Fred Reed, Fred on Everything, October 3, 2021
Much has been written about burgeoning censorship of web and media in America. The pace appears to be picking up as control becomes both deeper and more open. Consider:
For quite a while this meritorious column was homeported at the Unz Review. The site has now been banned. Recently I received this from Ron Unz in response to a request for information on the Review’s banning:
“Sure, Fred. Basically, we were banned from Facebook (i.e. nothing containing unz.com can appear there or even be sent in private messages). More importantly, all our pages were “deranked” from every Google search, meaning they’re now absolutely at the bottom of all search results… Not only was our rudimentary Facebook page eliminated, but all subsequent attempts …to post our articles to the world’s largest social network produced an error message describing the content as “abusive.” Our entire website had been banned.”
The Review is not calculated to make friends with everybody, among other things being intensely and, I would say imaginatively, hostile to Jews, but this is hardly uncommon, and the site has never advocated violence against anyone.
Then there is American Renaissance, a white advocacy site. We have been trained to equate the phrase with the KKK, advocacy of lynching, calls to violence, and irrational hatred. It is none of these things. Follow the link and see for yourself. Most of its postings are repostings from mainstream publications. It advocates ending illegal immigration and affirmative action, controlling crime regardless of the race of the criminal, deporting illegals and argues that since other races have organizations supporting their interests—BLM, La Raza—whites also should have a political organization. You may or may not agree with some, all, or any of this, but these are not fringe ideas and, if they were, fringe ideas are not against the law. There is no advocacy, explicit or implied, of criminality.
Yet the site has been banned by Facebook, Twitter, Google, YouTube, Visa, and Mastercard.
I am not a herd conservative and know little of doctrinal sites, but have frequently read of conservatives being banned. I think someone named Alex Jones is one.
Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger has claimed that the online encyclopedia can no longer be seen as a source of unbiased information because the project’s volunteers prefer to remove the news that is out of sync with their agenda.
In particular, anything about the more sordid aspects of the Bidens does not appear. Here is another case of the unelected and unregulated having great power over the country’s access to information. Like Google and Facebook and Twitter, it is not formally part of government and so not covered by the First Amendment. Yes, you can poke around the web and find proscribed information, but it takes time and effort and few will do it. Many tens of millions will succumb to the convenience of the Wikipedia, which also appears high in listings from Google searches. You don’t have to fool all of the people all of the time. Fooling enough of the people enough of the time is enough.
This is not as hard a form of censorship as canceling credit-card accounts but, I will speculate, effective since on a great many subjects a great many people will not go beyond the Wikipedia. Enough of the people enough of the time.
Twitter also is a nongovernmental but powerful gateway to information that extensively bans those it doesn’t like. You may or may not like Trump—I don’t—but should the unelected managers of a private company be able to cut a former President and major political voice off from his public?
Then this from Apple, which backed down but clearly has the technology and the willingness, if not caught, to snoop on our photos:
Apple to scan photos on all US iPhones for ‘child abuse imagery’ as researchers warn of impending ‘1984’ – reports}”
“The system will reportedly scan every photo uploaded to iCloud in the US and tag it with a “safety voucher.” Once a certain number of photos – not specified – are labeled as suspect, Apple will decrypt the suspect photos and inform human reviewers – who can then contact the relevant authorities if the imagery can be verified as illegal, the FT report said. The program is initially intended to be rolled out in the US only.”
Then, YouTube suspends Senator Rand Paul. YouTube now decides what senators can say to the country.
A fellow named Paul Kersey, probably a pseudonym, wrote two books, Their Lives Matter Too, about the large number of often racially motivated murders of whites by blacks, and another on the effects of the takeover of Baltimore by blacks. Both were factual, well researched, and calm, advocating neither directly nor by implication crime or violence. They described, accurately, phenomena of great importance to the future of America. Amazon deleted both.
Hitler’s Mein Kampf is an important book for anyone interested in the history of the period. It is hardly likely to lead to pogroms and would probably bore to tears any but the historically interested. A few years back I bought an excellent translation from Audible.com. It has disappeared from Audible. Amazon has what from comments by buyers seems to be one of the poor translations, and nothing else. It is interesting, though not necessarily related to censorship, that many of the commenters seem never to have heard of the book.
The educated will notice when major works are omitted. When relatively obscure books are disappeared or never posted in the first place, the public has no way of knowing that it is being denied access. Yet, as I suppose all of the sentient know, a book about the killing of one black by a white, much less fifty or so of such killings, would beget a nationwide media circus lasting for months.
Further, with few exceptions (is Fox an exception?) the corporate media are tightly controlled. If you doubt this, reflect that on American television you will never, ever hear anything in favor of the Second Amendment or the police, or against abortion, Wall Street, the military industrial complex, feminism, immigration, Critical Race Theory, or affirmative action, about rates of racial crime or differences in the intelligence of races, anything questioning the theory of evolution, or critical of Jews or Israel. Here correct me if I am wrong but I doubt you see much about the horrors of the routine wars or the outrageous cost of the B21 (have you heard of the B21?) All of the foregoing matters are of importance to large parts of the population, which is why they should not be banned, and also why they are banned.
America has never had freedom of expression but, oddly, came closer recently than it ever has before. In 1950, the American media were heavily biased. F. HUAC, the House Unamerican Activities Committee, actively persecuted leftists, destroying careers for expressing ideas now thought routine in political polemics. Yet the overwhelming majority of the public agreed with the biases, which consequently were seldom noticed. As proportions of the population, virtually nobody favored communism or socialism, legalization of drugs, anything resembling pornography, coerced racial integration, abortion, banning guns and the like. The military was regarded with fondness and admiration for having whipped Tojo and the Fuehrer. Humorously fond books like No Time for Sergeants and Rally Around the Flag, Boys were popular. When there is consensus, bias doesn’t matter. When the media censor ideas important to large groups of the population, and seek to impose ideas repugnant to them, as happens now, it does matter.
Today the foo is on the other shoot, with conservative ideas being purged and, though there is—still—actually much more freedom of expression today the censorship is directed at an angry half of the country. And today of course the country is so deeply divided among many groups that hate each other. Thus what seems one a sensible and salubrious censorship to one group seems tyranny to the group being censored.
For a brief period after the rise of the internet something close to freedom of information existed but it was fairly obvious that it would last only until governments figured out how to stifle it. Governments never like freedom of expression. In America, though, there was the First Amendment to which ritual obeisance need be paid. How to prevent expression of Bad Thought? The answer was to have private entities not subject to the Bill of Rights do the throttling of unwanted ideas: again Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the rest. These censor people, movements, and ideas that the coastal elites and federal government do not like.
While outrage at the burgeoning, targeted censorship is understandable, the complementary question is seldom asked: How much and what censorship is desirable? What would you, the reader, censor if you had the power?
Should kid porn be permitted? Almost kid porn? How almost? Pornhub? Do we want children of ten watching a German Shepherd copulating with a bound-and-gagged young woman? Angry videos calling for race war? Calculated misinformation crafted not to transgress libel laws? Libel hosted outside of American jurisdiction? Viral conspiracy theories asserting the President Biden had engaged in pedophilia while in Cambodia?
If I were Google’s boss, I would hesitate to allow (what I regard as) nutjob postings that urged people not to be vaccinated. This is not because I want to implant microchips in people or take away their freedoms. Rather I wouldn’t want to have people die because I let my company persuade them not to be vaccinated, and because (I believe that) the plague will last longer if only part of the population is vaccinated. Well and good—but millions of people believe otherwise. They would ask by what right I did what I regarded as my responsibility.
What is the purpose of the censorship? Deletion of anything and everything negative about blacks, which most assuredly is done, appears to many to be the imposition of leftist ideology on the country. Maybe so. Biden and Harris and Zuckerberg mysteriously seldom confide in me. Yet the censorship certainly seems to many liberals simply the promotion of decency. But realists at the tech giants may (or may not) know that America is on the brink of (yet more) horrendous racial violence, and seek to avoid it by hiding anything that might increase hostility. Whether this is a good idea can be debated. Arguably it is the only idea.
Censorship is insidious. The first generation notices the absence of certain information and is annoyed. The second generation never learns that the ideas existed. The other day I looked for some of the clearly lunatic postings about the vaccines. I had seen these on large libertarian sites. They were gone. On another occasion I Googled on “Kill whitey” which used to bring up many exhortations from the Black Panthers, Nation of Islam, and others. Now, gone. Was this latter justified as calming racial tensions? Or was it hiding from the public the nature and current political state of the country?
Finally advancing technology has gutted the Constitution. The amendments protecting privacy say nothing about cloud storage, documents in electronic form, surveillance of web searches, or telephone conversations. It is unlikely that the Supreme Court or Congress will take a position in line with the intent of the Constitution and forbid such surveillance, and in any event snooping is so easy that law enforcement would not stop quietly using it. In China email is censored in real time. In America? I don’t know. Would you dare use the N-word in email, even just to see what would happen? Does Gmail filter for this? It easily could, and we have seen many examples of people being fired for something they wrote years ago.
Onward and upward.