Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Censoring Alex Jones

Something happened recently that made me feel like a bit of an endangered species. A set of transnational internet companies, including Google, Facebook, Apple and several others, all synchronously removed content belonging to infowars.com, which is run by Alex Jones. Such synchronicity is a sure sign of conspiracy—something that Alex Jones harps on a lot.

I once appeared on a radio show run by Alex Jones, and he did manage to boil down what I had to say to “the USA is going to collapse like the USSR did,” which is pretty good, considering how poorly we managed to connect, having so little in common. He is a conservative and a libertarian whereas I think that conservatives don’t exist in the US. What have they “conserved” lately—other than the right to bear small arms? As far as libertarianism, I consider proper historical libertarianism as a strain of socialism while its American cooptation is just plain funny: these ones remain libertarian only until they need the services of an ambulance or a fire engine, at which point they turn socialist. To boot, American libertarians like Ayn Rand, who to me was a relentlessly bad writer full of faulty thinking. However, I find her useful as a litmus test for mediocre minds.

Moreover, Jones is political while I remain convinced that national politics in the US is a waste of time. It has been statistically proven that the US is not a democracy: popular will has precisely zero effect on public policy. It doesn’t matter who is president; the difference is a matter of style. Trump is a bull in a China shop while Clinton would have been a deer in the headlights. The result is the same: the US is bankrupt and its empire is over.

There is also the mismatch of genre between Jones and me. I am first of all an experimenter and an essayist, and to me personal experience and literary form are vitally important, while Jones is light on research and happy to work with hearsay, and is rather hackneyed and repetitive, but has the right instincts for a rabble-rouser. He harkens from a long American tradition of itinerant preachers spouting jeremiads, thumping the bible and hurling fire and brimstone. His content is secular, but his rhetorical techniques are revivalist. He is preachy, screechy and emotional. There is some carnival cryer in his cultural makeup as well, and he is not above peddling some survivalist/prepper snake oil

That said, we share certain important similarities. Neither of us is part of the official narrative that is endlessly being hammered home by US mass media with increasingly poor results. Thinking Americans are just not gullible enough any more. Jones has exploited this gullibility shortfall in the general public for all it’s worth by going after every conspiracy theory out there, while I am just like you—gullible. Sure, a few Arab tourists armed with box cutters destroyed three steel skyscrapers by flying two aluminum planes into them. Do your own math, but that’s just 2/3 of a plane per skyscraper—ought to be enough, right? Jet fuel, which burns at 800° to 1500°F, melted steel columns. (Steel melts at 2750°F.) Two aluminum cans packed with kerosene, meat and luggage destroyed three steel structures. I find this explanation perfectly satisfactory; do you? If you need to know more, it’s easy to find out, but don’t wait on me because, being so gullible, I am perfectly satisfied.

Jones and I are also different in that he is hugely popular whereas I am popular enough for me and generally lacking in worldly ambition. I enjoy writing, my readers enjoy what I write, and everyone is happy except the kids, because while I am writing I am not playing with them. But Jones is becoming huge—popular enough to displace mass media, which is continuously losing mind share. In part, that is its own fault: how long do they think they can they go on flogging the dead horses of “Russian collusion” and “Russian meddling” before people start shaking their heads and walking away? In part, the verbal diarrhea that we hear on CNN or read on nytimes.com is intended as a smokescreen because the truth has become toxic to the interests of those who are in charge mass media in the US. I will delve into this subject further on Thursday. The political decision to censor Jones was a sign of desperation: the verbal diarrhea is not working, and so it’s time for Plan B, which is simply to scream “Shut up!” as loudly as possible.

Due to his huge and burgeoning popularity (which these latest attacks on him have actually served to enhance) Jones is a huge target, whereas I am but a tiny one. Still, first they came for Alex Jones, and then they may very well come for me, and so the time to start paying attention and pushing back is now. These internet entities—Google, Facebook, Apple, Google Podcast, Spotify, iHeartRadio, MailChimp, Disqus, LinkedIn, Flickr, Pinterest and several others—have no more right to censor him than does your phone company to screen your calls for you or to determine whose number you should be allowed to dial. What was done to Jones was blatantly illegal under both US and international law, and while these companies don’t have much to fear in the US, where they are politically protected, they have a great deal more to fear internationally.

Jones did not, as far as anyone can tell, violate the terms of use of any of these internet services, yet they shut him down. In the public discussions that preceded this event, including in the US Congress, terms such as “hate speech” and “inciting violence” were thrown about. These terms are defined sufficiently vaguely to make them useful for arbitrarily throwing at one’s enemies while one’s friends are granted full immunity, all in an entirely context-free, fact-free manner. For example, two years ago on PBS the following exchange took place between the former acting CIA director Michael Morell and Charlie Rose:

Morell: “We need to make the Russians pay a price in Syria.”
Rose: “We make them pay the price by killing Russians?”
Morell: “Yeah.”

The context and the facts are: the Russians were in Syria by official invitation from the internationally recognized Syrian government to defeat terrorists and foreign mercenaries and to reestablish Syria’s control over its sovereign territory. The US forces weren’t doing much of anything helpful in Syria, but whatever it was, it was illegal: they were an invading force. And here is Morrell proposing that we kill Russian troops who are fighting terrorists, just to send a message. If that’s not “inciting violence,” it is really difficult to imagine what would be. And yet a full two years after this outrage PBS remains on the air; what gives?

Spurious claims of “hate speech” and “inciting violence” aside, what happened is that an order to shut down Jones was issued from Washington, DC. In response an impressively large group of transnational internet companies saluted and marched off to carry out the order, thereby making it perfectly obvious who they work for. And that is likely to become a big problem for them.

First, these transnational companies are allowed to provide services around the world based on international law. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights defends the right to freedom of opinion and expression: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” Jones should sue the US and the companies that censored him in the European Court of Human rights in Strasbourg, France and seek redress both against entities within the US government which issued the illegal order (to be ferreted out in the course of discovery) and against the transnational companies that carried it out.

Second, these transnational companies operate around the world based on local law which in many cases prevents them from acting as agents of foreign governments without first registering as such. If Google and Facebook execute orders issued by the US government, then they are acting not as businesses but as clandestine representatives of a foreign power. Being recognized as such would significantly curtail these companies’ international reach, growth potential and valuations.

And since Google, Facebook and Apple are public companies committed to the pursuit of shareholder value, it would be time for their shareholders to get involved and replace the management teams. After all, what would be more profitable for them: illegally conspiring with the US government while becoming pariahs and losing the world market, or scrupulously maintaining arm’s-length relationships with all governments while working to uphold international law? There is still the opportunity for them to defuse the whole situation: call it a mistake, restore the services, compensate Jones for lost revenue and promise to never do it again.

16 comments :

Unknown said...

Alex Jones is the ‘genesis’ that has opened ‘enquiring’ minds !

That’s why he is being shut down - anybody with a thirst for the TRUTH rapidly progresses from dear Alex !

Unknown said...

Great Analysis! Thank you! I want to mention a little known fact, which anyone can look up because its all in the public record. On Christmas day, 2016 Obama signed the 2017 NDAA legistlation. In this lengthy document a new agency was created under the pervue of the us state dept. This new agency is called, (I kid you not) "The Center" Its task is to serve as a ministry of truth. I believe Bezos of Amazon fame is on the board and also got a huge contract from this dept. to spread misinformation, and to censure. They've been working up to full 1984 style censorship ever since the center was established in the Summer of 2017. All the tech firms are under their control it seems.

It seems to me that the decision makers, (whoever they are) have "lawed" over just about every amendment to the constitution there is. Do they realize the consequences of their own actions? I doubt it. No one wants their children and grandchildren to live in a 1984 world.

I find it interesting how many humans have such faith in authority regardless of a history which demonstrates clearly that distrust is a must when dealing with leaders of any kind. I also find it interesting how people in government blindly follow orders even when those orders will create a living hell for them and their offspring. Aren't humans interesting?

JeanDavid said...

"It has been statistically proven that the US is not a democracy: popular will has precisely zero effect on public policy."

True. People unfamiliar with this article may choose to read it here:

https://scholar.princeton.edu/sites/default/files/mgilens/files/gilens_and_page_2014_-testing_theories_of_american_politics.doc.pdf

Robert Wurgaft said...

Dmitry, I have not been a fan of Mr. Jones and his crazy circus of infowars, but I think he is the perfect candidate for this treatment for that same reason. He will not have very many mainstream, "respectable" defenders because of his reputation. I think the real reason for the action is part of a wider plan to condition people to accept that no unapproved information will be allowed into the debate on what we can consider "consensus". I think it is all about keeping those in the fold obedient and "on the same page" rather than truly trying to silence him. Others will self-censor now. Very powerful and dangerous deep-state medicine for the other Journos and publishers.

Jmu Murch said...

I have only seen Automatic Earth (https://www.theautomaticearth.com/2018/08/assange-infowars-and-the-constitution/) point out that this happened the day Alex Jones introduced a petition to the US Government to allow Julian Assange his freedom. Same day, he is booted off most popular platforms. I'm sure it's just coincidence.

Rob Rhodes said...

As Google, FB, Twits et al suppress opinion they create an opening for a platform that allows a free flow of ideas and accelerate their own demise. They will not notice because all the smart people they listen to will assure them of their righteousness. We can expect the platform to be denounced as a racist, sexist, fascist, Islamo-terrorist, socialist, Russian plot.

Unknown said...

Speaking of Jones as an itinerant preacher spouting jeremiads, thumping the bible and hurling fire and brimstone - that was precisely his role in A Scanner Darkly. You (and he) nailed it right on the head:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bliFkRnN6e4

Unknown said...

@Unknown,

The goal of the left is outright Marxism/Socialism. Thanks to Donald Trump they've been forced to show their hand. Heck, even Hillary said after the election that she should've promised Universal Basic Income!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GGm0FQ6i74U

The trouble with true socialism is that it's still a hierarchy with SOMEONE at the top, who is always unelected. They're supposedly a "benevolent dictator," and we're just supposed to trust that the person at the top has our best interests at heart. So that goes either one of two ways: Either the "benevolent" dictator shows his true ruthless colors, or he's too soft and gets killed by someone who IS ruthless. It's only human nature.

I've revised Marx a bit to make it more accurate: "From each according to what the government says is his ability, to each according to his need--bare subsistence."

Meanwhile back in the not so United States of America, the inefficiency and gridlock of our representative democracy is actually a feature designed in by the founding fathers, not a bug. Obama was just as polarizing of a President, yet for some reason it wasn't all over Facebook and every single movie, just Fox News.

Paul Thompson said...

IMO, Dmitri, the "(insert adjective)-Right" is an invention of the Left. A vague, ill-defined derogatory label they can (and do) apply to anyone who disagrees with them (or questions their rhetoric), a scapegoat, on to which they can load all their faults and crimes, a mirror, which reflects back at them, everything they loathe and despise about themselves. A case of 'projecting-the-shadow'. Conservatism isn't a political ideology. It's a philosophical mindset, which gives rise to political ideologies.

It's already happening Rob. Minds, Gab and BitChute membership all surged when FB, Twitter and YT deplatformed Jones. The people they (FB, T & YT) listen to aren't smart, they're committed.

toktomi said...

I wish you luck with that "pushing back" thing but, if it's all the same to you, I won't be holding my breath in anticipation of any fruitful results.

Kojak's Dad said...

So right you are...they came for Alex Jones and if they get away with it, it is only time before they come for you and me. But the this move will not go unnoticed, and it is very likely we will see the rise of alternatives as those disgusted with YouTube, Facebook, et al reallocate their attention and resources. It has happened before. Look at how the influence of ABCCBSNBC has declined over the past 30 years.

I noted your opinion of libertarians and admirers of Ayn Rand. Ouch. I've just been relegated the mediocre group... In my defense (feeling a bit wounded right now) I believe libertarian thought is necessary, but not sufficient to have a peaceful and prosperous society. There are many cultural factors that play an equally important role. Also, I recently reread Atlas Shrugged to see how it held up since the last time I read it over 20 years ago, and I concluded it held up better than expected. She wrote beautiful passages and had some powerful insights...but she needed a good editor (which I doubt her personality would have allowed), not to shorten the book, but to take out the clunky stuff. What I found interesting was the number of absolute statements (for which she is reviled and admired) that she also carefully qualifies (which is generally ignored, even by her). Read in that context, I believe she is much more mainstream than even she would like to admit.

Winfield Tyndale said...

What do you call the attack on contrilled opposition like Jones by his owners? A controlled demolition like the Triple Towers? A straw man attack?
It is the old dialectic. Or call it professional wrestling for the simple minded.
I recommend Adam Green at Know More News. He and a constellation of other investigators are putting out good material. And all of them know Alex Jones as limited hangout and a buffoon.

Chrysotheras said...

...brilliant account of the same old recipe for (their) brave new world
...move along,
...tic-tac, tic-tac, tic...

Jean-Paul Printemps said...

"First they came for the Communists, but I did nothing, for I was not a Communist." The Shoah creed is a worthy one.

It is an interesting paradox that the 150-strong communities you write about have both Libertarian and 19th-century Communism attributes. A certain amount of property in kind, yet a live and let live philosophy when it comes to your neighbors. True, American Libertarianism lacks a crucial pacifism that has enabled peoples like the Anabaptists to flourish. However, one could argue the planet is running low on places to take flight. A scholar must stand up for the truth and those who would uncover it. This is echoed by the Jewish sage Maimonides, who qualified it by saying a scholar neither adds nor detracts from the truth, except in the interest of peace or some other worthy aim.

On the topic of jeremiads, Jeremiah, too, made enemies in the regime of Judah. They are quoted in the book bearing his name as saying Jeremiah's speech is dangerous, that what he says does not apply. The result was that his enemies were brought to Babylon in chains, while Jeremiah and a group of refugees went back into Judah to help in the gathering of figs and summer fruits. I agree it is important to choose wisely.

Arioch, the said...

Well, did anyone have doubts that Facebook would not stop there?

https://www.greanvillepost.com/2018/08/18/telesur-page-takedown-facebook-becoming-us-govts-censorship-vehicle/

More freedom to follow.

Unknown said...

"Jones should sue the US and the companies that censored him in the European Court of Human rights in Strasbourg, France and seek redress both against entities within the US government which issued the illegal order (to be ferreted out in the course of discovery) and against the transnational companies that carried it out."

Absolutely.