The system wants you to create subcultures, not change the culture. That is why the coming era of “Digital Platform Censorship” with its related shadowbans, de-listings, and other new tech-savvy ways of becoming an un-person will be so dangerous, to our, ahem dangerous thoughts. I’d call it Orwellian, but that’s a phrase that conjures up 20th-century images of Stalinism and direct government reprisal. What we are seeing is far different, and perhaps more thorough and pernicious in its ability to mold narratives and shape thoughts.
Information is constantly bombarding us. Left, right, center, top, down, it never stops flowing. The ability to curate information has now become as powerful, if not more powerful than absolute control. After all, would it be more beneficial to have your opponents, ideological or otherwise, depicted as an embattled minority fighting for their right to free expression, or a weird fringe group that talks only to itself?
Google is the gateway for most of the “millennial” generation and younger to any thought, let alone dissident thought. Imagine if you will, being de-listed from most of the major search engines on the web. How would anyone but the already converted find out about your ideas? In fact, we here at Radix have already seen a very soft version of this with our own podcast being de-listed from searches by Apple(though the podcast is still available).
The idea of “shadow-banning” on Twitter is another pernicious effect of this censorship 2.0. Breitbart ran a story just recently about how Twitter maintains lists of favored accounts:
According to the source, Twitter maintains a ‘whitelist’ of favoured Twitter accounts and a ‘blacklist’ of unfavoured accounts. Accounts on the whitelist are prioritised in search results, even if they’re not the most popular among users. Meanwhile, accounts on the blacklist have their posts hidden from both search results and other users’ timelines.
This is made all the more ominous with the announcement of the creation of Twitter’s new “Trust and Safety Council” which features such luminaries and distinguished groups as Anita Sarkeesian and the Anti-Defamation League. Twitter functions as a digital agora or forum. But if you’re only talking to yourself or the already converted, the network effect and the ability to inject new narratives is taken away.
Of course, it’s not just in the realm of “radical” right-wing thought where this sort of information curation is taking place. Just recently in a controversy over bullfighting, Facebook declared the centuries-old sport “inappropriate”, which led to some outraged commentary by some of the largest Spaniard media outlets.
The point is, it’s not the information that’s being curated, it’s you. What you see on the internet and throughout social media is being filtered, and it is not always through your own designs. Thinking about this new relation to pictures, symbols, and memes through technology is important for the big picture of where we are heading as a civilization(Heidegger’s work deserves careful study here).
But, for those of us with ideas our vast Liberal hegemony wants to de-privilege, thinking through censorship 2.0 has become a necessity. Through the cracks may be showing, there is no more dangerous, or unpredictable opponent than one who is on the ropes. Liberalism seems to be moving in that direction.
Its commitment to free speech was merely a mask for its own will to power.
In many ways, the libertarians were right about market efficiency. Only they probably never thought about private entities being more efficient at censorship than any government could be. Moreover, market forces are shaped by the strongest cultural stalking horses of their times.
“SJWs” and others have never been more successful than when they have worked with corporations. Our culture-jamming only works when we are able to interject ourselves into the broader societal narratives. Restricting us from those puts us back at square one.
What is to be done?
Creating our own platforms is usually the first suggestion. While this would undoubtedly help with privacy, and our ability to say what we want, it would not help us reach beyond our current audience. Part of the reason for the expansion of ‘Alt-Right’ ideas in the past year or so has been its ability to memetically infect and spread across information channels in a rapid way. This would be impossible if our online activity starts to be restricted to just our own.
Moreover, it serves the system to see us splintered into a weird subculture that only talks to ourselves. Just look at how they want to “exploit divisions” now. It’s not a stretch to say that as a pond shrinks, the fight for control over it becomes that much more desperate. We shouldn’t play into our enemies games.
The ultimate solution has probably not presented itself yet. Maybe something akin to Richard Spencer’s idea of the internet as a public good is it. But what is important for us now is to be aware of how we are being corralled by the digital/media/information complex that surrounds us.
We’ve made far too impressive of gains in the last year to give it all up for a ghetto!