RatS 26: Taibbi – Are Authorities Using the Internet to Sap Our Instinct for Freedom?

Last week, Meta-Facebook-Instagram announced a program to combat “misinformation” during the referendum for the Voice to Parliament. This is a bad move, if for no other reason that it will be viewed, probably correctly, as the silencing of voices in order to support the Voice. The ironic anti-message will undoubtedly be clear to Voice sceptics. We had thought to write on this, but figured we’d already written enough on inappropriate Voice spruiking, and on the dangers of half-wit authorities declaring what is or is not misinformation.

M-F-I’s misinformation program is not just a bad move, however, for unintentionally screwing up the Yes guys on the Voice. M-F-I claims that their program is “contributing to democracy”, but there is a solid argument that they’re doing the exact opposite. Which brings us to Matt Taibbi. Again.

A few days ago Taibbi gave a speech, on the undermining of free speech and dissent, and even the desire for this, by the internet behemoths. Here are some excerpts.

I’d learned a trick over the years. If something about a story doesn’t make sense, you probably got something wrong. Something about the Twitter Files story was off.

It wasn’t hard to understand why the FBI was organizing a censorship scheme, or why companies like Twitter and Facebook that lived off lucrative regulatory subsidies were going along with one. The motives of the powerful actors in all this were never mysterious. The part that didn’t compute was why so many in the general public were accepting of the situation. This included people I knew. Many people in America are not just accepting of digital censorship, they believe it to be vitally necessary.

A few weeks ago I read a draft of a new book by Greg Lukianoff and Rikki Schlott, called The Cancelling of the American Mind. They quoted Judge Learned Hand, who wrote in 1944, “Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it.”

Justice Hand had a hard time defining this thing that “lies in the hearts of men and women.” But, as an American, I believe I experienced it growing up. As [ACLU president] Nadine [Strossen] said, it’s that “right not to remain silent”, something in which I believed almost religiously.

Many in this room this week are rightly celebrating Judge Terry Doughty’s decision in the Missouri v. Biden lawsuit, striking down government censorship on the internet.

But if that spirit of liberty Justice Hand talked about dies, no amount of lawsuits or congressional hearings will revive it. 

It was once a virtue for Americans to say, when asked about their politics, “None of your damn business.”

Nobody thinks that way anymore, either. Young people especially are worried to the point of mental illness about their likes and ratios. We not only want people to know what we think, we’re terrified of people not knowing what we think, lest we be suspected of harboring something unsavory underneath.

This is how it is for Americans trying to be themselves now. First they became addicted to the Internet as a tool of convenience. Then it became a cheap substitute for real-life interaction. Finally they learned to submit to the wisdom of crowds, which on the Internet, as we also found out, is really an artificial representation of a crowd, generated by political and social engineers from the FBI, DHS, the Pentagon, Meta, Google, and other bureaucracies. These groups are letting loose algorithms on that “Spirit of liberty” Justice Hand talked about. The results have not been good.

Read all of Taibbi’s speech, and then scream.

3 Replies to “RatS 26: Taibbi – Are Authorities Using the Internet to Sap Our Instinct for Freedom?”

  1. It will take us (people, humanity) time to learn how to navigate the internet. Hopefully positive, our achievement in this area would be tantamount to fighting for Magna Carta. It all started from Napster back in the very early zeroes. The red button ‘record’ on a tape recorder was legal and integral to people’s lives and relationships. Tape recording a friend’s music tape or vinyl was as usual as saying hello. Then came Napster, and things started to crumble. We needed to figure out what to do with the scale that the internet brought. The best we could do back then was to make Napster illegal. Yes, I could still use the red button on my tape recorder, but I couldn’t digitise my music and share it with friends over the internet. That was the first time we failed the scale test of the internet. We found a way to deal with the scale problem in music much later with the likes of Spotify and other similar services. It took us around ten years to make streaming services as ubiquitous as the red button on a tape recorder.
    Democracy and freedom of speech are an unalienable part of Western liberty. Hyde park corner was and is a great place for everyone who wants to talk about whatever they want. However, the scale of the internet and the anonymity of social platforms offered a megaphone to every voice. It isn’t one ‘weirdo’ on Hyde Park Corner shouting in front of another 20 ‘weirdoes’. It is a voice multiplied by millions. Mass media, such as newspapers and TV channels, had and still have editorial policies. A ‘crazy weirdo’ with several million subscribers on a social platform might depend only on how much Prozac he/she took that day.
    We need to figure out what to do with the scale of this ‘freedom’. We are facing a big mountain of social evolution to climb, and so far, we could be doing better.

      1. I agree with Taibbi that mainstream media has become a polarising factor in modern society (Taibbi himself is a polarising factor, by the way). However, the problem with the mainstream media (MM) arises only partially from the scale problem of the Internet. It is the consequence of the digital business landscape and the Internet. The issues for the MM have been brewing since zeroes and fully materialised after the financial crisis of 2008. After 2008, companies started redistributing their marketing budgets from TV and paper media to the Internet. The Internet offered a much more efficient way of spending marketing budgets with considerably better possibilities for tracking and optimisation. MM couldn’t back then give that opportunity. Most of the MM could help only with branding efforts, not performance marketing, even today. Before 2008 the subscription wasn’t a dominant part of media revenues. Most of it was marketing budgets from companies. After 2008 it started to drop dramatically, and subscription has become an important part and way to survive.
        Consequently, the confirmation bias is killing mainstream media; they can’t afford to piss off their subscribers. Inevitably it leads to polarisation in society. MM – simply can’t afford to be neutral anymore.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 128 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video, document, spreadsheet, interactive, text, archive, code, other. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop file here