Tag Archive | censoring

A Comedy of Censorship

The irony of opening my daily subscription email from Rational Review, a libertarian news digest, and seeing an item from Newsweek about how Russia is planning to ban Facebook from its country unless Facebook stores the data for Russian users inside Russia, which critics are deriding as an attempt to censor and control the Internet, was almost too much hilarity for my brain to take before I’d ingested any caffeine. On the surface, the law actually makes a fair bit of sense (though I’d obviously not support it). Requiring companies not to store user for Russians outside of Russia is a protective measure–surely we can all see why we Americans wouldn’t want the user data of Americans stored, as a matter of routine, in Russia (especially given the anti-Russian hysteria, which is what I’m getting into).

Of course, Newsweek couldn’t help but stoke the coals of aforementioned hysteria by adding at the end of their article:

Facebook representatives told U.S. lawmakers that 80,000 posts from 470 fake Russian accounts disseminated information on its network and that it shut down 5.8 million fake accounts in October 2016.

Alas, we almost made it through one entire article that mentioned “Facebook” and “Russia” without playing it into the anti-Russian propaganda being peddled by lunatics across the United States. To give you some perspective on this addled stupidity, because, only counting photo uploads, there are three hundred million Facebook posts a day. If we include text-only posts, there are two hundred, ninety-three thousand (293,000) every single second. Eighty thousand in one month versus the nearly three hundred thousand made every second is a ludicrously low ratio–enough that it’s not worth mentioning and, indeed, Facebook should be ashamed for mentioning it.

I don’t care for the word “disseminated,” either. The media is notoriously no longer neutral. As I observed in an unrelated article about the mythical “popular vote,” bias in the media takes a number of forms, and the most subtle and insidious is the deliberate choice of loaded words. “Disseminated” is one such word. Almost any word would have been more neutral–perhaps “shared?” Or “posted?” Clearly, the journalists themselves only constitute half the problem; no editor who is good at what they do should have allowed that statement through. Not only is it loaded heavily, but it’s also stated poorly. Briefly, I’d have edited it to:

Representatives of Facebook reported to Congress that 80,000 posts from 470 dummy Russian accounts posted to its network, and that Facebook shut down 5.8 million fake accounts in October 2016.

I’d rate their version as a 4 / 10 (-4 points for blatant bias, -1 point for reuse of “fake” in a single sentence, and -1 for violating parallelism, which is far more important than people think).

Anyway, Newsweek in their article also failed to note who these “critics” are, but one has to give the benefit of the doubt and assume the critics are Russian. After all, it would just be silly for Americans to be accusing the Russian government of censorship when our social media titans are being compelled to report to Congress on what measures they are taking to censor their networks.

Recently on The Call to Freedom, of which I am a co-host with former libertarian vice presidential candidate Will Coley and recovering Republican Thom Gray (live every Sunday night at 10pm EST, and the encore airs Tuesday at 3pm EST at https://www.lrn.fm), I asked Thom Gray what the problem is with Russians posting on Facebook for either presidential candidate, a sentiment with which Will agreed, because it works just like anything else. If Russians, English, the French, the Spanish, the Catalan, or anyone else wishes to post to Facebook, then they’re basically allowed to do that*.

Maybe Facebook should implement a tool where users will never, ever see posts from people who live in countries other than their own.

Sounds horrific, doesn’t it?

This is the Global Age. In half a second, I can chat or play chess with someone in Russia, China, or Pakistan right now. We should be using this technology to communicate with one another, to learn what the other cares about, to learn what motivates them, and to learn that they’re people, just like us. That enormous ocean that once prevented people in the United States from recognizing that the Japanese circa 1940CE were real people was bridged by the Internet and World Wide Web, and we should be rejoicing in this, not freaking out, panicking, and seeking the isolationist approach. And let’s not mince words about this: what people are proposing is effectively isolationism.

In hindsight, I suppose it was always inevitable for the kneejerk reaction. We’ve seen it in countless other ways. Diversity and peace champions celebrate when LGBT people are allowed to exist in peace, but become regretful and remorseful when LGBT people start moving into their neighborhoods and in the vicinity of their children. Of course, similar things happened when black people began moving into certain neighborhoods, too, and when Mexican began coming into the United States. Satirical comedy South Park has drawn attention to this on at least two occasions, in the episodes “Goobacks” and “Here Comes the Neighborhood.” So it’s something we should all be familiar with.

Being able to communicate and interact with people on the other side of the planet instantly sounds great… until they post things you don’t like that allegedly influenced voters, who in turn voted in a way that you don’t like. So, once again, it absolutely must be said: the entirety of this Russian fiasco is the allegation that Russians influenced American voters. The contention has not been that “Russians influenced the election” since the audits of a few states in December of last year showed no irregularities. American voters voted for Trump. The allegation is that they voted for Trump because they were duped by Russians. So even if all the allegations are true, it changes nothing, because an American voter can take information from any source that they like and use it to cast their vote for any person that they like for any reason that they like.

Let’s imagine that the raving paranoids get their wish. Not only does Russia ban Facebook from its country (doing significant damage to the Russian people’s ability to communicate in the process, which, granted, the hysterical lunatics don’t care about anyway), but Facebook implements some sort of stern measure to keep Russian posts, where they might still exist, from appearing to the delicate, confused, sensitive, and gullible American masses. But oh no! Trump doesn’t run in 2020, and instead Ted Cruz wins the Republican nomination, whereupon he finds himself running against Joe Biden (the only standing Democrat that would have a realistic shot of winning the presidency). Unfortunately, Cruz wins the White House.

There are no Russians to use as a tool of challenging the legitimacy of Cruz’s victory and as a method of undermining his presidency. Who else might have such capabilities? The Chinese. I have very little doubt that the Chinese would be the next scapegoat. A few audits would show the voting results are more or less accurate (one has to wonder why they aren’t 100% accurate, though, given that they’re almost all electronic now), which would leave people unable to say that the election was rigged. They’ll resort to the tactic of saying that voters were misled, and it was the Chinese who convinced all the stupid, gullible people to vote for Cruz. Or perhaps the Democrat would win, and Republicans would try that tactic–with the “Obama is a Kenyan Muslim!” thing, they’ve certainly got a history of doing so.

We might go through this entire charade again, and it might culminate in the widespread elimination of China from Facebook. At that point, we could say, “Congratulations, America. You’ve effectively isolated yourself from 25% of the world’s population.” What would happen in 2024, when someone else inevitably won the White House, and the other side picked, perhaps, Brazil as the scapegoat? Or the European Union–unlikely though that is, since we have an enormous blindspot for Europe–see how Spain has invaded Catalonia and denied its right to self-governance, the most anti-democratic thing to happen in the last few decades in Europe, and yet we’ve done nothing to defend the Catalans from the occupying forces of Spain, and many people don’t even consider this a violation of democracy. Let’s face it, if Georgia declared independence from Russia and Russia invaded Georgia, Americans would be yelling and screaming about the invasion and violation of Georgian rights, and… Wait a minute.

See? It doesn’t matter how tyrannical and undemocratic Spain’s actions are. We can’t see them in the proper light, because they’re “western society,” too. So even though they have done to Catalonia exactly what we condemned Russia for doing to Georgia (and going even further, in fact, since Spanish police actually attacked people who were trying to vote, destroyed ballots, and other atrocious things), we don’t call them out on it. We also know that people in the UK, Italy, Germany, and other nations were posting on Facebook about the 2016 presidential election, and that they, too, were “disseminating information,” but we’re not freaking out about that, are we?

Russia is only our enemy if we make them our enemy. There is absolutely no reason we can’t get along with Russia as well as we do with Germany. In fact, we should get along better with Russia, seeing as Russia has never caused a world war–in fact, we once allied with them to fight those world wars–and I don’t think we’ve ever actually been at war with Russia. What is really our problem with Russia? It’s the same problem we’ll have with China in ten more years. They’ve committed two grave sins for which we cannot forgive them:

They refuse to bow to American supremacy, and they aren’t western.

That is the heart of American foreign policy. That horrible, racist, arrogant, entitled, and condescending attitude is the heart of all that the United States does on a global scale. The United States’ position on any country can be deduced by answering three basic questions:

  1. Do they bow to American supremacy? This includes taking no public issue with the USD, of course. There is almost no recovering from this–anyone who doesn’t bow to American supremacy is almost immediately an enemy, unless…
  2. Are they western and mostly white? Although we won’t seriously entertain the possibility that Greece, Germany, or the UK are truly “equal” to us, we will, for the most part, allow the European Union as a whole to consider itself equal to the United States. Individually, however, each country is considered inferior to the U.S., and we wouldn’t tolerate any suggestion otherwise. If 1 and 2 are both false, then #3 doesn’t even matter.
  3. Do they give us oil? Sadly, this is still an important consideration, although it’s not the greatest any longer. It is, however, the reason we’re always kissing Saudi Arabia’s ass, even though they don’t really bow to American supremacy.

If they don’t have the audacity to not be any color other than white European and don’t have the audacity to refuse to bow to American supremacy, then we will tolerate them in much the same way that we handle cats and dogs. They’re quaint and cute little things that exist for our pleasure, and nothing else. If they do have the audacity to not be white European, to not bow to American supremacy, and to not sell us oil, then we don’t care much for them unless we can exploit them in some other way (like how we import cheap goods from China)–and even then we don’t like them, and merely tolerate them.

Our entire foreign policy is built on American supremacy. This is alarming, since the United States is almost certain to be removed from the #1 spot technologically, economically, and military within the next twenty years.

The Russia hysteria can be briefly summarized like this:

How dare Russians act like they have freedom of speech or something, by posting things on the Internet that gullible American voters might believe!

* Let’s not spend four thousand words clarifying that statement, k? You know what I mean.