Earlier this month Ben Swann, an important voice for whom I have nothing but respect, expressed a sentiment in one of his excellent Reality Check videos that I’m seeing more and more in anti-establishment circles, and I happen to strongly disagree with it.
In a presentation titled “Internet Purge of Dissenting Voices?” on the recent increase in censorship of anti-establishment voices by large social media corporations, Swann said the following:
“The problem for any dissenting voice is that if you are using your voice on someone else’s property, i.e., YouTube or Facebook, you will never have control of it. Which is why the next frontier must be decentralized platforms. Platforms like Dtube and Steemit, built on blockchain, will be future of how content, the good the bad and ugly, will be stored. And the efforts to silence dissenting voices, will actually be the undoing of YouTube and Facebook.”
I disagree not with Swann’s endorsement of decentralized platforms like Dtube and Steemit (which are both excellent and essential weapons in our revolution against the establishment oppression machine), but with Swann’s assertion that the social media giants’ censorship of dissenting voices will be their undoing. It will not.
“2017 was a strong year for Facebook, but it was also a hard one,” said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg last month. “In 2018, we’re focused on making sure Facebook isn’t just fun to use, but also good for people’s well-being and for society. We’re doing this by encouraging meaningful connections between people rather than passive consumption of content. Already last quarter, we made changes to show fewer viral videos to make sure people’s time is well spent. In total, we made changes that reduced time spent on Facebook by roughly 50 million hours every day.”
(1) Does this sound like normal corporate talk to you? A corporation deliberately decreasing its advertising revenue for the benefit of “people’s well-being and society”?
(2) Does anyone honestly believe that Mark Zuckerberg has ever once in his life cared about “people’s well-being and society?”
Fast Company reports that time spent on Facebook is down a whopping 24 percent in a tone that seems to be warning that the company is in trouble, but Zuckerberg is actually publicly boasting about the loss and how beneficial it is for mankind. Not only has he drastically slashed his viewership, surely at great expense, but he’s also massively increased his overhead, hiring an extra 14,000 people to help fight “fake news”, which is expected to have risen to 20,000 by year’s end.
What kind of corporation does that? What kind of multibillion dollar corporation slashes its own profits that drastically without being legally compelled to, and does it for the good of “people’s well-being and society”?
These questions make it clear that we are looking at two possibilities here:
(1) That a Silicon Valley tech plutocrat, who censors the speech of political dissidents and hoards tens of billions of dollars while the poor starve, honestly cares about “encouraging meaningful connections” and being “good for people’s well-being and society” so much that he would slash his own profits to make that happen.
(2) This isn’t about helping people, and it isn’t about money. This is about marginalizing dissident voices as part of Silicon Valley’s extensive and well-documented alliance with the national security state.
Millionaires think in terms of money and profit. Billionaires think in terms of power and dominance. Zuckerberg isn’t filtering non-mainstream media off of Facebook for the good of society, and he isn’t doing it for money either. He’s doing it because he is an oligarch in the borderless new empire, and it is in the empire’s interest that dissident voices be silenced.
Silicon Valley is so intertwined with the agendas of intelligence and defense agencies that it’s gone beyond being used for surveillance and propaganda, and we now see things like Google straight up building AI for the Pentagon’s drone program. In an environment wherein money translates directly into political power, it’s impossible to grow beyond a certain size without learning to collaborate with existing power structures. Defense and intelligence agencies are the biggest enforcers of existing power structures in the new empire, and they will either empower you or your competition based on how willing you are to collaborate with them.
My point with all this is that the few clear-eyed rebels are not going to kill Facebook, Youtube and Twitter by marginalizing themselves into the fragmented fringe of alternative social media outlets like Steemit, Dtube, Gab, Minds, MeWe, etc. That’s exactly what these bastards want. They want us far away from their mainstream livestock. They want us to exit into some fringe circle that they will then invent a name for and smear as the place where all the kooks go. All of a sudden you’ll see all the mass media outlets simultaneously start using that label (“fringe conspiracy sites”, “fringe media”, who knows) in a derogatory and dismissive way, and from then on their herd will be immunized from our influence.
We should absolutely be expanding into new social media platforms (MeWe is an especially pleasant and collaborative site right now due to the current absence of pro-establishment disruptors), but we need to be engaging the mainstream as well, because they will not follow us. If Facebook can absorb a 24 percent dip that it caused by its own actions, then it can absorb the far smaller group of anti-establishment activists who would exit it as well.
I know it’s intensely creepy that these Silicon Valley corporations are being used to gather information on us. I know it’s incredibly frustrating to watch them strangle our numbers further and further into marginalization. But the reason they are fighting so hard to wedge us out of their mainstream platforms is because they want us out. Saying “Okay, well if you don’t want us here, we’ll leave!” is not a punishment, it’s a reward.
— Caitlin Johnstone (@caitoz) March 7, 2018
We need alternative social media platforms to enable us to talk to one another, but we need mainstream social media platforms to enable us to convey information to the mainstream as well. The empire is happy to have all of its dissidents marginalized into a small fringe group that it can then paint over with smear campaigns; what jams the gears of the propaganda machine is counter-narratives being shown to mainstream westerners.
Contrary to what the ideology of libertarians like Ben Swann would lead you to conclude, this isn’t a problem that the free market can sort out, because this is not a free market. The scales are being heavily weighted toward the social media outlets which collaborate most extensively with the interests of the empire, and that is where the mainstream population is going to remain for the foreseeable future. We cannot shut them down by exiting and taking some small amount of ad revenue away from them, but we can frustrate them so much that they are forced to expose their ham-fisted totalitarianism more and more.
By taking the revolution deep into the guts of Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, we can force them to either allow us to speak or become more and more totalitarian with their censorship, until they are forced to reveal to mainstream America just what kind of beasts they really are. Either way, we’d be making it harder for them instead of doing their job for them by marginalizing ourselves.
The mainstream will not follow us if we exit mainstream platforms into tiny websites most people don’t even know exist. The average American isn’t going to say “Hmm, I’ve noticed there’s a disappointing lack of anti-imperialist ideas in my news feed, maybe I should go check out that Twitter imitation with the frog logo?” They’re going to stay right where the propagandists want them. So since we can’t pull them out, we’ve got to go in after them.
Noam Chomsky said that the smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum, and that’s exactly what the propagandists are engineering with their censorship practices on Facebook, Twitter, and Google/Youtube. The only thing on the menu in cable news is an extremely heated ongoing debate ranging from the corporatist Orwellian warmongering neoliberalism of MSNBC to the corporatist Orwellian warmongering neoliberalism of Fox News, and they want that debate to be happening on mainstream online discourse as well.
As long as we refuse to leave mainstream social media circles, it’s like they’ve got Rachel Maddow and Sean Hannity telling everyone what to think, and a bunch of fiery-eyed rebels keep storming the studio and kicking over their desks.
Stay where they don’t want us to the extent that you are capable, please. If you’ve left, go back in. Go back in and shine as bright as you can, attracting as many followers as possible and telling as much truth as you can get away with. Don’t leave until they drag you out kicking and screaming.
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