The rising tide of censorship

Michael Moore was interviewed on Rolling Stone’s Useful Idiots podcast about the campaign to suppress the film, “Planet of the Humans,” a critique of the environmental movement.

It actually was taken down from YouTube for a few days because of a bogus concern about copyright.  Moore is a successful celebrity and was in a position to fight back.  As he pointed out, a younger filmmaker, in the same position as Moore when he made “Roger and Me,” wouldn’t have been able to do so.

Taibbi pointed out on his web log that this is part of a growing pattern of censorship.

The significance of the Moore incident is that it shows that a long-developing pattern of deletions and removals is expanding. The early purges were mainly of small/fringe voices on either the far right or far left, or infamously fact-challenged personalities like Alex Jones.

The removal of a film by Moore – a heavily-credentialed figure long revered by the liberal mainstream – takes place amid a dramatic acceleration of such speech-suppression incidents, many connected to the coronavirus disaster.

A pair of California doctors were taken off YouTube for declaring stay-at-home measures unnecessary; right-wing British broadcaster and trumpeter of shape-shifting reptile theories David Icke was taken off YouTube; a video by Rockefeller University epidemiologist Knut Wittknowski was taken down, apparently for advocating a “herd immunity” approach to combating the virus.

These moves all came after the popular libertarian site Zero Hedge was banned from Twitter, ostensibly for suggesting a Chinese scientist in Wuhan was responsible for coronavirus.

In late April, the World Socialist Web Site – which has been one of the few consistent critics of Internet censorship and algorithmic manipulation – was removed by Reddit from the r/coronavirus subreddit on the grounds that it was not “reliable.” The site was also removed from the whitelist for r/politics, the primary driver of traffic from Reddit to the site.

Then in early May, at least 52 Palestinian activists and journalists were removed from Facebook for “not following community standards,” part of a years-long pattern of removals made in cooperation with the Israeli government.

On May 13, human rights activist Jennifer Zeng noted that YouTube was automatically deleting Chinese-language references to terms insulting to the Chinese government, like gongfei, or “communist bandit.” Congressional candidate Shahid Buttar complained an interview with Walker Bragman about Democrats supporting surveillance powers was removed by YouTube.

Evan Greer of the speech advocacy group Fight for the Future had a post flagged by Facebook’s “independent fact checkers”—in this case, that noted pillar of factuality, USA Today – dinging him for a “partly false” claim that the Senate had voted to allow warrantless searches of browsing history.

These and many other incidents came in addition to a slew of moves aimed at right-wing speakers accused of varying degrees of conspiratorial misinformation and/or hate speech, from a decision by Twitter to begin “fact-checks” of Donald Trump to wholesale removals from Facebook of “anti-immigrant” sites like VDare and the Unz Review.

One problem is the so-called “reputable” fact-checking authorities many platforms are relying upon have terrible factual histories themselves. There’s an implication that “misinformation” by foreign or independent actors is somehow more dangerous than broadly-disseminated official deceptions about U.S. misbehavior abroad, or manufactured scandals like Russiagate.

We now expect libertarian or socialist pages to be zapped at any minute, but none of the outlets which amplified the bogus Steele dossier have been put in Internet timeout.

Source: Reporting by Matt Taibbi

I follow Rod Dreher, a conservative Christian writer I respect, also fears censorship on “politically correct” grounds.  This interesting thing is that the institutions that demand conformity to supposedly revolutionary ideas on race and gender are also the institutions that seek to suppress those who oppose capitalism and U.S. war policy or otherwise “sow divisiveness.”

I foresee a convergence in which the power of the current economic and political elite is locked in, but the elite includes a proportionate number of black people, women, LBGTQ people and so on who share the benefits of an unequal and unjust system.

I had a foretaste of this when I worked for Gannett newspapers, whose management was strongly committed to diversity and equally committed to union-busting.

I think Gannett CEO Al Neuharth was sincere in thinking greater diversity of backgrounds would improve journalism.  I also think that he was aware that his commitment to diversity would give him cover for being anti-labor. [1]

Back in the 1950s and 1960s, liberals defined ourselves by our commitment to civil liberties for all.  We claimed the right to hear all sides of any question before making up our minds.

As Americans, we mocked the Communist countries for fearing to let their people listen to the Voice of America or Radio Free Europe.

We liberals defended the free speech rights of American Communists as a sign of confidence in our freedom and democracy.  We championed a “free marketplace of ideas,” giving everyone a fair chance to advocate for their ideas.

I still believe this.

All this seems to have gone away, or at least greatly diminished.  The very idea of objective truth is rejected.

Instead there is black truth, women’s truth and LBGTQX truth, over and against straight while male truth.  There is American truth, over and against Russian, Chinese and Iranian truth.

Your beliefs are expected to be a manifestation of your loyalties, not an inquiry into what is actual.

Admittedly, the “free marketplace of ideas” was not as free as I supposed at the time.  It is, however, a better concept than “information warfare,” which is what prevails today.


Planet of the Censoring Humans by Matt Taibbi.

McCarthyites of the Left by Rod Dreher for The American Conservative.  [Added 6/12/2020]

Why You Should Oppose Censorship of David Icke (Hint: It’s Got Nothing to Do With David Icke) by Caitlin Johnstone.

The Inevitable Coronavirus Censorship Crisis Is Here by Matt Taibbi.

[1] I made minor edits in the preceding paragraph and added this paragraph on 6/12/2020.

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One Response to “The rising tide of censorship”

  1. Fred (Au Natural) Says:

    Social media will do whatever causes them the least discomfort. So they will deny access to whatever happens to draw the most criticism. Honoring the heckler’s veto is a central part of their business plan.

    I really hate to call it censorship because the term only properly belongs to a government entity with the power of the state to enforce its edicts. But since most of the market is controlled by a giant (Facebook/Instagram/WhatsApp/etc.) that essentially has immunity to antitrust rules, I guess we could say they were a defacto part of the government.

    The idea of allowing corporations decide what is truth and what is false is repugnant to me. Yet it is their board we tack our messages up onto. We should not be surprised if they choose to pull off those they don’t like.

    Liked by 1 person

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