The theme of today’s column is suppression – of antiwar voices, of news that doesn’t fit into preconceived narratives, and of our very ability to raise our voices in protest.
If you’re paying attention, you’ve probably already heard about the banning from Twitter of anti-interventionist author and former US diplomat Peter van Buren, a whistleblower whose book on the Iraq war exposed the lies at the heart of that devilish enterprise. When van Buren tweeted that his tenure at the State Department required him to lie to reporters, and that the paladins of the Fourth Estate were all too ready to passively record these lies as truth, the Twitter brouhaha took on seismic proportions. Several journalists were involved, attacking van Buren for showing them up, and one – Jonathan M. Katz, supposedly a New York Times writer – reported van Buren to the Twitter Authorities for allegedly threatening “violence.” Van Buren did no such thing: it was a mere pretext to get him banned. And ban him they did – for life. His account was scrubbed: years of informative tweets were erased.
There were two other casualties in this little Twitter war: our very own Scott Horton, who joined the fray and was suspended for using the “b-word,” and Daniel MacAdams, the director of the Ron Paul Institute, whose “crime” was retweeting Scott’s contribution to the discussion.
This occurred in tandem with the purge of Alex Jones from Facebook, YouTube, and Apple platforms – an obviously coordinated effort undertaken to make an example of the infamous performance artist masquerading as a conspiracy theorist.
All this wasn’t good enough for Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), who demanded to know if the plan was to only take down “one web site.” No doubt he has a whole list of sites he’d like to take down. Even more ominously, it was revealed that a direct threat had been made to these companies by Sen. Mark Warner (D-Virginia), who sent out a memo listing all the ways the government could crack down on Big Data if they refuse to go along with cleansing the internet of “divisive” material.
So much for the “libertarian” argument that these companies and the platforms they run are “private,” and not connected in any way to the governmental Leviathan. This is the kneejerk response of outlets like Reason magazine, but it’s simply not a valid position to take. The Communications Decency Act immunizes these companies against any torts that may arise from activities conducted on their platforms: they can’t be sued or prosecuted for defamation, libel, or indeed for any criminal activity that is generated by these Internet domains. That’s because they claim to be mere “carriers,” like the old phone company, and therefore they can’t be held responsible for conversations, postings, or other online materials that involve illegal or otherwise dubious actors.
On the other hand, content-providers like Fox News, CNN, and Antiwar.com are not so privileged: this site, for example, can be sued or held legally responsible by the authorities for any illegal activities supposedly generated on or by Antiwar.com.
This two-tiered system is responsible for the cartel-like conditions enjoyed by Facebook, Google, Twitter, and the rest of the Silicon Valley crowd. The vast wealth poured into this new technology by investors buoyed by historically low interest rates, plus the special government-granted advantages granted to them by their friends in Washington, has resulted in the enrichment of Big Data beyond the dreams of Croesus.
In short, Silicon Valley is a creature of the State.
In recognition of the government-granted privileges handed out to the Zuckerbergs of this world, the lords of the Internet have agreed to become the regime’s enforcers. That’s why poor Alex Jones is out in the cold, and others will soon follow.
So what’s the solution? Should we turn the Internet over to the government to be run as a public utility? That would only make the problem much worse: censorship by the government would then be direct, rather than masked as it is now.
The answer to this seeming conundrum is simply to abolish the special privileges enjoyed by the Silicon Valley crowd: make them legally liable for the consequences of their actions, just like everyone else. Abolish the Communications “Decency” Act and start all over with a free market bill: no special privileges for anyone, and a level playing field at last.
This would eliminate Big Data’s deal with the devil, and put them on the same level as their would-be competitors. The developing Big Data cartel would be smashed, and new companies would arise to challenge the hegemony of the Zuckerbergs.
Stop suppressing the competition, get the government out of it – and let the market decide.
Speaking of suppression: reports that Iranian President Rouhani has agreed to President’s Trump’s offer to meet “without preconditions” – see here and here – have received little to no attention in the mainstream media. The “alternative” media has been similarly lacking. Indeed, some ostensible “anti-interventionists” have been so busy correctly denouncing the decision by the administration to withdraw from the Iran deal that they have taken up the Iranian hardliners’ cry of “no deal with Trump”!
It is beyond crazy that some supporters of the Iran deal are now so embittered that they sound like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But that’s where we are.
Given the stakes – the possibility of a horrific war that would make the Iraq conflict look like a picnic – this is absolute lunacy, but hardly unexpected given the political atmosphere. On the one hand, the Republicans have never been supportive of any rapprochement with Iran, and on the other hand the Democrats and their far-left hangers-on don’t want to give any credit to the Trump campaign even if it means war. That leaves Trump – who has declared he’d meet with Rouhani with “no preconditions” – and the Iranian moderates pretty much isolated.
Which is just where the War Party wants them to be.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).
You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.