"Meet the Censored" will now come out in sets of left and right bans, in the (probably vain) hope that fewer people will cheer news of deletions and suspensions
And something more recent:
(In a functioning democracy, the two sides could argue the question of whether the election was stolen by drawing evidence from mutually acceptable sources of fact. Today no such source exists. Most of the media has constellated into separate and mutually exclusive ecosystems, each the domain of a political faction, making it impossible to have a debate. All that’s left, as you may have experienced, is a shouting match. Without debate, one must resort to other means to achieve victory in politics: force rather than persuasion.
This is one reason why I think democracy is over. (Whether we ever had it, or how much of it, is another question.)
Suppose I wanted to persuade a far right Trump-supporting reader that claims of election fraud are baseless. I could cite reports and fact-checks on CNN or the New York Times or Wikipedia, but none of those are credible to that person, who assumes, with quite some justification, that these publications are biased against Trump. The same is true if you are a Biden supporter and I try to persuade you of massive election fraud. Evidence for that is only to be found in right-wing publications that you will dismiss out of hand as unreliable.
Let me save the indignant reader some time and write your scathing critique of the above for you. “Charles, you are establishing a false equivalency here that is shockingly ignorant of certain indisputable facts. Fact one! Fact two! Fact three! Here are the links. You are doing a disservice to the public by even broaching the possibility that the other side is worth listening to.”
When even one side believes that, we are no longer in a democracy. My point here isn’t to hold both sides equal. My point is that no conversation is happening, or can happen. We are past democracy now. Democracy depends on a certain level of civic trust, a willingness to decide the disposition of power through peaceful, fair elections informed by an objective press. It requires a willingness to engage in conversation or at least debate. It requires that a substantial majority hold something – democracy itself – to be more important than victory. Otherwise we are in a state either of civil war or, if one side is dominant, a state of authoritarianism and rebellion.
At this point it is clear which side has the upper hand. There is a kind of poetic justice in that the right wing – who perfected the information technology of hate-mongering and narrative warfare in the first place – is now its victim. Conservative pundits and platforms are rapidly being purged from social media, from app stores, even from the Internet entirely. In today’s environment, for me to even say this arouses suspicions that I myself am a conservative. I am quite the opposite. But like a minority of Left journalists like Matt Taibbi and Glenn Greenwald, I am appalled at the canceling, deplatforming, censoring, and demonizing of the right (including 75 million Trump voters) in what can only be called Total Information Warfare. In Total Information Warfare (as in military conflict) a key tactic is to make your opponents look as bad as possible. How can we have a democracy if we are being incited to hate each other by the very media we depend on to tell us what is real, what is “news,” and what the world is?
It looks today like the Left is beating the Right at its own game: the game of censorship, authoritarianism, and the suppression of dissent. But before you celebrate the expulsion of the Right from social media and public discourse, please understand the inevitable result: the Left will become the Right. This is already long underway, as the overwhelming presence of neocons, Wall Street insiders, and corporate champions in the Biden administration demonstrates. The partisan information warfare that began as a left-right conflict, with Fox on one side and CNN and MSNBC on the other, is rapidly reforming into a struggle between the Establishment and its challengers.
When Big Tech, Big Pharma, and Wall Street are on the same side as the military brass, the intelligence services, and the majority of government officials, it will not be long before those censored are those who disturb their agenda.
Glenn Greenwald makes the point well:
There are times when powers of repression and censorship are aimed more at the left and times when they are aimed more at the right, but it is neither inherently a left-wing nor a right-wing tactic. It is a ruling class tactic, and it will be deployed against anyone perceived to be a dissident to ruling class interests and orthodoxies no matter where on the ideological spectrum they reside.)
Matt, next they will criticize you for “both-sidesism”. With each pair you publish, both sides will accuse you of equating their grand heroic martyr with an evil enemy of humanity. There is truly no pleasing the little tyrants all over the internet.
Anyway, appreciate your work brother, keep being true to yourself.
I think silencing political opposition as well as random individuals with differing opinions -- there's a difference --is far more prevalent on the left. Surveys confirm that a third of Americans are fearful of expressing their opinions; those least afraid of doing so are on the left. Others stay quiet for a reason: lost jobs, lost relationships, lost reputations. Was the curator in San Francisco who ventured to say that he would continue to buy pieces by white artists right wing? The Twitter-mobbed and humiliated Asian-American reporter forced to apologize because he dared quote a black man who said there would be no outcry if a black, instead of a white, had killed the same person? Is J.K. Rowling right wing for politely but firmly refusing to deny biological fact? There is nothing comparable to widespread CRT indoctrination. A trend conflates traditionally normal, liberal values, especially speech, with "conservative" or "right wing." I am no fan of either party. I did find it ironic that the most full-throated defense of American history, and the most effective sacking of the fraudulent Project 1619, came from the World Socialist Web. No one should be silenced.
How 40% of young people could believe it is ok to restrict free speech and give its governing to a small body of CEOs is beyond my understanding. How could they not understand the history of this in reigns like Mao and Stalin. The free speech issue is probably one of the most important issue clouded by partisan politics but it is certainly not the only one. We just lived through 12 months of a pandemic which certainly was and I am very afraid we will live through decisions around our national energy strategy which will be also be deeply impacted by partisan politics and then in turn drive us further apart. God help our nation.
It's hilarious how many commenters are just ignoring the crux of this post (or, you know, just the title of the post) and retreating into "actually, the left does it more." It's not a victimhood competition.
Censorship is only one face of a two-sided coin, the other side being the increasing deliberate manipulation and distortion of new stories by the mainstream press, as we saw recently when it surfaced 60 Minutes/CBS deliberately distorted a story about DeSantis in Florida and using a local supermarket chain for COVID vaccines. There was no reason for 60 Minutes to fictionalize the DeSantis interview except to deliberately be a hit piece against a potential Republican threat.
I found it chilling but sadly I wasn't surprised. After all, we live in a time when the once impeccable NYT now openly admits it passes off opinion as facts in its articles and deems it acceptable because somehow it's... for the greater good? Are we heading for a time where otherwise intelligent media figures not only censor but deliberately make up news specifically to attack threats to what they deem as the good society? It's the same mindset that allowed the repressive totalitarian regimes to function. But it's also a distinctly non-liberal mindset. Does it imply that the American establishment no longer truly believes in liberal democracy? If so, then Houston, we have a problem.
I'm not sure how this is all going to play out. Americans aren't ignorant. Too many people know what is going on.
Corporations working in concert with government to quash voices they deem undesirable is merely Fascism 2.0.
The rest of the world looks at us as “the new banana republic”. Our old President is silenced and our new government is an armed camp with twelve foot barriers, razor wire, and armed guards.
It doesn't really feel like an apples to apples comparison. Right leaning sources are much more likely to be targeted, while leftist leaning sources suffer more from collateral damage. In an age where support for individual rights is viewed as a right wing belief, it will be harder to see the occasional de-platforming of a self proclaimed left leaning person as an actual attack on the left. Traditional liberals simply are no longer left of center.
Matt, if you are gauging by feedback from Twitter, I want to point out something.
Non-woke, non-left-leaning people join Twitter. They make polite-enough posts, get replies/likes/retweets, have fun, yay yay, etc. Then one day, with no announcement or explanation whatsoever, they'll find they are not getting feedback. They probably never even know why: they've been shadowbanned. Lack of feedback -- i.e., fun -- causes them to stop using or cut back on Twitter.
The end result is a Darwinian survival of the fittest, with Twitter having decided that woke is what's fit.
It seems strange to me that anyone really has anything left to say on the subject. I would suggest (and have with each new article you offer) that censorship is, in any way, by anyone, for any reason, wrong. Period.
It is an unassailable tenet in a free and open society, that stifling speech will result in the demise of that society. Critical thought will wilt. Truth will never see the light of day. And we will all be the less for it.
And spare me the "yelling fire in a crowded theater" knee-jerk. It doesn't now, nor will it ever hold water outside the mind of the feeble who believe it to be a legitimate exception.
Manipulating partisan emotions is the best route to inject propaganda.
Trump has been the greatest gift in this regard: I can imagine no faster way to turn so-called liberals into CIA/FBI worshiping advocates for censorship. He's like a sheepdog that has herded fearful Democrats into the abbatoir.
"It is a matter of simple fact that the British government employs a very large number of people whose full time job is to influence the political narrative on social media. The 77th Brigade of the British Army, the Integrity Initiative, MI5 and MI6 and GCHQ all run major programmes of covert online propaganda. These information warriors operate on twitter, facebook, and in comments sections across the internet.
"I have long been fascinated by the disconnect by which people, who do know and understand that the security services employ tens of thousands of people and have budgets of billions, nevertheless find it hard to accept that they may come personally into contact with their operations. Therefore when I state that the security services infiltrate groups including environmentalists and the SNP, and were involved in the Skripal story in ways not public, there is a peculiar desire among people to reject it as it is uncomfortable. Equally while people do know the security services are committing huge sums to social media influencing, to point out any of its instances brings derisive shouts of “conspiracy theory”."
Is anyone naive enough to believe the US government doesn't do the exact same thing?
Anyone catch the blatant PBS / 60 Minutes smear against DeSantis regarding the vaccine rollout in Florida? Maybe Matt should interview the producers or the woman reporter who led the charge.
Basically now we have all the legacy/corporate/propaganda media lying and censoring 100% of the time, and most of the independent journalists devoting 95% of their time to watching the lying legacy/corporate/propaganda media lie and censor, and then writing about what they see there.
Meanwhile 99% of the population outside the political/media circles knows that 100% of the legacy media is lying all the time, is interested in true, timely reporting about real economic and social issues, and can't find it anywhere.
This is a great article. As always Taibbi is an excellent journalist and writer and brings up important issues. Thank you for existing.