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November 22, 2017

Muzzled: First They Came for Dissenters


I could not believe my eyes and my ears! Earlier this morning, I decided to watch a video of Facebook, Google and Twitter executives testifying before the Senate Judiciary Hearings about Russia’s so called meddling in the US elections last year. I knew this whole thing was nothing but a dog and pony show from the outset; any hearing that focuses on a $100,000 ad buy as a mortal threat to our Democracy while disregarding the billions in dark money that is spent by corporations and non-citizens alike is a farce meant to distract more than it is meant to edify the public.

However, I was drawn to this hearing for one reason and one reason only. Twitter admitted that they actively engage in corporate censorship. In a written testimony, Twitter’s general counsel Sean Edgett submitted that Twitter hid 48 percent of tweets using the #DNCLeak hashtag and 25 percent of tweets using #PodestaEmails. In a particularly breathtaking admission of Twitter silencing free speech, Edgett noted:

Before the election, we also detected and took action on activity relating to hashtags that have since been reported as manifestations of efforts to interfere with the 2016 election. For example, our automated spam detection systems helped mitigate the impact of automated Tweets promoting the #PodestaEmails hashtag, which originated with Wikileaks’ publication of thousands of emails from the Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s Gmail account.

Allow me to translate this legalistic prattle. What Edgett conceded is that Twitter uses automated flags and algorithms to prevent various narratives from reaching the broader public. This is 1984 in ways that Orwell could not imagine. Social media sites are the 21st century public square where information is debated and exchanged by society in order to drive our political process. Facebook, Google and Twitter are a lot more than corporations seeking to maximize profits, they are drivers and engineers of public conversations. Instead of being fair arbiters, Twitter and their cohorts are engaging in stealth censorship where they get to decide what is fit to be reported and what should be repressed as fake news.

This is paternalism and big brotherism that is astounding. Social media sites are putting a shredder to the first amendment and our rights to free speech by placing themselves in a position to determine how and what information is shared. While Congress and the bankrupt corporate media focuses on paltry $100,000 ad buy, they look the other way as Twitter openly acknowledged tilting elections—and by extension public policies—in their favor. Who ultimately got elected last year is inconsequential given that both parties are beholden to moneyed interests, what matters is that corporations the size of Google, Facebook and Twitter regularly partake in squashing or elevating various narratives as they desire. Social media corporations are engaging in social engineering in ways that Joseph Stalin would be envious of.

Initially, the outcry of corporate censorship came mostly from independent journalists and unaffiliated reporters who realized that their voices and their reach were actively being limited. Using a combination of mendacious memes like #FakeNews, demonetization and outright deletions of videos and articles, independent voices are marginalized and sidelined by the heavy hands of government and corporations. I used to ignore these outcries as rantings of conspiracy theorists until I too decided to become an independent journalists and realized shortly thereafter how voices who diverge from official (corporate) narratives are muzzled.

The issue of corporate censorship is something that should alarm everyone not just independent journalists. Six companies (read six people) already own and control more than 90% of the information that we consume and exchange in the public sphere. They are now coming after the 10% that is not under their control. When a few corporations are able to have total monopoly of information and how it’s both broadcast and consumed, you can wave goodbye to freedom and say hello to tyranny by corporate proxy. Our government is already beholden to corporatism; this is why almost every merger is approved. Rest assured the AT&T and Time Warner merger will be approved as well. These things have real life consequences; while our cost of living keeps skyrocketing, corporations get preferential treatment and pay less in taxes than a working mother at McDonald’s.It’s not bad enough that the rich enjoy a life of opulence while more and more are getting shafted into a life of indentured servitude. Now the aristocracy and their puppets they deploy in government and corporations are coming after our rights and free speech. Two people who I used to  followed on Twitter come to mind. @AngryBerner used satire to speak against the mendacity of the DNC and @PoliticsPeach spoke eloquently about the duplicity of neoliberalism—both got booted off Twitter recently. @AngryBerner was accused of faking an identity even though his profile was CLEARLY a parody of Peter Daou and Twitter allows parody accounts. @PoliticsPeach was accused of being a Russian troll, she is an African-American writer who lives in Atlanta! This is just the tip of the tip of the iceberg; for every two who are censored we know of, there are thousands more who meet the same fate and get lost in the shuffle of corporate media sensationalism and outrage.

I’ve seen some of the most hateful and despicable messages on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube that never get deleted but let someone speak against the corrosive nature of our government, the pernicious ways of corporatism or speak about inclusive justice and these people are targeted for silencing using Orwellian references to “community standards”. This is the brilliance of these corporations, they use euphemisms and outsource censorship to crowd policing to wash their hands of responsibility. Perhaps people should read the poem by Martin Niemöller about the Nazi Germany to get an idea of where this is headed.

For a lot of reasons, the issue of free speech and the right of people to speak their minds is one that matters greatly to me, as it should for everyone else irrespective of our differences. At the age of seven, I was forced out of my birth land Ethiopia because a Marxist government made liberty and the pursuit of happiness impossible back home. We came to America penniless but full of hope; my parents gave up a life of privilege in Ethiopia so that their children can grow up unencumbered by the menace of despotism and without the fear of being targeted for speaking our minds.

Alas, the same way that the Marxist government in Ethiopia reverted to vast censorship and state sponsored purification to silence free speech, bit by bit our government and their corporate masters are turning to repression as well. Liberty is never destroyed in a fell swoop, freedoms are taken in chunks and bits until one day we wake up in bondage. The Twitter logo is the canary in the coalmine of what awaits us if we continue to overlook the concentration of power in the hands of moneyed interests and federalized authorities. In a land where freedoms are promised to all, we have all now become 3/5th corporations and second-class citizens who take a back seats to the 1% who have hijacked our nation. Corporate media lackeys are ]distracting us with the idiocy of Trump so that we don’t realize that the gentry are shackling us with debt and muzzling our speech.

I urge everyone reading this article to do one of two things. First, at the risk of sounding self-serving, I ask you to do all you can to empower independent journalists. Instead of sharing corporate informercials that is sold as news, find voices who are not beholden Wall Street and moneyed interests. Find people who have the independence to speak truth to power instead of cashing paychecks from power. While I am thankful for each reader of the Ghion Journal, I ask you to find other independent jouranlists who make it their purpose to seek truth and to root out corruption and malfeasance of the powerful.As you empower independent journalists, I also ask you to decentralize and sign up to social media sites outside of Facebook, Google and Twitter. These companies are reverting to despotic practices; they need to understand that they too can go the way of MySpace. Let us speed up this process for them; I have signed up in the past couple of weeks to Minds, Gab, and yesterday I signed up to BitChute in order to circumvent the continued stealth censorship and suppression of videos. We are not helpless to act against these corporations who treat citizens as assets and liabilities on their balance sheets. If we allow dissenters to be silenced, what comes next is the silencing of everyone else. Let us not become the generation that allowed corporations and our government they have co-opted to destroy free speech. #CorporateMuzzle

“The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil constitution, are worth defending against all hazards: And it is our duty to defend them against all attacks.” ~ Samuel Adams

Below is a Ghion Cast that I transitioned from from the YouTube Ghion Cast channel to the new Ghion Journal BitChute Channel that discusses the way our politics and society as a whole is being dictated for us and how concentrated power is strangling our freedoms.

Check out Lee Camp’s take on Twitter’s engaging in censorship and silencing free speech.

Below is a Ghion Cast video that is the most watched Ghion Cast on YouTube. It currently has 3,474 hits according to YouTube’s viewer counter. The same video has been uploaded to our BitChute page, YouTube has a thousand times the reach and the scale of BitChute has, watch this space and see how many more hits are counted by BitChute compared to the YouTube video to get a sense of how companies like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube use soft censorship to silence free speech.

Teodrose Fikre
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Teodrose Fikre

Founder at Ghion Journal
Teodrose Fikre is the editor and founder of the Ghion Journal. A published author and prolific writer, a once defense consultant was profoundly changed by a two year journey of hardship and struggle. Going from a life of of upper-middle class privilege to a time spent with the huddled masses taught Teodrose a valuable lesson in the essence of togetherness and the need to speak against injustice.

Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.
Teodrose Fikre
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Sam Nigro
Journalism–First Amendment Responsibilities and Need For Certification and Licensure–other than sports, most journalism is unreal, non-being editor fantasies and manipulations–CONFABULISM by Samuel A. Nigro, MD, copyright c 2016, retired, “deplorable” ad hominem pamphleteer, Clinical Professor Psychiatry, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine The First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. “They will lie, sir, with such volubility that you… Read more »
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