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The Day of the Censors

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It’s coming …

I’m a big fan of Twitter, where I spend an inordinate amount of time, and so I was quite surprised – and even shocked – to find that they’re censoring my tweets, or at least some of them. See here:

Here is the original tweet:

It’s “sensitive” to tell the truth these days. It can get you in trouble. It can get you censored. And that’s exactly what the Establishment is aiming for: total and complete censorship of the Internet, whether done by corporate titans or by governments. And who are the biggest, most vocal advocates of censorship today? It’s the “liberals.” After all, corporate Twitter is hardly a bastion of reactionary thought. Backed up by a phalanx of liberal academics, who have been turning out reams of “research” designed to show that right-wing “extremists” are spreading “hate” and ‘misinformation” over the Internet, the paladins of American liberalism have now become the Mrs. Grundys of the cybernetic age.

This illiberal liberalism has been trending for a while, but it spiked with the 2016 presidential election, when the anti-“fake news” campaign hit the media. Supposedly broadcast by Russian “bots” – automated social media accounts – information deemed damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and labeled “misinformation,” was held responsible for the Democratic nominee’s surprising defeat. The publication by WikiLeaks of the DNC files and John Podesta’s embarrassing emails brought cries by liberals for the media to refrain from covering the story. And the WikiLeaks revelations gave birth to an entire mini-industry, which purports to show that the whole thing was a Russian plot to elect Donald Trump – a conclusion endorsed by our intelligence agencies without making any real evidence public.

Now the same thing has happened with the French election, where rightist Marine Le Pen faced off with centrist neo-liberal (and winner) Emmanuel Macron. Hours before a mandatory ban on campaigning went into effect, what is apparently the entire content of the Macron campaign’s email cache was published online, along with allegations of a secret Cayman Islands bank account, charges of tax evasion, and an email from a prominent campaign official ending with the slogan (in French) “F—k the people.”

The response to this has been ferocious, with threats by the French government to prosecute anyone who so much as mentions the data dump, and accusations that – of course! – it’s all a Russian Plot. There’s Cyrillic metadata as well as the actual name of a Russian computer expert in that metadata, which, far from being evidence of a sinister Russian conspiracy, probably means someone is trying to implicate the Russians. Who, after all, would leave such a painfully obvious clue?

The New York Times reported Macron-gate as a right-wing conspiracy originating in America, with “far right activists” conducting “Twitter raids” – an insidious sounding phrase that apparently means only the fact that they were spreading information the Times disapproves of. The Macron campaign denounced this as an example of “democratic destabilization,” another fancy phrase for engaging in unapproved speech. Among the acts of “democratic destabilization” committed against Macron were “portraying him as a 21st-century equivalent of Marie Antoinette, the out-of-touch last queen of France.”

Oh please – are we to be spared nothing?!

“’They tried to bombard French Twitter with memes favorable to Le Pen,’ said Padraic Ryan, a project coordinator at Storyful, an online marketing company that tracks social media activity around news events. ‘The campaigns are showing an increasing level of sophistication and coordination.’”

“Bombard,” “destabilize” – another favorite is “weaponize” – these word choices are meant to characterize online activity as somehow violent. But what are we really talking about here? Speech! Words! Words that these defenders of “democracy” would rather not hear – and clearly want to stamp out.

A group that calls itself “Data for Democracy”was busy “tracking” the Internet during the French election, with particular emphasis on Twitter, and saw a conspiracy of “far right activists” in the US trying to somehow magically throw the election to Le Pen “just like we observed in the US presidential election and the Brexit vote in the UK.” The authors put particular emphasis on “bots” – automated accounts – which are supposedly sinister evidence of foreign government involvement, but which any teenager with rudimentary Internet facility can create. According to Data for Democracy, the allegations behind “Macron-gate” are “disinformation,” while no such appellation is given to memes that are anti-Le Pen. Not that anyone has had time to investigate the Macron-gate allegations, or even to read all the many thousands of emails liberated from Macron’s servers – but, hey, what are you, some kind of “far right activist”?

Data for Democracy bemoans the fact that Le Pen accused Macron of having a secret tax haven, and that

“Macron has had to answer for this claim in interviews, much like Barack Obama had to answer questions about his birth certificate and Hillary Clinton about her email server.”

So the tax haven accusation is the equivalent of birtherism, and so is the known fact that Mrs. Clinton had a private email server while Secretary of State, a violation of the law and a security problem.

Of course, none of this would amount to anything other than partisan boilerplate until we get to the real aims of these “Data for Democracy” “researchers”:

“So what do we do? … demand that  the platforms who enable the spread of disinformation and hate online be held accountable.

“The web is ours. Democracy is ours. It’s time we took them both back.”

“The webs is ours” – but what exactly does this mean? You have to follow the link to find out what “taking it back” means, and it isn’t pretty.

The link takes you to a piece by University of Maryland instructor Kris Shaffer, who writes:

“Imagine a world where hate sites couldn’t do any of these things…

  • embed content from YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter
  • violate mainstream media outlets’ copyright privileges without legal action
  • make money off of ads from Google, Facebook, or other mainstream companies
  • list podcasts in the iTunes database
  • post content to social media
  • have site content appear on Facebook or Twitter via their Open Graph/Twitter Cards services (with pictures, highlighted headlines, etc., all of which boost traffic) … or even at all
  • appear in Google search results.”

That is, imagine a world run by “Data for Democracy” and other illiberal liberals, who get to censor any site they deem a “hate site.” Imagine a world where the Internet is no longer free, where government and corporate power combine to determine what you may see, and how you may see it. Imagine a censored Internet.

The real danger here is that this same methodology is being utilized by the US government to measure the degree of “Russian influence” on the last election: it came up prominently in the House Intelligence Committee hearings on the subject, and you can be sure that we’ll soon be seeing proposed “counter-measures” to be implemented in the sacred name of “national security.”

In short, there are influential groups of people – in government, in academia, and especially in the news media, which wants to nip its “illegitimate” competition in the bud – who are pushing for censorship of the Internet. They want to prevent any more Brexits, any more Donald Trumps, any more populist uprisings against the Establishment – and they’re doing it in true Orwellian fashion, in the name of preserving “democracy.”

These people are worse than mere hypocrites: they’re a danger to the free society. They’re closet totalitarians who like to portray themselves as “liberals” – according to the Bizarro World definition, that is.

The Internet is the biggest threat to the Establishment since the invention of the printing press. That’s why they want to neuter it, harness it, and banish people like me from it. That’s why my tweets are labeled “sensitive”: and maybe someday soon, you won’t be able to see them at all.

They’d love to get rid of Antiwar.com. We’ve been a thorn in their side ever since our founding, over twenty years ago. For all that time we’ve been exposing their lies, and telling our growing audience the truth about American foreign policy – and they don’t like it one bit.

One advantage that we have is that we don’t have to care what they think of us, because we get our support not from big foundations, not from eccentric billionaires, not from any government or corporation, but directly from you, our readers. You’ve been financing this site since the beginning, when we didn’t even have to ask – you just sent in contributions, all on your own.

Now we’ve formalized our fundraising efforts, and we are asking: today marks the beginning of our Spring 2017 drive. We need you to help us defy the censors and get out the truth to the American people – but we can’t do it without your help. That’s what keeps us independent, and keeps us going despite the best efforts of the War Party to silence us.

The mainstream media is, for all intents and purposes, the War Party’s megaphone. When America goes to war – and we’ve been at war since September 11, 2001 – there’s one site where you know you can get the real story, and that’s right here at Antiwar.com.

Please help us continue our work. Make your tax-deductible contribution today.

NOTES IN THE MARGIN

You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.

I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).

You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.

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