Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.
“Free Speech is Killing Us,” is the title of the latest New York Times op-ed arguing that speech is dangerous. Previous entries included, “When Speech is Violence” which made the same argument.
Free speech has surpassed global warming, the ladies’ room, the criminal justice system, plastic straws, the border patrol, saying, “you guys”, and vaping, as the greatest threat to the ‘right side of history’.
The great conspiracy theory of our time is that President Trump was illegitimately elected because some people, maybe Russians, were saying stuff on Facebook, as part of a conspiracy that eventually pulled in the Russians, the Ukrainians, a British former intel agent, a guy who tried to frame Dan Quayle as a drug addict, FBI agents having an illicit affair, Bernie Sanders’ top strategist, the brother of Hillary’s campaign chair, and a confused former FBI director named Bob who was supposed to bust the case wide open.
But it all began with the claim that President Trump only won because of “disinformation” and “fake news” on social media. The original problem was free speech.
At Harry Reid’s retirement, Hillary claimed that the “malicious threat of fake news and false propaganda” is an urgent danger. At her forum on democracy, she argued that people couldn’t be trusted to make up their minds about the political content that they see on social media.
“Facebook’s answer was, ‘well we’re going to let people decide for themselves,’” she insisted. “How can you decide for yourself when what is presented is blatantly false and manufactured?”
Probably the same way people decided that she hadn’t been named after Sir Edmund Hillary, hadn’t come under fire at an airport in Bosnia, and hadn’t negotiated peace in Northern Ireland.
The conclusion to Hillary’s sad career suggests that people actually know a lie when they hear one.
But, if people can’t be trusted to determine their political opinions, how can they be trusted to vote?
Obviously, they can’t.
After the 2016 election, the claim that free speech had gone too far and needed to be controlled became widely accepted, first in the media, and then among the big dot coms who coordinated a censorship campaign with media fact checkers. The stated goal was to stamp out ‘disinformation’. And ‘disinformation’ was defined as any viewpoint that media lefties disagreed with or found disagreeable.
Fact checkers were embedded into Facebook and Google’s operations. Conservative content was censored, deranked, and pushed under corporate media content. The ‘disinformation’ pretext, which was supposed to describe foreign propaganda, was extended to apply to nearly any conservative view.
Earlier this year, Pinterest, banned Live Action, a pro-life group, accusing it of “misinformation”.
This push to suppress conservative content on Google, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media companies is an attack on indexing. People find posts, articles, and videos through search engines, these days largely a Google monopoly, and peer feeds on social media. The indexing attack has been successful with conservative sites losing traffic, and conservatives being banned on social media
But indexing is just one prong of the attack. The others are advertising and payments.
If you’re a leftist, you don’t want people finding conservative content. Going after indexing means that the people who aren’t specifically looking for conservative content won’t find it. The idea is to turn conservative media into a ghetto. The impact on elections and national debates is obvious.
The next stage would be bringing down those sites entirely by ensuring that they can’t find hosting, and that no company will provide them with the services necessary to keep a site running. That’s in the works, but, unlike search, social, advertising and payments, there are a lot of companies and options.
So, for now, there’s been less action on that front.
Instead, the Poynter Institute, whose subset is the International Fact-Checking Network, has promoted efforts by the Global Disinformation Index to cut off advertising to conservative sites. The GDI report claimed that lots of ads are being run on sites condemned by Poynter and its fact checkers.
GDI, whose co-founder led the transition of a Soros group to independent status, never mentions conservatives, but its ‘disinformation’ screenshots feature conservative headlines such as, “Barack Obama is to blame for inflaming racial tensions as first black president”, and “Ted Cruz likens Bernie Sanders to another genocidal maniac bent on controlling the population”. Two of the disinformation examples feature Ted Cruz, and one is an attack on the Mueller investigation.
While GDI claims that these are examples of “misinformation” or “disinformation”, they are opinion pieces. Twitchy quotes a Ted Cruz tweet comparing Bernie Sanders to Thanos for agreeing that population control was part of the solution to global warming. No ‘fact check’ site seems to have fact checked this and how would you fact check a comparison of Bernie Sanders to a comic book villain?
There are no counterpart lefty headlines and articles accusing President Trump of being a Russian agent.
That’s not “disinformation”. That’s the media’s “information”.
What is clear is GDI’s agenda which calls for “going after the sources of disinformation funding”.
That means removing ads on Twitchy and other conservative sites. GDI claims to be “developing a ratings tool that gives ad tech firms a reliable and unbiased indicator of site risk, enabling them to direct money away from domains that have a higher risk of carrying disinformation.” That’s an elaborate way of saying that the organization is developing an extremely biased blacklist of conservative sites.
Meanwhile GDI will “help to direct more ad monies to low-risk, better quality news domains.” Examples of these include a variety of left-wing media sites. Poynter notes that, “Google served about 70% of the websites sampled. It also provided about 37%, or $86 million annually, of their revenue.” Get Google to pull the plug and a lot of conservative sites won’t be able to pay their bills. Meanwhile the ad money will move from financing conservative content to financing left-wing media content.
The leap from social media censorship to attacks on funding mechanisms for conservative sites makes it clear that this is not just about fighting ‘disinformation’ on social media, but eliminating the opposition.
The attacks on indexing and advertising are conducted under the guise of preventing people, innocent Wisconsin voters who might have otherwise voted for Hillary if it wasn’t for the Russian brainwashing, and companies unknowingly advertising their products to the filthy unwashed MAGA hordes instead of progressive sexually confused fair trade latte drinkers, but the attack on payments kills that pretext.
Even if a conservative site is suppressed on social media and banned from ad networks, its supporters could still donate to keep it going. The attack on payments sets out to make sure that won’t happen.
The Freedom Center briefly lost the ability to accept payments from the Visa/MasterCard duopoly as the result of a pressure campaign sourced from the Southern Poverty Law Center. Beyond going after digital payments, House Democrats have participated in a push to cut off the non-profit status of conservative organizations. Donor-advised funds have also been targeted in a bid to cut off conservative funding.
These are not varying approaches in response to different problems, but a common agenda.
The agenda is to turn back the clock to a corporate media monopoly and silence the political opposition. GDI’s report is fairly blatant in its endgame even as it is disingenuous about its political goals. The endgame in which big tech companies, indexers, payment processors and ad networks function as a cartel, denying access to conservatives, under the guidance of the media and its non-profit allies.
“It’s a whole-of-industry problem that needs a whole-of-industry solution,” GDI’s program director Craig Fagan said.
A whole-of-industry solution would be a political cartel by a collection of illegal dot com monopolies.
What’s the problem that needs solving? Fagan accused the technical director of Google Cloud of a “conflict of interest” while retweeting claims of his alleged links to the Drudge Report and Breitbart.
“Disinformation” or “misinformation” are euphemisms for content from the political opposition.
The campaign against them is really a program to eliminate the political opposition. That, not “disinformation”, is a real threat to democracy, and that, not the vicissitudes of net neutrality, embraced as an urgent crusade by many of the dot com censors, is the threat to freedom on the internet.
America and the internet were both born as experiments in free speech. But free speech is endangered.
The threat doesn’t just come from hysterical social justice children crying about their campus safe spaces. While conservatives have taken shots at easy targets, a growing alliance between the media, dot com monopolies, and lefty non-profits is contriving to transform the internet into one giant safe space.
Much like the Chinese internet, their vision is of a unipolar community where only one point of view is acceptable and all others are treated as a crime. But, unlike the People’s Republic, they don’t seek to keep the rest of the world out with a Great Firewall, but to force the opposition off the internet with a comprehensive program of political censorship, transforming social media itself into a social credit scheme, and cutting off traffic and funds to conservatives by redefining speech as “disinformation”.
“Free Speech is Killing Us,” the new lefty paradigm insists.
But it wasn’t speech that killed millions of people under Communism and Nazis. It was totalitarian socialist regimes determined to stamp out free speech. A system may start out by banning words, books, sites, tweets and newspapers, but it rarely ends there. Words are written and spoken by people.
Those who set out to ban speech are really out to criminalize the men and women who speak them.
The detached terms that the new censorship is hiding behind, like ‘fighting disinformation’, are Orwellian euphemisms. Speech isn’t a bodiless abstraction. Disinformation implies an objective source of information. Nobody fights disinformation, they silence some people and empower others. They create authorities over speech and use that authority to perpetuate their own power structures.
The power to define “disinformation” is also the authority to define what “information” is.
The campaign to ban conservatives from the internet isn’t just about banishing them, but eliminating any opposition to the power of the governments, corporations and non-profits doing the banning.