‘The Democrats’ campaign for internet censorship: Who is to determine what are “lies”?’, Andre Damon, 9 November 2019
As wsws editor Joseph Kishore has kindly given me permission to use the site’s content, plus the fact that it’s not a long read, I’ll borrow all Damon’s essay, then add more at the bottom.
“In recent weeks, the New York Times and Washington Post have published innumerable editorials and op-eds arguing that Facebook has a responsibility to carry out political censorship, or in their words, to “moderate” political speech online.
Replying to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s declaration that “people should be able to hear for themselves what politicians are saying,” New York Times columnist Timothy Egan mockingly declared, “Yes, of course—let the people hear for themselves, no matter if it’s true or not. They can decide. Except, they can’t.” (“Why doesn’t Zuckerberg get it?”)
In an editorial published earlier this month, the Washington Post demanded that Facebook “step up to the plate and call lies out when it sees them.” (“Free speech doesn’t mean Facebook must run dishonest ads”).
In an op-ed published by the New York Times earlier this week, Columbia University law professor Tim Wu argued that Facebook should stop “the spread of misinformation” in following Twitter in banning political advertisements. Facebook, he wrote, is “now the outlier” for “insisting on accepting not only political advertising, but even deliberate and malicious lies if they are in the form of paid advertisements.” (“Facebook isn’t just allowing lies, it’s prioritizing them”)
The campaign in the press has been joined by effectively the entire gamut of the Democratic Party. Last week, Hillary Clinton demanded that Facebook take down “false, deceptive or deliberately misleading content” or “pay a price.” Her statements echoed those of presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, who condemned Facebook for allowing “politicians to run ads with known lies—explicitly turning the platform into a disinformation-for-profit machine.”
Last month, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, demanded that Facebook “take down lies.” She was joined by Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, who condemned Facebook for allowing “politicians” to make “untruthful statements.”
While couched in demagogic language accusing Facebook of “profiting” off of “disinformation,” the Democrats’ campaign for internet censorship is devoid of any progressive content. It is a pretext for censorship.
To oppose censorship is not to support Facebook as a private company. This monopoly should be taken out of private hands and run as a public utility. But the Democrats’ campaign has nothing at all to do with opposing Facebook’s monopoly power or the wealth of its billionaire CEO. Rather, it is part of a protracted, years-long campaign by the US intelligence agencies to suppress left-wing, anti-war, and progressive viewpoints.
All the dishonesty of the campaign for internet censorship is contained in the failure to answer, much less consider, one central question: Who is to determine what is true and what is false? What constitutes “lies,” “deliberate and malicious lies,” “known lies,” “deliberately misleading content,” “untruthful statements” and “disinformation”?
The “authoritative” media and politicians, both Democrats and Republicans, lie constantly. They lie about the underlying motivations for their actions, dressing up imperialist crimes in the language of “human rights” or claims about “weapons of mass destruction.” All of bourgeois politics is, in fact, “deliberately misleading content,” in one form or another.
Should Facebook side with the Washington Post, owned by the world’s richest man, when it declares the findings of the world’s leading authorities on social inequality—Thomas Piketty and Gabriel Zucman—to be factually flawed? Or, to take another side, given that the Mueller report failed to find any evidence of “collusion” between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, should all of the newspapers that advocated this theory be censored, as Trump would prefer, for peddling “fake news”?
In late 2016, all of the major US newspapers suddenly began fueling a hysteria about a supposed epidemic of “fake news” that was allegedly overrunning the internet.” WikiLeaks, Hilary Clinton said, spread “wild tales” about the “terrible things I must have said behind closed doors and how as president I would be forever in the pocket of the shadowy bankers who had paid my speaking fees.”
But no one in the Clinton campaign ever disputed the veracity of the documents released by WikiLeaks, including the transcript of a paid speech by Clinton at Goldman Sachs where she advocated removing restrictions on wealthy people involving themselves in politics.
If someone disputes the claims of Clinton, et. al. that WikiLeaks is spreading “fake news,” are they to be censored? Is the position that Jeffrey Epstein did not kill himself, broadly believed in the American population but condemned by the Times as a “conspiracy theory,” to be branded as “disinformation”?
In fact, when the Democrats demand that Facebook adjudicate truth and lies, they are directly attacking political speech. Inevitably, the powers given to giant corporations and the state will be utilized to reinforce the conceptions and positions of the social interests that determine their actions.
To arm the state—or, in this case, one of its proxies—with the power to determine truth and falsehood is to provide it with the power to totally obliterate the freedom of speech.
The campaign by broad sections of the political establishment to obliterate free speech expresses the increasingly oligarchic character of American society, which is constantly coming into conflict with democratic forms of rule. Sections of the upper middle class, represented by the likes of Ocasio-Cortez, have moved sharply to the right, providing their own justifications and pretexts for authoritarianism and censorship.
In 1938, the Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky wrote:
Theory, as well as historic experience, testify that any restriction to democracy in bourgeois society is eventually directed against the proletariat. Bourgeois democracy is usable by the proletariat only insofar as it opens the way for the development of the class struggle. Consequently, any workers “leader” who arms the bourgeois state with special means to control public opinion in general, and the press in particular, is a traitor.
As Trotsky understood, the real target of censorship is the working class. Underlying all the demands for greater control of the internet and the spread of information through platforms like Facebook is the fear of the growth of the class struggle and the ability of workers to share information outside of the control of the establishment media, the trade unions, and the parties of the ruling class.”
And just for the fun of it, this ReTweet by HRC:
‘Facebook, YouTube will scrub ‘any and all mentions’ of alleged ‘Ukrainegate’ whistleblower from posts & ads’, 9 Nov, 2019, RT.com
“We are removing any and all mentions of the potential whistleblower’s name and will revisit this decision should their name be widely published in the media or used by public figures in the debate,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement to the press, citing the platform’s rules against “coordinated harm.”
YouTube issued its own statement soon afterwards, noting that the company would use a combination of human monitoring and machine learning to find and erase the offending content, including when it appears in video titles and descriptions.”
“Contrasting the moves by Facebook and YouTube, in a statement to the Associated Press, Twitter maintained that it would allow posts featuring the name in question, arguing they do not violate its policies regarding “personally identifiable information.”
“President Trump and several fellow Republicans have recently stepped up calls for the whistleblower’s identity to be revealed in public, over objections from the whistleblower’s attorneys who claim the publicity would risk their client’s safety.”
Ha! On the right sidebar is an ad for Microsoft’s ‘News Guard’!
#Eric Ciaramella. #Eric Ciaramella. #Eric Ciaramella. #Eric Ciaramella.
And just for the ‘ell of it: ‘If Eric Ciaramella really is the whistleblower, the whole impeachment narrative is decimated’, JD Rucker, October 30, 2019, noqreport.com
“If anyone can be less credible than Adam Schiff, it’s Eric Ciaramella. When other news outlets pointed out the whistleblower was a Democrat, I shrugged. No big deal. A person’s allegiance to an opposing party does not eliminate credibility in and of itself. But when it was revealed that he worked for former Vice President Joe Biden, his credibility started slipping away, even in the eyes of skeptics like me. Now, we’re learning he has a long history of attempts to expose President Trump, including getting fired from the NSC for leaking information to the press. His attachments to John Brennan, Adam Schiff, Susan Rice, and others who have worked against the President is the cherry on top of the obliteration of his credibility.”
Similar discussions are occurring the few places I go to, wendye, but you always find in depth articles such as the above, so thank you for that. I was reading this morning over at Nakedcapitalism that the two main anchors of The Real News Network had mysteriously been found missing – they have vanished from that site since August with no word as to why and Yves unable to contact them so she wrote that up as well.
I haven’t really followed that site though Yves has frequently posted transcripts of the interviews there. Even Michael Hudson was surprised to learn as Sharmeni and Paul had founded that site, but apparently there has been a coup. So, woah team!
as joss would have it, and given my concern that neither of them had been at TRRN since june 13…
….i’d also contacted the site, and a woman had answered that ‘when we have any news, we’ll contact you’. neither have been seen on their twitter accounts since that date, either.
i did kick up the response yves had gotten though:
“Hi Ms. Webber –
Thank you for your note and request for information about the whereabouts of Paul Jay and Sharmini Peries.
Paul and Sharmini were on leave over the summer and subsequently left the organization, and are in conversations with the TRNN Board about finalizing the terms of their departure. Unfortunately we haven’t been able to comment while that process is underway.
The Board is in the process of launching a search for their successors.
All the best, and thank you for your support”
utter bullshit, of course, but the place is more about ‘the brilliant new dems’ than it used to be, and it’s akin (to me) how consortium news has devolved since the death of the great robert parry.
glad yves finally picked up on it, though.
It does seem to me that Impeachment is just Russiagate writ large – b has at MoA a link that was (for me) readable without all sorts of little post-it notes asking to take me for a drive somewhere in the moonlight ‘accidently’ obscuring the text. Article is by Daniel Lazare (nice name, Lazarus being a good guy Scripturally speaking. Not so sure about ‘Chiaramella’ – sweet chi-chi-chi chia stuff?) Quote from Daniel L:
“…This is what impeachment is about, not high crimes and misdemeanors, but who lost the Ukraine – plus Syria, Libya, Yemen, and other countries that the Obama administration succeeded in destroying – and why Trump should pay the supreme penalty for suggesting that Democrats are in any way to blame…”
I added that the R’s have dirty feet also. O tempera, O mores…
i’d call ukraine-gate not only an embarrassing extension of the almost-failed russiagate, given only msdnc and emptywheel still seem unconvinced by what mueller had concluded…but that it’s also a way of the Ds trying hard to burnish biden so he can become the next demented prez of amerika.
lazare’s quote may be so as well, but bingling about i did come up with this from lazare at strategic culture in which he links to this a b’s house:
“If this wasn’t counseling a foreign government about how to counter White House policy, then what is? As the always provocative Moon of Alabama website pointed out, Vindman’s statement to Schiff’s House Intelligence Committee, conveniently leaked to the press, was revealing in other ways as well,.
“[A] strong and independent Ukraine,” it said, “is critical to US national security interests because Ukraine is a frontline state and a bulwark against Russian aggression.… The US government policy community’s view is that the election of President Volodymyr Zelensky and the promise of reforms to eliminate corruption will lock in Ukraine’s Western-leaning trajectory, and allow Ukraine to realize its dream of a vibrant democracy and economic prosperity.” But, it continued, “outside influencers [are] promoting a false narrative of Ukraine inconsistent with the consensus views of the interagency.”
but on my earlier barr and durham investigation of russiagate expands further, i had added this from lazare’s link. b:
“When Rudi Giuliani was trying to get information about Ukrainian involvement in the 2016 election he was undoubtly pursuing the president’s foreign policy. Posobiec was right and the NYT should correct itself.
Lt.Col. Vindman did not like those policies. He in fact believes that U.S. foreign policy should not be directed by the president.
In his written opening remarks to yesterday’s confidential hearing, widely spread to the media, he asserts:
In spite of being under assault from Russia for more than five years, Ukraine has taken major steps towards integrating with the West. The U.S. government policy community’s view is that the election of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the promise of reforms to eliminate corruption will lock in Ukraine’s Western-leaning trajectory, and allow Ukraine to realize its dream of a vibrant democracy and economic prosperity.
Given this perspective and my commitment to advancing our government’s strategic interests, I will now recount several events that occurred.
When I joined the NSC in July 2018, I began implementing the administration’s policy on Ukraine. In the Spring of 2019, I became aware of outside influencers promoting a false narrative of Ukraine inconsistent with the consensus views of the interagency. This narrative was harmful to U.S. government policy. While my interagency colleagues and I were becoming increasingly optimistic on Ukraine’s prospects, this alternative narrative undermined U.S. government efforts to expand cooperation with Ukraine.
Who the f**k does this NSC minion thinks he is? The President of the United States?”
ha; i ♥ that!
thing is, most all of the witnesses claim they heard the phone call, but most only heard *others* say what they’d heard about the phone call. it’s getting embarrassing by now. RT.com has DT saying he has a right to face his accusers,as in: *the whistleblower*, pelosi and the Ds say ‘not on your nellie; it’s TOO dangerous!’ thus…against constitutional law.
i they want to impeach him on war crimes, torture, killing sanctions, or what have you…but then the D presidents of this outlaw nation might get dragged in, yes?