Just last week I read a story by John Hawkins, How Conservatives Are Being Destroyed by Facebook, Twitter and Google Without Even Realizing It, where the author announced that he'd been forced to shut down his Right Wing News website and explained that in today's social media environment, a conservative's chances to get a political website off the ground are infinitesimal.
Then I read a story on The Daily Caller about Google having an actual secret speech police that blocks, demonetizes, and otherwise censors conservative content.
Then I received a screenshot from one of my readers, who is a U.S. Army officer, showing that my People's Cube has been blocked by the DoD Enterprise-Level Protection System - not because of our silly anti-Left humor, but because of "hate and racism" - a blatantly false label, probably transferred from one of the blacklists shared by social media and the government (or at least the Deep State part of it). I've recently written about it in FrontPage Mag.
And just this morning, I received dozens of messages from my readers that Facebook wasn't allowing them to post or share any People's Cube links.
Different people, posting different links throughout the day, received this standard response: "We removed this post because it looks like spam and doesn't follow our Community Standards." The user has an option to contest this assumption. Not everyone has the time or patience for it, but a few readers persisted and sent me the screenshots.
At some point in the past Facebook had also started to limit the number of shares on our posts, explaining it by a new proportional algorithm. As a result, our traffic had dropped significantly. Many people have told me that, even though they "follow" our Facebook page, they never receive updates (but some still do). And now this.
One could say, "Forget FacebookGoogleTwitter, we shouldn't have to rely on them anyway." In an ideal world, maybe. But in this world, it's the same as saying "We don't need Amtrak to take a train to another city" when we know that Amtrak has replaced all other intercity train operators.
Back in 2005, when I started the People's Cube, there existed a wide variety of online communities and forums where people shared links and gave us traffic, and we responded in kind. Now that variety has been almost entirely replaced by FacebookGoogleTwitter.
Why we must stop them
Visualize a field with blooming wild flowers; it seems to be endless. This is a national preserve, which means it's public property and everyone is allowed to go there for a walk, pick flowers, or house a beehive and make honey. There is a great diversity of native plants of all colors, with bees and other small creatures flying from flower to flower, feeding on the nectar and transporting the pollen.
Now imagine that a young scientist makes an accidental discovery and creates a genetically modified blue flower that is stronger, healthier, and yields more nectar, allowing bees to make tastier honey. The seeds get thrown into the field and since the new plant has superior qualities, it soon outcompetes and replaces all other plants. Slowly but surely, the previous natural diversity is supplanted with a genetically modified monoculture. Some people sound an alarm, but they are told not to worry because it's all for the common good. The bees are still thriving and the field is still blooming, except that now it's all blue.
A few years go by. Suddenly people begin to notice that the blue flowers prefer some bees over others. They investigate and discover that the young scientist, who now runs a big company, has colluded with a honey-making conglomerate (identified by the letter "D") and added another genetic modification to his blue flowers so they would only feed the D-bees and repel the competitors' bees. The field is now surrounded with sleek billboards that promote the D-conglomerate as the only worthy maker of honey, and disparage the competition as the makers of poison. Independent beekeepers suffer losses and many go out of business.
People realize they've been duped. They miss the variety of choices that came with competition and freedom. They'd like to bring the original scents and colors back, but the blue monoculture won't allow anything else to grow in its midst. Uprooting the entire new species would destroy the field and disrupt the wildlife that now lives in a symbiotic relationship with the blue flowers. And most of the previously thriving plants are extinct anyway, with the rest having mutated to survive on the preserves' edges.
People petition the scientist-turned-businessman to stop colluding with the D-conglomerate and to re-engineer the blue flower so it can coexist with other plants and bees. He responds through his lawyers that his private company has a right to make its own rules, he can associate with whomever he wants, and everyone is absolutely free not to use his services.
He is correct on all counts, except that he doesn't own the field. He has every right to compete and win, but not the right to use underhanded trickery in order to limit people's equal access and choices.
If a contractor moved into a village and built superior houses for every family, people would be very grateful. But if they were to find out that at some point he started injecting chemicals into the walls so as to modify people's behavior to his liking, that contractor would've been tarred and feathered. The FacebookGoogleTwitter situation is similar, minus the pitchforks and torches.
The idea that "we don't need FacebookGoogleTwitter to drive traffic" is silly because FacebookGoogleTwitter has already replaced most pre-existing sources of Internet traffic, just like the blue monoculture has replaced all other flowers, and the new tainted housing has replaced the old one. There's very little left on the Internet that is not in some way connected to these media giants. Unless something even more superior comes along very soon, which seems unlikely, we are stuck with FacebookGoogleTwitter.
Forcing them to change their manipulative ways may be difficult, but not impossible. We just need to make them an offer they can't refuse. I'm not a fan of regulating businesses, but if something was bent by force, it requires force to unbend it, so please hear me out.
How we can fight and win
We use the internet to obtain and share information. But what is information? Is it a tool, a commodity, a weapon, a toy, a luxury item, or a basic necessity? It is all of the above and more.
Essential human needs result in the existence of products of dual nature and value. For example, a house can be a commercial product bought and sold on the market, but its other value is that of a family dwelling where children grow up and create their first impressions about the world - a home that becomes an inseparable part of their lives. That's why "primary residence" has a different status from other houses you may own; the latter are valued only as financial assets. This also explains why taking away a family house or kicking out a tenant for nonpayment is legally more complicated than repossessing a car, a boat, or any other nonessential commercial product.
A similar duality exists in healthcare, which can be a commercial service provided to a customer at market prices, but it can also be a matter of life and death, essential to our wellbeing and quality of life. This is why healthcare is regulated more than any other commercial service and often must be provided regardless of the patient's ability to pay for it in the emergency room.
Other examples of such duality include food, pharmaceuticals, and education - all having simultaneously a commercial and an existential value. But we somehow rarely think the same way about information, and that is to our detriment.
Throughout history, the human mind has been our main tool of survival. To live, we depend on accurate information about our surroundings. This makes the objective truth a basic human need. Truthful information is as essential to our existence as food, shelter, and clothing. In societies where information is distorted and suppressed by totalitarian governments, people usually die in large numbers.
But information can also be a commercial product, bought and sold at market prices by specialized organizations that have amassed great fortunes in doing so. Good for them. However, as the historian Robert Conquest pointed out, "Any organization not explicitly right-wing sooner or later becomes left-wing." And the Left by default is prone to manipulate information in a way that suits its agenda at the expense of the general population.
Leftists in the government are obsessed with regulating all products and services, essential or not. They'd like to regulate information as well - see the Fairness Doctrine and Net Neutrality. Conservatives have always instinctively opposed that trend, guided by the principle, "Whatever the Left does, we must do the opposite." This kneejerk impulse to take the "diametrically opposite position" has often allowed the Left to toy with conservatives and lure them into absurd situations where they fought phantom causes. In part, due to such "diametrical" thinking, the anti-regulation conservatives withdrew themselves from the regulatory process, effectively giving the Left free reign in shaping government regulations.
Enter Donald J. Trump. Right off the bat he introduces what I call "perpendicular thinking," meaning that instead of jumping to the opposite, he goes vaguely perpendicular. This disorients the Left (as well as some anti-Trump "diametrical" conservatives), forcing them to take unpopular and ridiculous positions on the opposite side of his choosing. And while Trump is beating the Left at their own game, keeping them confused and unable to deal with their new role of the "diametrical opposition," we should move in and do some "perpendicular" regulation.
Let's agree for the sake of argument that information, having the dual commercial and existential value, must be regulated the same way we regulate other dual-value products like food, housing, or healthcare.
Emergency rooms are required to accept all patients regardless of their income. Housing regulations require landlords, realtors, and mortgage bankers to serve all customers equally, even if it goes against their subjective judgment. Food companies are required to label their products with precise quantities and daily values of ingredients.
At the same time, the product called "information" is regulated in the exactly opposite fashion. It is being filtered, altered, rejected, or exaggerated according to arbitrary and subjective markers and biases, creating a distorted and fraudulent picture of reality. If a food manufacturer tried to label his products the same way, he would be sued out of existence. Imagine buying fruit juice labeled with 0% sugar instead of the actual 100% and 100% of vitamin C instead of the actual 0%.
This clearly falls into the jurisdiction of the newly reformed Bureau of Consumer Protection, whose stated goal is to stop unfair, deceptive and fraudulent business practices by:
- collecting complaints and conducting investigations
- suing companies and people that break the law
- developing rules to maintain a fair marketplace
- educating consumers and businesses about their rights and responsibilities.
Some have proposed to regulate the Internet through the FCC, but that is fraught with equating the web with a public utility, which is subject to government rationing of free speech - a pitfall avoided by the recent repeal of Net Neutrality.
In contrast, the Bureau of Consumer Protection would treat the Internet as a marketplace for commercial products, one of which is information. Instead of regulating free speech, it would protect consumers against fraud.
On June 19, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court rendered unconstitutional any restriction of speech based on the so-called "hate speech" allegations, unanimously reaffirming that there is no "hate speech" exception to the First Amendment. Justice Anthony Kennedy explains this decision as follows:
A law that can be directed against speech found offensive to some portion of the public can be turned against minority and dissenting views to the detriment of all. The First Amendment does not entrust that power to the government's benevolence. Instead, our reliance must be on the substantial safeguards of free and open discussion in a democratic society.
And yet, the unconstitutional and deceptively named "hate speech" gimmick is being excessively used to suppress conservative and libertarian speech by social media moderators and by algorithms embedded in FacebookGoogleTwitter code. The same gimmick is also being widely used today by speech police in many organizations, including educational and government entities, in clear violation of the U.S. Constitution.
Media giants may beg to differ and remind us of their status as private companies that can make their own internal rules. But if their main product is information, which has an existential value to our society, they can no more hide behind their private status than the landlords or mortgage bankers can.
That means that FacebookGoogleTwitter and other media giants can be forced by law to discard their manipulative "hate speech" and other ideological filters and to allow a free flow of information lest they be sued by the Bureau of Consumer Protection for violating consumer rights. Wikipedia can be sued for its grotesquely biased suppression and misrepresentation of political reality, which creates a very skewed image of the world. For added entertainment value, CNN with its "Facts First" brand campaign can probably also be sued for false advertisement.
Unhinged hateful rhetoric coming from the Left never gets to be branded "hate speech," nor is it ever blocked on social media. This alone makes the "hate speech" label meaningless and exposes the one-sided ideological agenda behind it. Of course, no logical argument will ever convince the leftist agenda-driven "hate speech police" to give up their dominance over the national debate voluntarily. Instead, this unethical practice must be outlawed legislatively, as an unconstitutional impediment to free exchange of information.
If we outlaw the corrupt system of "hate speech" policing, it will do a lot more than just free up the Internet and the rest of the media. It will pull the rug from under various demagogues who profit from the harassment of conservatives. It will clear many honest people of libelous allegations. It will demolish the sordid cottage industry of "hate speech watchers," like the Southern Poverty Law Center, whose fundraising is directly proportional to how many honorable people they can defame as "haters" and who compile dubious blacklists, which are then used as guidance by FacebookGoogleTwitter and the mainstream media to silence or disparage conservative figures.
Social media should certainly continue to block real spam and clickbait sites with fake news (they do exist). The trick is that online reprobates aren't likely to file a complaint and seek government protection from being blocked - unlike legitimate content providers who can and should request an investigation if they are being suppressed. Terrorist messaging can be dealt with by working with law enforcement professionals, not with SPLC and similar amateurs who have a shady agenda.
Before conservatives are erased from the Internet, legal minds in the conservative movement had better select an appropriate case of content suppression and stage an exemplary class action lawsuit that would create a seminal precedent for all future cases. If no legal ground for such a lawsuit exists, we must work with our legislators to create it.
The Left has been using such legal tactics and winning the culture wars ever since the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial - an orchestrated court drama which was later mythologized by Hollywood in Inherit The Wind.
Conservatives who are philosophically opposed to regulation may not like this method, but realistically and objectively, this seems to be the least worst solution to get out of the memory hole designated for us by the leftist media giants.
People on our side should stop pretending that we are not in the middle of an all-out war waged by the Left against conservative media. We won't survive if we continue to react to leftist attacks by lying down and taking positions whose only value is in being diametrically opposite to those of the attackers. It's time we went perpendicular.
Oleg Atbashian is a former Soviet dissident and the creator of the brilliant satirical site, The People's Cube.