Are Authorities Using the Internet to Sap Our Instinct for Freedom?
MATT TAIBBI | RACKET NEWS | JUL 14, 2023 | Condensed
- Many People in America are not just accepting of digital censorship, they believe it to be vitally necessary.
- There’s an equivalent effort on the front end of Internet culture to rob people of their will to be free.
- We often do not distinguish between thinking that is ours and thinking that is someone else’s.
- Their sophisticated programs begin with the premise that the Internet always punishes difference and rewards conformity.
- We are learning to submit to the wisdom of “crowds”, which on the Internet 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.
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 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.
Suddenly…America was okay with the government running both mass surveillance programs of the type uncovered by Edward Snowden, and a sophisticated censorship operation in partnership with 25 of the biggest tech firms in America?
It didn’t make sense. What changed?
Judge Learned Hand, 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…it’s that “right not to remain silent,” something in which I believed almost religiously.
But if that spirit of liberty Justice Hand talked about dies, no amount of lawsuits or congressional hearings will revive it. If a person’s natural instinct is to slouch, is society’s natural instinct to censor?
If so, that would make the last few hundred years of our history, a history of defiant political movements, astounding scientific invention, and vast outpourings of great music, art, literature, movies, even standup comedy — it would all be an aberration. But why?
I spent months thinking about this. It troubled me from the beginning of the Twitter Files story.
- Now, I believe Americans are not just being censored.
- I believe there’s an equivalent effort on the front end of Internet culture to rob people of their will to be free.
- I believe this is is the hardest part of the Internet censorship story to understand, but also the most crucial and most dangerous.
As we found in the Twitter Files, we lean more and more on machines to do our thinking for us.
However, the worst part is, we often do not distinguish between thinking that is ours and thinking that is someone else’s.
Now instead of giving the world something invigorating and freeing like rock n’ roll, we’re exporting mass neurosis. At home we’ve become afraid to walk even a few steps without our electronic helpers. Our sense of self is now inextricably tied to a huge global entourage of prying commentators who live in those phones of ours that are always in our pockets and whose good opinion we never stop seeking, whether we admit it or not. This was never us before…we long celebrated the individual, even if the individual seemed crazy.
But thinking for yourself is hard work, and political interests in the Internet age have preyed on another very American instinct: laziness.
Their sophisticated programs begin with the premise that the Internet always punishes difference and rewards conformity. This is the core principle at work in shadow-banning and de-amplification algorithms. These automated surveillance tools look for phrases like “Open-minded” or “I like to do my own research” or “I’m generally apolitical” and don’t score the people saying such things as tolerant, creative freethinkers. What the algorithm instead detects is someone harboring a dangerous willingness to embrace unorthodox ideas or look at a forbidden thing and not flee.
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.
If they can preemptively extinguish that fire in us, formal censorship will become unnecessary. The population will become too fearful of difference to ever risk punishment in the first place. That moment is close at hand. This is why I’m so grateful for events like this and to people like yourselves. I believe you all know the patriotic importance of preserving that spirit.
Meanwhile, these people who would have us glued to our phones, perennially afraid of electronic whispers, they’re as American as redcoats.
EDITORS NOTE: This ACT for America column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.