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Social media censorship, social control, and penalizing success

As we think about things like Facebook censorship of particular views, done deliberately because of the content of those views, we should think in terms of the large social effects of such censorship. During the past ten years, social ostracism of people who utter certain views, and the idea that those views are just unacceptable and taboo, has increased greatly. An example would be the view that homosexual acts are both unnatural and seriously immoral. Some even of my friends who agree with that view may feel uncomfortable with my saying it. Some may openly think that I am somehow unkind for saying it or that it is the kind of thing one shouldn't say in public where others can hear you (in the broader sense of "hear"). Indeed, it is a paradox of social media that the platforms positively invite and encourage people to build up a following so as to communicate a message effectively to as wide an audience as possible, then selectively penalize those who do this with views that they oppose, especially those that I consider importantly true.

The harm that this does to society cannot be measured in terms of the numbers of people who, for example, get put in Facebook "jail" or even who suffer more draconian injustices, such as the complete loss of access to their photographs and intellectual property in the form of their posts over many years, the communications platform they have built up, etc., by having their pages shut down. The mere threat of such measures, which we all know that Facebook can take and has taken in some cases, is enough to discourage the expression of the views in question. It is a truism of social control that making it taboo to say certain things is part of controlling thought, and in this respect Facebook is a big player, and threat of losing access to one's page is just one weapon in its arsenal.

At the same time, those of us who want to have an impact in the world by means of writing have to go where the people are, and places like Facebook and Youtube (and Twitter, though I have not yet agreed to use Twitter) constitute that kind of public square in the 21st century. Here I can post content, advertise books, post links to content, and have that message amplified by being shared by others. And to a huge extent in such matters it's a case of "the only thing that succeeds is success." MeWe is great but I predict will never achieve the kind of following that enables it to replace FB, and for that reason I treat MeWe as even more private than my FB private content and do almost nothing with it. I might as well, since I can see from the handwriting on the wall that it isn't going to fulfill the infrastructure role that I need to have fulfilled *right now* for the work that I believe God has given me to do right now.
So I stay on this semi-monopolistic platform because I need it, while recognizing the risks. Those who have argued with me over the years about the free market know that I'm a big advocate thereof, but recent events with various platforms (including Amazon) have shown me that we free marketers need to take concerns about monopoly seriously. And then there's the platform-publisher distinction and FB's attempt to have it both ways.

But here I'm talking more about moral than about legal issues. For a company to build up what is in its essence a communications infrastructure platform, to encourage people to use that platform and become dependent on it, and then occasionally to severely punish those who use it to disseminate importantly true views, is not a small injustice but a large one. And yes, the truth of the views matters. As with most such things, we can't get away from the content issue. And we have all seen the hypocrisy and inconsistency of such deplatforming, in which truly evil material (e.g., glorifying terrorists and the like) is left up while virtue-signaling censors put people in FB "jail" or block them out of their pages for saying that a man cannot turn into a woman. The targeted hatred of Christian and morally sane views, even if expressed in a calm, rational manner, is quite blatant.

Someone like me is skating on thin ice. I'm taking some risk of FB "punishment" and even of harm to those I love who are in a less protected position than I am (through loss of livelihood, "canceling," etc.), and this risk grows as I build up more of a following--which is exactly what I'm trying to do! Such bullying by a very poweful media entity may not happen to me. So far I've been lucky, as have many others. Many of us just happen to fly under the radar. But meanwhile I'm not going to pretend that it is no big deal and that Christians and conservatives are just whiners merely because the more significant silencing happens only to a few. Those few are being used as examples to silence others. That's how social control works and how it has always worked, and we should not be naive.

Comments (21)

For all we know, you might already be punished. No need for a ban if no one or very few people can see your "harmful" posts.


It's only paranoia if you have no reason to believe they're out to get you.

I sympathize with your plight in re: utilizing Faceborg. I have not yet been sentenced to a stint in FB Jail, but I have had restrictions slapped on my account, and I have been subjected to various form of the soft shadow-banning that limit the reach of one's posts, even to friends who routinely comment and react. Many of my friends have been repeatedly 'jailed' for varying lengths of time. I have several friends who completely decamped for alternative platforms more respectful of the value of free speech; unfortunately, those platforms are rather more limited in reach and user numbers, and it is obvious that the Usual Suspects routinely endeavor to troll and hack those platforms so as to doxx their users.

I am, as they say, not a fan of the libs, but it is ironic - bizarrely so - that conservatives and reactionaries are better defenders and exemplars of liberal values than those who claim the political moniker.

Also: the publisher/platform distinction functions as a motte and bailey for the techbros. Ideally, legislation would not only address the monopoly question, but compel them to function as pure platforms: the only speech that could be restricted would be that which violates the criminal law, eg., direct and imminent incitement to violence, child exploitation, etc. This would also have the salutary effect of establishing a certain social and psychological effect, telling the techbros and the armies of wokescolds that they are running businesses, not churches, and as such are not entitled to an ideological slant. If they don't like a certain view, they can look away, or actually make better arguments. And if they do not observe the law, they can... not have their platforms. They must be made to feel themselves subdued.

Right, I have actually thought of suggesting to some people in conversation that they go ahead and crow over my finally coming to understand better the concerns about monopolies. As a long-time advocate of the free market, I have always had an uneasy relationship with antitrust legislation. This I think is chiefly because the judgements involved are somewhat qualitative and don't have sharp cutoffs, and I prefer bright lines in the legislative arena. But congratulations to Facebook, Amazon, Youtube, and Google, and especially to the conspirators who killed Parler (which I was not on): You guys finally convinced this free marketer that there is such a thing as blatantly monopolistic behavior and that it is the enemy of the proper operation of the free market.

At this point I think I would rather deal with someone saying, "Oh, so *now* Lydia gets it about monopolies" than with someone saying, "What? What? This is all just small potatoes."

Well, I'm not interested in crowing over anyone's change of mind, given that the past 18 months have compelled me to re-evaluate numerous previously held positions or tendencies, and none of these issues is at all minor or inconsequential. The Big Tech monopoly problem is precisely one of the de facto privatization of governance, because a) the elites are fully networked in, through, and across all of the major institutions and sectors of society, employing any given institution for purposes which could not be realized through the others, and b) the use of Big Tech to silence dissent is manifestly an end-run around the First Amendment, utilizing - in a perversely genius legal strategy - the Constitution against itself in order to achieve political ends.

This privatization of governance, coupled with the networking of elites, is the death of any sort of free and republican society.

"the elites are fully networked in, through, and across all of the major institutions and sectors of society"

The first political book I read after the 2016 election was Lasch's The Revolt of the Elites, and that has colored my thinking on the thing ever since. (I read it again last summer, thinking that maybe I had overestimated its prescience. I had not.)

While I was neither a Trump nor a Biden supporter in 2020, the revelations that came out in Time this past February about how a large cross-party effort was created in order to unseat Trump, an effort largely hatched by various elites, made me very angry. Although I did not like DT and was not sad that he lost, the way in which he lost, as we now know, was if not demonstrably illegal, quite "tricksy." And of course had the shoe been on the other foot, we know that Biden voters would be screaming no end, and themselves using words like "collusion" and "conspiracy." In my opinion considerable damage was done to the Republic last year; steps were taken to ensure the defeat of an admittedly bad president, but it's not at all clear to me that those steps, which no doubt set a precedent, will not be much worse for the country in the long run than four more years of DT would have been.

Those anti-Trumpers who do not see a problem with this whole thing are either blind or delusional. A moment's thought about how they would feel if the situation were reversed should at least give them pause. But in many cases it seems to have no such effect. One wonders what will happen if and when such an effort is amassed against a candidate that they like. Will they simply grant that turnabout is fair play and move on with it? I highly doubt it. Creating a monster, even if the intent is for it to destroy another one, seldom goes as planned.

That the Tech Elites were part of this "project" is inarguable. That their influence extends far enough and high enough to help engineer a presidential election should be worrisome no matter which side of the aisle you're on, even if one were to ignore their huge cultural and economic influence. This is very bad juju all the way around.

The plot to "fortify" the election was orders of magnitude more organized and comprehensive than anything of which the GOP - of which I am hardly a fan - has ever even been *accused* of, let alone has executed. In combination with the decision of a large part of the political apparatus to allow BLM and Antifa free rein, it is obvious that the US was subjected to a color revolution of the sort the State Department and various affiliated oligarchs and NGOs have fomented abroad. 2020 was not a mere contested election, with a farcical denouement on Jan 6; it was a qualitative shift to a different form of regime: the elected offices are not the regime; rather, the permanent bureaucracies and the networked elites are the regime, and the elected offices are supposed to be, and in most cases merely are, the factotums and step-n-fetchits for the regime.

To put the point plainly, for the Russiagaters who spent five years lying, fabricating risible conspiracy theories that make Alex Jones seem sane, 2020 revealed the US to be everything Russiagaters claim Russia to be. It's an oligarchy with nukes.

The “privatization of government” is just the phrase for it, Jeff.

As a rhetorical strategy I sometimes call Socialism and Communism “Rule by the Rich.” The point is that they quite correctly recognize that the rich wield a great deal of power and often use it badly, but their solution to this problem is to simply give all the money to a small group of people called “the government”: in essence, to make new rich people and have them rule us.

It never occurred to me when making this point that America (and Canada) could become de facto socialist state simply by the rich getting so rich that they wield government-like power.

I don't think it's "de facto socialism." I think that what we have is a two-headed Leviathan in which, like something from anime, the two heads are merging into one monstrous head with two faces. As I heard someone at a conference say a number of years ago, we are moving towards what China is, but from the opposite direction. Zuboff's Age of Surveillance Capitalism should not be ignored here.

Oh, we’re certainly not there YET. But, given enough decades and perhaps another crisis or two, it is a distinct possibility. Zuboff just got added to my reading list.

Eric Metaxas's radio Youtube channel has just been banned, I hear.

Enter all the people on social media, including some conservatives,saying, "I don't like Metaxas anyway," "Metaxas is a nut," "Metaxas platformed this person who is a nut," etc. Which is not, not, not to the point.

I've grown rather tired of all of the performative, throat-clearing, virtue-signaling denunciations of this or that personality who has been deplatformed, engaged in before the speaker says something about freedom of speech or monopoly power. It's supercilious and patronizing, and concedes at least half of the argument to the censors, prigs, and authoritarians, who do what they do precisely because they don't actually have persuasive arguments against those whom they seek to silence. There is a crisis of legitimation, and they are trying to fill the chasm with force.

And this is the China model, but from a different direction, indeed: it is not the state bureaucracies which are the locus of power, but the networks of the elites who circulate between government, the corporate world, and the metastatic world of NGOs and foundations. It is precisely a re-privatization - that is a *de*-republicanization - of power, masking itself via the circulation between hollowed-out and distrusted institutions. Which is to say that it is becoming feudal in a deep, structural sense, but along only one axis: the elites have no reciprocal obligations to the proles. Proles have obligations to elites, mystified as obligations to the social totality, the community, and elites have entitlements to loot.

American institutions and legal forms were not designed for this type of de facto arrangement of power, this type of regime. That suggests not merely the possibility for the death of the de jure regime, but for civil disorder and conflict as the tensions between the forms and the realities increase.

You guys finally convinced this free marketer that there is such a thing as blatantly monopolistic behavior and that it is the enemy of the proper operation of the free market.

At this point I think I would rather deal with someone saying, "Oh, so *now* Lydia gets it about monopolies" than with someone saying, "What? What? This is all just small potatoes."

In one form or another, we're all in this boat. So humility and charity are the order of the day. Everyone on the center-right who has lived in the real world from 2017 to 2021 has experienced some very harsh truths. We have all seen things we were told "just don't happen in America." And they're not small things, they're things that rock the very foundation of our view of things.

Passing by. Delete the comment if you want. After 5 years, I saw this and felt moved to admit much foolishness on my part.

You guys finally convinced this free marketer that there is such a thing as blatantly monopolistic behavior and that it is the enemy of the proper operation of the free market.

At this point I think I would rather deal with someone saying, "Oh, so *now* Lydia gets it about monopolies" than with someone saying, "What? What? This is all just small potatoes."

In one form or another, we're all in this boat. So humility and charity are the order of the day. Everyone on the center-right who has lived in the real world from 2017 to 2021 has experienced some very harsh truths. We have all seen things we were told "just don't happen in America." And they're not small things, they're things that rock the very foundation of our view of things.

Passing by. Delete the comment if you want. After 5 years, I saw this and felt moved to admit much foolishness on my part.

I don't use any of the popular social media forms, so I have felt largely disconnected from the ins and outs of this mess you guys are pointing at. I know it has larger effects, rippling down outside of the forums of facebook, twitter, etc, (e.g. doxxing resulting in people losing their jobs). But that aside, I do obviously use email and frequent a few blog sites, and equally obviously those are at risk for content-policing as a twitter account, even if they are not YET under the gun.

While I shudder at how pervasive the electronic nannies can be in tracking what they don't want, I wonder whether they are quite the all-powerful beings they seem to think they are. Even a totalitarian Chinese government, which does a LOT to control access online, can't prevent their subjects from accessing non-approved content. Is the structure of the system such that it would literally take both a world dictatorship and a consortium with Satan to achieve the kind of "perfect" (i.e. perfectly perfidious) control they want. I don't imagine I have enough knowledge to speak to the potentialities.

Tony, Chinese subjects can always utilize VPNs to access more or less whatever they want, but they cannot effectively act upon whatever it is they learn that traduces state orthodoxy, owing the pervasiveness of the social credit system. The moment they say or do anything suggestive of heresy, their social credit score will be dinged, and they will be confronted with, umm, diminished life opportunities until such time as they perform the requisite penances. That is, of course, the type of system our elites want in the US - not merely for the control it would afford, but because they have a crisis of profitability, and a debt crisis, to resolve, and they propose the fill the financial voids by monetizing the uncountable petabytes of data that would be generated by such a surveillance system. This would afford them both control and predictive capacity, and the ability to financialize speculations on life outcomes, and to then employ the social engineering of the 'nudge' philosophy )Cass Sunstein, et. al.) to ensure a higher percentage return on the 'investment'. When they talk about "human capital", they now mean it in an almost literal sense.

We're supposed to be the collateral for the speculations based on our aggregated and manipulated data. Think about what that means.

Jeff, must I think about it? I started getting sick to my stomach just starting to think about it.

and the ability to financialize speculations on life outcomes

Just off the cuff, I imagined the gov-corp monopoly monetizing the predictive value of (a) knowing your genetic code, (b) without letting YOU know any of the implications of your genetic code, and (c) molding "incentives" to push you into pathways they like better knowing that genetic code. And taking that one step further, forming generations-long plans to create sub-populations with genes that are more easily moldable toward desired outcomes.

Tony, that is *precisely* what many of the technocrats ultimately envision. Some research universities of the first rank, and probably DARPA as well, are already researching implantable biosensors that will log and transmit real-time data about various physiological conditions. Add universal DNA sampling, no doubt carried out under some pretext or other, and we're off....

I believe that, with regard to certain things in life, only hard rules suffice: hard, clear, simple rules. 2020 taught two important lessons in that regard: there should be no gain of function research period, not only because no security regimen is capable of preventing releases indefinitely, but also because the people who conduct that research simply cannot be trusted, at all; and no quarter should be given to those advocating for any sort of biosecurity/biosurveillance regime - not one thing that was imposed in 2020 should ever happen again, because those people and professional cannot be trusted. If they are given a micron, not long down the line, we'll all be tracked and tagged like feedlot cattle.

About ten years ago a friend of mine wrote a piece in which he lamented the fact that we seemed to be moving towards a state which combined "total freedom and total surveillance." As the spheres relating to personal freedom are ever-expanded the policing of those spheres must grow as well: you can do "whatever you want," but to ensure consent and freedom from harm you will be watched.

I find it ironic that while liberals have long lamented the "government in the bedroom," it may turn out that eventually the bedroom will be the only place that the government won't be, at least temporarily. As sexual freedom expands, other freedoms, including the freedom to critique the regime of sexual liberty, shrink.

Oh, they'll have government in the bedroom too, no doubt about it. As the "consensual sex" standard expands its reach, proving consent will be key, and will (at least sometimes) hang on digital info picked up in the bedroom. What with Alexa and Google Assistant being always on and listening in, and people not thinking to turn these off, they will grab info that is either damning or exculpatory, and that will find its way into courtrooms, then who knows where.

And since sex can happen practically anywhere, these days, "the bedroom" is just a metaphor for, pretty much, almost anywhere.

They want a Chinese-style social credit system, and it will apply to *everything*, including sex, and including who you associate with, and who they associate with. If they can force the, uh, passports for the stabbies, that's the foundation, and the beginning of the Endgame. No joke.

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