Big Tech Censorship Original Patrick Lawrence

Why Did Twitter Cancel This Veteran Journalist?

Social media censorship is threatening our press freedoms, the First Amendment, and at the horizon what remains of our democratic polity.
A smartphone in hand displaying the censored text. 

By Patrick Lawrence / Original to ScheerPost

I was leafing through the overnight Twitter feed over breakfast a couple of months ago when the screen on my iPad abruptly went blank. I quickly discovered that my Twitter account, @thefloutist, no longer existed. In an instant there was no trace of it—no more photograph, no more count of those I was “following,” no more “followers,” no more messages, no more history. It was as if those monitoring the traffic at Twitter had borrowed airbrushes from Stalin’s security police; I had been “disappeared.”

What has befallen @thefloutist grows more common as we speak. And we had better understand the dangers of erasures of this kind. Step by step, powerful social media platforms are eliminating diversity of opinion from our public discourse in the name of a single, imposed version of the world we live in. This is not @thefloutist’s problem: It is America’s problem. 

Here is the notice Twitter provided when I looked into the matter:

Abusive Tweets or behavior: We may suspend an account if it has been reported to us as violating our Twitter Rules surrounding abuse. When an account engages in abusive behavior, like sending threats to others or impersonating other accounts, we may suspend it temporarily or, in some cases, permanently.

I am not the threatening sort, and readers have my word I’m neither an abuser nor an impersonator. But this does not appear to matter. I must assume after three unanswered appeals, filed per Twitter’s instructions, that I am among the permanently suspended. I will never know why, not on paper. I will never be able to discuss this matter with anyone at Twitter, either by telephone or email. But since I used Twitter chiefly to leverage my foreign affairs commentaries, I conclude with some certainty Twitter does not approve of my critiques of the official orthodoxies. 

In the social media universe—Twitter, Facebook, Google, YouTube, Reddit, and so on— @thefloutist is a casualty of what is called “content moderation.” Those on the receiving end of this radically antidemocratic business skip the euphemism and call this what it is: An ever more pernicious censorship regime being put upon us. Our republic’s drift in this direction has been evident for some time to those paying attention; now, it worsens at an alarming rate. Our crumbling republic is well on the way to a system of routine suppression of free speech commonly associated with the Soviet Union or its East European satellites during what we now have to call Cold War I, our purported leaders having led us into Cold War II. 

Apple-pie censorship, let’s call it. 

Note the language in Twitter’s notice of my “suspension”—the conditional verbs and the spongy phrases. Twitter may suspend an account, I may have been abusive, I may have trafficked in never-defined threats, a suspended account may or may not be restored. This is a bureaucratic device that dates to imperial China, when mandarins wrote plenty of laws, all phrased such that they could be interpreted however it suited the court on a given occasion. The point was to preserve maximum prerogative and maximum control as laws were imposed upon imperial subjects.

Same thing, really. It is by way of tricks such as this that apparatchiks at Twitter and other social media, who are wholly unqualified to judge work such as mine so far as I can make out, are threatening our press freedoms, the First Amendment, and at the horizon what remains of our democratic polity.

This is what I mean when I say @thefloutist’s fate is our shared problem. “It can’t happen here” is a presumption we no longer have the luxury of indulging.   

Mine is an illustrative case, one among numerous at this point. Three writers at Consortium News, where I publish regularly, have so far been banished from the Twitter rolls. YouTube, to take another case among the many, has taken down 70,000 videos and 9,000 channels, never to be seen again, by its own description targeting those who question official accounts of the crisis in Ukraine. 

“The first and probably most paramount responsibility is making sure that people who are looking for information about this event can get accurate, high-quality, credible information on YouTube,” Neil Mohan, YouTube’s chief product officer, said when he explained this “unprecedented action” in an interview with The Guardian last month. 

“Accurate, high-quality, credible information:” Let us consider the implications of Neil Mohan’s thought, as he does not appear to have done so himself. 

Straight off the top, since when is the quality of someone’s work, or even its accuracy, indeed, a criterion by which it can be censored? Right behind this is the question I have already suggested. Who are they who appoint themselves qualified judges of what is accurate, credible, and so on? By what authority do they assume this role? I do not wish to be offensive to those employed in Silicon Valley, but here I will dare to take the risk. Based on my admittedly limited exposure to those now serving as America’s censors, these are tech-obsessed gadget addicts who are not well-read, have a poor grasp of history and ethics, and have no clue as to the responsibilities of social media operating in public space. 

I am sure there are exceptions, maybe many. But the question of what is accurate and credible, let alone the larger question of censorship itself, is simply in the wrong hands. 

Here I return briefly to my own case. It is pertinent to the point.

Your columnist served as a correspondent abroad for 30 years, chiefly for the (sadly defunct) International Herald Tribune, where I finished up as news editor of its Asian edition. In these capacities I was required to make scores of news judgments daily. I learned during those years the capacity—invaluable in the 21st century—to see from the perspectives of others. I taught students at three universities how to be better foreign correspondents and the value of discernment as the Jesuits use this term—the ability to think and judge as autonomous beings. I am now finishing my sixth book, as it happens a history of our press’s long decline and, among other things, the censorship crisis now upon us. 

And now some nameless, faceless censors, knowing nothing about journalism and probably less about foreign affairs are ruling like Dominican inquisitors on the validity of my judgments?  

Preposterous. But this is what these people have been  licensed to do. Discernment, understanding how the world looks through the eyes of others: This is what America’s censors are erasing in the name of a mandatory conformity, a topic to which I will return. 

There is also the question of impartiality, an implicit claim in the practice of so-called content moderation. Anyone imposing their idea of what is credible, accurate, and all the rest is by definition enforcing, at the behest of the power structure that gives them the authority to act, a form of speech control and, at the horizon, thought control.

Consider these statements. They date to April 2021, just over a year ago, and are an excellent illustration of the logical impossibility of impartial censorship:

We do classify, when it comes to information, what we consider authoritative content…. 

When we deal with information we want to make sure that the sources we’re recommending are authoritative…. 

When we’re dealing with sensitive topics we have to have information from authoritative sources so that the right and accurate information is viewed by our users first…. 

We’ve come a long way in our algorithm. We’re able to make sure users are getting information from sources that are very reliable…. 

I certainly understand where government is coming from…. Generally we’re in line with the overall approach.

That is Susan Wojcicki, the CEO at YouTube, in a stagey interview with Nicholas Thompson, the supercilious chief exec at The Atlantic. (And alas, how far The Atlantic has fallen.) Their exchange was featured in a Davos-sponsored “technology governance summit,” a phrase with an ominous ring. By all appearances this was a well-rehearsed opportunity for YouTube to introduce a new set of “community guidelines” to police “violative content,” in Wojcicki’s peculiar phrase.

Note Wojcicki’s obsession with “authoritative” information. Note her endearing presumption that YouTube is simply protecting us, as we must be protected, from the unreliable, the wrong, and the other than authoritative. YouTube is doing nothing of the kind. YouTube is waging the same war as most other social media against writers, webcasters, and others who hold critical or dissenting views or who simply cite inconvenient facts.

Readers can view the 29-minute interview here. It will be instructive to anyone who doesn’t understand what apple pie censorship looks and sounds like. 

Note, too, the last bit about YouTube’s alignment with the government. Here we come to questions of legality and constitutionality that could scarcely be graver. 

The argument in defense of social media censorship—although those making it will never use the term—rests on the premise that companies such as YouTube and Twitter are private (or publicly listed) and are under no obligation to maintain accounts of whom they disapprove. This short-circuits a civil-rights question, in my view. Any entity operating in public space does not have the right to indulge in discriminatory practices—again, my view. 

And only my view. The Supreme Court’s ruling in the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby case, in 2014, set a precedent by giving the Oklahoma company just this right. But does this apply to social media when they effectively operate as public utilities and, more saliently, when free speech is at issue? 

Do Twitter and the others operate as private companies? This is the more serious question, and the answer, to anyone paying attention lately, has to be no, the line between Silicon Valley’s social media corporations and government has been blurred to the point it is nearly invisible. 

It is well known that the CEOs of Twitter, Facebook, Google, and other social media companies have been grilled in Senate hearings at least a half-dozen times over the past few years. Senators such as California Democrat Dianne Feinstein have been bluntly clear in these encounters that if social media do not tighten the censorship screws, Congress will break them up under antitrust law.

Are Twitter, Yahoo!, and Facebook technology companies or media companies? The Chinese first forced this key issue in the early 2000s, when Yahoo! wanted to get into the mainland market. Living in Hong Kong at the time, I watched at close range as Yahoo!, along with others, caved to Beijing’s pressure and began to control content. What were indisputably technology companies operating digital infrastructures, not at all unlike Consolidated Edison, were suddenly in the publishing business.

Feinstein and her Senate colleagues, as they pointedly intimidated inexperienced bimbos such as Mark Zuckerberg, have done no differently. People with no understanding of media are now running media companies. It was wrong 20 years ago and it is wrong now.

There have been no Senate hearings on this question lately, if you have not noticed. This is because Senate Democrats have succeeded in forcing Facebook, Twitter, and Yahoo! to do exactly as they wish. Case in point: The preposterous censoring of the New York Post prior to the 2020 election, when it published perfectly valid evidence of the Biden family’s gross corruptions deriving from a laptop the un-prodigal son, Hunter Biden, abandoned to a computer repair shop in Wilmington, Delaware.

People such as Susan Wojcicki are simply doing what they are told under threat. This is government censorship at one remove, and I have never heard a worthwhile argument to the contrary. Bringing the point to ground level, @thefloutist’s fate amounts to a constitutional infringement.

In the name of defending our democratic institutions, of course. 

Consortium News, one of the first publications to appear on the internet, faces another variety of censorship. It is now being scrutinized by something called NewsGuard, an operation set up four years ago to rule—impartially, of course—on the credibility of news organizations. It accuses Consortium of publishing false claims that the U.S. backed the coup in Kiev that plunged Ukraine into crisis in 2014 and that neo–Nazi elements figure significantly in the Ukrainian power structure. Both of these facts are well-established and well-served by abundant evidence. 

Joe Lauria, Consortium’s tenacious editor-in-chief, has responded at length to NewsGuard’s’s assertions. As he explains in a top-to-bottom account of the case, to be found here, NewsGuard’s allegations of disinformation rest on flagrant disinformation, as is often the case in our raging “information war.” But again, this may not matter: If NewsGuard rules against Consortium News, it will be rated by way of a color code. “Getting a red label,” Lauria writes, “means that potentially millions of people who have the NewsGuard extension installed and operating on their browsers will see the red mark affixed to websites on social media and Google searches.” NewsGuard says it has also sold its monitoring device to many libraries.   

What is NewsGuard, such that it claims authority of this kind? It is pleased to acknowledge “partnerships” with the State Department and the Pentagon. One of its founders is Gordon Crovitz, a Wall Street Journal lifer with the ideology to match. Among its board members—almost incredible, this—are Michael Hayden, the former director of the CIA and the National Security Agency; Tom Ridge, the first secretary of Homeland Security, and Anders Fogh Rasmussen,  former Secretary-General of NATO. 

I will let these people and their associations speak for themselves. 

For my money, NewsGuard is a grotesque re-rendering of Red Channels, the hyper-paranoid publication that found Communists and Comm-symps, as the Cold War I expression had it, everywhere in broadcast journalism and the entertainment industries. NewsGuard’s purpose in the context of Cold War II is roughly the same, the normalization of suppression. 

The phenomenon I describe in pencil sketch takes many forms. Most of the major social media platforms—Twitter, Google, YouTube (a Google property), Facebook, Reddit—either take advice as to who and what to censor from “the intelligence community” (my all-time favorite euphemism) or have former spooks on the payroll who get the work done from the inside. Some have contracts such as NewGuard’s with State and Defense.

Consortium News, according to a remarkable piece by Kit Klarenberg and Max Blumenthal, published in The Grayzone last week, was also among the publications Homeland Security’s recently formed Disinformation Governance Board planned to discredit. The D.G.B., commonly nicknamed our Ministry of Truth, for now is “paused”—its director, Nina Jankowicz, having been found to have trafficked in disinformation operations during and since the Russiagate fiasco.

If it sounds like a circus, readers, this is what our declining imperium has made of our public discourse—an unfunny carnival.    

Susan Wojcicki underscored another point we must not miss. Silicon Valley’s censors act according to the dictates of algorithms that determine, by way of digital monitoring, who is in and who is out, who is up and who is down. The immense power of social media derives not from the hacks who press the buttons when accounts such as @thefloutist are sent into oblivion, but from the diabolic computer instruments that tell them what to do.

It is by way of its algorithm that YouTube has created a variant of the system NewsGuard uses: There is approved content, “borderline content,” and “violative content.” In social media parlance, there is, in addition to straight-out censorship, “down-ranking” so that readers and viewers can’t find a given piece of work, and “shadow-banning,” whereby a writer or webcaster can post work but, unbeknownst to him or her, it is rendered invisible to everyone using that platform.  

At the moment, those imposing the new censorship regime are swatting flies—making targets of this, that, or the other writer or publication. To those of us censored in this way, there are many disturbing indications that a more totalized system is in the making. Here is a Tweet from Marc Andreessen, the billionaire co-founder of Netscape, dated April 16:

I predict essentially identical censorship/deplatforming policies across all layers of the legacy Internet stack. Client-side & server-side ISPs, cloud platforms, CDNs, payment networks, client OSs, browsers, email clients. With only rare exceptions. The pressure is intense. 

I do not know precisely what event prompted this frightening thought, but I have no trouble imagining that Andreessen, who remains an influential figure in Silicon Valley, knows whereof he Tweets. Shortly after his note, indeed, Paypal blocked Consortium’s account, through which it took donations (and paid its columnists). It also seized Consortium’s balance until shrill public objections forced Paypal to restore it.

What we witness, if this is not already clear, is a full-scale attack on independent media. And it is the Ukraine crisis that appears to have both created an opening for, and  prompted, its escalation. The connection here is important to grasp. The proxy war the Biden administration wages against Russia is in my estimation a declining empire’s shoot-the-moon moment. It is also an open declaration that Cold War II has begun. Dissension at home is a danger in such circumstances, just as it was when the Truman administration set Cold War I in motion 75 years ago. 

What concerns me as much as the censorship phenomenon itself is how few Americans seem at all aware of it—and among those who are, how many of these approve. To understand this and why it is important, let us go back some way into American history. 

There is the question of conformity, as earlier mentioned. The land of the free may raise individuality to the status of an “ism,” but America’s singular insistence on the individual’s submission to convention and orthodoxy seems to me essential to the effectiveness of the censorship regime and its public acceptance. 

This story began long ago. Here is de Tocqueville in the first volume of Democracy in America:

In America the majority raises formidable barriers around the liberty of opinion; within these barriers an author may write what he pleases, but woe to him if he goes beyond them. Not that he is in danger of an auto-da-fé but he is exposed to continued obloquy and persecution…. Every sort of compensation, even that of celebrity, is refused him. Before making public his opinions he thought he had sympathizers; now it seems to him he has none any more since he has revealed himself to everyone. 

It has proven a short step on from de Tocqueville’s early observation to the self-censorship rampant in the American press at least since Cold War I’s onset. Self-censorship among journalists is another old story, but it is worse now than at any time in my professional years, of which there are many. What distinguishes our moment is that self-censorship is no longer sufficient. If independent publications such as Consortium News, The Grayzone, and, indeed, ScheerPost share one attribute among them, it is their refusal to bow to conformity, to censor themselves, or to allow the creep of externally imposed censorship—Soviet-style censorship, we can say with justification—go unopposed. 

This is why the war against independent publications now intensifies—and why many journalists working in corporate-owned media cheerlead it—a perversity that will ever after astonish me. This is combat for control of “the narrative”—a war they never heretofore had to wage. 

It is also why our independent media bear responsibilities outsized to their resources. Self-censoring media are by definition compromised. , unethical purveyors of information presenting a version of our world dictated by orthodoxy and ideology and at odds with reality. Independent media are all that now stand between us and a dangerous state of collective blindness and ignorance—this at a moment we can afford neither.

Patrick Lawrence

Patrick Lawrence, a correspondent abroad for many years, chiefly for the International Herald Tribune, is a columnist, essayist, author and lecturer. His most recent book is Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century. Follow him on Twitter @thefloutist. His web site is Patrick Lawrence. Support his work via his Patreon site

47 comments

  1. Corporate control. Of our government, our resources, and our lives is what’s happening.

  2. I suppose we’ve always been dependent upon ‘publishers’ and ‘editors’. Editors should help, Publishers sometimes hinder.

    The problem is monopoly, as well as a lack of people among these ‘algorithms’ . I was kicked off a platform (DailyKos) by people making false claims about what I actually wrote (black and white), however even a year or two later the ‘algorithm’ can’t recognize the injustice (or refuses to respond to ‘replies’)’

    Machines are stupid. Yet, in the long run, they are cheap. As a result the monopolistic ‘owners’ of the very few online outlets make money. They substitute machines for people.

    Time to get back to a more ‘primitive’ (humane) culture.

    1. @Daedalus
      Your comment falsely assumes that this censorship is random; it is not. Daily Kos is an establishment platform, and I have no doubt that they censor people who write anti-establishment things. I agree that having technology censor things is a bad idea, but far more important is that censorship itself is bad and that it’s done for political reasons; it’s not at all random, with limited exceptions.

  3. I see you are on Patreon too. Thats not safe either. As a Gender Critical feminist (anti trans ideology) I’ve witnessed at least 3 YouTube accounts along with their Patreon platforms go up in a puff of smoke. There one day, reduced to cyber pixels the next day. YouTube don’t allow my comments to be published as I was warned my opinions aren’t sufficiently “neutral”.

    I’ve seen probably 10+ Twitter and Instagram accts (including my own) be censored and disappeared. I’m refused to have a shop on Instagram due to having made too many “hate speech” comments. Despite the fact that Instagram and Facebook allowed a Chinese mass manufacturing company to appropriate my copyright images for 2 years for that company to fake and profit from, ignoring all my cease and desist notifications. Oh, the irony….

    The only safe harbour I’ve found at present, and who knows how long that might last? is Substack.

    And I’m such an insignificant person. Not an influencer or person with any sort of a public political profile. A grandmother, a self employed artist with less than a 1000 followers on combined social media. Yet I must be censored and silenced.

    1. THIS ANGRY TRANS DEFENDS FREE SPEECH

      Reading something like “(anti trans ideology)” makes me see red. Angry red–because it’s a belief system that takes for granted the right to define for me who I can and can’t be.

      I’m trans, an FtM; so for over 54 years (I’m now 74) I had to live with the constant micro and occasional macro aggressions that come with being seen as female. By deep personal experience, I understand and support feminist criticism. But the assertion it’s all performance demeans what we trans people are aware of from the age of 4 or so–that despite all permutations of social authority arrayed against us as powerless individuals, we KNOW who we are.

      Similarly, I’m also a two-spirit, a category recognized in many Native nations. So then should Native cultures be considered mere relics of ancient misogyny? Are we to concede that well educated white people, as experts on deconstruction and postmodern philosophies, should define these matters for us? Which coincidentally goes quite well with right wing whites who think they know who should or shouldn’t be considered an Indian.

      Okay, I’ve explained why this and related issues raise intense anger for me. It’s a survival thing! But that still would not ever give me (or allied ideological groups) the right to decide who can and can’t be heard. THAT’S CENSORSHIP.

      Usually it seems, deplatforming is justified only by the flimsiest of excuses. In my opinion, it also implies a division in stark terms between good and bad. Bad people deserve shunning, probably condemnation, and possibly removal. To protect the good people, of course.

      But how can we ever know what opponents think or why they think as they do if we are never allowed to hear them? How can we ever discover we might have interests in common–like free speech?

      I’d bet that’s the underlying strategy. To perpetrate misunderstandings and deep divisions, encouraging groups to turn on each other. Thereby deflecting attention from the anti-democratic economic oligarchical few who will do anything to stay in power.

      1. thank you for sharing your reaction. Just to clarify, I have no problem with however you want to dress and present to the world. As you identify as trans I’m sure you’re well aware of how the belief its possible to change sex has become a social contagion that is damaging confused young people. And how the insistence of radical trans ideologues that people who want to change sex must be legally validated is a sinister threat to the rights, dignity and safety of women. It is these things I oppose, not how individual people choose to express gender non conformity. I am also compelled to protect my 15 year old lesbian granddaughter who is under peer pressure to believe she is trans. It would be a travesty if this beautiful young woman took opposite sex drugs or altered her healthy body by surgery to try to look male. It is an absolute lie that its possible for humans to change sex, that is what I oppose. Homosexual attraction is part of the normal range of human sexual expression.

      2. To Pearl,
        Frankly what puzzles me is that if we have accepted that “conversion therapy” to change one’s sexual orientation is not in a person’s best interests, how can we accept that “conversion therapy” to change ones gender is.
        Gender is no more “assigned at birth” than sexual orientation is – in both cases it seems to me that the problem is one of society’s lack of acceptance of folks who prefer to have sex with a same sex partner of folks who prefer to dress, wear make-up, or “act” like those of the “opposite” sex are “expected” to look or act – we have, in essence, internalized a social stigma on folks who are “different” such that they think they have to change their bodies to conform to some socially determined concept of what it is to be “male” or “female” – wouldn’t it be better to just help folks be comfortable with the body they were born with especially if it is a quite well functioning one – just as gay folk become comfortable with their sexual orientation. I dunno, just seems like it is a case of “body dysphoria” writ large … is it to avoid being called “sissy” for a male, or “butch” for a female?

        Or why don’t we all just consider ourselves “non-binary” and let it go at that, because we all have characteristics, physical or personality wise that are characterized as “male” or “female” – the only time we need to know about gender is when we want to reproduce – And, for a f/m transformation, e,g, even after all the surgeries and hormones, every cell in the body still has an XX chromosome, or of m/f, an XY (there are other combinations of course but they are rare)

        So what are the real issues here …
        I am asking a sincere question …

      3. What is “gender”? I believe it’s a feeling, an idea that a person can hold about themselves, whereas sex is physical, real and arising from biology. Believing you are the opposite sex to your physical sex is no more real than an anorexic believing they are fat and need to starve themselves to lose weight. Anorexia and transgender fixation are both mental illnesses called body dysmorphia. I believe in biological science, that humans are a mammalian dimorphic species that has 2 sexes and that sex is immutable, it cannot be changed through drugs or surgery. Until 20 years ago there has never been a human society that believed anything other than that, until queer theory gained a foothold in Western Universities. Humans have believed there are males and females for 10s of 1000s of years. There are no humans a little bit of XX muddled with XY (despite the red herring and erroneous claims made about “intersex”) just male or female. There is no “gender spectrum”, that is a lie perpetrated by people invested with promoting queer theory.

        My political opposition to transgender ideology comes from a simple precept – if a man can be woman simply by saying he feels like one, then what is a woman? The fact that males are self identifying as “woman” is the reason why they are playing in womans sports, incarcerated in womans prisons, in female hospital wards, using toilets and change rooms reserved for female only and recieving awards, grants and honours intended for women only. I believe only a small proportion of these males masquerading as women are genuinely gender dysphoric, most of them are creeps, fetishists, autogynophiles and other types of misogynist women hating men.

      4. To Pearl,
        You are more cynical than I, I don’t believe that ” most of them are creeps, fetishists, autogynophiles and other types of misogynist women hating men.”
        Why would a man who hates women want to “become” one? And do you really think that such a man would go through multiple surgeries and hormone Rx just to get into a women’s bathroom?

        I understand there has been a distinction made between gender dysphoria and body dysmorphia, but it seems to me it amounts to the same thing – dissatisfaction with the body one is born with in some or many respects – I feel bad for them, but surgery and hormones seems a rather drastic way of treating body image …

        And doing it before puberty – before a person has had time to see and adjust to natural changes in one’s body – a time when everybody is figuring out who they are –

        I do believe they have a problem and need help with it –

      5. The reality is very few adult transitioning transwomen choose genital surgery. A few might get breast implants (easily reversible). Credible estimates are that only about 5% of late mtf transitioners have genital altering surgery. According to excellent studies (Zucker, Blanchard) done from the 1980s onwards almost all late transitioners qualify as men with a paraphilia, namely they are autogynephiles, meaning they fetishise having a female body and performing femininity. They experience sexual pleasure to be seen as women. They get very offended not to have their delusion validated, especially towards natal women who refuse to play along with the pretense. Hence the transwomen who brandish placards at feminist events reading things like “suck my lady dick, you cunts” and chant things like “kill all terfs”.

        The unfolding medical scandal of the 21stC will be the vulnerable young people who are being inducted into the trans ideology cult and groomed into believing they will benefit from to change their biologically real sex . A complicit component of an unethical medical industry sees a bonanza of surgery and ppl needing to be lifetime medical patients, as once taking opposite sex hormones they can’t be stopped without drastic physical effects. People of my generation did not know a single “trans” kid growing up. Now there are 8 girls claiming to be trans or non binary at my granddaughters high school. The 5200% increase in young women presenting at gender clinics over the last decade clearly show it is a social contagion.

        I really don’t give a whit for the old fashioned concept of a feminine homosexual man who wanted to wear dresses, wigs, makeup, high heels and the most elaborate womens undergarments he could buy. As a 2nd wave feminist I’ve always celebrated gender non conformity but this wave of altering healthy youthful bodies for a pie in the sky lie about altering sex is a beyond sinister, it is evil.

      6. To Red:

        I would have been content to leave this alone, but you’ve pushed your beliefs as if they were facts. You don’t seem interested in free speech or rights for anyone else. Rather that you’d rather indulge in the same ugly and hateful rhetoric as right wingers to portray trans women as as dangerous predators. Only with the right, it’s to enforce traditional limited roles for women, while in your version, it’s allegedly to protect women from fetishists who at the same time somehow are also misogynists. A juxtaposition requires holding contradictory beliefs, and for which there is absolutely no objective evidence at all.

        This logic is classical prejudice–no need to deal with the target group as individuals since they’re all the same. They’re not really human, thus undeserving of any understanding or compassion. Even if a small minority, their very existence is, in your own words, a “sinister threat.” This sort of belief is the underpinning of genocide.

        Clearly you’ve never been around actual trans people. You’ve never heard the intense personal stories, especially from trans women of color. Despite years of rejection, constant physical threats, and oppression because of class, race, gender–somehow they find the courage to persist in living their own identities. Who would pick that? It’s not a choice any more than being gay is. (Which, BTW, I also am. Sexual orientation is another independent variable.)

        You’re wrong about all humans being neatly either XX or XY with matching physiology. There are androgen insensitivity XYs that physiologically look like XX. There are XXYs. There are mosaics, also known as chimeras. Etc. Besides that, the idea that the genetic code is totally deterministic is now outmoded. Contemporary biochemistry recognizes that by the process of methylation, gene expression can be modified in response to environmental conditions. I have a degree in biology; if you want more actual scientific evidence expressed in specialized terminology–as contrasted to what you “believe” about it–I’d be glad to do so. Or would that be rejected a priori by ad hominem?

        Because of subatomic physics, the old Aristotelian either/or has been abandoned in favor of probability. Currently, given implications of the same physics, there are intense debates questioning the old scientific models that assume reductionism and materialism. The edgy arguments strongly favor the idea that some form of consciousness is foundational. All of which would put serious dents into any assertion that a few either/or physical parts are all there is to identity.

        As for intersex people–check out their organization. Not the same issues as trans, since theirs are about ambiguous physical genitalia. However, they’ve faced the same problem with authorities who insist they fit into the usual either/or categories.

        Your unsubstantiated claims “(only) two sexes and sex is immutable” and “until the last 20 years, there has never been any human society that believed anything other than that” are flat out ignorance. And rank cultural chauvinism. What we would now call trans existed in ancient Egypt and Sumer. Hijiras in India. The two-spirits (and other designations) of Native American nations. West Africa. Japan. The Philippines. Etc. And throughout the history of western Europe!

        It is a great irony that you don’t understand that the experiences of trans people actually validate your basic position. In contrast, feminist theory that holds that gender is just performative. While the physiology of XX and XY may be true, the social roles that define woman or man are entirely culturally determined; there are no real differences. We trans are evidence that at least to a degree, the categories male or female do have meaning, they are different. Why else would we go through physical alteration? We’re not the same as young people who call themselves non-binary or gender fluid and refuse to identify as female or male.

        I’ve saved the worst for last. “…I’m sure you’re well aware of how the belief it’s possible to change sex has become a social contagion and is damaging to confused young people.” So in other words, we’re a disease that should be eradicated?! How in hell do you have the audacity to assert something that ignorant and vile and then assume I’d agree?! I’d bet that spreading misinformation, deliberately encouraging fear of humans as Other, and insisting despite the lack of evidence that they’re a “sinister threat” is far more damaging.

        And how about the arrogance behind “I have no problem with how you want to dress and present to the world”? I, and every other trans person, do not need your permission! Nor do you get to decide for us that the issue is merely presentation and not about who we are fundamentally in our inmost psyches.

        Nor is it wonderfully tolerant for you to grant this magnanimous boon to me personally as if you in your superiority have the right to determine the rights of inferior others. History is rife with such examples–whites deciding about non-whites, men deciding about women. Despite this bizarre determination to condemn us, we are no threat to you. Assigning some powerless out group the role of scapegoat does, however, have a long and terrible history.

      7. How transgender ideology affects me, because some people think its none of my business…

        I have known transwomen, I worked with 2 for 3+ years when I was a prostitute. There is a transwoman who lives in my small rural community. Jim has gone the full sex change surgery. Two weeks ago I didn’t go to the wedding of dear friends because Jim was going to be there, teetering about on his stilettoes, with his fake boobies in a push up bra, and the tiniest leopard print skirt he could find. Jim was married for 37 years and fathered 3 children before realising he was a woman.

        I am not a person from the political right, its frankly hilarious, I was one of the most lefty peeps you could ever meet and a Greens voter of 40 years.

        I am also bisexual. I have been in 2 long term relationships with women, so I’m familiar with the LGB activism of the 90s onwards and how the T moved in to parasitise the movement in 2015.

        My granddaughter is 15 and a lesbian. Her first “girlfriend” is a trans boy. She is also very anxious and depressed due to bullying at school due her sexual orientation and TRA ideologue teachers who try to propagandise her into believing she is born in the wrong sexed body. It infuriates me that she shouldn’t be having this experience, she should be getting an an education, not being pressured into a dangerous cult. Her parents and I are too afraid to take her to a doctor or counselling service for her depression because of the possibility it may be a gender affirming service that sees a new victim to be on the production line.

        I am clearly and proudly a terf. One who has suffered the consequences of being censored, deplatformed (off Twitter, warned on both IG and YouTube) and having lost a great deal of teaching work due to my world view. Ppl pressured the art gallery I exhibit in to ban me….

        This will be my last comment here about transgender ideology. The people responding to me are clearly rusted on with their politics and activists for the trans cause. I can hardly believe even the Moderator has felt it appropriate to wade in expressing their opinions.

        We’ll see how things pan out in the next decade or 2. With 50,000 people on a Reddit detransitioning board, and rising exponentially daily, I think that speaks for itself about the success of the trans cult….

    2. @Pearl Red Moon
      This is totally off-topic here, but I fully agree with your first 2 comments in this thread. The trans issue is probably my lowest priority issue, so I’m not going to spend much time on it. I’ll just say this: A person’s gender or sex is whatever it is when they’re born. Transexuality wouldn’t even be possible without industrial medicine, so it’s completely unnatural. (Industrial society is war against the Earth and must be eliminated, but this is a long-term goal and not relevant here.) Animals including people are born a certain gender or sex for a reason, which is called “reproduction.” If people could just choose which gender or sex people want to be, they could change their gender or sex and still breed. But they can’t, proving this idiocy to be totally false.

      The whole gender fluidity nonsense is a symptom of humans becoming more insane by the minute and not accepting reality. Two-spirited people do exist, but they’re rare — at most 1 in 10,000, probably much fewer — and in most traditional indigenous societies they were allowed to dress like and live with whichever gender or sex they saw fit. Those societies also held them in high esteem, because they saw life through both the male and female perspectives. But indigenous people didn’t delude themselves into thinking that these people could just choose a gender or sex, which is totally different and has no basis in reality.

      I’m sure I’ll get responses to this, but this is all I’m going to say on this totally minor issue. I realize that for some people this is a big issue — all issues are very important to SOMEONE or they wouldn’t be issues — but in the big scheme of things, this only affects a very small percentage of one species, so just not that important. To be clear, I don’t think that people should be killed, attacked, harassed, or discriminated against for being trans or anything else that they choose to do with their own bodies. That’s their business and no one else’s. It becomes a problem when kids are being brainwashed to think that gender or sex is “fluid” when it’s so obviously not.

      1. I now divide people on this issue into those for whom it is an intellectual excercise where they can make easy, sweeping generalizations, and those who have known trans children and/or adults and deeply felt their different experience. You are in the first group, cruel and casual about it, just as vicious as any homophobe who cites evolution as a rationale for treating, as Western society did formally until only a few decades ago, as a mental illness or product of child abuse. The reality is that your binary, hyperlogical, smug thinking is actually of a piece with the whole of the Western capitalist tradition which now undergirds our destruction of the planet and each other.

      2. @Moderator
        You failed to address anything I said, instead resorting to name-calling, admittedly a more sophisticated version of it. If any of the facts I stated are wrong, show me. That’s the whole problem with delusional ideas like gender fluidity that are not based in reality; you’re letting your feelings and ideologies blind you to reality.

        And BTW, capitalism isn’t the cause of human destruction of the Earth, it just exacerbates it. Human destruction of the Earth began thousands of years before capitalism.

      3. I don’t have time to argue with you, you can find others to engage with. For me, I am a witness, in the past decade, to what is real for humans as young as three or four who are trans, while others would rather pretend they are in a debate class and pretend they know their facts tell the whole story, or, worse, argue that trans people threaten them somehow, either by stepping on their rights, or as a distraction from what you imply are the real issues. I would offer that perhaps the severe limitations on human empathy are at the root of all the destruction we agree upon…

      4. To Jeff,
        It is not a “minor” issue – I think that your description of how NA dealt with this issue is the point – they accepted, even honored, the concept of “2 spirits” – so these folk could be who they were, as individuals. as people, and dealt with as such – they didn’t feel a need to change their bodies or take drugs – so it was not a problem for them to function in society simply as who they were. Our society has made it a problem for them – this is a problem of society, not of the individual, but we have made it a problem for them by internalizing our “binary” thinking – I feel bad for anyone who feels they need to alter their bodies or take hormones to be who they are – I would hope that society would simply support them in learning to be comfortable in their bodies as they are, because they are just fine that way – they are not in the “wrong body” – they are in their body. We are the ones who make that difficult – we are the ones who make them feel they have to be one or the other, instead of just fine as they are, as hopefully, we have been learning to not make gay folk uncomfortable, that they are fine just as they are. I think we are all “non-binary” in the sense that we have characteristics commonly “assigned” to “male”, “female” categories – but that makes us uncomfortable to contemplate in ourselves or others and when we make folks feel they have to be one or the other, the problems begin and multiply …

        As for the genetics – in deed XX and XY are the vast majority of folk, necessary for procreation of the species, but other combinations do exist, though rare, these folk may need to have some surgeries or other Rx, but just what those are is on a case by case basis. These are medical issues – e.g. there are m/f who have – prostate cancer. Those XX, and XY combinations do a lot more than define secondary sex characteristics …

        I don’t think we get to “choose” our “gender” – nor are we “assigned” it at birth – with the exceptions mentioned above, we are XX or XY biologically, but there are many variations on a theme as to precisely what that means physiologically and “orientationally” …

        As with so many other things, the NA had it right, and “2 spirits” can exist in one body, just as it is …

        At least that is my take …. If i have this wrong, please someone else instruct …

      5. @SH
        My definition of a minor issue is one that affects only a small percentage of humans without affecting other species or ecosystems. If you have another definition, I’m all ears. As I said, every issue is important to someone or it wouldn’t be an issue, but that doesn’t make it a major issue.

        The specific issue we’re discussing, and the one for which I expressed support for Red Pearl Moon’s comments, is whether gender or sex (same thing, people use different words) is fluid. Biological reality tells us it isn’t, simple as that. Again, that’s one of the problems with these types of issues: they elicit all sorts of over-the-top emotions that prevent people from thinking clearly, like Moderator’s response to me.

        Yes, we all have male and female characteristics, perhaps better described as masculine and feminine ones. But that doesn’t mean that a person can just decide to be the opposite sex from the one they’re born, that’s so ridiculous it’s beyond words. I don’t pay much attention to this trivial issue, but that’s my understanding of gender fluidity. If I’m wrong, please correct me. Keep in mind that the only reason that male & female distinctions exist is for breeding. If we reproduced without sex, there wouldn’t be sex, nor would there be any male/female differences.

        Keep in mind that the biggest problem on Earth is human overpopulation. So if people want to make themselves into non-breeders by becoming trans or in any other way, I’m all for it. I have nothing at all against trans people, and as I said they should be allowed to do with their own bodies as they so wish. Moderator’s hysterical overreaction to my comments doesn’t take any of this into consideration, broadly painting me as some evil character for stating biological realities.

      6. Jeff; OMG. You surprise me.

        Another case of uninformed opinion asserting itself as fact. Making a claim to scientific validity based on faulty logic, and therefore assuming no need to do even the most perfunctory literature search. For a little basic science info, read the 2nd, 4th, 5th, and 7th paragraphs of what I wrote above. Note also that I have a degree in biology–or does political ideology and personal preferences override actual scientific training and familiarity with research protocols?

        Having read your comments on this site, it shocks me that you are so willing to align with the feeling based hate of person who will not acknowledge the right of others to just exist. And who refuses to see that neither rational philosophy nor empirical science support her positions. Who uses loaded phrases like “sinister threat” and “trans cult” as if these were objective facts and not the same fear mongering verbiage that leads to persecution and genocide.

        Clearly, we trans people face way, way more prejudice than just that aimed at us by fundamentalists, male supremacists, and conservative opportunists.

        Your dismissal because it’s “my lowest priority issue”?! As if any one person’s limited idea of what or what isn’t important should be considered definitive. I’d bet ovarian cancer isn’t important to your personal health, either. Or what the Quinault word for western red cedar is. Or to what species Thuja plicata refers. Not to mention that history is filled with examples of how what the elites didn’t see as issues or what was central for unimportant small groups eventually became issues for the majority. Ask me. I also have a degree in history.

        You indulge in the same type of faulty argument by assertion as the ignorant person I was refuting. A logical fallacy. Look that term up; many university depts of philosophy have posted lists because of their prevalence in online arguments. Example: “gender or sex is whatever it is when they are born.” Go re-read my 3rd, 4th, and 5th paragraphs on that issue. BTW, sex and gender are not equivalents–sex is about biological structures (which aren’t always unambiguous,) while gender is about psychological and spiritual functions.

        Do a search regarding the basics; even the Wiki entry on transgender will suffice. And if you want scientific data, there is plenty–look at the articles that have run in Scientific American alone.

        “Transexuality wouldn’t even be possible without industrial medicine” is unacknowledged cultural chauvinism and ignores historical records as well as contemporary practices. Re-read the 7th paragraph in my post above. And there’s that nasty little lob of “this idiocy,” demonstrative of some underlying prejudice. Do you have scientific instrumentation, such as an idiometer, carefully calibrated to produce statistically sound data revealing who is or isn’t objectively defined by the “idiocy” charge?

        Another big tell is that you are equating gender fluidity with transgender when the two are most often opposites! The same confused assumption as the terf, who ironically considers confusion an issue only for those she attacks. Go read my 8th paragraph that explains the difference. We’re not non-binary, refusing to choose. Our experiences are evidence there IS a difference. That identity is more than just a social construct. As for “so obviously not”–to whom?! It’s “obvious” to Enlightenment rationalists that native cultures are are not, they’re primitive, irrational.

        Despite your claim that you don’t want anyone killed or discriminated against, you’re enabling just that. By using a phrase like “when kids are brainwashed,” you are putting yourself on the side of people who believe such outrageous, unsubstantiated claims. If de facto evil pedophile trans are perpetuating such harmful acts, then certainly “they” deserve to be eradicated by any means necessary to save precious children. A classic style utilized by politicians manipulating a fearful majority into rallying around their leadership against some scapegoat Other, considered not really human.

        Consider Jacksonian language about saving the settlers from savage Indians. Post reconstruction southern white justifications of brutal racism to protect white women. The vile anti-Semite Protocols of the Elders of Zion cited by German Nazis, still in circulation. It is no coincidence that current vicious right wing organizations still use the same hateful words against the old targets as well as the new out group: us powerless transgenders.

      7. RIGHTS AND PREJUDICE
        In summation:

        As my grandfather the Wobbly (IWW) would have said:
        “AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL.”

        How a minority is treated is indicative of the health of a society as a whole.

        Substitute whites defining what African American or Native American means and what rights they should have. Then re-read the arguments above.

        One outright bigot who prefers personal prejudice over scientific facts and justice for all.
        Plus people, who seem to identify as leftists, yet feel they can define who others are despite a decided lack of information about them. A form of prejudice–which is by definition, pre-judging.

        If anyone here is open to finding out about TRANSGENDER, please ask someone with first hand experience and some valid expertise. We do exist.

  4. Frankly, what I don’t quite understand – not being on, or desiring to be on, “(anti)social media”, why it seems so important to people to have access to it – what did we ever do before it? How did we ever have any kind of “revolution” before – most, if not all the significant progress we have made (to the extent we have made any) was before this appeared on the scene – Shucks, how did Tom Paine ever become an “influencer” without U-tube or Tic-Toc – why did we allow ourselves to become addicted to this mode of “communication”

    As Groucho said, ” I wouldn’t want to belong to a club that would have me as a member” – If I am allowed on this media, must be I am doing something wrong …

    It is clear from this piece who is pulling the strings/ setting up the algorithms –
    – and if the result of these algorithms is that folks like you get kicked off “social media”, then they are performing their function quite well …

    Please, don’t debase yourself in front of these troglodyte machines, because your qualifications, no matter how impressive, are irrelevant to them – anything that knows only 1s and 0s can’t possibly be in the same league as folks who have a few more numbers in their repertoire …

    As for being public utilities, I agree – anything that insinuates itself into our lives to such a degree that we consider it a necessity such that we “can’t do without it” should be considered a “public utility” – but, unless I am mistaken, designating something as such requires an act of Congress, directly or indirectly, and why would Congress want to do anything that would result in empowering its critics …

    1. Back in the 60’s, it was mimeograph machines, with their distinctive blue printing, that were the mainstays of alternative publication. those, and desperate print shops.

      Tom Paine used traditional, hand-set printing presses. Somehow, the word got out. They were harder to mass-silence; though they were expensive machines, like servers today, so that created a certain vulnerability. Mimeos were cheap – much used in classrooms.

      1. To Oregon,
        It was a rhetorical ? … The point was somehow we got along without “social media” in its present form …

    2. @SH
      It’s not what we did before social media that’s the issue. I believe that most people in the U.S. now get their “news” from social media, making it very important to have a free flow of information and ideas there. Sure, I’m for getting rid of all this stuff eventually, it’s all wrecking the planet and killing the life here. But that’s a long-term goal, and for the present we need social media platforms to be free of censorship.

  5. “Self-censorship…is worse now than at any time in my professional years, of which there are many. What distinguishes our moment is that self-censorship is no longer sufficient. If independent publications such as Consortium News, The Grayzone, and, indeed, ScheerPost share one attribute among them, it is their refusal to bow to conformity, to censor themselves, or to allow the creep of externally imposed censorship—Soviet-style censorship, we can say with justification—go unopposed.”

    I suppose it’s good that some people, better late than never, are waking up to some of the totalitarian turn of the present. But when all gets said and done in this lengthy piece, this concluding call to arms sounds more like controlled opposition patting itself on the back, and anything but good enough. Because it’s being made for publications, with some notable exceptions from Grayzone (e.g., Max Blumenthal and Jeremy Loffredo), which have been routinely (self-)censoring the totalitarian turn that began over two years ago with covid-1984. And from what I’ve seen, proclaimed resistance to bowing to conformity shows no sign of making connections – beyond selective, self-interested, self-serving complaints – to so many other moves besides the censorship to march us into a totalitarian system on a prison planet, overseen by public-private partnerships like that between Big Tech and state power.

    It’s pathetic and horrifying how many on the so-called left remain rooted in the mass formation psychosis (cf. Mattias Desmet) that began with covid and is crucial for this totalitarian rule. Who seem to know nothing, or simply don’t care, about the killing machinery now in motion beyond their conformity to systemic lies, like those of corporately controlled science as well as media all about the science of socially engineering human populations into a techno-totalitarian hell on earth. We need to be liberated from these limited hangouts which keep misdirecting us from the larger war being waged against us.

    1. To Niko,
      Apparently written by someone who hasn’t lost anyone to Covid or know anyone who has ..

      1. Learn about the myths of covid, and how many people have been injured and died by the biosecurity state imposed by the pandemic pretext.

      2. To Niko.
        About the million +folks who died, so far? about all the folks with “long Covid”? Are those some of the “myths” you talk about?

      3. So you think censorship is a rational response to grief?

        Your comment is a distraction from the point at hand.

        Indeed, Covid was the first subject of massive internet censorship.

      4. To Oregon,
        The comment i was responding to was about censorship ? Coulda fooled me ..

      5. @SH – the whole first paragraph is a quote about censorship, which is also the topic of the article.
        Yours was not a good-faith reply.

      6. To Oregon,
        Gee thanx for ? my good faith – maybe, just maybe you might have asked me why I said that instead of assuming it was just “bad faith”

      7. @SH
        While I generally disagree with niko on the COVID-19 issue, it is an indisputable fact that things like lockdowns that destroy people’s lives by removing their income also cause major harm. I saw one study a year or two ago showing that the lockdowns had caused more harm than the virus (suicides, children’s socializing being retarded, etc.). This is not to say that COVID-19 didn’t kill and harm a lot of people, because it obviously did (though not as many as you think, the government reporting has not been honest, with people dying WITH the virus being counted as people dying FROM it).

        Everything in life has a cost, and there is a legitimate argument that the measures taken to supposedly protect us from COVID-19 did more harm than the disease itself. I have no opinion one way or the other on this, but it IS a legitimate position.

  6. I manage to survive without any of the antisocial media, not wanting to waste time enriching already overindulged people deciding what is allowed. I use sites which so far seem to suit me, and recently noticed the great turn of “counterpunch” towards the usual MSM Russophobic lies, while many of the more balanced contributors do remain as well.
    The arrogant “Western” assumption that the values of freedom and democracy still exist in the “Empire of Lies” (VV Putin!!) while we have seen for months the same twisted narrative of the evil Putin, unprovoked and unjustified, invading the darling European democracy next door and rampaging there ever since. Never a mention of the events of 2014 or any historical background, plenty of videos from a skilled team of actors and stagesetters from the comedian-president, no investigations of the “war crimes” alleged against Russian troops but never the Ukrainians, and lots of heartwarming stories of the kind family men making up the Azov batallion. Any deviation from this is a ‘Putin-lover’, which is a slur of course. 80% support from the Russian public (compare BoJo or Biden!!) means nothing from an “authoritarian régime” .

    1. Yeah, “Putin lover.” Perpetrated by neo-lib (de facto neo-con) Dems–whom I call the Ivy D mob. A rerun of the elitist arrogance of David Halberstam’s The Best and the Brightest.

      These current theophanies think we lessers are too ignorant to know history. Red baiting was a weapon used by conservative Rs of the ’50s. That its analogue is now being used by Ds, once defenders of free speech, is so bizarre as to be beyond satire.

      An irony curtain has fallen across America.

  7. My gratitude for this article. Thank you for taking the time to lay things out on this topic as I haven’t seen them laid out anywhere else. No rant (grateful for this), lots of information, connecting many small dots (the connecting is what I’ve missed so far), thinking reflection on what the information means. I hope others will circulate it via whatever means.

  8. We are going to have to relearn the old Soviet art of “samizdat”. Who would ever have believed that journalists and citizens in the Western “democracies” would have to emulate the dissidents of the tyrannically repressive Soviet regime?

  9. To re-calibrate this discussion:

    “Free speech” has, from the beginning, been something of a sham in the US.

    It started almost immediately, with the Alien and Sedition Acts.

    The Sedition Act made it a crime for American citizens to “print, utter, or publish . . . any false, scandalous, and malicious writing” about the Government.

    The Sedition Act and the Alien Friends Act were allowed to expire in 1800 and 1801, respectively. The Alien Enemies Act, however, remains in effect as Chapter 3; Sections 21–24 of Title 50 of the United States Code. It was used by the government to identify and imprison allegedly “dangerous enemy” aliens from Germany, Japan, and Italy in World War II. (This was separate from the Japanese internment camps used to remove people of Japanese descent from the West Coast.) After the war they were deported to their home countries. In 1948 the Supreme Court determined that presidential powers under the acts continued after cessation of hostilities until there was a peace treaty with the hostile nation.

    The revised Alien Enemies Act remains in effect today.

    Sedition Act of 1918 (1918) The Sedition Act of 1918 curtailed the free speech rights of U.S. citizens during time of war. Passed on May 16, 1918, as an amendment to Title I of the Espionage Act of 1917, the act provided for further and expanded limitations on speech.

    This set a familiar pattern: oppress and silence now, apologize later.

    All of this pales into insignificance in light of the Red Scare hysteria, oppression and legislation, which effectively blocked and eliminated much of the America left. Went on for decades.

    https://www.history.com/topics/cold-war/red-scare

    REALITY: there is no “marketplace of ideas.”

    We have a capitalist-owned oligarchy, which we can either support or uproot.

    The non-negotiable, diametrically opposed ideas and imperatives that form our politics cannot and will not be settled by discussion or compromise.

    We are already in the opening stages of a civil war.

    We’re in a liminal state, where many contrary forces are attempting to silence opponents. Both anti-vaxxers and accurate racial history attacked and “cancelled.”

    When divisions have reached this stage –a condition which the right has already grasped — the objective is to seize power and suppress the other side.

    Ending racism, exploitation, the war machine, protecting abortion and LGBTQ rights — are all multi-generational projects and need to be forcefully imposed.

    1. @BabaYaga
      Rights are artificial human constructs and are therefore subject to removal by rulers at any time. I was shocked to learn (in constitutional law class in law school) that the Supreme Court validated the internment of Japanese Americans and the theft of their possessions on the ground of “national security.” That alone is the only excuse the government has to use to remove all of our supposedly guaranteed freedoms.

      Civilization itself is artificial, so all rights within it are “shams” if you put it that way. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight for those rights while at the same time realizing how fragile they are.

      1. As long as we realize and acknowledged that rights are human/societal constructs we’re OK, I think.

        So a socialist society can remove or adjust specific property rights– something that will horrify capitalist advocates, but benefit people at large. Right now, “our” society adjusts rights to protect capitalist interests.

  10. Lawrence writes in fact about enforced intellectual loneliness, albeit a relative sort. Where once he had potentially millions of readers, he now has less. Such a loss is a sort of medium security imprisonment, you aren’t in solitary, but you are fenced into a space. This inevitably happens when you screw with blind monopoly power.

    The key trick behind the power in any billionaire-creating Internet based “killer app” is indeed monopoly. Thus there is no competitive alternative to Facebook or Twitter. Yet there could & should be, and those competitors should play nice with each other (be interoperable,) so that you could in some way share your postings from Xbook or Ybook to Facebook, just as all brands of cars use the same highways and gas pumps and rules of travel, while also being very different vehicles in ways that create wealth for each manufacturer vs the other. The idea that Facebook or Twitter are magic and special is a whole cloth lie that needs to die.

    Censorship would then be accomplished by consumers rejecting a given venue of social media and choosing a more palatable & thus useful (to them) alternative. The media should be kissing our rears not the other way around. There could easily be ten companies offering Facebook’s services, & ten Twitter like chatting services, all interoperable enough, and all fighting each other to do us right, to gain our love over those others, just like with cars. Accomplishing this is just a matter of forcibly opening the technology to interoperable competition, moving them closer to utilities that share some technology.

    I would on this basis suggest that writers like Lawrence fight back in American style, by telling America there is something good they could be having for nothing, that they are being denied by monopolists.

    Call it “freedom of social media,” have some clever kid make an unforgettable graphic, convince some telegenic wannabe Congresswoman to run on a promise to deliver this cool thing to everyone’s phone. Drop the social/moral justice arguments, forget what is right or wrong. Those things just put average people to sleep. Make it about stuff on your phone, watch the stampeded of politicians come to the rescue.

    1. To C,
      Great post! There is a great site, BIG, by Matt Stoller that deals in depth with all sorts of monopolies and solicits ideas from readers – why don’t you connect with that? You have some great ideas …. That is one of the very few sites I think is worth supporting, but even if you don’t, you can still get his posts by e-mail, and then send your ideas back through that …

    2. @C. Kent
      Instead of your capitalism-based competition model, it would be much better if these platforms were simply regulated as utilities. That alone would eliminate the censorship problem.

      As to monopolies: All natural monopolies like phone and utility services should be owned by the government. This would require a separate, totally independent, and ultimately authoritative agency to ensure that the government wasn’t censoring anyone or any information. This could be done, but in our capitalist society and culture, it’s hard to imagine it happening.

      1. If you think that regulation as utilities is “simple” you are simple. If you think phone or utility services are “natural monopolies” you aren’t paying attention to the world. If you think an “authoritative agency” can be “totally independent” blah blah you must be very young & naive. I have no idea what possessed you to post that as a reply. You would have been more productive catching my typo.

  11. I fully agree with this column with the following exceptions:

    “Straight off the top, since when is the quality of someone’s work, or even its accuracy, indeed, a criterion by which it can be censored?”

    No one should be censored (i.e., no prior restraint), but people who publish provable lies that do substantial harm should be imprisoned (smoking doesn’t cause cancer, Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, global warming/climate change doesn’t exist or humans aren’t causing it, etc.). THAT’s the example that needs to be set; Julian Assange should be freed and honored.

    “Based on my admittedly limited exposure to those now serving as America’s censors, these are tech-obsessed gadget addicts who are not well-read, have a poor grasp of history and ethics, and have no clue as to the responsibilities of social media operating in public space.”

    That’s a naive view of things. The ruling class people who own social media platforms are purposely censoring people who publish things that oppose the former’s establishment, simple as that. The politics of people who work at these companies are irrelevant, though the upper management people must have the same or similar politics as their bosses, or they’re just willing to sell their souls for money. The people who Patrick Lawrence is describing are lower-level employees who are apparently politically apathetic and uninformed. If you have a big enough audience and say the wrong things — “wrong” in this instance meaning opposing the establishment — you risk being censored. It has nothing to do with the techies working at these companies being techies.

    If Lawrence’s position were correct — that people are just being censored randomly by uninformed techies who are using some apolitical cookie-cutter approach — then how do all the pro-war, pro-establishment lies not get censored? Sorry, but this argument doesn’t fly. Lawrence later comes to the correct conclusion, which contradicts his earlier statements: “YouTube is waging the same war as most other social media against writers, webcasters, and others who hold critical or dissenting views or who simply cite inconvenient facts.”

    The Burwell v. Hobby Lobby case was a wrongly decided case that allowed religion, in that case christianity, to take precedence over people’s healthcare and the right to control their own bodies. We need a constitutional amendment that gives freedom FROM religion priority over freedom of religion in order to reverse this kind of garbage. As to Lawrence’s point, if the government would regulate social media platforms as utilities, this censorship problem would be immediately solved. Your phone company can’t cut off your phone service because they don’t like what you say, and these social media platforms would be in the same position if they were properly regulated. Of course the government doesn’t want to do that, because the government supports the censorship.

    “Self-censorship among journalists is another old story, but it is worse now than at any time in my professional years, of which there are many.”

    More accurately, there are very few journalists remaining. Those who call themselves journalists are actually either just stenographers for the establishment, or are propagandists for it. That’s not journalism. I agree that there’s always been a problem of self-censorship — not just among journalists, but among everyone because of social norms and social constraints, this exists in every society — but that’s a minor issue compared to the fact that we have so few remaining real journalists and that they don’t work for any major publications, making their work harder to find.

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