There’s this dark, sardonic part of me that’s laughing my ass off right now. Perhaps you feel the same if you’ve been reading about how, right on the heels of major social media companies chucking Alex Jones off their platforms, Facebook cut off factually uncontroversial and well-regarded Venezuelan news sites, Venezuela Analysis and TeleSUR.
Credit is due to the numerous commentators out there in independent medialand who boldly warned us that muffling an annoying, guilty pleasure, histrionic, performance artist like Jones was just a soften-up for an escalation of the ongoing attack on legitimate content. The ever-reliable Caitlin Johnstone penned a great post about it this week.
If you’ve been engaging with independent media over the past couple of years you know this shit has been building for a while. And, contrary to partisan outrage, dissenters across the political spectrum have been targeted. Click To Tweet As an example, on Youtube and Facebook, many folks who began publicly studying video evidence, doing research and using critical thinking to examine the Las Vegas shootings, the White Helmets, etc. had their video streams cut off or their accounts terminated. Didn’t matter if they were far left, far right or whatever else. All perspectives were affected.
There are many more examples which are easy to point to. Twitter has an unspoken policy of shadowbanning users they don’t like. This is known. Jack Dorsey at one point got forced into meeting with conservative political groups because they were getting sick of his company’s shit. For over a year, YouTube has been demonetizing shows with significant audiences that just so happen to contradict official narratives. Users routinely report being unsubscribed from their favorite channels without their knowledge. Facebook Live has been shutting down video broadcasts of racist police confrontations. This shit ain’t new. It’s just escalating.
They don’t like it when we act powerful
Congress, the intelligence agencies, the Pentagon (along with appendages like the Atlantic Council), the police and the tech plutocrats do not want all this citizen-driven media empowerment. While, superficially, they have different reasons and motives for collaborating on these censorship projects, their most basic drive is the same—power.
And, instead of being scared about it, I continue to hear these giggles inside my head. I’ve got to tell a little story to explain why:
Years ago, I found myself oddly intrigued by an after-school special about a kid who’s getting bullied at school. Every single day this one greedy bully shows up to take the kid’s lunch. The kid won’t tell his parents, so he starts missing a lot of lunches. But he gets so hungry, he starts losing it. One morning he refuses to give up his lunch and the bully, livid at his defiance, beats him up pretty bad. So, the kid drags himself home, licks his wounds, does some thinking and shows up at school the next day with a contract.
He finds the bully and apologizes to him for resisting. As a show of good faith, he presents the bully with a contract, which says that the bully demands the kid give him his lunch whenever he wants it or suffer a violent penalty. He gets the bully to sign the contract and they shake hands.
The next day when the bully comes for his lunch, the kid refuses. The bully can’t believe this shit. They signed a contract! Just before the bully smashes his face in, the kid explains that the bully’s theft of his lunch is illegal. That when the bully signed the contract he confessed to the crime. That the kid made numerous copies of the contract, and that if the bully demanded his lunch again, the contract would be presented to the school administration and the police. The bully would be expelled, arrested, whatever. In response the bully, dumbfounded, incredulous, confused and scared, stumbles off down the hall and the kid keeps his lunch.
Here’s the thing about power
Those who wield it become insatiable. They crave its cruel pleasures like junkies crave the needle. This addiction makes them unwise. Every attempt to add to their power, to squeeze people even harder, makes them vulnerable in some way they don’t anticipate.
In the 50s and early 60s, the CIA and Pentagon became so graspingly power-mad they tried to science their way into global preeminence over the Soviet Union, the developing world, and their own population. One of the ways they chased that power high was to conduct “mind control” experiments on their own operatives and the general public with a substance they didn’t understand, LSD. This left them vulnerable. When citizens started spiriting LSD out of the testing labs and into daily life, its consciousness-altering properties made it a key accelerant of a counterculture that turned the country’s norms upside down, reignited communal impulses, drove disrespect for authority, increased dissent and arguably helped fuel an anti-war movement that ruined not just U.S. imperial projects in Southeast Asia, but the army itself.
The same patterns are at work now with the Internet. The web was created in large part through the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) with the idea that a global digital communications network could be used to store and share information after a nuclear war. Yes, this is the insane, yet intelligent behavior of delusional power junkies. Who needs a digital network after incineration, radiation, starvation, and death?
Like LSD, they didn’t fully understand what they were developing. They let the Internet get privatized and the public got ahold of it. Now, with the additional advances in Internet speed, code writing, mobile technology, cameras and audio equipment, we can create and share our own high-quality media quite easily. We can bypass the agreed upon authorities about what this world is and what’s happening to it.
As the empire erodes, increasingly people don’t trust its functionaries.
The Internet has become a citizen escape valve. So the functionaries are scrambling around like mad trying to cram the digital genie back in the bottle. It’s too late. They can censor whatever platform they like. They can kill net neutrality. They can continue to surveil the shit out of us. But there is too much wiggle room in the system. Too many cracks. Too many people are up on this new media. Abby Martin, who broadcasts her investigative journalism show “The Empire Files” on teleSUR English and multiple other platforms, is an indy media star who racks up millions of views. Deplatforming teleSUR won’t stop people from seeking out her content.
Already, citizen push-back has scared Facebook into bringing Venezuela Analysis and teleSUR English back onto the platform. Meanwhile, new content platforms have sprouted like mushrooms: Medium, Steemit, D-Tube, Bitchute, Me/We, Minds, Substack. It’s fucking endless. The powers that be are playing whack-a-mole. And that’s a really hard game to win.
And so, I’m laughing. Yes, censorship is terrible. Yes, a police state is terrifying. Yes, it’s disheartening to see some fellow citizens cheer it on because they don’t like Alex Jones and they haven’t thought things through very carefully. But, the whole pageant is also darkly hilarious. Our cultural and political authorities are like Stacey Keach bumbling around after Cheech and Chong got him high by mistake. Something is happening here, but they don’t know what it is.
So, they can keep chasing after the genie. They can shake the ground with fe-fi-fo-fum. They can break the hourglass and grab at the granules. And we will spill out, rough sand that chafes their fingers and blows away in the wind. Click To Tweet
Whether you choose to assail the walled gardens of the tech oligarch surveillance state or light out for the territories of new media platforms doesn’t matter. Do both if you’re so inclined. What matters is that you do something. Just don’t be scared of the bullies. Take note of the pee stains in their lower abdominal area. It is they that are scared of you.
Don’t give up your lunch.
“When truth is replaced by silence, the silence is a lie.” ― Yevgeny Yevtushenko
Feature Photo credit: Photo credit: Eric Drooker
Latest posts by Stephen Boni (see all)
- Portents of Black-White Unity in the Struggle Against State Violence - March 15, 2019
- Collective Action Over Cancelling: Why We Must Look to One Another and Not Politicians - March 5, 2019
- Online Political Video: The Case for Independent Media Pt. 2 - February 20, 2019