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.
44 thoughts on “I Have Been Permanently Banned from Twitter”
Reblogged this on The Secular Jurist and commented:
Apparently, freedom of speech is acceptable in America if it promotes white supremacy but is unacceptable if it opposes war. Now that’s a very peculiar sense of ethics, if you ask me!
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.
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!
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!'”
Just as a follow up, Greg, Jimmy Dore has a pretty good take on the unintended consequences of letting billionaire corporate oligarchs conspire on a whim to censor someone never actually convicted of defamation, libel, slander, or — you know — an actual crime that a court of law could sort out one way or another. See: Alex Jones Popularity Spikes After Being De-Platformed. Worth a watch.
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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!
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.
Michael, did you just out yourself as an actual “Libertarian”?!!? Oh, dear!!
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.
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).
“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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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).
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.
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!!!
Whoever said that debates or discussions must occur only (or “merely”) under “polite” circumstances? Who ever said that true Nazis only appear wearing a swastica armband and/or sporting a goofy haircut and moustache? Many debates or discussions contain downright impolite, or even rude (though sometimes honest), remarks that the general society would do well to permit and study. I bring the interested person’s attention to a famous debate between Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley, Jr. that occurred on network television in 1968 at the Democratic Party National Convention, sometimes referred to as “a bloody police riot.” You don’t see stuff like this on the corporate-sanitized media today. Too bad. See: Vidal vs Buckley – Crypto-Nazi Debate (Best Quality). Those familiar with Mr. Buckley remember his pretentious “aristocratic” mannerisms which Mr Vidal quietly and adroitly played upon, ultimately “inciting” Mr Buckley to lose his phoney “polite” composure, calling Mr. Vidal a “queer” and threatening to punch the WWII veteran in the face. Priceless. I, of course, thought that Gore Vidal got the best of it, both in terms of the debate and the eventual historical outcome where the Vietnamese won their independence from the bloody U.S. Fascism (nothing “crypto” about it) that William F. Buckley, Jr. so enthusiastically endorsed from behind a cheap and self-satisfied grin.
In short, some of the most effective fascists — even Nazis — wear impeccable clothing, sport a pasted-on pseudo-smile, and speak in dulcet tones, if not whispers; at least until someone sees through their vapid pretentiousness and calls them on it by pointing out the many and various fallacies they employ. As Charles Sanders Peirce wrote, “the best argument is the one we can dispense with right away, leaving time and space for a consideration of the truly important issues.” Censoring people spouting bad arguments only robs us of of the opportunity to publicly deconstruct them, name their obvious flaws, and dispense with them forthwith. Censoring bad arguments by silencing those who offer them only admits of weakness and a lack of confidence in the censor’s own position. Cowardice and Censorship begin with the same letter.
I sure miss Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley, Jr.: the former a national treasure and the latter a national embarrassment. The truth requires — as John Milton said — that we get to see the two of them “grapple in the open.” Unfortunately, the United States has thrown away the treasure of irreverent wit but kept the embarrassment of corporate, group-think “authority.” Those who would censor the free-speech rights of others have more in common with Fascism, if not Nazism, than they may recognize or care to admit, however “polite” they may think their own ideology. As I like to say of World War II: America’s Fascists helped Soviet Russian Communists beat Germany and Italy’s Fascists (but not Spain’s); not because corporatist America had anything against Fascism, only that it did not want to share the practice and profits of Fascism with any other upstart nation. By 1945, Fascism had won, simply relocating to the United States where the CIA-imported European Fascists became no longer despised but celebrated in America for their vicious anti-Communism.
Oscar Wilde once said that “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.”
For my part, I do not wish to see my fellow Americans flattering Fascism by imitating it; revealing in the process their own mediocrity and genuine admiration for the greatness of that which they claim to abhor.
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.
As for Greg Laxer’s supposition above that I had “outed” myself as a “Libertarian”, I can find no better rebuttal than that offered by the expatriate Russian engineer, Dmitry Orlov, which I found in his article:
The Tech Giants Are Risking Crippling Global Lawsuits by Censoring Alex Jones, Russia Insider (August 15, 2018), the subheading of which article reads:
“Jones should sue the US and the companies that censored him in the European Court of Human rights in Strasbourg, France and seek redress both against entities within the US government which issued the illegal order (to be ferreted out in the course of discovery) and against the transnational companies that carried it out.”
To quote Mr Orlov:
“I once appeared on a radio show run by Alex Jones, and he did manage to boil down what I had to say to “the USA is going to collapse like the USSR did,” which is pretty good, considering how poorly we managed to connect, having so little in common. He is a conservative and a libertarian whereas I think that conservatives don’t exist in the US.”
“What have they “conserved” lately—other than the right to bear small arms? As far as libertarianism, I consider proper historical libertarianism as a strain of socialism while its American cooptation is just plain funny: these ones remain libertarian only until they need the services of an ambulance or a fire engine, at which point they turn socialist. To boot, American libertarians like Ayn Rand, who to me was a relentlessly bad writer full of faulty thinking. However, I find her useful as a litmus test for mediocre minds.”
Some libertarians and I agree in opposing America’s endless wars for the obscene profits of a handful of financial oligarchs, but otherwise, just because so-called and self-styled Libertarians have co-opted the word “Liberty,” does not mean that they possess a monopoly on either its meaning or its principled application. As I said above, I consider myself what Glenn Greenwald would call a “Civil Liberties Extremist.” Call me that if you must call me anything. Just don’t try to tell me what I or anyone else can see, hear, read, say, or think. The word “Censor” has another spelling: “Coward.”
As I try to remind myself at frequent intervals, I joined in this discussion in support of Peter Van Buren and in protest of his banning from various social media platforms which the U.S. government has allowed to assume quasi-monopoly market power. As a former government employee and whistle-blower, however, the Ruling Transnational Oligarchy cannot abide Mr Van Buren’s existence or influence and has therefore conspired with a handful of corporate entities to silence him. The claim that he engaged in “hate speech” or somehow “instigated violence” or “violated” anyone’s “terms of agreement” by performing a Vulcan mind-meld on millions of hapless, innocent, unsuspecting Americans who would not otherwise ever argue with each other about anything, has no factual justification whatsoever.
Nonetheless, many persons keep throwing around the name of Alex Jones as some sort of mega-excuse for “good” censorship and — what do you know? — Peter Van Buren, the proverbial “baby,” gets thrown out with the bathwater, so to speak. Who could ever have predicted that? Anyway, since people keep bringing up the subject of Alex Jones, as if the mere mention of his name – like Lucifer Satan – dispenses with any and all defense of our (former) First Amendment freedoms (“We can’t afford them as a practical matter, you know”), I looked up his Wikipedia page and found the following:
Alexander Emric (or Emerick) Jones (born February 11, 1974) is an American radio show host and conspiracy theorist. He hosts The Alex Jones Show from Austin, Texas, which airs on the Genesis Communications Network across the United States and online. Jones runs a website, Infowars.com, devoted to conspiracy theories and fake news.
Jones has been the center of many controversies, including his promotion of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting conspiracy theories, and his aggressive opposition to gun control in a debate with Piers Morgan. He has accused the US government of being involved in the Oklahoma City bombing, the September 11 attacks, and the filming of fake Moon landings to hide NASA’s secret technology.
He has claimed that several governments and big business have colluded to create a “New World Order” through “manufactured economic crises, sophisticated surveillance tech and—above all—inside-job terror attacks that fuel exploitable hysteria”. Jones has described himself as a conservative, paleoconservative and libertarian; terms which he uses interchangeably. He has been described by others as conservative, right-wing, alt-right, and far-right.
New York magazine described Jones as “America’s leading conspiracy theorist”, and the Southern Poverty Law Center describes him as “the most prolific conspiracy theorist in contemporary America”. When asked about such labels, Jones said that he is “proud to be listed as a thought criminal against Big Brother”. In addition to Infowars, Jones also operates the websites NewsWars and PrisonPlanet.
When I first read the above, I skipped over almost all of it as tediously familiar and worthless. Almost all of it. But not this:
“He has claimed that several governments and big business have colluded to create a “New World Order” through “manufactured economic crises, sophisticated surveillance tech and—above all—inside-job terror attacks that fuel exploitable hysteria.”
Bingo. That did it. One simply cannot focus public attention on the corporatist-militarist oligarchy. Not “in the land of the fleeced and the home of the slave, where the cowed and the buffaloed moan,” as I wrote in one of my poems. I understand. This has nothing to do with doubting news reports of dead schoolkids, which, in any event, no law in the United States prohibits. People can doubt whatever they want and believe whatever they want. And the “inside-job terror attacks,” known world-wide as “false flag” operations (from the Bay of Pigs to WMD to “chemical poisonings”in Syria and England), usually have the incriminating fingerprints of the U.S. “intelligence services” all over them. Can’t have anyone focusing on attention on any of that.
Alex Jones may sound like a broken bullshit record for the most part, but like any stopped clock, he still can tell the correct time twice a day. And for that, he must — like Peter Van Buren and Julian Assange — simply disappear. “In Oceania there is no law,”
Again, Peter Van Buren has more to say, and in his own words. Hopefully they will escape the ultimate irony: namely, “moderator” purgatory, the unexplained, due-process-free disappearance of comments somehow deemed, by someone, “unacceptable” to “adult” readers, a practice unfortunately not limited to Twitter, Facebook, Google, etc. As Mr Van Buren says on his own website: I’m Alex Jones x Infinity Worse (on Twitter), WeMeantWell (August 15, 2018):
“Twitter just suspended Alex Jones for a week after he called on millions of people to pick up weapons to attack the press. I am still in the dark about what I said on Twitter that is x Infinity worse, as mine is a permanent suspension.”
Before going further with Mr Van Buren’s comments, I searched the Internet for news of millions of people picking up weapons and attacking the press. Finding no such news, I searched for “thousands” of such persons doing what Alex Jones had “incited” them to do. Finding no such news of any such “incitement,” I searched for “hundreds,” then “dozens,” then even “1” person picking up a weapon and attacking the press because Alex Jones told them to do so. Judging from the absence of any armed response whatsoever to Alex Jones’ “fiery” and “hateful” exhortations, his powers of persuasion seem to me ludicrously ineffective. One could almost conclude from this that millions of supposedly brain-dead and morally irresponsible Americans have no trouble at all resisting Mr Jones’ belligerent blandishments.
At any rate, Mr Jones only got a week’s suspension from Twitter because he attracts and entertains so many millions of unhappy, angry people that the ad revenue lost from his absence — all those “clicks” and “likes” — would have put a serious dent in the Twitter corporation’s bottom-line profits. And since the U. S. government and a few huge corporations teaming up to silence him validated his accusations of “conspiracy” and “collusion,” his popularity only increased further. You know, the “martyr” thing. People have made more than one world religion out of the phenomenon. Anyway, no company in its right mind would want to miss out on profiting from those millions of additional consumers, so Twitter and the other quasi-monopolies, Facebook and Google, had to keep the banishment brief. Peter Van Buren, on the other hand, has no such massive following and so silencing a him at the behest of the U.S. government costs Twitter and Facebook and Google practically nothing. Just a minor cost of doing business.
Mr Van Buren goes on to say:
“Anyway, I hope with Alex Jones (and me) gone, your Twitter is better, kinder, more… ideologically pure. @jack seems to be on a campaign ahead of the midterms to make Twitter less politically diverse, so I hope that is good for you, not to have to block all those nasty contrary opinions and all. Soon enough it’ll be just down to what the Party wants you to read and for most people that is a comfortably numb place to be. I wish you well! You will learn, as I have, to love Big Brother. Twitter will help you learn.”
Although I appreciate good irony, satire, and sarcasm, I seriously doubt that Peter Van Burn loves Big Brother, although a great many Americans obviously do, even some who claim to love freedom of speech even as they demand its suppression, whether by corporations or the government (and who can tell the difference any longer?). “Fine in theory,” the apologists for censorship — or “moderation” — say, “but impractical” when someone they don’t like (or whose opinions they find dangerous) tries to exercise a little of it.
Peter Van Buren concludes with a few more paragraphs which essentially boil down to what Alexander Mercouris, the editor in chief of The Duran (and an expert in legal matters) said recently: that “in a free and democratic society, the way you dispute people’s opinions is by responding to them, not by silencing them. These people who call themselves “liberals” are acting in the most illiberal way. And I saw that Senator Murphy, Democratic Senator from Connecticut was talking about people like Alex Jones being a threat to democracy, while it seems to me that the threat to democracy comes from people like Senator Murphy who are cracking down on free speech in this way.”
Hopefully these comments by Peter Van Buren, Alexander Mercouris, and me will not find themselves “moderated” into the vast silence of “inconvenient,” “impractical,” “theoretical,” “unpopular,” “impolite,” and ultimately long-lost liberties. As the late Gore Vidal observed: “Americans are among the most easily frightened people on earth.” And nothing frightens millions of Americans more than a little genuine Freedom. They can hardly bear to even hear of it.
Thanks for the great news, Peter Van Buren:
1A Victory: SCOTUS Again Confirms ‘Hate Speech’ is Protected, WeMeantWell.com (August 19, 2018)
In the world we awoke to on November 8, 2016, a myth took hold among many progressive people that so-called “hate speech” — speech that demeans on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability — is not protected by the First Amendment. Even Howard Dean contributed to the falsehood.
Hate speech is not protected by the first amendment. https://t.co/DOct3xcLoY
— Howard Dean (@GovHowardDean) April 21, 2017
The Supreme Court just made it very, very clear that is wrong. Offensive and hateful speech is as protected as any other. It is vital to protect all speech, for the road of prohibiting speech one disagrees with is a slippery one. There is a right to offend; deal with it, snowflakes.”
A recent case, Matal v. Tam, focused on an all-Asian band called The Slants, who wanted to trademark their group’s name. “Slant” of course is one of a dictionary full of racist terms used to offend Asians, and the group wanted to push the word into the world’s face to disarm it, as gay men have done with the slur queer.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office said no, the group could not trademark the name The Slants because of the disparagement clause, which denies federal trademark protection to messages that may offend people, living or dead, along with “institutions, beliefs or national symbols.” This same reasoning denied the Washington Redskins’ trademark renewal of their team name in 2014, seen as disparaging toward Native Americans.
No more. The Supreme Court just ruled the government cannot use trademark law to stop people from promoting an (potentially offensive) name. That constitutes the government prohibiting free expression, a clear violation of the First Amendment.
Just before checking out Peter Van Buren’s website — which I do every day — I caught a video on RT.com, namely: The Keiser Report – Episode 1268, wherein program host Max Keiser had this to say in regard to the recent banning of Alex Jones (whom Mr Keiser considers an extreme satirist):
“… now you have the government saying nobody in America has the intelligence to decipher what’s right, wrong, accurate, not accurate, fake news, propaganda, real news, and they’ve come in with this giant diaper and said “You need to wear this diaper all day long and we’ll make sure you get a big hug, because you’re just a little baby. You can’t have any responsibility.”
Good to see the Supine Ones actually doing their damn job for a change and telling the American people to take off their nanny diapers and grow up. As the Buddha said two-and-a-half millennia ago: “You can’t give offense to anyone unwilling to take any.” So don’t take any offense, Americans, and no one can give you any. You do have a choice, you know.
Actually, the conclusion of my final paragraph above should have read:
“Refuse to take offense, Americans, and no one can give you any. On the other hand, if you insist on taking offense, no one can prevent you from having all of it that you desire. The choice remains entirely up to you.”
The original source of this wise advice — which I have taken the liberty of paraphrasing — comes from one of the Buddhist sutras, which reads more like the following:
Once while out walking, a Brahman priest accosted the Buddha and began berating him for teaching “heretical” doctrines and that sort of thing. The Buddha patiently and silently endured the tongue-lashing, and when the Brahman had exhausted himself, asked a simple question in return: “If someone offered you a gift and you refused to accept it, with whom would the gift remain?” The Brahman answered: “Why, with the giver, or course.” To which the Buddha replied, concluding the conversation: “And so it is with your abuse.”
It does not surprise me in the least that some Asian musicians — steeped in Confucian and Buddhist culture — would understand the ramifications of subconsciously projecting a will to dominate others under the disguise of playing the innocent victim “injured” by another person’s words. My Chinese wife and I discussed this and agreed that the musicians could have probably achieved the same result by calling themselves “the bananas” (meaning “yellow on the outside and white on the inside”) much in the same way that some African Americans refer to former U.S. President Barack Obama as an “Oreo” cookie (“black on the outside and white on the inside”). The studied insult — especially racial — has featured prominently in American politics and society since the founding of the Republic, if not from the very beginnings of “Western” civilization from which the United States derives.
Stand-up comedians have to deal with this sort of thing all the time in the form of “hecklers” who take cheap shots at them from the anonymity of the crowd. If the performers can’t return fire and give as good as they get from their audience, they don’t last long in the profession. As the Youtube comedian Jimmy Dore likes to say: “You don’t have a right not to get your feelings hurt.” It seems the Supreme Court agrees. About time.
ATTN.: PETER VAN BUREN I have noticed over the years of being a participant here on TCP that quite often the author of the original article does not reply to the comments generated. I put to you the following questions: 1.) do you personally believe that there should be absolutely no limits on speech in the public sphere, as advocated here by Mr. Murry?; 2.) do you personally believe that rights come with absolutely no responsibility attached?; 3.) do you personally believe that the owners/administrators of social media platforms, who are private capitalist entrepreneurs, represent or are a branch of the US Government, and thus have no right to police the content posted thereon?; 4.) have you not noticed, in surveying world history, that when Nazis come to power, with “no limits on speech ‘Liberals'” having helped pave their way, they tend to be rather cold toward the concept of civil liberties?; 5.) did you notice that this SCOTUS ruling you are crowing about as a smashing victory concerned a US Government Agency, not a social media platform?
Now, some observations: Your use of the pejorative “snowflake”–is this some of that famous Van Buren ironic use of language in service of satire? Or are you a conservative, generally supporting US foreign policy, who managed one honorable act in your own US Government career by attempting to blow the whistle on US shenanigans in Iraq? [I beg the pardon of the Editor of TCP if this is starting to appear as an “ad hominem attack.” I think the issues under discussion here are rather important, and this can lead to heated rhetoric. I believe it’s already been implied here that I, myself, am a cowardly would-be Censor. I have ceased to engage the author of that slur directly, as I have better uses for my time.] Could it be (rats, I’ve slipped back into posing questions!) that it is only bitterness over losing your Government career that fuels your ire? In your own “We Meant Well” post, you stated this SCOTUS ruling was unanimous, but you didn’t state whether all the members participated, since the Court is on summer break. (I confess I have not checked on this myself.) Even if it was unanimous by the full Court, in my opinion the current SCOTUS on the whole is pretty well the most rightwing version we’ve ever been saddled with. There have been precious few SCOTUS rulings, for many years now, from which I can take any solace. I guess that makes me “a snowflake”? All that said, I won’t argue against this particular ruling, since it DID concern a Government Agency. Let rock bands call themselves what they will. Consumers have the ultimate power of the purse to patronize or turn their noses up at any given musical trend. Likewise, individuals have the right to persuade themselves that mere words can never generate any real-world injury, can never incite violence against a perceived minority in the populace. Me, I prefer to live without delusions in the real world, thank you.
At the outset of my remarks, Greg, let me thank you for weighing in again, especially since you claim to possess valuable insights into what transpires in the “real” world. Those of us living in what you regard as a “delusional” fantasy bubble do not just tolerate but celebrate your right to set us straight. Who knows what awful disasters we might have stumbled into had we continued guiding our actions and speech according to the principles written down a few centuries ago on some piece of parchment, instead of demanding that an anonymous “authority” — just whom you do not specify — protect us from our worst animal instincts by suppressing the rights of other citizens whom you fear might manipulate us into committing foul crimes through the power of their voices alone. From what I can gather from your remarks, you seem to think that a system of interlocking corporate oligarchies — or “cartels” — ought to have the final say in who gets to manipulate whom in the United States. Needless to say, I do not share your confidence in the selfless altruism, moral rectitude, or personal probity of Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, or Apple, Inc. Call me “delusional” if you will, but I prefer my parchment principles to their pitiless pursuit of profit at any and all cost to the rest of us “consumers.” I don’t accept my government robbing me of my First Amendment rights and I surely don’t accept Facebook or Google — unelected by anybody — doing the foul deed, either. Why would any “American” consent to that?
All sarcasm aside, Greg, I truly do value your input into this debate even though I dispute your characterization of my position, most assuredly number (2) above where you accuse me of advocating rights with no responsibility. Quite the contrary, I have argued consistently that every person bears responsibility for his or her own moral agency and cannot escape it simply by shifting that responsibility to others whom they claim “manipulated” them through the use of rhetoric alone. As a matter of fact and logic, your position of irresponsible victimhood argues for rights without responsibility”. You essentially argue that “we” — or “some of us” — have a “responsibility” to prevent others from taking any responsibility for themselves, as if we regard other adult citizens as children. You really don’t seem to have thought this through. I do not ask you to take my word for it but will support my position with reference to Attacking Faulty Reasoning: A Practical Guide to Fallacy Free Arguments, by T. Edward Damer (Wadsworth 2001), a valuable little book that my graduate studies adviser insisted that I procure in order to learn how to defend my thesis against faculty criticism. Specifically, consider, under the category of “Irrelevant emotional Appeals“:
#1 “Appeal to Pity.”
“Definition: This fallacy consists in attempting to persuade others of a position by appealing to their sympathy instead of to relevant evidence, especially when some more important principle or issue is at stake.”
“Attacking the Fallacy: If you allow yourself to be overcome by the force of an emotional appeal, it is important to remember that you are no less guilty of fallacious reasoning than the one who formulates the appeal. You have allowed the description or projection of a pitiable situation to count as evidence, even though, in most cases, it does not constitute any evidence at all. The possibility that someone may be disappointed or suffer some kind of mental anguish because of your failure to give a desired response to a claim or proposal is usually an irrelevant consideration in the determination of the merit of the claim or of the proposed action.”
You have availed yourself of this fallacy, Greg, by asking others to accept suppression of free speech because some school children got shot — which, unfortunately, happens all too often in the United States — and you feel bad about this and wish to suppress the rights of others not to speak as if they don’t share your grief, as apparently this Alex Jones character did not. But no law or logic compels anyone to share the emotional state of another person if they do not wish to, and so Appeal to Pity fails to qualify as an acceptable argument.
#2 Appeal to Personal Circumstances
Definition This fallacy consists in urging an opponent to accept or reject a particular position by appealing solely to his or her personal circumstances or self-interest, when there is some more important issue at stake.
You have availed yourself of this fallacy, Greg, by claiming that you personally know someone involved in the shooting incident, as if this somehow justifies the suppression of free speech by corporate oligarchies operating under the intimidation, if not at the direction, of government officials like Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut. No logical conclusion about freedom of speech derives from this fallacious premise of personal familiarity with the parents of shooting victims.
#3 Assigning Guilt by Association
Definition: This fallacy consists in attempting to manipulate others into accepting one’s view by pointing out that the opposing view is held by those with negative esteem, instead of presenting evidence for one’s opinion.
“It would be absurd to assume that we will always agree with those whom we like and disagree with those whom we do not like. Whether we like or dislike a person who holds a view that we are contemplating could not possibly affect the truth or falsity of that view or the rightness or wrongness of an action. Hence, it makes no sense that that we should be manipulated into believing or doing something in order to avoid being identified with someone we don’t like. But it happens, and those who let themselves be so manipulated are treating an argument that assigns guilt by association as if it were a good one.
You have availed yourself of this fallacy, Greg, in many of your arguments, alluding to the “bad” reputation of conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones or the “right-wing” nature of the Supreme Court as reasons for suppressing speech you do not wish for the public to hear. But I have never heard “the public” crying out for your protection, especially if the U.S. government subcontracts with “licensed” corporate oligarchies to supply the desired censorship under pain of having anti-trust legislation enforced against them, breaking them up into many smaller companies more representative of a “competitive” market. Yes. Some persons do allow others to manipulate them out of a fear of becoming associated with an unpopular person or label. The Republicans have called the Democrats “Communists” or worse for almost as long as I can remember — as a means of crippling labor unions, once the backbone of the Democratic party — and I never said otherwise. I have merely pointed out that no one has to allow such easy manipulation of themselves and if they do not maintain a grip on their own minds and moral agency, then they do so of their own accord and no shifting of responsibility to some ostensibly mesmerizing orator removes the responsibility from them. Assigning Guilt by Association does not pass the fallacy smell test.
I could go on listing many other fallacious arguments that you have advanced, Greg, but I have gone on at this length as a courtesy, hoping to demonstrate that some of us who inhabit “Fantasy Land” have certain standards of argument with which we wish self-styled “realists” would acquaint themselves. If you want to do dialects, Greg, I will happily oblige. Furthermore, if you wish to explore the economic roots of our present predicament, I suggest a little research into Oligopoly market structures which one can easily find on Wikipedia, the online dictionary. Dialectical and legal argumentation only covers part of the problem. But I rest my case for now …
I don’t speak for Peter Van Buren, Greg, but I don’t see why you should take offense at his use of the word “snowflake.” I didn’t. Whatever makes you suppose that he had former enlisted men like you and me in mind? I think he had the following quote about Tom and Daisy Buchanan, from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby as his point of reference:
“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”
When I think of such persons, I always visualize a vicious game of touch football between the Hothouse Orchids and Special Snowflakes on the front lawn of their summer vacation mansion on Martha’s Vineyard. I especially associate such “elite” personages with the “leadership” of the corporate Democratic Party (a.k.a., the Republican party’s right-wing junior varsity) and they wouldn’t let the low-class likes of you and me get close enough to breathe on them. So, I advise cooling off with the aggressive taking of unintended offense.
Just, saying …
Again, I wish to address — in rebuttal — Mr Laxer’s characterization of my position on the issue of constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech. Specifically, Mr Laxer presented his interpretation of my views as a series of five — mostly rhetorical — questions directed at Peter Van Buren, the author of this discussion thread’s original article. Mr Laxer writes:
I put to you the following questions: 1.) do you personally believe that there should be absolutely no limits on speech in the public sphere, as advocated here by Mr. Murry?; 2.) do you personally believe that rights come with absolutely no responsibility attached?; 3.) do you personally believe that the owners/administrators of social media platforms, who are private capitalist entrepreneurs, represent or are a branch of the US Government, and thus have no right to police the content posted thereon?; 4.) have you not noticed, in surveying world history, that when Nazis come to power, with “no limits on speech ‘Liberals’” having helped pave their way, they tend to be rather cold toward the concept of civil liberties?; 5.) did you notice that this SCOTUS ruling you are crowing about as a smashing victory concerned a US Government Agency, not a social media platform?
Now, I don’t speak for Peter Van Buren, but I will speak for myself, just to clarify my views for Mr Laxer’s benefit and that of any other interested party. Taking Mr Laxer’s “questions” in the order that he presented them:
(1) Yes. I most certainly do think — I prefer not to use the religious term “believe” (see Charles Sanders Peirce’s canonical essay “The Fixation of Belief,” Popular Science Monthly, 1877) — that no limits should exist concerning speech in the public sphere. I recognize none and the Constitution of the United States does not mention any such limits. Furthermore, Mr Laxer has not demonstrated precisely whom he trusts to define and administer such limits. So, I’ll keep my unlimited right to freedom of speech, thank you very much.
(2) I have already addressed this “question” above, at considerable length and with the support of expert literature on the subject of fallacious dialectical argumentation; but to recapitulate: Each and every individual bears the responsibility for managing their own intellectual and emotional response to political debate and rhetorical oratory. Shirking such responsibility by claiming linguistic “manipulation” by others does not, in fact, constitute “responsible” behavior, but its exact opposite: namely, irresponsible victimhood. And insisting that unidentified and unaccountable “persons” (whether living or corporate) should take upon themselves responsibility for managing the emotional responses of others — in advance of actually hearing “objectionable” speech and according to no publicly specified criteria — by arbitrarily banning speech from the public sphere, constitutes the usurpation of the right of others to take responsibility for themselves however they see fit. As I have said above, I do not think that Mr Laxer actually understands the difference between taking responsibility for oneself and taking responsibility away from others, whether those others have asked anyone to do so or not.
(3) Yes. I most assuredly do not just “think” but take it as a ubiquitously demonstrated axiom that the wholesale “privatization” of “government” in the United States has proceeded probably past the point of no return. Someone recently said that the corrupt and corrosive “revolving door” between “government” and the “private sector” has in fact become an archway, with no impediments to profiteering traffic flowing in either direction. I would suggest calling it “the golden arches,” but the McDonald’s corporation would probably sue me for trademark infringement. In fact, Mr Van Buren has also authored a recent article about former government employees complaining about having their “security clearances” revoked, which would deprive them of privileged, insider information not available to the rest of “the public sphere.” It escapes me how any sentient carbon-based life form above the level of the Planaria worm could have failed to notice this debilitating development. Upon request, I will more than happily supply the titles of authoritative books on this incestuous blending of huge corporations and the State, which Benito Mussolini — an authority on the subject of Fascism — defined as “corporatism.” If one wants an ugly picture of the “real” world in the United States today, there you have it. And, of course, George Orwell’s “Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism” (the book-within-a-book from 1984) remains timelessly relevant in this regard.
(4) I love this one. First off, I’ve had people call me a “useful idiot” and even — gasp! — “liberal” (in the cynical sense that Vladimir Lenin meant) for defending “inalienable” human rights, to borrow a phrase from Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence. And as the famed historian Barbara Tuchman supposedly wrote: “Every successful revolution in time puts on the robes of the tyrant it has deposed.” So, certainly, throughout history, one can find any number of examples of where political movements — even candidates for President of the United States — have come to power promising “freedom” and “liberty” and “change” only to betray those ideals once in office and more concerned with staying there than in actually governing according to those ideals. However, to take note of this history does not invalidate in any way the truth of of those ideals. No ideal means the same thing as its own betrayal. What an absurd idea. As Charles Sanders Peirce wrote in The Fixation of Belief the Truth does not care who believes in it. The Truth would remain True even if no one believed in it. And Falsehood would remain False even if everybody believed in it. “Inalienable” human rights — such as Freedom of Speech — do not depend on whether this or that governing faction or oligarchical cartel (pardon the redundancy) finds them inconvenient or unprofitable. They exist, in and of themselves, as an essential part of the natural human condition, independent of whether some fallible men and women might find them too frightening to exercise. Indeed — and back to dialectics — to argue that any conclusion from a premise depends on the person or person who advances a given syllogism (and not the internal logic of the argument) constitutes the ultimate, if not generic, ad hominem fallacy, which, like all recognized fallacies, renders itself, by definition, impotent and inadmissible in the debate. In any event, history in no way compels the future to recapitulate its worst failures.
(5) First off, the term “crowing” casts an abusive ad hominem aspersion upon Peter Van Buren and, therefore, we must rule it out of order in this debate. Moreover, this “question” merely restates question (3) which I have already addressed. For further support of my views on the relentlessly ongoing “privatization” of the ostensibly “public” American Government, I refer the interested person to The Keiser Report – Episode 1268 – US Government’s Social Media Diaper, RT.com (August 19, 2018). Especially the second half of the program featuring an interview with Max Blumenthal of the Gray Zone Project. Examples abound of corporate/government co-operation, coordination, and collusion in the “de-platforming” of mostly innocuous “left wing” Internet venues. The premature exultation by some persons over the temporary banning of a single right-wing conspiracy theorist (who will no doubt soon reappear along with his millions of “click-bait” followers) has predictably blown back upon the so-called “Left,” the real purpose of the corporate/government censorship in the first place. Not the adherence to “impractical” freedoms by antiwar hippy Vietnam veterans like me, but the misguided attempt by Corporate Democrats to mimic the hard-right’s own tactics has resulted in just more inexorable movement of “the Radical Center” (in Max Blumenthal’s phrase) towards the ever-more-extreme right of America’s infrared political “spectrum.”
There. I think that I have offered a successful rebuttal to Mr Laxer’s confused misunderstanding of my views on “inalienable” human rights. For some reason, he wishes to “alienate” them from me — in my own best interests, of course — but I have to insist on keeping them and the responsibility for exercising them for myself. Billionaire Corporate CEOs and the political flunkies they own and operate do not fill me with confidence that, should I turn over my freedoms to their tender care, that I won’t find myself languishing, incognito like Julian Assange or Chelsea Manning, in Room 101 of the Ministry of Love. After all, “In Oceania there is no law.”
I have spent a good deal of time and effort debunking the current standard excuse advanced by apologists for the suppression of speech they do not like: namely, that “free-market entrepreneurs” (You know: mom-and-pop grocery store owners, small farmers, pawn-shop proprietors, auto-repair garages, and weekend flea-market traders of assorted junk, etc.) can shut down any speech they choose because, as “private” economic actors, they have no connection with, or influence over, the “public” government. Apropos of this bogus “argument” I think it germane to share the following excerpt from a recent episode of “The Keiser Report,” a program hosted by Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert on RT.com: an Internet venue recently forced by the U.S. government to declare itself an “agent of a foreign government” — namely, the Russian Federation, from whom it receives funding.
[00:21] Stacy: “So, Max. We’ve been talking about social media quite a lot. In the past year, year-and-a-half, and the fact that these are giant monopolies that control much of the media space. However, in this hysteria that we’ve had since Trump was elected, and, sure, it was a shock to many in the corporate media that he won because they had promised with great certainty that it was 99% certain that [the Democratic party candidate] was going to win. The data they saw or they chose to look at was that [the Democratic party candidate] was going to win. That turned out to be fake news. They were wrong. So since then we’ve had this whole backlash against fake news: not the one they presented but what the individual citizens of America had them presenting. So, in the past week, we saw Facebook shut down these pages of activist groups here in Washington, D. C., they shut down their Facebook because they said they acted like Russians. Well, it turns out they were citizens of America that are activists who are here in Washington, D.C. They were organizing to basically counter-protest against the Nazis who were coming into town to protest. So, they wanted to counter-protest them. Facebook deleted them on the word of the Atlantic Council, and they’re gone. Also in the past week, we saw under pressure from “the resistance” on-line that they took down a conspiracy theorist in the United States called Alex Jones. They took down all his social media footprints
Max Keiser: “ … at the same time.”
Stacy: “A co-ordinated attack between Youtube, Google, the other Google properties, Apple took him off their Apple i-Tunes, Facebook. They all like deleted him from existence.
Max: “Really. At the same time?
Stacy: At the same time. At the same hour.
[2:29] Max: Alex Jones, who is just basically a satirist, who said in court that he’s a performance artist. He’s no different than Stephen Colbert. They’re the same fricking act, except Colbert hates Trump and Alex Jones is not part of the network that does Stephen Colbert. They don’t like the competition. That’s it. You know, this is anti-competitive behavior.
[2:32] Stacy: “A coordinated attack within one hour. It all happened within one hour.
All the social media, the Big Four, because we always have the Big Four everything. Big Four Accountants, Big Four Banks, Big Four Tech Monopolies – Oligopolies – and they all took him down. This was quite similar to when Wikileaks was also coordinated and cut off from the financial grid. And that was the beginning of this wave of censorship where, of course, it’s not the government, it’s these “private” corporations, and somehow they can cut you off from the grid which is really under the domain of the government, normally, [but since] the monopoly for these many rails of our economies and our societies have been handed to these “private” corporations, [government officials can say]: “It’s not us. It’s not the government. It’s corporations.”
… [end excerpt] —
I think that Stacy Herbert’s mention of “oligopolies” — or cartels (such as OPEC and the Pentagon, for example) — really puts the focus where it belongs. Oligopolies, or “cartels,” openly coordinate, cooperate, collude, and conspire to fix prices and eliminate competition. This anti-competitive behavior allows the few, self-selected cartel members to “share” the “market” among themselves. The U.S. government allows this illegal price-and-service “gouging” to go on because, naturally, the “Oligarchical Collective,” as George Orwell brilliantly named it, assures that sufficient monetary lubrication flows to “elected” government officials who have wantonly “privatized” the “government” to the extent that little of its formerly “public” nature remains. “Public Money in Private Pockets,” essentially. “Socialism for the Rich and cut-throat capitalism for the working-class poor.”
With the above in mind, I most certainly do not agree with the Supreme Court ruling that “corporations are persons” or that unlimited corporate campaign contributions (i.e. “legalized” bribes to government officials) constitute “freedom of speech.” I would like to see these rulings reversed or, failing that, one or more constitutional amendments adopted re-establishing democratic control of government by the American public. Still, I do agree with the Supreme Court’s ruling against the suppression of so-called “hate” speech or any other handy euphemism for censorship. But I do so with the understanding that since the “law” in the United States applies arbitrarily and mainly to the poor and powerless but not the self-serving “elites,” it remains unlikely that the courts will — in practice — enforce this ruling in cases where the Global Corporate Oligarchy wishes otherwise. But the exploration of that issue — what Glenn Greenwald calls “Liberty and Justice for Some” — remains for another time.
In the present debate about Freedom of Speech, Press, Assembly, etc., some persons have argued, in effect, that we Americans cannot afford freedom of speech because in the past some mesmerizing rhetorical orators have taken advantage of that freedom, moving masses of credulous and ignorant people to do terrible things. True enough. Some of the time. Yet I can also remember a time when the president of my country challenged us — with just his words — to walk upon the Moon. “Not because it is easy, but because it is hard,” he said. And this we, as a nation, did. At the time, this proposal seemed ludicrously impractical. “Fantastic,” even. No one knew how to do this. But words can also inspire love and a commitment to excellence, not only fear and hatred. Why should we forgo the former out of a misplaced fear of the latter? Earlier this year, I had the following thoughts about the use of words, as I understand them:
Twelve Sets of Footprints on the Moon
I Remember when we walked upon the Moon.
Our president had said we would
In less than ten-years time.
And we agreed, because we could
Do anything sublime,
Or difficult, or dangerous;
“It’s there, so let us climb”
This thing called Space, he challenged us,
A nation in our prime.
But then he died. The Dream did not.
That lived. We would see to it.
What he had asked for, he had got:
Our willingness to do it.
Whatever. Name it. Cold or hot,
We’d walk or run right through it.
The one word we don’t speak: “cannot.”
Each problem, we’ll subdue it.
It may seem hard to see this now
That Time has from us hid
Just what it meant to take a vow
That failure we’d forbid.
Success alone would we allow.
“Ten years is not too soon.”
But still, we loved him, anyhow.
Then walked upon the Moon.
Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2018
People can do anything, something, or nothing with words. It all depends: not just upon the words chosen, but upon the person who chooses them and what he or she wishes to accomplish through their use.
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”
So. Do words master us? Or do we master them? I’ve got to go with Humpty Dumpty on this one.
The only “terms of service” that any public or private avenue of communication needs to make clear:
The views expressed in this article are those of the speaker/author, and do not necessarily reflect those of anyone else. Do not read this article if anything said or written by anyone else might cause you to take offense. Reading this article constitutes an agreement on your part not to hold anyone but yourself responsible for how you might feel about anything said or written by someone else.
With the above caveat lector (“Let the Reader Beware”) admonition and legal disclaimer in mind, let the much maligned theorist of conspiracies, Alex Jones, speak for himself. See:
InfoWars Alex Jones Talks Brexit, Freedom of Speech in US, Political Correctness, © REUTERS / Lucas Jackson (August 22, 2018).
“Sputnik spoke to Infowars host Alex Jones to get his view on the situation around his ban from social media platforms and his take on Brexit.”
“The American Civil Liberties Union has slammed critics of Infowars host Alex Jones, who consistently call for his banning from social media platforms such as Twitter. Jones was recently banned for seven days by the platform.”
“They see it as a dangerous precedent and direct threat to free speech in the country. The union recommends less retrograde steps such as removing individual posts that they see as a violation of its terms of service or to deprioritise their placement on social media newsfeeds.”
[Oh, I get it. The ACLU recommends “less retrograde” forms of censorship instead of the honest, above-board, in-your-face type of censorship. What feeble-minded moron thought up that ridiculous line of “reasoning”? I know! Let’s call this the “Goldilocks” form of censorship. “Not too much censorship. Not too little censorship. But just the right amount of censorship.” This sounds so like the Democratic party’s use of the euphemism “Center” when they really mean “further capitulation to right-wing intimidation by ceaselessly moving to the right.”]
Sputnik: “What do you make of your ban from Twitter? Is freedom of speech in the US under threat?”
Alex Jones: What’s happening is, big tech has aligned with the Democratic Party and some major corporations to try to shut down nationalism and populism here in the United States and tries to basically steal the midterm elections that are coming up, in just 79 days from now.”
“This is classic monopoly, where you have Apple and Google and Facebook, and Twitter and all these other major conglomerates, who control more than 95% of the internet coming together and saying ban Alex Jones. That was all done because Senator Warner, who is seen as the top Democrat now in the US, he has basically threatened an internet takeover, from the big tech companies if they don’t basically align against free speech.”
“Trump has allowed a vacuum by not regulating the internet, by not defending free speech and not coming in and defending an internet bill of rights and it’s allowed foreign interests, the EU to try to regulate the internet, the Chinese communists to try to regulate it, but also the Democratic Party.”
“As Republicans have said “hey we’re free market, we’re hands off, we’re going to leave the internet open and free”, that creates an opening and vacuum for the sharks to come in, with intimidation, to try and bully folks into allowing internet censorship. They’ve chosen me to be demonised, they’ve built me up as this bad guy, and now after they’ve demonised me for two years, they’re trying to have me as the first domino that falls in the first amendment in the United States.”
Sputnik: “Has political correctness in the US gone too far?”
Alex Jones: “Well sure; it’s corporate correctness, this is what it is. Big multinational corporations want to integrate the United States with Islam, Socialist and Communist Republics south of the border and they just want a compliant, controlled population.” [bold for emphasis added]
[Note the hard-right Fascism and racism inherent in the sly insertion of “Islam, “Socialist,” “Communist” and Latino/Hispanic/Asian immigrants (i.e., “south of the border”), etc. Otherwise, the bit about corporate oligarchies wanting a compliant, controlled population hits the mark.]
“That’s what political correctness is now, it’s a form of authoritarianism and the public not just here, but all over the world has roundly rejected it, with the Brexit with Russian sovereignty, with Catalonia, the Brazil elections, in Greece, Italy, Iceland and Reykjavik. Everywhere, people want self-determination, they want to control their own lives, and they don’t want a monopolar corporate world government that dominates the nation states. They want a multipolar world.”
Sputnik: “What are your thoughts on Brexit?”
Alex Jones: “I think Brexit is great because you have the bureaucracy of the EU, set up as a so called steel deal years ago, unelected, sure they have a parliament but it’s ceremonial. You have the EU commission as a dictatorship, that’s already making 93% of the laws in the UK, and so the people voted to be self-determinative, they voted to pull out and now the EU is threatening to sabotage any trade deals they’ve got with the continent, which would hurt Europe and the UK and everybody else and saying no, you have Brussels and Junker saying, we will decide what you do, it’s a true tyranny.”
“Regardless of what they push, or what they do, if they try to steal Brexit from the British people and from the UK, it’ll only make them come back even stronger, with self-determination in the final equation. That’s why the leftists are trying to flood Europe with a lot of Islamists and other populations, to try and water down the nationalism of the countries, but I think in the end it’s going to backfire and we’re going to see the EU break up in the next 5 years, I think we’re going to see Eastern Europe become self-determinate, and I think you’re going to see the United States doing the same thing, because people have a hunger for individualism, a hunger for liberty and a hunger for their own destiny.”
The views expressed in this article are those of the speaker, and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.
I have my own problems with what Mr Jones has to say, but I give him credit for knowing how to to aim the hard-right populism (what George Orwell would call “Nationalism”) at the Democratic party who stupidly and suicidally keep distancing themselves from the working class while babbling about “the Russians.”
But this guy only got suspended from the social media platforms for a week, as Peter Van Buren noted. The real working-class and anti-war Leftists, though, will disappear like Occupy Wall Street and the black population left homeless after Hurricane Katrina. Ditto for Puerto Rico after their devastating hurricane. The Shock Doctrine predators have already descended on the place for the easy pickings.
Now I can honestly say that I’ve read something by Alex Jones. Pretty much what I expected, but the man does know how dig at the Democrats. Given the easy temptations of the target, I can’t say that I blame him. It does escape me, though, why anyone would feel a need to ban such a bland recitation of mostly common knowledge about the Corporatist Oligarchy running the U.S. government and much of the world. Anyone afraid of this guy has a serious case of Clinton-Obama Empty-Suit-ism.
That didn’t take long. From the “You just can’t make up this kind of shit” department, no sooner had I finished writing about how deftly Alex Jones managed to blame the Ruling Corporate Oligarchy for trying to silence him — and the Democrats for helping them do it — President Donald Trump jumps in and holds a rally in West Virginia where he publicly and bravely took up the role of defending the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. See: ‘It can turn around’: Trump would rather tolerate ‘fake news’ than accept ‘censorship’, RT.com (August 22, 2018).
Said President Donald Hamlet: “Tis nobler in the political calculation to bear the slings and arrows of outrageous Russia-gate than to take up censorship and by suppression end the witch hunt.”
Actually, he said:
“I would rather have fake news than have anybody – including liberals, socialists, anything – than have anybody stopped or censored.”
Good work, Alex Jones. That little one-week vacation you took from Twitter and Facebook and Google, etc., sure did snooker the corporate Democrats into thinking that they could make some political hay by pissing on the Bill of Rights. Did the Democrats just drink their own urine, or what? Now the Fascists look like the ACLU and the ACLU looks like the Fascists. Could Russian President Vladimir Putin have given President Trump some personal lessons in political Judo at Helsinki?
Thomas Frank and Sheldon S. Wolin and Chris Hedges and George Orwell can explain this apparent political death wish among the corporate Democrats, but organizing some comments based on their observations will take more time and energy than I have available at present.