but, TPP, the First Amendment speech protections only apply to the government!  Companies can set whatever guidelines they want!  You can use some other platform!  He still has his website.”  Yes, yes, yes, and yes—all true.  Nevertheless, the arbitrary power we’ve voluntarily—if unwittingly—yielded to these tech elites is staggering.  And this preponderance of power may be where Hanson has a point.

Is not the function of the government to protect the rights of its citizens from threats and violations, both foreign and domestic?  In this case, arbitrary bans—particularly these coordinated attacks on controversial figures—seem to be a powerful means of preventing an individual and/or entity from delivering his message in the public square.  Like the street corner doomsayer, Alex Jones has a right to be heard, even if he’s sometimes insane (for me, the jury is out on Jones; I enjoy the entertainment value of his commentary, and I think he’s probably right about 80% of the time, but then he veers off into crisis actors, etc.—the danger of a man who is charismatic and convincing).

Today, it’s a relatively buffoonish character like Jones.  Tomorrow—who knows?  Do we really want to find out?  “Hate speech” is a code word for silencing conservatives.  It’s better to publish one racist screed from a lonely nut (not referencing Jones here, to be clear) than to muzzle millions because their innocuous, mainstream conservative viewpoint might been interpreted as a “dog-whistle.”

Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and it’s often better to give madmen the rope with which to hang themselves.  When we try to silence them, they only gain in credibility (indeed, when I read the news, I immediately went… to Infowars!).