In the most alarming week for censorship and cancel culture since at least the advent of the internet, unprecedented crackdowns on free speech have metastasized in the days after the Capitol riots – which were roundly denounced by those on both the left and right. Despite this seeming accord, authoritarian-like retributions have been meted out to conservatives only – as punishment for support of President Trump.
Trump’s rhetoric and the chaos that followed in the nation’s capital were like Christmas Part II for those who embrace censorship. It gave them the warrant to begin the systematic erasure of the president from Washington and the world. It was also the predicate used to begin widespread digital purges of anyone who has backed him and with whom he might be associated.
With the wind at their backs, Big Tech boldly uttered the Silicon Valley equivalent of an “I do” as its marriage of the damned to the mainstream media, the American left, Wall Street, and the Democratic Party was consummated for all the world to see. The experience of bearing witness to the breathtaking silencings in play this week as these all-powerful entities crawled deeper into bed together and began re-shaping America like a ball of wet clay was near voyeuristic – and profoundly chilling.
Stamping Out Ideas
The first jackboot to drop was Twitter’s permanent ban of Trump. It appeared a scorched earth demonstration of raw power that saw a CEO of a social media company silence the President of the United States of America – the most powerful man on earth. Even Mary Katharine Ham of CNN called this “creepy and authoritarian.” Throughout the world, leaders, such as former Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, condemned Twitter’s ban. Neither is a fan of Trump, but Merkel called the ban “problematic,” while Obrador likened it to the Spanish Inquisition. Leaders from France and Brazil also took exception.
The Trump ban remained, even as Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey agonized aloud about what he had countenanced. “It sets a precedent I feel is dangerous,” he hedged. This from the man who tweeted as follows in 2015:
“Twitter stands for freedom of expression. We stand for speaking truth to power. And we stand for empowering dialogue.”
A few short years later and it appears that Dorsey may have abandoned the values for which he claimed his company stood. When the ether of absolute control begins to addle the brain, the most obtuse and inadvertently hilarious inversions are possible. Mere days after permanently banning Trump – a move mirrored by Dorsey’s ideological doppelganger at Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg – the company waded into international politics with hypocrisy that bordered on the surreal. Twitter issued this statement:
“Ahead of the Ugandan election, we’re hearing reports that Internet service providers are being ordered to block social media and messaging apps … We strongly condemn internet shutdowns – they are hugely harmful, violate basic human rights and the principles of the #OpenInternet.”
For his part, Jack Dorsey’s faux existential musings about the dangers of censorship, while actuating the most sweeping and consequential examples of censorship of this American century, is perhaps just a kind of Twitter-based performance art. A recent undercover Project Veritas video featuring Dorsey reveals what the future holds for conservative voices:
“We are fixated on one account [President Trump] right now, but this is going to be much more immensely colossal than just one account, and it’s going to go on for much longer than just this day, this week, and the next few weeks, and go on beyond the inauguration.”
Apple has removed Twitter-like service Parler from its app store, while Amazon kicked the social media website off its server. Parler had seen its fortunes rise dramatically after the election when conservatives and those otherwise disenchanted or disenfranchised flocked to the new site. The pretext for this ban was the apparent violent rhetoric on Parler and its part in organizing travel to Washington on January 6 – but this is not quite accurate. As a social media site that dwarfed Parler in size and reach, Facebook figured much more prominently in hosting those heading to the nation’s capital.
The plan of the Twitter, Apple, and Facebook Axis appears two-fold: silence legitimate conservative voices like a Big Tech Mao and eliminate the free market threat Parler represented after it quickly became the most downloaded app in the country.
It is unclear whether Parler will be able to make a full relaunch. The frontpage is back up with a message from its CEO, but functionality is still missing. Initially, it looked as if they would have no trouble in finding a replacement server – but totalitarian marketplace pressures can be very persuasive. If Parler is, in fact, now a footnote, it is only the latest scalp the radicals can hold up as an example of their increasingly anti-democratic methods. After the widespread mainstream media collusion to shutter the Hunter Biden scandal in advance of November 3, Americans are becoming inured to the shock of censorship. It is now a part of the cultural landscape.
As Dorsey promised – the ideological purges, routine shaming, and de-platforming of conservatives are just beginning and will continue apace. Censorship is the cudgel with which absolute power will be asserted. Americans unwilling to bend the knee to the erasure of the First Amendment would do well to remember the admonition of a famous quote of disputed attribution:
“All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.”
Read more from Pennel Bird.