I Have Been Permanently Banned from Twitter

Peter Van Burean

With a President who vociferously defends his use of Twitter to circumvent political norms, evade his ostensible “handlers,” and to stoke racial and xenophobic tensions, Twitter has become an important free-speach frontier. But Twitter is a private company and has chosen to silence accounts it deems abusive or dangerous.  Not Donald Trump’s support for armed white supremacists or encouragement of violence against adversaries, not Alex Jones for peddling politically-charged and dangerous conspiracies, but one of our contributors, Peter Van Buren for reasons they obscure. The US Government tried to silence Peter when he worked in the State Department, but he did not expect the same treatment from a social media “free” enterprise. – Ed.

Peter Van Buren

Some of you are aware I have been permanently banned from Twitter as @wemeantwell.

This followed exchanges with several mainstream journalists over their support for America’s wars and unwillingness to challenge the lies of government. After two days of silence, Twitter sent me an auto-response saying what I wrote “harasses, intimidates, or uses fear to silence someone else’s voice.”

I don’t think I did any of that, and I wish you didn’t have to accept my word on it. I wish instead you could read what I wrote and decide for yourself. But Twitter won’t allow that. Twitter says you cannot read and make up your own mind. They have in fact eliminated all the things I have ever written there over seven years, disappeared me down the Memory Hole. That’s what censorship does; it takes the power to decide what is right and wrong away from you and gives it to someone else.

Hate what I write, hate me, block me, don’t buy my books, but please don’t celebrate handing over those choices to some company.

I lost my career at the State Department because I spoke out as a whistleblower against the Iraq War. I’ve now been silenced, again, for speaking out, this time by a corporation. I am living in the America I always feared.

This post originally appeared on Peter’s We Meant Well blog.

30 thoughts on “I Have Been Permanently Banned from Twitter

  1. When the late, great Gore Vidal said that “Americans are among the most easily frightened people on earth,” he truly hit the proverbial nail on the head. Perhaps Americans can now take down that red-white-and-blue flag and run up a yellow one. Come to think of it, since the now-long-defunct Saigon “government” doesn’t need theirs any more, perhaps America could adopt it as their own and permanently fly it one-eighth up the flagpole. Fitting on so many levels. What a bunch of diaper-soiling, bed-wetting babies.

  2. Given that Twitter declined to join some other social media sites in banishing Alex Jones–purveyor of intentionally cruel, preposterous claims that 20 very young children and six school staff members were not murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School–I guess their decision on Mr. Van Buren should not shock us. And I assume Twitter provides no avenue for appeal of such a sorry decision. If there’s a plus to such sordid affairs, it would be that (from what I have read in mainstream media, at least) Twitter’s subscriber base keeps shrinking as folks decide they don’t want to be associated with the company in any way. Fewer subscribers will mean reduced advertising revenue for the parent company. The Iron Laws of dear old Capitali$m!

  3. Relevant to this topic:

    Alex Jones Banned By Facebook/Apple/Youtube/SpotifyThe Jimmy Dore youtube show (August 7, 2018)

    Jimmy Dore: “These places [i.e., concentrated corporate web forums] should be regulated. That’s what these [recent congressional] hearings were about: Should we regulate facebook. And facebook [responded with] “Oh, no. We’re going to self-regulate.” So we’re going to do the job of self-censorship for the government. Please don’t worry. Julian Assange predicted this in 2010, that the new censorship comes from the corporation which is an extension of the government. It’s actually the other way around. The government is an extension of the corporation.”

    And I especially like the following:

    J.D.: “… what a weird timing, that they all do it on the same day. What?”

    Now we can see the poison fruit of former President Bill Clinton’s de-regulation — i.e., “privatization” — of the public media. Six mega-corporations now control upwards of 80% of everything Americans see, hear, or read. No more “fairness” rule mandating the provision of alternative political viewpoints expressed on the public airwaves. And, as Jimmy Dore points out, a tiny handful of corporate oligarchs all say the same thing on the same day.

    [Chirping Cricket]: Did I just hear someone imply some sort of “collusion”? Between a handful of corporate oligarchs who vacation at the same time each year on Martha’s Vineyard with not even a single Russian in attendance? How far-fetched and conspiratorial can one get?

    I don’t know anything about Alex Jones or his website Infowars, but I have no problem with him spouting whatever drivel he may desire. No one has to listen. I certainly don’t. No one has to believe anything he says if they don’t wish to do so. And anyone who wishes to argue with him has every right to say whatever they want in rebuttal. The public can make up their its own minds — even supposing that they want to give this guy or his “followers” a moment of their time. As John Milton said to the British Parliament when they wanted to “license” [i.e. censor] books deemed “unsuitable” to the ruling aristocracy: “Let Truth and Falsehood grapple. Who ever knew Truth to fare the worse in a free and open exchange.”

    Way past time to put President Teddy Roosevelt’s trust-busting laws back into effect. The Ruling Corporate Oligarchy has to go. Like real soon now. I really don’t want Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos and Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers, et al, getting on the phone with each other to decide whom I can listen to and what I can read. I didn’t vote to elect any of these creeps and neither did anyone else. Way past time to tax the living dog-shit out of them to fund Single Payer Health Care, a reinstatement of the Glass-Steigall Act, regulation of the public “airwaves” and Internet, and especially the demobilization of the unnecessary U.S. military (WWII supposedly ended in 1945), and so on and so forth.

    In short: Bring back the New Deal and get the corporations and their stockholders out of our government. They won’t starve.

    • As a long-time resident of the state where the Sandy Hook tragedy took place, and someone who personally knows the father of one of the gunshot victims, I simply cannot adopt your “neutral” stance toward Alex Jones. His ranting led at least two idiots here (separate incidents) to actually desecrate monuments that had been erected in memory of those very young victims. [Yes, of course I’m aware that we can’t “idiot-proof” society!] The “InfoWars” (can we get much more Orwellian??) site also incites Gun Freaks to higher levels of extremism–because, you see, Sandy Hook was “a hoax” perpetrated by the Evil Liberals who “want to take our guns away”!! You can’t make up stuff this sordid and insane (throw in inane, to boot)! And as for that battle between Truth and Falsehood? Sad to say, Truth is getting its ass whupped here in this day and age. Perhaps you’ve been away from “the homeland” too long, Michael, to fully appreciate the depth of the depravity into which this society has sunk??

      The Kill-the-New-Deal crowd marches boldly forward. Eat your deceased heart out, Ronald Reagan! One would have to be severely deluded to think “the Left” is going to turn the tide any time soon. And VP Pence today announced the government is moving forward to establish the “Space Force” to counter activity by “our adversaries.” Hmmm, who could that possibly refer to? While the Hillary worshippers continue to paint Trump as Putin’s “bitch,” the Real Establishment continues to prepare for war with Russia. NOT a good idea, folks, not a good idea at all!! But since Americans seem genetically incapable of learning from history, sure, let’s follow in Napoleon and Hitler’s footsteps!!

      • First off, Greg. Thanks for mentioning the “Space Farce” thing, which I would like to address separately. We could come back to this later by referencing the following article which I came across this morning: namely, Pence outlines US Space Force plan for ‘next battlefield’ by Lolita C. Baldor, Phys.org (August 9, 2018). Just what the already bankrupt U.S. needs, yet another ruinous boondoggle for America’s fuck-up-and-move up military. But again, some other time.

        More to the point of the subject matter at hand, though, I reject your characterization of my views as “neutral.” Quite to the contrary, I consider myself a passionate partisan of the First Amendment and I will defend its guarantees of free expression against any and all who would seek to undermine it by pleading “hurt feelings,” “offense,” or any other form of self-serving, responsibility-shifting “victimization.” Please allow me to elaborate.

        Back in elementary school in the 1950s, if ever I complained to my widowed, working-class mother about something some other kid had said at school, she would unsympathetically shut me up with: “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” She explained that if ever the other kids found an emotional “button” in me that they could push just by shooting off their mouths and directing some word-like noises at me, that they would unmercifully keep pushing it, just because they could and enjoyed doing it. “Anyone can say whatever they want,” Mom told me. “Why should you care, since you don’t have to listen? But if they try to do anything to physically hurt you, then you can punch them in the mouth, bloody their nose, blacken both their eyes, kick them in the balls, or all of the above.” Something like that.

        Later in life, when I went back to college to earn a California Secondary Teaching Credential, I ran into several women colleagues who disputed what my mother had taught me. They claimed to have personally suffered great and irreparable psychological damage because of hearing some word-like noises that someone had spoken (or that they had read second hand). “OK,” I would reply. “You stand over there and throw your words at me; I’ll stand over here and throw sticks and stones at you; and we’ll see who gets hurt.” That didn’t work any better than quoting the Buddha’s admonition to the effect that “You can’t give offense to anyone unwilling to take it,” which I would usually follow up by asking: “Why would anyone willingly give others the power to manipulate them simply by uttering verbal noises or scribbling symbolic spell-marks (as Alfred Korzybski called meaningless writing) on paper (or digital media)?”

        No one can “make” anyone else do anything simply by uttering verbal noises at them or transcribing those meaningless sounds onto a more permanent visual material. To claim otherwise amounts to nothing more than self-serving, exculpatory blame-shifting for one’s own mental and moral weakness. People do what they want to do, for their own reasons — whether they choose to recognize these or not — and only seek to avoid responsibility for their actions by blaming others after the fact. As Noam Chomsky said recently, the entire world looks at the United States now as a pathetic joke for trying to blame something (no one actually knows what) on “Russians” (no one knows exactly whom) because the Democratic Party ran a presidential candidate in 2016 so inept and discredited that only she could have lost to a political rookie, real-estate con man, and cable-tv game-show host like Donald Trump. The phrases “Dumber than Dirt” and “Too Stupid to Stipulate” do not come close to characterizing what hideously expensive Ivy League “educations” have produced among the Hothouse Orchids and Special Snowflakes who now infest the upper echelons of America’s corporatist media, military, and political “elites.” Uncle Jim-Bob’s chartered religious Hillbilly Home Schools haven’t done any better on the far-right Fascist end of the spectrum, either. But let them all babble and bray as long and as loud as they want. Either the discordant noises will cancel each other out, or “the American Republic” will turn belly up, float to the top of history’s sewer, and then implode in the noxious carbon-dioxide atmosphere its corporate directors have themselves created.

        Finally, as to your specific example from America’s cretin catalogue of ubiquitous imbecility, I dispute that anyone’s idiotic “ranting” actually “led” any other idiot to do anything. Those who desecrate monuments or believe in fabulous fictions — usually barbarian Vandals or “religious” crusaders (or both) — do what they want to do because they see some advantage to themselves in doing so, yet they do not wish to take responsibility for their actions. If Alex Jones or anyone else had “ranted” at these “idiots” to turn a gun on themselves and blow out their own brains, I rather doubt that many of the idiots would have followed that “leader.” In other words: Why does some “ranting” “lead” people, while other ranting — even by the same person — doesn’t? Obviously, people can clearly discriminate one “rant” from another and refuse to follow any “lead” that they consider against their personal interests. As my Mom would say: “If someone told you to jump off a bridge, would you do it just because they said to?” What people do matters; and we each can agree or disagree with what others say. If we raise and educate our children to clearly distinguish “saying” from “doing,” then we have done all we can to protect them and others from the psychopaths and demagogues (like the ones typically elected President of the United States, Senator, Congressman, Governor, etc, etc.) who think they can get anything they want for themselves and their corporate sponsors simply by uttering word-like noises at other people and having gullible, lazy stenographers (calling themselves “reporters” and “journalists”) echo those noises and write them down in strings of spell-mark symbols.

        Mom also used to say: “Never believe anything you hear and only half of what you see.” Many years later, when I repeated that aphorism to Professor Lewis Lancaster (retired from U.C. Berkeley) he corrected me: “Now, with Photoshop you can’t believe anything you see, either.” So doubt everything and suspect all government officials and corporate CEOs of lying. They do. Just to keep in practice. Just so they won’t forget how. Believe nothing just on the basis of someone else’s say-so. And then, perhaps, a little thinking might begin to happen. And by all means read, study, and absorb the writings of George Orwell, who described and predicted the rule of “Oligarchical Collectivism,” or what Sheldon Wolin called “Inverted Totalitarianism.”

        So call me a First Amendment Absolutist, if you wish. I won’t object. You can’t give me any offense because I refuse to take any from you. Just don’t call me “neutral,” for I have chosen my side. I don’t buy anyone’s excuse that they did what they did because someone else tricked them into it through the use of language alone. That smacks of primitive word-magic and I most emphatically do not believe in such demonstrable nonsense. Rhetoric can sometimes inspire or frighten people, yes, but only those already inclined to act as they do for their own reasons. We should hold people responsible for what they do, regardless of what they or anyone else have to say about it.

      • Mike–Clearly you HAVE staked yourself a position as a Free Speech Absolutist. I know you’re aware that no US court has ever endorsed the notion that there are zero limits to this “right.” You may disagree with the courts, but as you aren’t a billionaire you would find yourself in dire straits if you stood on a soapbox at Union Square in Manhattan (I’m painting a US equivalent of Hyde Park in London) and called for a mob to assemble and march on Trump Tower with weapons in hand. This is called “inciting to riot.” You would be in police custody in very short order. I know you are also aware that Abe Lincoln suspended some of Americans’ Constitutional rights during the Civil War, and a cartoonist who criticized the military * during WW I was clapped in irons for the duration of that War to End All Wars. AmeriNazis planned a repeat of last year’s ugliness in Charlottesville, VA this weekend, but the city government declared a State of Emergency in advance. I haven’t seen the details, but very likely it means a prohibition of ANY public gathering, to promote or oppose racism. In this kind of edict, a “crowd” or “mob” is often described as a minimum of TWO people congregating. Quite a mob! I don’t propose we waste our time debating the fine points of each or any of these examples. But you will find yourself very lonely indeed as an “Absolutist.” Obviously that doesn’t bother you, and I myself am familiar with being “a minority of one” in some social gatherings.

        Undoubtedly individuals like Alex Jones (indeed, Trump himself) would be lonely if there wasn’t a significant audience for their hate-spewing. However, had Mr. Jones not spread on social media the preposterous “theory” that the Sandy Hook Massacre was “a hoax perpetrated by Liberals” I really don’t think those idiots in Connecticut would have been “inspired” to vandalize memorials to the victims. Was the physical, real-world vandalism merely an exercise in freedom of speech? These acts struck me as indescribably cruel. Try to put yourself in the shoes of the parents of one of the victims. Some (not all) of the parents are pursuing legal action against Alex Jones and I hope a court orders Jones to make financial compensation. (And to issue a public apology? I very much doubt he’d be capable of doing such a thing with a straight face.) And I hope the vandals themselves face the maximum punishment allowed.

        * Historical note: the cartoon, which I am incorporating into my memoir of military servitude, depicted a doctor facing a military recruit with a huge body but no head. The caption read “Military Examiner: ‘At last, the perfect soldier!'”

  4. Pingback: Stop Internet censorship | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  5. While I had been vaguely aware of Mr Van Buren, I was not aware of his works or history.
    Banning someone from something – anything – seems such an extreme position to take that I am left curious as to what on earth might provoke such a reaction.
    Guess I will have to get reading – since he is an author and a journalist – there should be plenty of material to satisfy my curiosity.

    • Peter Van Buren discovered, once posted to Iraq by the State Department, much the same thing that many of us experienced in Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos) decades before: namely, that our own government had lied to us and sent us into a situation that we could not possibly do anything but make worse. Mr Van Buren wrote a book about his experiences entitled, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People and the U.S. State Department tried to persecute him for his honest chronicle. I never read the book, but I have read much that Mr Van Buren has written about the so-called “reconstruction” of Iraq and the depressing familiarity of it all makes me want to vomit.

      If anything, I think that Mr Van Buren’s limited focus, while accurate enough in detail, goes far to easy on the criminal civilian and military “leaders” who deliberately and cynically planned the utter devastation of Iraq as the first phase of “Shock and Awe,” the University of Chicago neoconservative economic doctrine that Naomi Klein describes so well in her book, The Shock Doctrine: the Rise of Disaster Capitalism (2007). I would highly recommend reading this book before reading anything else on U.S. policy in Iraq, whether written by Mr Van Buren or anyone else.

      For myself, personally, I had an issue with Mr Van Buren’s use of “hearts and minds” in the title of his book, since I seriously doubt that he understood the origin and real meaning of the phrase. It comes from the U. S. military’s “counter-insurgency” doctrine which failed so abysmally in Southeast Asia and elsewhere. During my seven weeks of training at Coronado Island in 1969 (before my later deployment to South Vietnam in July of 1970), our instructors helpfully translated the benign-sounding phrase into actual military-speak: “Grab ’em by the balls and their hearts and minds will follow.” I relate this to you now so that you might have an image to keep in mind when thinking of U.S. military personnel invading and attempting to occupy a foreign country outraged and humiliated by their very presence. Just picture these hulking goons running around shouting incomprehensible gibberish while grabbing at the crotches of any native male old enough to throw a rock. Understand, too, that the U.S. military runs U.S. foreign policy and not the State Department — and has since the end of WWII in 1945 — so whatever low-level civilian functionaries like Peter Van Buren thought about their purpose and objectives in Iraq, the U.S. military had — and has — quite a different view.

      No matter how deep and putrid the pile of bullshit that the generals and admirals and “intelligence” careerists spew at the gullible, sub-educated American public, do not believe them. They lie. They love this imperial storm trooper shit and never want it to end. I hope you find my opinion of some help.

      • Thank you for sharing your opinion, based in part upon personal experience, which you present as opinion and not canon. What you relate is a clear synopsis of your understanding of US geopolitical adventurism and the role of Capital and Military agendas in setting context. As a British Subject, and a non-American, I find this both helpful and illuminating: it offers me a viewpoint which, otherwise, would not be available to me.
        It also illustrates that banning someone from a microblogging platform might not be an effective means of silencing them, or the wider discourse to which they contribute.
        Again, thank you.

      • “gogwit”–I hardly think Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. constitute “microblogs,” as some of these vendors of hate have millions of followers, with potentially millions more recruitable. Since Trump issues “official policy statements” via Twitter, as well as his personal warped view of the world–with the two pretty well intermixed!–these electronic platforms have become increasingly (unfortunately in my opinion) extremely important influencers of public opinion, and in some cases inspirers of hate crimes. Yes, I wrote hate crimes, and I believe these are a very real phenomenon, with sometimes very ugly real-world outcomes.

      • Ah, terminology. My understanding is that ‘microblog’ refers to the size of the posts rather than the platform reach. That apart, I am in agreement with your comments. In the U.K. we have seen some appalling incitement to hate crime through such platforms; indeed the problem has grown so rapidly that online abuse was given equal weight to offline abuse here in 2017.

      • Fair enough, sir! I even considered the possibility you meant it in that sense but couldn’t know for certain. Personally, I abstain from looking at social media on my phone, so any blog I look at is “full size” on my desktop computer. Cheers!

  6. Thanks for the following remarks, Greg. Your particular choice of words merits closer examination.

    “Yes, I wrote hate crimes, and I believe these are a very real phenomenon, with sometimes very ugly real-world outcomes.”

    You use words like “hate” and “belief” rather loosely, if I may say so, without clarifying what you mean by them. You also fail to establish a necessary-and-sufficient cause-and-effect relationship between certain speech and certain actions.

    You merely assume one. You also fail to designate whom you would place in an arbitrary position of authority to determine the meanings or your words for you. But fortunately for you and your particular “beliefs” (more on this below), the First Amendment guarantees your right to find any form of guaranteed speech “hateful,” “sublime,” “ludicrous,” “laughable,” or simply “hot air.” As well you may claim a “belief” in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, Leprechauns, One Big Invisible Spook, or any collection of “smaller” spooks, that you consider “real.” You also have a First Amendment guarantee of a free press, although the US, UK, and Swedish governments refuse to let Julian Assange and Wikileaks provide you with one. As George Orwell wrote in “The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism,” the book-within-a-book from 1984:

    “… Proletarians, in practice, are not allowed to graduate into the Party. The most gifted among them, who might possibly become nuclei of discontent, are simply marked down by the Thought Police and eliminated. .. In Oceania (which includes Airstrip One) there is no law. Thoughts and actions which, when detected, mean certain death are not formally forbidden, and the endless purges, arrests, tortures, imprisonments, and vaporizations are not inflicted as punishment for crimes which have actually been committed, but are merely the wiping-out of persons who might perhaps commit a crime at some time in the future” [emphasis added].

    Shades of “pre-crime” and “Minority Report.”

    So what happened to all those black people herded into the Houston Astrodome after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans? Whatever happened to all those Occupy Wall street encampments in cities all over the United States? One day you see them; then come the police and FBI (if not the CIA) in the dark of night; and the next morning you don’t see any of them anywhere. No public trials. No legal defense. No discovery of supportive evidence. Just fiat disappearance. Thanks for nothing Big Brothers Bush (Republican) and Obama (Democrat). “In Oceania there is no law.”

    Your comments about people winding up in jail for annoying the “authorities” with “unapproved” speech that some persons say they find “hateful” do not move me. Such facile “arguments” for de-facto censorship remind me of Henry David Thoreau winding up in a local jail for civil disobedience (not paying taxes in support of various “wars”). When his good friend Ralph Waldo Emerson visited him and asked “What are you doing in there?” Thoreau answered: “What are you doing out there? Given your own laudable background in defying military authority in the midst of an unconstitutional, undeclared, and therefore illegal war, it surprises me that you would side with illegal “authority” — in this case, shadowy, unelected billionaire oligarchs in league with Federalist Society “judges” who won’t do their jobs bringing the corporatist/military U.S. “government” — namely the Executive and Legislative branches — to heel for monstrous lies and wantonly illegal activities. As a matter of fact, millions of Americans — mostly black or brown — have gotten thrown into privatized, for-profit prisons on trumped-up “charges,” the overwhelming majority of them there as a result of extorted “plea bargains,” having never had a public trial. So, yes, the U.S. “government” subsidiary of the Transnational Corporate Oligarchy will throw lots of people in jail for any reason whatsoever or no reason at all, if for nothing else than just making an “example” of them, just to demonstrate their “power” and because no legal system restrains them. But as Edna St. Vincent Millay said at the end of her poem, Dirge Without Music:

    I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.”

    So, approve and resign yourself to a priori censorship if you wish, but, again, precisely which billionaire oligarch — or any collection of such shadowy persons — do you wish to invest with the authority to determine, in secret, with no due process and upon the basis of whatever whim may seize them at any given moment, who may say whatever about whatever in whatever way they choose to say it? Mark Zuckerberg? Jeff Bezos? Sheldon Adelson? The CEO of Apple, Inc.? I never voted to elect any of these persons and neither did anyone else. That they have bought and now own and operate the U.S. “government” (more like a military junta) in the interests of their own venal careers and speculative financial profits, I do not dispute; but I do not accept their “authority” to dismiss my “inalienable” Constitutional rights anytime they feel like it. “Hate speech” is nothing more than an unconsciously projected weasel word for weak minded Lemmings who act on the basis of thoughtless, inculcated habit and not considered doubt or reflection. In support of what I just wrote, see a classic treatise on what the word “belief” actually means in practice: namely, The Fixation of Belief, by Charles Sanders Peirce, Popular Science Monthly 12 (November 1877), 1-15. As Peirce said: “A belief means the habits it entails.” What you do without a moment’s doubt or hesitation demonstrates what you actually “believe,” not anything that you or anyone else says.

    You can have unaccountable, anonymous corporate oligarchs determine what you can see, read, or hear if you wish. Not me. As the youtube comedian Jimmy Dore says: “You don’t have a right not to get your feelings hurt.” Your “feelings” concern you and not me. In any event, you will “feel” however you wish and “hate” anything you wish, including “hatred” itself, regardless of anything I might do or say. Therefore, I would rather keep my inalienable Constitutional rights which I value more than your “feelings.” Laugh or cry. Your choice. None of my business. Just don’t try and tell me what I can see, read, hear, say, or think. I’ll make my own decisions about those matters as I see fit. None of your business or anyone else’s.

    Thanks for the straw-men “arguments,” though. Not much trouble knocking those over. Have you others?

    • Michael–It appears to me that at some point you have descended into FantasyLand (perhaps as a psychic self-defense mechanism in an increasingly “shithole” world?). You can present all the high-falutin’-sounding (how’s that for archaic language?) arguments you wish. I have no choice but to dwell in the real world, where certain speech is deemed a crime. I’m not talking about “thought crime” here, though heaven knows I’d be deemed guilty of that in Winston Smith’s world in “1984.” In my world, shared by far more people than reside in your FantasyLand, actions (of which speech is a facet) have consequences. If you wish to test which of our realities is “real” (oops, now I’m really playing with terminology, huh?!), I invite you to travel to Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park, London and present a public proposal to violently take down the Royal Family. Or, why go to the expense? Go out and loudly call for overthrowing the government of Taiwan! Another aspect of this real world wherein my flesh is trapped is that people DO have feelings. They don’t dismiss the desecration of a memorial to their slain children with the ease you suggest they should employ. But I suppose you won’t recognize the concept of desecration, eh?

      As a rhetorical device for your arguments, you attempt to paint me as some kind of advocate for censorship. That’s not cricket, fella! You should know better than that. With that having been said, again, looking at the world we actually live in, we will always face some form of censorship to defend the interests of the Ruling Class, be it subtle (by omission, not talking about the existence of a Ruling Class in this so-called democracy or republic), more blatant, or outright lethal (the silencing of George Jackson and numerous Black Panthers by bullets in 1970s, etc.). No one is about to grant me authority to define “hate speech” here. Generally speaking, it is considered language uttered in public with the apparent goal of fomenting violence against some person or persons solely because of their physical characteristics (e.g. not looking “Norwegian enough”!), manner of speech, sexual identity, etc. But you find this concept utterly abhorrent! And you say “Let 100 schools of hate-fomenting blossom,” it’s not going to bother YOU personally! I think that’s rather self-centered of you, Mike. And though you claim to not be affected emotionally by words, mere words, I think your history here on The Contrary Perspective shows that your dander rises instantly when anyone challenges your views in the least. I am disappointed. But, to be human is to be a bundle of self-contradiction, after all. And now, you see, we’ve gotten personal, which the Editor of this site will frown upon. So I will stop at this point.

      • Unless I missed something, Greg, the word “contrary” refers quite explicitly to discussions, debates, even arguments, between persons who hold differing points of view. If you express a view and I seek to refute it, or vice versa, that says nothing about “dander” but only that people can and do disagree. If you expect others to surrender their fundamental principles just because you argue for their “temporary” or “selective” suspension (by the “right” persons, of course, who will surely restore them later) for “practical” reasons, then you should expect rebuttal after rebuttal from me. I can live with your refusal to agree with me, but you seem to have a great deal of difficulty according me the same consideration. Nothing compels anyone to agree with that which they find unacceptable, and I find completely unacceptable the time-dishonored canard that says, “Well, freedom sounds very good in theory, but we really can’t have it because it gets in the way of elite, government, corporate, police, or military personages (pardon the redundancies) who would rather that we proles just shut up and do what they tell us to do.” At times in the past you have argued against this sort of totalitarian nonsense, but now you seem to have come around to endorsing it. I have no explanation for this turnabout, but if you choose to argue the case for totalitarian censorship, then don’t get your fur in a fluff if I do not accompany you on your regression into “good” (as you might characterize it) repression. People change and perhaps you have, but you should expect to get nothing but argument from me if you have chosen that path.

        And I seriously hope that the editors of this forum do not presume to “protect” us adults from the words that we use or the ideas that they express. I certainly have never asked for such nanny-ism, although your concluding remarks seem to imply that you have. As Elmer Gantry said: “When I became a man, I put aside childish thoughts.” Let us adults not regress into infantilism just so as not to upset the impressionable little kiddies, as the management of Twitter, Facebook, Google, et all, have so cravenly done.

        I have spent a lifetime studying language and its uses, and I realize that the contemporary public school system in the United States — as well as modern communications technology — has produced millions of functional illiterates who can only poke an abbreviated word or two (i.e., “2”) into a cell phone with their thumbs. So what? I can still type with ten fingers on a keyboard and I refuse to have my own thoughts condensed into an arbitrary — and tiny — number of “characters.” If others have no problem with such obsequiousness for themselves, then that has nothing to do with me. I absolutely refuse to surrender my “inalienable” freedoms just because millions of other Americans have no use for them anyway.

        But don’t take anything on my word alone. Never do that. Let us have Scott Horton (also banned the the nanny corporations doing the government’s censorship for them) have the final say:

        Scott Horton says “I’m Quitting Twitter”, antiwar.com (August 8, 2018):

        “As Dan McAdams was saying yesterday on the Liberty Report, Twitter has demanded that we hit their Soviet BF Skinner button to delete our terribly offensive tweets, which at least in my case have been deleted from my feed by Twitter already, in order to begin the 12 hour countdown to having our access to our pages restored.”

        “But I don’t like it when people tell me what to do. If they go ahead and unblock me because of the complaints, I’m still going to do my best to avoid going back. I’ve been wanting to quit Twitter anyway. It’s a worse cesspool of whining about bullshit than it’s always been and I have wasted way too much time on it. Instead I’m going to work on Antiwar.com, the Libertarian Institute, and start knocking out a ton of books I’ve been needing to catch up on for interviews. Y’all can still find me here, at the Libertarian Institute, and at scotthorton.org.”

        My sentiments, exactly. I do not love Big Brother. Any Big Brother.

  7. Two related articles on the subject under discussion:

    (1) Beware the Slippery Slope of Facebook Censorship. The social network is too big and broken to properly function, and these “fixes” will only create more problems, by By Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone (August 2, 2018)

    (2) Social media posts could ruin your college dreams, lawyer warns, RT.com (August 10, 2018)

    Excerpt from (1):

    You may have seen a story this week detailing how Facebook shut down a series of accounts. As noted by Politico, Facebook claimed these accounts “sought to inflame social and political tensions in the United States, and said their activity was similar — and in some cases connected — to that of Russian accounts during the 2016 election.”

    Similar? What does “similar” mean?

    The death-pit for civil liberties is usually found in a combination of fringe/unpopular people or ideas and a national security emergency [emphasis added].

    This is where we are with this unsettling new confab of Facebook, Congress and the Trump administration.
    Read this jarring quote from Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) about the shutting down of the “inauthentic” accounts:

    “Today’s disclosure is further evidence that the Kremlin continues to exploit platforms like Facebook to sow division and spread disinformation… I also expect Facebook, along with other platform companies, will continue to identify Russian troll activity and to work with Congress…”

    Excerpt from (2):

    Merely following Alex Jones on Twitter almost cost one teen a college admission. Another lost his scholarship over a Facebook message about the 2016 election. Anything you post can and will be used against you, a lawyer tells RT.

    “It’s absolutely troubling what some of the colleges are doing,” attorney Bradley Shear, who specializes in social media cases, told RT. Many universities are hiring monitoring companies that comb the social media lives of applicants, even going so far as to spy on their search histories and internet activity.

    “This is a very problematic situation,” Shear said. “It’s a very big problem and it’s only getting worse.”

    Top universities are increasingly using social media tracking firms to screen and reject applicants – simply for following the “wrong people.”


    Sure glad that I don’t live in that candy-ass excuse for a “democracy” any longer. But as the billionaire Oligarchs who run that fast-food franchise (Kentucky Fried Chicken-shit) like to chuckle among themselves:

    Buy some Republicans, they’ll shout “Gawd Bless.”
    Rent a few Democrats, they’ll lose for less.

    Somehow, the “Resistance” looks more like The Assistants to me.

  8. Just one more critique of oligarchical corporatist “government” from the cowardly shadows of anonymity, from my favorite Australian commentator:

    In A Corporatist System Of Government, Corporate Censorship Is State Censorship, by Caitlin Johnstone, Consortium News (August 10, 2018).

    Key excerpt:

    “In a corporatist system of government, wherein there is no meaningful separation between corporate power and state power, corporate censorship is state censorship. Because legalized bribery in the form of corporate lobbying and campaign donations has given wealthy Americans the ability to control the U.S. government’s policy and behavior while ordinary Americans have no effective influence whatsoever, the U.S. unquestionably has a corporatist system of government. Large, influential corporations are inseparable from the state, so their use of censorship is inseparable from state censorship.”

    “This is especially true of the vast mega-corporations of Silicon Valley, whose extensive ties to U.S. intelligence agencies are well-documented. Once you’re assisting with the construction of the US military’s drone program, receiving grants from the CIA and NSA for mass surveillance, or having your site’s content regulated by NATO’s propaganda arm, you don’t get to pretend you’re a private, independent corporation that is separate from government power. It is possible in the current system to have a normal business worth a few million dollars, but if you want to get to billions of dollars in wealth control in a system where money translates directly to political power, you need to work with existing power structures like the CIA and the Pentagon, or else they’ll work with your competitors instead of you.”

    A truly fine synopsis of America’s now almost fully “privatized” excuse for a national “government.” I could not improve upon it by further comment.

  9. Moving right along with further informed commentary and discussion about what all this crony-corporate crypto-Fascist censorship stuff means as a practical political matter, see Russia hysteria gave us social media censorship (Video), The Duran – News in Review – Episode 75 (August 11, 2018).

    Begin quote [with bracketed additional background notes]:

    “It started with [Mrs William Jefferson] Clinton [a.k.a., “Half for the price of Two”] floating out the big lie, that 17 US intelligence agencies are “confident” that Russia hacked DNC servers and John Podesta email accounts, in a Kremlin plot to elect Donald Trump as President of the United States.

    “Fast forward two years later and witness Silicon Valley tech giants colluding in a span of 12 hours to de-platform Infowars and Alex Jones.

    “These are not isolated incidences. The one gave us the other.

    “The Deep State’s chosen candidate, [who previously lost the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination to an unknown African American community organizer from Chicago], lost [again] to the ultimate outsider, Donald Trump.

    “All eyes, and all lies, turned to the perennial scapegoat Russia.

    “This time the elitist plan was more sinister than ever. Why let a good lie like ‘Russia election meddling’ go to waste?

    “While the Deep State was whipping up hatred, racism, and bigotry towards Russians, conservative and libertarian media sources were deemed ‘hate speech’ and ‘islamophobes’, found guilty by tech billionaires and their globalist master of committing actions over the internet that threaten the “survival” of American Democracy.

    [A sitting U.S. senator actually spouted the following drivel]:

    “Infowars is the tip of a giant iceberg of hate and lies that uses sites like Facebook and YouTube to tear our nation apart. These companies must do more than take down one website. The survival of our democracy depends on it.”
    — Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) August 6, 2018

    “Much like those pesky and evil Russians, conservative and libertarian voices need to be silenced.

    “RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle, Editor-in-Chief of The Duran Alexander Mercouris, and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou discuss how Russia hysteria kicked, off by [Mrs] Clinton’s “17 intelligence agencies” lies, has now morphed into an Orwellian social media purge.”

    End quote.

    I think that what Alexander Mercouris (of The Duran) has to say merits a transcription from the video, which I provide below. Before doing so, however, I would like to first say that I have never read anything by Alex Jones on the grounds that the name of his website, Infowars, seems to imply an acquaintance with “information” and “war,” a proposition that I find ludicrous on its face. I mean, if the typical American of Republican or Democratic party persuasion has even the slightest inkling of what either, let alone both, of these words actually mean, then I would have to consider myself the proverbial “Monkey’s Uncle.” I don’t read anything from the New York Times or Washington Post or Wall Street Journal, either. For exactly the same reasons. Alex Jones could sit on the editorial boards of all three corporate stenographic mouthpieces for all I know. Ditto for CNN, Fox Noise, etc. Rachel Moscow of MSDNC, I find decidedly despicable, what with her hyperbolic, foaming-at-the-mouth Russophobia.

    Anyway, from the video interview:

    [3:41 – 6:11] Alexander Mercouris:
    “ … Russiagate and the attack on social media are two sides of the same coin. … and it’s ultimately about control. They lost control. The political system lost control when Donald Trump became elected President of the United States. And the political establishment, which to be very clear includes the media also – the media in the United States and in Britain and in other Western countries is very much a part of the political system – they sense that they’re now losing control of the media space because all sorts of people using social media are now for the first time able to express their views; so people are getting news raw and unfiltered, no longer controlled in the way that it was. So these two things came together, there was a sense of a loss of control, and there has been a massive pushback to try to bring it all back under control, firstly by bringing social media under control, secondly by boxing in, discrediting, and perhaps ultimately impeaching and removing Donald Trump, restoring the status quo … And who are the people whom you justify all this around? What is the great excuse for doing it?”

    “Well, you bring in the Russians. These people who are far away, who can be made to look as sinister as you like and who are the bogey from the time of the Cold War. So you have all of this coming together in this extremely ugly and dangerous way, and we’re seeing this attack both on the outcome of an election, which is of course an attack on the fundamental principles of the U.S. Constitution, and on the expression of free speech in the media, which is another attack on the principles set out in the United States’ Constitution in the First Amendment. And it’s all being done in a way which I find extremely sinister, as a defense of democracy when, of course, what it really is is an attempt to restore an essentially oligarchical, elite control of the system which is the opposite of democracy.”

    That should about do it for now. Back to you, fellow Crimestoppers.

    • I detect a bit of a mixing of apples and oranges here. [I’ve always assumed that that would yield a rather bland kind of fruit salad, but I use the phrase here as a convenience, since it’s still in the popular vernacular.] And I should throw in the “full disclosure” here that I have no familiarity with the commentators quoted here by Mr. Murry. That said, let’s try to analyze this: I have been saying since Day One of the Russia Hysteria that it’s a big crock of you know what. Knowledgeable sources said recently that two, maybe three, of the US Intel agencies were feeding this conspiracy theory that Russians revealed the Clinton Camp’s dirty tricks to smother Sen. Sanders to try to pave the way to Trump’s election victory. A rather small minority. (I will observe in passing that the “need” for 17 such agencies is rather dubious, in that it seems the only “terrorist plots” they’ve been able to foil are those they’ve engineered themselves to entrap gullible, probably mentally unstable individuals here on US soil.) Speaking of the gullible–and yes, in some cases, the mentally unstable–the power social media have accrued to influence and mislead a huge number of people is undeniable. Some of these are gathered in the nation’s capital as I write this, demonstrating for “civil rights for white people.” Though this is risible, we saw in Charlottesville, Virginia a year ago that a gathering of this type is quite capable of killing and maiming law-abiding citizens. Needless to add (but I will), an organization known as the KKK, which these folks admire and wish to emulate (to say nothing of the Nazis who ruled Germany from 1933-1945), has claimed thousands of lives of US citizens over the past century-plus. Which brings us to the question of Alex Jones.

      I don’t know how many paid or volunteer assistants Mr. Jones has in his organization, but essentially Alex Jones IS “InfoWars.” No need to list them as separate entities. I’m sure that he chose that name for his operation as a deliberate embrace of social media as an outlet for the poisonous DISINFORMATION he spreads. He sees himself as a “Cultural Warrior,” leading the charge against an Evil Liberal Establishment that propagates un-American notions like voting rights for all citizens without discrimination; marriage rights for same-sex couples; the notion that citizens should have a right to safe air, water and food; the right for employees to form unions and bargain with bosses collectively; a right to live without fear of being gunned down by firearms-obsessed crazies, etc. ad infinitum. To suggest that “InfoWars” is something even remotely resembling a “news organization” is absurd beyond absurdity. (Notwithstanding the fact that the Establishment “news” outlets leave so much to be desired. Hell, they only discovered there’s a working class here when the most backward elements thereof fell in love with Donald Trump!) I have personally signed online petitions calling for Alex Jones to be booted from social media platforms…because of his ABUSE of, not use of, freedom of speech. And a sufficient number of fellow dwellers in Cyberspace have done so that some social media platforms have responded by banning “InfoWars.” Of course, anyone reading this has a right to denounce me as the enemy of free speech. Government has not (yet) stepped in to define what is “acceptable” or not for posting to social media. I am very confident that the owners of these platforms are responding to public pressure in the interest of preserving their operations’ reputations, and thus their profit potential. “Crony-corporate crypto-Fascist censorship”? No, “the magic of the markets” asserting itself! Remember when Wall Street questioned whether internet operations could ever turn a profit? Well, some folks sure found a way! And they have realized that Alex Jones was offending far more of their customers than he was charming.

      Thus sayeth Alexander Mercouris: “ … Russiagate and the attack on social media are two sides of the same coin. … and it’s ultimately about control. They lost control. The political system lost control when Donald Trump became elected President of the United States.” And yours truly sayeth: this statement is 2/3 in error. Social media on the whole are not under government assault. Alex Jones is not under government assault. He has fallen “victim” to backlash to his hateful rhetoric. Yes, the politico-economic Establishment is still wobbling, trying to figure out how to deal with Trump’s incipient, basically openly Fascist “movement.” But the US Ruling Class has assuredly NOT lost control of “the System.” They still hold the real power; the President of the United States merely holds office. Temporarily. If the Ruling Class concludes that Trump is a genuine threat to their privileges, they will crush him like a swatted mosquito.

      • Thanks for taking the time to write a lot of words, Greg. I read all of them, although I had trouble detecting a thread of argument to which I could respond. We agree about the phony “Russia-gate” jihad now in full hurricane force among the Hothouse Orchids and Special Snowflakes of the so-called “Deep State,” which includes the concentrated corporatist media as several of my references above have pointed out at great length; but as you feel disinclined to read any of them, I’ll just summarize your point of view as I believe they, and I, would understand it: You approve of censorship when it suits you and if the government officially washes its hands of all responsibility in the matter by subcontracting that censorship to anonymous billionaire oligarchs who have established for themselves virtual monopolies in select media venues. I do not wish to tax your time and energies, but I suggest considering a few famous (and brief) passages from A Man for All Seasons, by Robert Bolt:

        Thomas More: “Will, I’d trust you with my life. But not your principles. You see, we speak of being anchored to our principles. But if the weather turns nasty you up with an anchor and let it down where there’s less wind, and the fishing’s better. And “Look,” we say, “look, I’m anchored! To my principles!”

        “And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned around on you–where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast–man’s laws, not God’s–and if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.”

        Please feel free to stop reading now, since you probably have better uses for your time and energy, but for those others who do recognize the names of certain authors and their considered opinions on matters like the banning from Twitter and Facebook of Peter Van Buren, Scott Horton (of anti-war.com) and Dan McAdams (of the Ron Paul Institute) — none of whom have advocated violence against anyone — I would recommend reading at least the opening three paragraphs of George Orwell’s essay, The Prevention of Literature (1946) [bold text for emphasis added]:

        About a year ago I attended a meeting of the P.E.N. Club, the occasion being the tercentenary of Milton’s “Aeropagitica” — a pamphlet, it may be remembered, in defense of freedom of the press. Milton’s famous phrase about the sin of ‘killing’ a book was printed on the leaflets advertising the meeting which had been circulated beforehand.

        There were four speakers on the platform. One of them delivered a speech which did deal with the freedom of the press, but only in relation to India; another said, hesitantly, and in very general terms, that liberty was a good thing; a third delivered an attack on the laws relating to obscenity in literature. The fourth devoted most of his speech to a defense of the Russian purges. Of the speeches from the body of the hall, some reverted to the question of obscenity and the laws that deal with it, others were simply eulogies of Soviet Russia. Moral liberty — the liberty to discuss sex questions frankly in print — seemed to be generally approved, but political liberty was not mentioned. Out of this concourse of several hundred people, perhaps half of whom were directly connected with the writing trade, there was not a single one who could point out that freedom of the press, if it means anything at all, means the freedom to criticize and oppose. Significantly, no speaker quoted from the pamphlet which was ostensibly being commemorated. Nor was there any mention of the various books which have been ‘killed’ in England and the United States during the war. In its net effect the meeting was a demonstration in favor of censorship.

        There was nothing particularly surprising in this. In our age, the idea of intellectual liberty is under attack from two directions. On the one side are its theoretical enemies, the apologists of totalitarianism, and on the other its immediate, practical enemies, monopoly and bureaucracy. Any writer or journalist who wants to retain his integrity finds himself thwarted by the general drift of society rather than by active persecution. The sort of things that are working against him are the concentration of the press in the hands of a few rich men, the grip of monopoly on radio and the films, the unwillingness of the public to spend money on books, making it necessary for nearly every writer to earn part of his living by hackwork, the encroachment of official bodies like the M.O.I. and the British Council, which help the writer to keep alive but also waste his time and dictate his opinions, and the continuous war atmosphere of the past ten years, whose distorting effects no one has been able to escape. Everything in our age conspires to turn the writer, and every other kind of artist as well, into a minor official, working on themes handed down from above and never telling what seems to him the whole of the truth. But in struggling against this fate he gets no help from his own side; that is, there is no large body of opinion which will assure him that he’s in the right. In the past, at any rate throughout the Protestant centuries, the idea of rebellion and the idea of intellectual integrity were mixed up. A heretic — political, moral, religious, or aesthetic — was one who refused to outrage his own conscience.

        I’ll stop with the supportive quotations, now, but I would like to wrap up this comment by noting that — unfortunately, in my opinion — Peter Van Buren, Scott Horton, and Dan McAdams (not to mention Daniel Ellsberg, Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, William Binney, John Kiriakou, Bradley/Chelsea Manning, et al) get no help from those who would claim to champion their right to leak or publish any information of interest and importance to the American citizenry as long as they get to demand the censorship of those others whose views they find personally repugnant or politically “rebellious.”

        Again and finally, the article under discussion here concerns the U. S. corporate/government (for nothing separates these two) attempt to silence Peter Van Buren and several other persons of his caliber. Injecting a “consensus villain du jour” such as Alex Jones and his website “Infowars” amounts to a red-herring distraction (pardon the redundancy) from the true danger of any violation of our “guaranteed” First Amendment freedoms by anyone at any time, regardless of the facile, bullshit excuses offered in defense of de-facto totalitarianism. As George Orwell properly noted, the greatest danger to our freedom and literature comes not from our avowedly Fascist enemies but from those who would call themselves our friends. And by fair-weather “friends of freedom,” I have in mind here, obviously, the now-bankrupt (financially, politically, and morally) Democratic party of former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, two of Ronald Reagan’s greatest disciples and pathetic junior varsity aspirants to varsity status on the Republican party team whose corporatist oligarchy they so very much admire and seek to join, as both have, to their substantial personal profit.

        To have a Peter Van Buren, we must allow for the temporary tediousness of an Alex Jones. I cannot state the operative principle any more succinctly than that, although John Milton, Thomas More, and George Orwell have stated it far more beautifully.

      • Michael–I’m afraid all your argument fails on this very simple ground: Facebook is “private property,” though it invites the public in. It, like all the social media playgrounds, has established “rules of conduct.” There is no Constitutional argument you or anyone else can present that can deny Facebook’s owners and “moderators” (think it’s easy moderating the comments of about a billion people? It’s all quite remarkable, given that FB was founded as a means for Mark Zuckerberg to put down the college women who’d spurned his advances!) the right to establish what is allowable and not. I couldn’t agree more that defining something like hate speech is a ticklish affair (though I guess essentially you deny such a phenomenon exists, and anyone whose “feelings get hurt” is just a wimp who needs to follow your mom’s old advice that “names will never hurt you”). After all, a US Supreme Court Justice famously said he couldn’t define pornography, but he “knew it when [he] saw it.” But again I remind the reader that in the real world, there is no society on Earth that will tolerate speech with absolutely no limitation. Alex Jones is not the victim of a foul conspiracy between the US Government and Silicon Valley billionaires, because he spouts precisely the kind of absurd reactionary claptrap that Trump’s followers joyfully lap up. He is a morally warped (in my personal opinion) individual who fell into the trap he himself set, that is, he created a serious backlash among social media users against his own hate-spewing.

        I think we’ve spouted enough verbiage on this topic, so I will close by quoting the living god (well, so some folks think!) Bob Dylan: “Most likely, you go your way and I’ll go mine.”

  10. For those interested in historical technical revolutions and their relevance to the collapsing U.S. Corporate Fantasy Narrative, I have spent some time transcribing further comments from:

    Russia hysteria gave us social media censorship (Video), The Duran – News in Review – Episode 75 (August 11, 2018)

    Alexander Mercouris [10:18 – 12:28]

    This attempt to regain control, is guaranteed in the end to fail. You cannot control the kind of media that exists today. And people have got a taste for it now. People have got a sense of what it is like to operate in a free media space, and they will rebel against it. There is a famous expression, I think it is by Voltaire who once said that “When the people begin to reason, all is lost.” And what we have now is a situation where the people have begun to reason. And I think that one of the strange things is that all these attempts to sort of regain control, to impose what is essentially censorship – it is censorship – these attempts to overturn elections, a Presidential election outcome. What they are actually doing is accelerating the collapse of the political system which is launching these attacks. Because people out there are not unintelligent and they are now very well informed, and they are able to put two and two together. And they’re able to see what is going on. Some people will, of course, be fooled for awhile, but more and more people are not. And more and more people are questioning, and they will always find places they can go to and media where they can get their views. And however tight you try and draw the controls, it is going to be impossible to keep it up; unless you go all the way and establish a full-scale totalitarian system which I think would be extremely difficult to do in the West today. … what I am starting to see, which is an inevitable collapse.

    [13:56] “Can I give a historical example? It’s what happened in the sixteenth century when printing appeared. People were starting to print books all over the place. And you had a massive reaction from the authorities. Books were burned. In Spain the Inquisition was set up, all sorts of things were done. But in the end, they couldn’t control it. And of course the social media here of today, is a revolution of a very similar kind. It is beyond control. Because if you destroy Facebook, if you discredit Facebook, somebody is going to create something else. It is easy to do nowadays. There is no magic about this. It doesn’t even require vast resources to do. You don’t have to have the skills of an IBM to do it, of the 1960s. These are relatively simple vehicles to create.

    The only reason that Facebook has the monopoly, has acquired the virtue of monopoly, that it did is because it got there first. So people went to something that already existed previously. But if Facebook makes itself unusable, the same goes for Twitter, other people who are going to be more resistant to this kind of pressure that Facebook has been under, they will start to emerge, in fact they are already doing so. And then, what do you do with them? Do you go after them? How do you go after them? And of course the United States is not based everywhere in the world. You will find places within the United States where people resist it, and you will find places outside the United States where people will resist it. It is impossible to do what they have [tried to do]. But, and this is important, in the meantime, a lot of damage is being done. A lot of people’s reputations are being ruined. A lot of businesses are being badly hurt. And just as with the attack on printing and the printing press in the sixteenth century caused many losses to many people, this unfortunately is going to be many losses before the final understanding is realized. The penny drops among the elites that the battle is already lost.”

    Here, I think, we have the crux of the matter. Sure. Boot a few little actors like Peter Van Buren and Alex Jones from their tiny little social network followings and then see what you get next. History offers some very useful lessons, but the Ruling Corporate Oligarchy seems impervious to learning them. So, the “elites” will fail but cause a lot of collateral damage to a lot of innocent bystanders on their way down the toilet.

    • Facebook is the only social media platform I use (reluctantly!), and in my experience the amount of wingnut dross there far, far outweighs any content one might deem “enlightening.” But that is simply a reflection of a society that put Donald J. Trump in the highest elected office in the land. If there was no pre-existing market for “Trumpism,” poor Donald would have been forced to try to return to “reality TV,” if he could have found an outlet willing to put him back on the air.

  11. Peter Van Buren explains this monopoly corporate censorship business in his own words, pretty much as I have argued above through numerous examples and reference citations. Hopefully, his words will not hurt anyone’s “feelings” or get them all-incited-and-stuff to go bomb Parliament or Trump Towers because some Russian interns at a catering company in St. Petersburg placed a few “click-bait” ads on Facebook which mostly appeared after the 2016 U.S. elections and which hardly anyone saw in any event:

    Corporate Censorship Brought Us the America I Always Feared, by Peter Van Buren, WeMeantWell (August 13, 2018).

    [Begin quote]

    When I was in Iran earlier this year, the government there blocked Twitter, deciding for a whole nation what they can not see. In America, Twitter purges users, deciding for a whole nation what they can not see. It matters little whose hand is on the switch, the end result is the same. This is the America I always feared I’d see.

    Speech in America is an unalienable right, and goes as deep into the concept of a free society as any idea can. Thomas Jefferson wrote of the right flowing from his notion of a Creator, not from government. Jefferson’s 18th century invocation is understood now as less that free speech is heaven-sent and more that it is something existing above government. And so the argument the First Amendment applies only to government and not to all public speaking (including private platforms like Twitter) is thus both true and irrelevant, and the latter is more important.

    The government remains a terrifying threat to free speech. An Espionage Act prosecution against Wikileaks’ Julian Assange will create precedent for use against any mainstream journalist. The war on whistleblowers which started under Obama continues under Trump. Media are forced to register as propaganda agents. Universities restrict controversial speakers. The Trump administration no doubt will break the record (77%) for redacting or denying access to government files under the Freedom of Information Act.

    But there is another threat to freedom of speech now, corporate censorship. It is often dressed up with NewSpeak terms like deplatforming, restricting hate speech, or simply applying Terms of Service. Corporations always did what they wanted with speech. Our protection against corporate overreach used to rely on an idea Americans once held dear, enshrined as “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend your right to say it.” The concept was core to a democracy: everyone supports the right of others to throw ideas into the marketplace independent. An informed people would sort through it all, and bad ideas would be pushed away by better ones. That system more or less worked for 240 years.

    For lack of a more precise starting point, the election of Donald Trump did away with near-universal agreement on defending the right to speak without defending the content, driven by a belief too much free speech helped Trump get elected. Large numbers of Americans began not just to tolerate, but to demand censorship. They wanted universities to deplatform speakers they did not agree with, giggling over the fact the old-timey 1A didn’t apply and there was nothing “conservatives” could do. They expressed themselves in violence, demanding censorship by “punching Nazis.” Such brownshirt-like violence was endorsed by The Nation, once America’s clearest voice for freedom. The most startling change came within the American Civil Liberties Union, who enshrined the “defend the right, not the speech” concept in the 1970s when it defended the free speech rights of Nazis, and went on to defend the speech rights of white supremacists in Charlottesville.

    Not so much anymore. The ACLU now applies a test to the free speech cases it will defend, weighing their impact on other rights (for example, the right to say the N-word versus the rights of POC.) The ACLU in 2018 is siding with those who believe speech can be secondary to other political goals. Censorship has a place, says the ACLU, when it serves what they believe is a greater good.

    A growing segment of public opinion isn’t just in favor of this, it demands it. So when years-old tweets clash with 2018 definitions of racism and sexism, companies fire employees. Under public pressure, Amazon removed “Nazi paraphernalia and other far-right junk” from its online store. It was actually just some nasty Halloween gear and Confederate flag merch, but the issue is not the value of the products — that’s part of any free speech debate — it’s corporate censorship being used to stifle debate by literally in this case pulling things out of the marketplace.

    Alex Jones’ InfoWars was deplatformed off download sites where it has been available for years, including Apple, YouTube (owned by Google), Spotify, and Amazon, for promoting “hate speech.” Huffington Post wondered why more platforms, such as Instagram, haven’t done away with Jones and his hate speech.

    That term, hate speech, clearly not prohibited by the Supreme Court, is an umbrella word now used by censorship advocates for, well, basically anything they don’t want others to be able to listen to or watch. It is very flexible and thus very dangerous. As during the McCarthy-era in the 1950s when one needed only to label something “Communist” to have it banned, so it is today with the new mark of “hate speech.” The parallels are chilling — it was in the McCarthy-era Hollywood created its infamous blacklists, actors and writers who could not work because of their political beliefs.

    Twitter is perhaps the most infamous platform to censor its content. The site bans advertising from Russian media outlets RT and Sputnik. Twitter suspends the accounts of those who promote (what it defines as) hate and violence, “shadow bans” others to limit their audience, and tweaks its trending topics to push certain political ideas and downplay others. It regularly purges users and bans “hateful symbols.” There are near-daily demands by increasingly organized groups calling on Twitter to censor specific users, with Trump at the top of that list. The point is always the same: to limit what ideas you can be exposed to and narrow debate.

    Part of the 2018 problem is the trust people place in “good companies” like Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter. Anthropomorphizing them as Jeff, and Zuck, and @jack is popular, along with a focus on their “values.” It seems to make sense, especially now when many of the people making decisions on corporate censorship are the same age and hold the same political views as those demanding they do it.

    Of course people age, values shift, what seems good to block today might change. But the main problem is companies exist to make money and will do what they need to do to make money. You can’t count on them past that. Handing over free speech rights to an entity whose core purpose has nothing to do with free speech means they will quash ideas when they conflict with what they are really about. People who gleefully celebrate the fact that @jack who runs Twitter is not held back by the 1A and can censor at will seem to believe he will always yield his power in the way they want him to.

    Google has a slogan reading “do no evil.” Yet in China Google will soon deploy Dragonfly, a version of its search engine that will meet Beijing’s demands for censorship by blocking websites on command. Of course in China they don’t call it hate speech, they call it anti-societal speech, and the propaganda Google will block isn’t from Russian bots but from respected global media. In the U.S. Google blocks users from their own documents saved in Drive if the service feels the documents are “abusive.” Backin China Apple removes apps from its store on command of the government in return for market access. Amazon, who agreed to remove hateful merch from its store in the U.S., the same week confirmed it is “unwaveringly committed to the U.S. government and the governments we work with around the world” using its AI and facial recognition technology to spy on their own people. Faced with the loss of billions of dollars, as was the case for Google and Apple in China, what will corporations do in America?

    Once upon a time an easy solution to corporate censorship was to take one’s business elsewhere. The 2018 problem is with the scale of platforms like Amazon, near global monopolies all. Pretending Amazon, which owns the Washington Post, and with the reach to influence elections, is just another company that sells things is to pretend the role of unfettered debate in a free society is outdated. Yeah, you can for now still go through hoops to download stuff outside the Apple store or Google Play, but those platforms more realistically control access to your device. Censored on Twitter? No problem big guy, go try Myspace, and maybe Bing will notice you. Technology and market dominance changed the nature of censorship so free speech is as much about finding an audience as it is about finding a place to speak. Corporate censorship is at the cutting edge of a reality targeting both speakers (Twitter suspends someone) and listeners (Apple won’t post that person’s videos made off-platform). Ideas need to be discoverable to enter the debate; in 1776 you went to the town square. In 2018 it’s Twitter.

    In the run up to the midterm elections, Senator Chris Murphy, ironically in a tweet, demanded social media censor more aggressively for the “survival of our democracy,” implying those companies can act as proxies for those still held back by the First Amendment. We already know the companies involved can censor. The debate is over what happens when they do.

    A PERSONAL NOTE: Some readers are aware I have been permanently suspended from Twitter as @wemeantwell. This followed exchanges with several mainstream journalists over their support for America’s wars and unwillingness to challenge government lies. Twitter sent an auto-response saying what I wrote “harasses, intimidates, or uses fear to silence someone else’s voice.” I don’t think I did any of that, and I wish you didn’t have to accept my word on it. I wish instead you could read what I wrote and decide for yourself. But Twitter won’t allow it. Twitter says you cannot read and make up your own mind. They have in fact eliminated all the things I have ever written there over seven years, disappeared me down the Memory Hole. That’s why all censorship is wrong; it takes the power to decide what is right and wrong away from you and gives it to someone else.

    I lost my career at the State Department because I spoke out as a whistleblower against the Iraq War. I’ve now been silenced, again, for speaking out, this time by a corporation. I am living in the America I always feared.

    [End quote]

    What he said. Sure glad that I don’t live in that Orwellian police state — policed by Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos and other billionaire oligarchs — any longer.

    • It is a revelation to me that Nazis (and I am NOT using too strong a term!) merely want to engage in polite debates!!!

  12. Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone weighs in (again):

    Censorship Does Not End Well – How America learned to stop worrying and put Mark Zuckerberg in charge of everything.

    This rampant, self-exculpatory: “he got me all hot and bothered with his words and so I did some bad shit that I wouldn’t have done otherwise” thing reminds me of the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s. Back then, Southern whites (and not a few Northern ones) who very much enjoyed subjecting American negroes to a century of Jim Crow discrimination (after another century or more of outright slavery) bitterly complained about “those outside agitators” — meaning, students, preachers, and other activists from “the North” — who “stirred up” black folks to resistance and rebellion when they would have otherwise remained docile and content with their lot if only someone hadn’t spoken to them in “inflammatory” words about how bad a deal they really had as second-class citizens in the country of their birth. You see, “African Americans” (as we call black citizens today) can’t figure out on their own how badly they have it in life and require a rhetorical Marc Antony to name America’s “honorable men” and show what horrible things they have done to the common citizenry.

    Fast forward to 2018 and Matt Taibbi’s description of (yet another) pathetic right-wing Republican attention-whore (as opposed to the typical right-wing Democrat attention whore) trying to pass himself off as a debunker of nefarious conspiracies, mostly, “liberal” (which in the U.S. boils down to Dennis Kucinich, Ralph Nader, and Noam Chomski, certainly no one at the corporate DNC like Bill Clinton or Barack Obama):

    “[Alex] Jones is the media equivalent of a trench-coated stalker who jumps out from from behind a mailbox and starts whacking it in an intersection. His “speech” is on that level: less an idea than a gross physical provocation. InfoWars defines everything reporters are taught not to do.”

    I love that characterization of Alex Jones (about whom I know next to nothing and could not care less) as a “dirty old man” exhibitionist, but I have a bit of difficulty understanding what Mr Taibbi means by “gross physical provocation.” I mean, does he picture Alex Jones “provoking” passing motorists and pedestrians into emulating his example? Did he mean to assert that mentally helpless and morally irresponsible Americans would themselves immediately disrobe (upon seeing a fat man’s naked shrivelled penis and balls the size of dessicated raisins) and start “jerking off,” “choking the chicken,” “loping the mule,” “spanking the monkey,” “caressing the clit,” or just plain masturbating, because they had seen someone else do that? In most civilized countries with reasonably educated adult citizens, such an exhibition by the likes of Alex Jones would provoke gales of derisive laughter, not a rush to comply with patently absurd exhortations, whether enunciated through vituperative verbal ejaculations or preening, physical posturing (what former U.S. Vice President Al Gore called “Visual Rhetoric” or “Body Language” in his book The Assault on Reason (2007).

    So much for imagery and metaphor which I do not think Matt Taibbi properly applied or exploited to the degree he might have. Anyway, I think he ended his article well enough:

    “Americans are not freaking out about this because most of us have lost the ability to distinguish between general principles and political outcomes. So long as the “right” people are being zapped, no one cares.”

    “But we should care. Censorship is one of modern man’s great temptations. Giving in to it hasn’t provided many happy stories.”

    Speaking for myself, and not for any inclusive “we” or “us,” I have not lost the ability to distinguish between general principles and “political outcomes,” meaning short-sighted expediency. Neither do I believe in “zapping” anyone for exercising their inalienable rights as guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution. I can tell shit from Shinola, as we used to say, and I do not require anyone else to read the writing on the wall for me. If “most” other people want to voluntarily surrender their own fundamental human rights because someone spoke some words at them or posed for a picture in a military pilot’s flight suit on the deck of an aircraft carrier, then I feel sorry for them. But I never gave anyone else power of attorney to surrender my rights and freedoms. So I would appreciate it very much if good writers like Matt Taibbi, whom I very much enjoy reading, would concentrate on those Americans who constitute a distinct, but not necessarily inconsequential, minority of “Civil Rights Extremists,” in Glenn Greenwald’s happy phrase. I’d like to read more about those sorts of people.

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