Abigail Schrier, famed for having her book on the impact of the fashion for Transgenderism on children, Irreversible Damage, banned by Amazon, recently delivered a brave and inspiring talk to the undergraduates at Priceton.
Every dating app pushes us toward the same few attractive mate choices; Spotify presses us to like the same music; Amazon pushes us to purchase specific books and away from others. If you’re under the impression that the books Amazon recommends to you are based solely on a content-neutral algorithm, I can disabuse you of that fiction right now. I once asked one of my sources at Amazon, who was concerned about the ways the search results were being manipulated, whether he’d ever seen a book deliberately boosted. Yes, he said. Becoming by Michelle Obama. When that book came out – he told me – virtually every search you did led to the recommendation to buy the former First Lady’s book. And the opposite is also true. There are books that are never recommended by the Amazon algorithm, irrespective of how well they’ve sold or how likely a specific shopper is to buy them. Or, at least, there’s one such book. I’ll let you try and guess what it is.
But the larger point is, your will is being toyed with, subverted, manipulated. And in a fairly insidious manner. None of you will be shocked to hear that Google promotes certain search results in order to lead us to a certain perspective. But did you know that, for contested entries, Wikipedia assigns editors, some of whom are ideologically committed activists, many of whom have very particular views they want you to walk away with.
If you form views based on those Wikipedia articles or reports by corrupt fact-checkers, if you act based on them, are you exercising freedom of will? Given that you’ve been spun and prodded along to a pre-determined conclusion by hidden persuaders, perhaps you aren’t. Perhaps you’re left in the same sorry state as the Moor of Venice: toyed with, subverted, manipulated. Acting out someone else’s plan, pointed in the direction that he wants you to walk.
We’ve spent a lot of time in the past few years debating whether this kind of manipulation is at the root of our political divisions, but I don’t think we’ve paid enough attention to an even more basic question: how it has interfered with freedom of conscience and ultimately free will.
When polled, nearly two out of three Americans (62%) say they are afraid to express an unpopular opinion. That doesn’t sound like a free people in a free country. We are, each day, force-fed falsehoods we are all expected to take seriously, on pain of forfeiting esteem and professional opportunity:
“Some men have periods and get pregnant.” “Hard work and objectivity are hallmarks of whiteness.” “Only a child knows her own true gender.” “Transwomen don’t have an unfair advantage when playing girls’ sports.”
I know why students keep their heads down. They are hoping for that Goldman or New York Times internship, which they don’t want to put in jeopardy. Well, any institution that takes our brightest, most capable young people—Princeton graduates!—and tells you can only work here if you think like we tell you to and keep your mouth shut, that isn’t really Goldman Sachs and it isn’t the paper of record. It’s the husk of a once-great institution, and it’s not worth grasping for. Talk to alums at these institutions: they sound like those living under communist regimes. That’s the America that awaits you if you will not speak up.
You who are studying at one of the greatest academic institutions in the country only to be told that after graduation, you must think as we tell you and recite from this script—why were you born? What’s the point of being alive? Computers are vastly better at number crunching. They’ll soon be better at all kinds of more complex tasks. What they cannot do is stand on principle. What a computer cannot do is refuse to lend credibility to a rigged competition—to refuse to strengthen its coercion—making it that much harder for the next female athlete to speak up. What the computer cannot know is the glorious exertion of the human will when it refuses to truckle in the face of lies and instead publicly speaks the truth.
Michael S. Malone addresses the great disaster of our times: Free enterprise capitalism metastasizing into Corporate Enforcer of Correct Speech and Thought and China Ally.
You don’t have to be very old to remember when Silicon Valley represented the shiny technological future.
It was the land of brilliant entrepreneurs starting fast-moving new companies. An enclave of perpetual optimism, where the brightest young people went to change the world — and got very rich in the process. A place that didn’t grow old, but revised itself every decade into something perpetually exciting and new.
But today, to many Americans, Silicon Valley has become the locus of everything wrong with a technological revolution that has grown dark and totalitarian. It is the heartland of cancel culture, it’s giant social networking companies censoring free speech. It uses its wealth to influence elections. And its companies are in bed with some of the worst regimes on the planet. Congress and the Federal Communications Commission are looking at ways to break up the biggest Valley companies. Polls show that a majority of Americans no longer trust Big Tech. And surveys have revealed that a sizable number of Valley workers can’t wait to leave.
What happened? How did it all turn so bad so quickly? …
Freeware may be the most pernicious invention of the last few decades. You don’t buy tech anymore; you rent, you subscribe and, most of all, you get it for free. How can you say no, especially if you’re an adolescent? And all you have to give up is every bit of information about your life so that it can be sold around the world.
You no longer own your own data. That may not seem like a big deal now, but we are rushing towards a world of tight social control. The single most soul-rotting characteristic of modern Silicon Valley is freeware. It has granted companies absolute cultural, financial and political power, the kind that no company before them has ever known. And that power has corrupted these companies absolutely. …
Besides freeware, the other great discovery of the last 20 years has been that if you give consumers a platform and the tools to create their own product, they will happily become your unpaid slaves and not only surrender their personal data but also spend thousands of hours making you rich. And because of that, you don’t have to grab increments of market share from your competitors. Instead, you need to scale to an almost unimaginable population of users/slaves who become so committed that it is almost impossible for them to escape. After that, you can even control their words and actions — an opportunity too great to pass up.
Cancel culture doesn’t exist, they say. And yet with the flick of a switch, billionaire capitalists voted for by precisely nobody have just silenced a man who is still the democratically elected president of the United States. With the push of a button in their vast temples to technology, the new capitalist oligarchs of Silicon Valley have prevented a man who won the second largest vote in the history of the American republic just two months ago — 74million votes — from engaging with his supporters (and critics) in the new public square of the internet age.
Not only does cancel culture exist — it is the means through which the powerful, unaccountable oligarchies of the internet era and their clueless cheerleaders in the liberal elites interfere in the democratic process and purge voices they disapprove of. That’s what Twitter’s permanent suspension of Donald Trump confirms.
The new capitalists’ cancellation of the democratically elected president of the United States is a very significant turning point in the politics and culture of the Western world. We underestimate the significance of this act of unilateral purging at our peril. It demonstrates that the greatest threat to freedom and democracy comes not from the oafs and hard-right clowns who stormed the Capitol this week, but from the technocratic elites who spy in the breaching of the Capitol an opportunity to consolidate their cultural power and their political dominance.
Twitter’s ban on Trump is extraordinary for many reasons. First, there’s the arrogance of it. Make no mistake: this is the bosses vs democracy; corporates vs the people; exceptionally wealthy and aloof elites determining which elected politicians may engage in online discussion, which is where most political and public debate takes place in the 21st century. Those who cannot see how concerning and sinister it is that a handful of Big Tech companies have secured a virtual monopoly over the social side of the internet, and are now exploiting their monopolistic power to dictate what political opinions it is acceptable to hold and express in these forums, urgently needs a wake-up call.
Secondly, there is Twitter’s deeply disturbing justification for why it suspended Trump. It says Trump’s account ran the ‘risk’ of ‘inciting violence’. And yet the two tweets of his that it cites do nothing of the sort. In one, Trump describes his voters as ‘great American patriots’ and insists they will have a ‘GIANT VOICE’ in the future. In the other he confirms that he will not be attending the inauguration of Joe Biden. That’s it. In what warped moral universe can such standard, boastful Trump-made statements be interpreted as calls for violence?
Last month, on Facebook, in the course of a heated political discussion, I responded to an interlocutor’s uncomplimentary remarks by referring to him as “a white trash communist.” Facebook immediately took his side and froze my account for 30 days.
There was nothing new here. Pretty much any insult to liberals or liberal shibboleths will incur the wrath of Facebook’s zampolit censors. They start with 24 hours, then give you a week, and after a few offenses it’s 30 Days in the Hole for you.
Like many other outspoken conservatives, I responded simply by rolling up a second pseudononymous account. It only required a second email address and phone number.
My 30-Day suspension runs on until mid-month, and lo and behold! on Monday, I shared the above anti-BLM meme, and my second account was immediately punished with 7 Days for violating Community Standards with “hate speech.”
I’m out of extra phone numbers, and Facebook has evidently gotten wise to dissidents like myself creating alternative accounts. My attempts at creating Account 3 all failed.
All this has had the positive effect of bringing me to my senses. I’ve been wasting a few hours every day creating content for Mark Zuckerberg for free, responding like a laboratory rat to the positive reinforcement of “likes” and comments from friends, and indulging my argumentative disposition by correcting the fallacies of liberals. Not only is Facebook an incredible time sink, supporting it really amounts to accepting tacitly the petty dictatorship of Zuckerberg and his apparatchik nincompoops.
This is it for me. I will, henceforward, skim Facebook for new blog fodder, cynically use it to promote Never Yet Melted by linking posts, and that’s it. I’m otherwise posting, commenting, or sharing nothing. Mark Zuckerberg go screw yourself!
The international hysteria over the unfortunate death of “Five-Felony-Convictions” George Floyd has produced the last straw we could all see coming: HBO-Max is pulling “Gone With the Wind” (1939) from circulation. GWTW will be joining “Song of the South” (1946) and television’s “The Amos and Andy Show” (1951-1953) on the Index Prohibitorum. Though HBO does claim the film will return in a redacted version carefully denouncing all of its sins against politically correct history. (Hollywood Reporter:)
Long considered controversial for its depiction of Black people and its positive view of slavery, Gone With the Wind faced renewed scrutiny after an op-ed by 12 Years A Slave screenwriter John Ridley published in the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday. In the op-ed, Ridley called on HBO Max to “consider removing” Gone With the Wind from its platform as the film had its “own unique problem.” “It doesnâ€™t just â€œfall shortâ€ with regard to representation. It is a film that glorifies the antebellum south. It is a film that, when it is not ignoring the horrors of slavery, pauses only to perpetuate some of the most painful stereotypes of people of color,” Ridley wrote.
He added: “It is a film that, as part of the narrative of the â€œLost Cause,â€ romanticizes the Confederacy in a way that continues to give legitimacy to the notion that the secessionist movement was something more, or better, or more noble than what it was â€” a bloody insurrection to maintain the â€œrightâ€ to own, sell and buy human beings.”
HBO Max said Gone With the Wind will eventually return to the service with a “discussion of its historical context and a denouncement of those very depictions” of Black people and slavery.
In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, a HBO spokesperson said: â€œGone With The Wind is a product of its time and depicts some of the ethnic and racial prejudices that have, unfortunately, been commonplace in American society. These racist depictions were wrong then and are wrong today, and we felt that to keep this title up without an explanation and a denouncement of those depictions would be irresponsible. These depictions are certainly counter to WarnerMediaâ€™s values, so when we return the film to HBO Max, it will return with a discussion of its historical context and a denouncement of those very depictions, but will be presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. If we are to create a more just, equitable and inclusive future, we must first acknowledge and understand our history.â€
GWTW is wrong, you see, because it takes the former (now-discredited in Academia by Marxist revisionist historians) national consensus view that the South was Wrong But Romantic, fighting for a fore-doomed cause that would inevitably fail, but that Southerners’ motives were patriotic and sincere, and their conduct gallant. Even worse, GWTW portrays happy African American servants exercising plenty of domestic power and responsibility and treated as members of the family. And, on top of that, they have quaint accents, speak in distinctive and amusing vernaculars (condescension!), and all the prominent ones remain loyal to their white family, even after Emancipation! HBO knows that all this is morally unconscionable and must be factually dead wrong. Eric Fone and Ta-Nehisi Coates told them so.
Margaret Mitchell’s portrait of the Lost Antebellum South, of course, was produced by a woman born in 1900, old enough to have known personally, lived beside, and heard all her life the reminiscences of the older generation which actually lived before, fought in, and survived both the War and the glorious, now so-deeply-regretted to have ever ended, Reconstruction Period. She couldn’t possibly be right. Those Marxist historians know better.