Saturday, January 9, 2021

The Purge Begins

Like a midnight raid under Stalin to round up ideological dissenters, Big Tech has been silencing conservatives in droves over the past day. I said the Left will treat the Capitol incident like another 9/11, and they’re proving me right even faster than I could have predicted.

Twitter has permanently banned the president of the United States from its service, and user after user is reporting drops in follower numbers by the thousands.

This is an unprecedented ideological purge.

Even Brandon Straka, who leads the Walk Away campaign, had his group vaporized on Facebook. Straka’s page featured testimonials from people who for various reasons were red-pilled out of the Left. Years of stories, and a group of 500,000 people — gone, with the push of a button, along with the personal accounts of the people who ran the group. Ironically, the ban pretty much proves what those in the Walk Away movement were saying all along about the Left.

Of course, this is nothing new. Many who put all their chips on Silicon Valley social media have seen their life’s work disappear in a heartbeat. Stefan Molyneux was one of the more recent ones — 14 years, thousands of videos, and nearly a million subscribers. Poof. Gone in an instant.

And that’s why I’ve been saying for years that it was foolish for anyone to ever rely solely on Facebook, Twitter, and Google for their communication, their livelihood, anything. Because this day was always coming. From the moment Alex Jones was taken down, Big Tech has been casting its net wider and wider. “Oh, it’s just a few fringe lunatics,” we were told back then. And now the president himself has been banned.

“If you don’t like the censorship,” they said, “then go start your own platform.” So John Matze starts Parler — and now Google has banned the Parler app from its app store, with Apple likely to follow. Both of the tech tyrants are essentially demanding that Parler give up its commitment to free speech. Matze has already told them that won’t be happening.

Incredibly, Apple is demanding that Parler be “responsible for all the user generated content” on its platform, when the very purpose of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is to shield platforms from liability for what their users say — which Apple well knows. In fact, Section 230 is precisely what makes any of this out-of-control censorship completely unnecessary. And yet Silicon Valley ramps up its censorship anyway, while demanding that others match their own level of censorship. “Censor, or we’ll censor you,” Apple is essentially saying. Kudos to Matze for saying no.

Imagine if all these tech companies had shown such outrage over the far deadlier summertime riots that they openly defended, and at times even celebrated. That alone reveals their agenda here. This censorship blitz is not about protecting public safety, as most are using as an excuse, but about using a demonstration by supporters of a man they despise to silence them.

In short, this is Trump Derangement Syndrome run amok. And it won’t make things better, because censorship never does.

And now the man who will shortly be president has vowed to pass a law to combat “domestic terrorism” — a law that will unquestionably be abused to silence political dissent. It will be cancel culture on steroids. It will be used to freeze bank accounts, shut off credit cards, even take down websites. And the mainstream press will do its part to propagandize the public into seeing conservatives and free-speech advocates as an enemy to be destroyed. Just look at how conservatism has already been equated with white supremacy if you have any doubts about how this is going to play out. And look no further than how successfully the media has ginned up fear over COVID to bring about mass compliance with draconian government edicts and to demonize anyone who questions the narrative.

That means the alt-tech sites like Parler and Gab are going to face an exceptionally difficult road ahead. Those companies and their users will be characterized as enemies of America, insurrectionists, haters of freedom and democracy — ironically by the very people trying to censor any alternative points of view. The mobs will be out in full force to silence them, once the media assures the public that “the enemy” is no longer somewhere off in the Middle East but right within our own borders.

They’ve already started, with ABC News’ political director actually calling for a “cleansing” of the Trump movement. They want to crush dissent, and they aren’t even hiding it.

So what can any of us do to fight back? Well, the most immediate thing you can do is to stop using the companies doing the censoring. (You'll see that this blog post is mirrored at Substack. I’m trying to do my part.) The next thing is stop giving them cover with the “private companies can do whatever they want” argument. First of all, we know that the people making that argument would be screaming bloody murder if these tech companies were censoring them and the viewpoints they agree with. And most of them would probably also insist that the Christian baker has to bake the cake for the gay couple getting married.

Second, it’s simply a fallacious argument. Every company has to abide by certain regulations. A business owner can’t choose to ignore health codes, labor laws, or ADA compliance. Businesses can’t just decide not to serve people based on the color of their skin.

More to the point: The phone company can't cut your service if you say something it doesn't like on a phone call. Nor can UPS refuse to deliver your package because it doesn’t like the contents of the package or your personal beliefs.

Social media companies should be no different, given the monopoly power they hold over online communications. Social media, after all, is the new public square. These companies ban people like Trump precisely because of how much power they hold over the public discourse.

This is a serious issue with serious consequences. Critics can argue all they want that the Bill of Rights doesn’t apply to private companies, but when corporations hold this much power over our lives, and when all their CEOs are in bed with our politicians, then tech censorship simply amounts to an end-run around the First Amendment. Thus, whether you're censored by the government or a monopolistic corporation makes little difference to the person being censored.

Repealing the protections Section 230 provides, as Trump and others have suggested, isn't the answer. If companies suddenly became liable for what their users said, censorship would spiral out of control. It would probably also destroy any upstart company like Parler or Gab that could never afford to defend itself against the inevitable lawsuits.

The only viable solution I see is to compel these companies to allow all legal speech on their platforms, just like phone carriers are compelled to do. In short, regulate these Big Tech companies like utilities.

The only question is whether anyone in D.C. has the guts to make it happen. We need another trust-buster like Teddy Roosevelt. But with an incoming administration and a Democrat-controlled Congress that wants more censorship, not less, we’ve probably missed our window for needed change.

The most we can do is jump ship from the Silicon Valley tech tyrants and hope the defenders of free speech at Parler, Gab, et al., can withstand the coming moral panic that aims to root out any and all dissenters.

Censorship is the tool of cowards, tyrants, and bullies. Big Tech is all three. It’s incumbent on all of us who care about defending the free exchange of ideas to stop supporting them.

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