Truth Teller’s Dilemma, Part 1

[Author’s note: this was previously posted elsewhere, but it strikes me that all three parts of this extended essay should be available on the same site. This will render them out of order, but I think my readers are smart enough to figure out what is going on. I’ve had to make a few very minor changes, and one update at the end. This will be the first of several offerings of previously published material, spread across the next several weeks as time permits, that is in danger of being zapped into data heaven, so to speak, if not “rescued” and placed here.]

I have tried to tell the truth — on this site, on others where I post or have written articles (e.g., here and here), and long ago at places where I am no longer welcome (here; archive butchered into unrecognizability). I’ve not done this for myself. My gains have been negligible. I’ve done it for you — readers — out of a sense, often distressing, that truth should be told and writers have an obligation to tell it. I don’t always get everything right, or cover every topic out there. No one does. But given my limitations — no staff, no income from this worth speaking of (needing outside work, therefore), and being outside the U.S. — I don’t think I do badly. I’ve had occasional help from boots-on-the-ground sources, to whom I am profoundly grateful.

It was clear before the end of the 1990s: before we fully realized that a free press in the U.S. was a myth and had been for some time, the uncensored Internet had the potential to be a repository of truth: a boon to truth-seekers and truth-tellers the likes of which we had not seen before.

Turning points: Matt Drudge breaking the Clinton-Lewinsky story when mainstream outlets were burying it. New alternative media sources emphasizing later that Bill Clinton was not impeached for having sex with an intern in the Oval Office but lying under oath to a grand jury. Pivotal articles on an assortment of topics: this (orig. 1997), thisthis which used to be available for free but the original is long gone, this, and this. And the posting of older, crucial documents like thisthis, and especially this, among others.

Then came the film that capped off that decade: The Matrix (1999), which inspired my debut series on NewsWithViews.com. What makes this film one of the half-dozen or so most important of the past century is its planting firmly in popular culture the suggestion that much of what we are told — by media and other corporations, government, academia, even many churches — is designed to create an appearance of republican democracy, personal freedoms, and general political-economic well-being, in which, whatever seems wrong, the “experts” have things in hand!

The truth: much of our education and many crucial activities — work, play, taxes — all further in one way or another, while hiding them behind smokescreens of various sorts, the goals of the oligarchy of kleptocrats in central banks and other global corporations, secondarily their bought political and administrative classes, and the power systems emanating from what is now called the Deep State: the military-intelligence-security-information complex. The main smokescreen is mainstream (corporate) media, owned by a handful of megaconglomerates and elite billionaires. What is a kleptocrat? We mean someone who may once have earned money with a genuinely useful product people wanted, but who discovered that in a financialized system based on fractional banking and fiat money he can get much richer through investment (going public, taking stock buybacks, etc.). And has joined the 300 or so extended families who for well over a century have seen themselves as most fit to rule over the unwashed masses, their rulership being all but invisible unless you know just where to look.

The Matrix of the film was “a neural-active simulation … a computer-generated dream world built to keep us under control in order to change a human being into this,” says the central character Morpheus as he holds up a common flashlight battery, implying the machines’ parasitic use of our life energies while lay there, plugged in, oblivious. The Real Matrix is the fantasy world generated by major media, government, and public education with assistance from other dominant institutions, its purpose being to keep us peons under control, ignorant of our parasite masters but properly servile within the system that empowers and enriches them.

Many folks, as The Matrix’s central character Morpheus observes, are at least modestly satisfied in their ignorance, as the Real Matrix supplies paychecks, creature comforts, and sometimes advancement for the especially cooperative, along with abundant entertainment on the side (professional sports, American Idol, the Kardashians, other public spectacles of all kinds). They are entirely dependent on the system — not just economically but psychologically. They will fight to protect the fantasy world.

Aldous Huxley wrote back in 1955:

“A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude. To make them love it is the task assigned, in present-day totalitarian states, to ministries of propaganda, newspaper editors and schoolteachers.”

And CNN talking heads and many “economists” paid to cite statistics allegedly telling us that all is well in the ship of state — claims often in conflict with viewers’ personal experiences, causing cognitive dissonance. The restless can look to professional agitators across the political spectrum. The point is to keep those involved in “causes” believing they have options they realistically do not have, and to direct their attention and activities down dead ends. As long as violent baby-leftists (e.g., Antifa) and naïve alt-rightists are screaming obscenities at one another, sometimes exchanging blows, neither sees what is happening at the top.

Today, we are losing the Internet, little by little. I am not referring to “net neutrality,” another distraction. The kleptocrats allowed the Internet to get away from them well before that. It was bound to dawn on some of them that this was a mistake. Since late 2016 they have been taking action to rectify that mistake. It hasn’t been that difficult.

For starters, the Internet is now dominated by a handful of corporate goliaths: Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, a few others. All are in bed with the Deep State. Google’s is the dominant search engine, which now owns YouTube, the largest online repository of videos, and WhatsApp, the most popular messaging system. Facebook and Twitter are the most visible social media platforms. Their reputations for censorship, and the former for carelessness (on the most charitable interpretation!) with user data, grow almost daily. Amazon is the largest online retailer — and a major contractor with the CIA. Windows has been the dominant operating system for PCs at least since 1995, with which Linux cannot truly compete even when you can download it for free, because of arrangements made long ago between Microsoft and manufacturers to pre-install Windows and accompanying software on their devices.

Convenient? Of course! No one wanted to buy a computer and have to install the operating system himself. The masses’ desire for convenience is a tool that can be used, however. If you believe “free market competition” exists in this environment, the Real Matrix still has you.

The Real Matrix still has you, moreover, if you believe the brand of capitalist that dominates this industry has any interest in freedom of speech or thought. The career trajectory of James Damore, fired from Google following his frank but reasonable explanation why the corporation could not recruit more women engineers, ought to dispel that notion at once. Damore’s claim was the obvious one: because of our natural, biological “hardwiring” there are things men tend to be better at than women, such as engineering, just as there are things women are better at than men, such as nursing and other kinds of caregiving. For this Damore was dismissed from his job at Google. He sued; his suit was dismissed, unsurprising given both the power imbalance and the legal system’s commitment to gender preferences (in the Orwellian tongue: equal opportunity). Some of the ensuing discussionindicated how science itself has been corrupted by identity politics, as well as the lengths to which some will go to discredit dissidents like Damore. The relevant questions thus cannot be asked. Dissenting lines of inquiry cannot be pursued. Doing so is career suicide.

Visceral threats to job, income, career, are how de facto coercion is exercised in present-day digital capitalism — a brand of dictatorship without a visible dictator because the coercion is systemic, a manifestation of what the late political philosopher Sheldon Wolin (1922 – 2015) called inverted totalitarianism in which economics trumps politics, everything and everyone is commodified, our lives are encircled by consumerism and theater, and elections become farces because so-called liberal democracy has become a façade.

Behind the façade, moneyed interests and their lobbyists matter; voters do not. The latter’s focus, moreover, is more on their own often precarious situations than electoral politics, situations that are also systemic. Wolin emphasized that classic totalitarians (e.g., Hitler, Stalin, Mao) encouraged enthusiastic mass support. Inverted totalitarianism encourages and reinforces apathy, as the masses are perpetually entangled in myriad private dilemmas (job worries, the rising cost of health care, etc.).

In the past, yes, online dissent was tolerated. Films like The Matrix got made and widely discussed. Perhaps the kleptocrats did not see these as much of a threat. But on the night of November 8, 2016, that changed.

YouTube has removed thousands of conservative-leaning and “conspiratorial” videos. The site’s owners are also purging anything seeming to promote guns and gun-ownership. The former is part of the ongoing campaign against “fake news,” i.e., the cyberwar against online truth-telling which began right after Donald Trump’s “populist” victory blindsided the kleptocrats and became the biggest threat in over a generation to their path through globalizing economics to a world state that would answer to their corporate empires (some called this state of affairs the New World Order, a phrase sullied from overuse).

This war’s opening shots were fired here: with unnamed “experts” alleging the presence of espionage-level “Russian propaganda” on some 199 alternative news/commentary sites, recommending a federal investigation, but presenting no evidence to back up their charges. The article’s credibility should have been zero. The reportage was National Enquirer quality. But we weren’t reading The National Enquirer. We were reading the front page of The Washington Post.

There’s part of our problem. Credibility by longstanding position and name-recognition, not to mention the vastly superior resources of an owner, Jeff Bezos (founder of Amazon.com), with a net worth now over $105 billion. If you believe position, name-recognition, and massive wealth now accrued through ownership of Amazon stock provide guarantees of truthfulness, the Real Matrix still has you.

Do we now have any insight into who or what was behind PropOrNot? This might enlighten you. Warning: it’s not pretty!

It was primarily in response to the PropOrNot stunt and the publicity it generated that Google changed its search algorithms, making “alternative news” harder to find. Many alternative sites saw their web traffic drop precipitously over subsequent months.

My “The Real Matrix” series (mentioned above) garnered hundreds of emails, including requests to reprint, talk radio invites, and an all-expenses-paid speaking gig at a national meeting (original website long gone, interestingly).

For well over a year now, my articles have been doing well to receive a dozen responses, most from long time readers. Invitations to speak have vanished.

The sites removed from YouTube include those of Mike Adams, better known as the Health Ranger. Still available, at least as of this writing, is Alex Jones’s InfoWars channel which at one point had two complaints against it (three and you’re gone). Jones has threatened to sue if his channel is removed. Such a suit would strike another blow for freedom of speech on the Internet, and its outcome would speak volumes about whether free speech will continue to exist in any meaningful form. Whether you like Jones or not, he’s less of a pushover than a James Damore, if only because as an Internet entrepreneur instead of an ex-employee he has greater visibility and commands more resources.

Jones is being sued, however, adding yet another layer of intrigue to our story. Brennan Gilmore, who filmed the car plowing into the crowd in Charlottesville, lodged a complaint alleging that he’s suffered harassment and threats, and that members of his family have been harassed as well. He blames “conspiracy theorists” generally and Jones in particular. Jones and others suggested last August that as a former employee in Hillary Clinton’s State Department and a known Hillary supporter, as well as an employee of a Virginia Democrat partly funded by George Soros, his presence at that exact spot seemed like something more than pure chance. This is not, as his suit alleges, to make the simplistic charge that he “planned the attack.” This is on a par with inferring from the holes in the official story of the 9/11 attacks the idea that “George W. Bush planned 9/11,” something no one with a brain believes.

A statement from Gilmore’s attorney, of the very well-connected Georgetown Law Civil Rights Clinic: “We don’t think the First Amendment protects blatantly defamatory speech that inspires violence and hatred of victims of terrorist attacks and mass shootings.” This statement’s dishonesty is literally off the map. Gilmore made himself a public figure. He wrote articles. Defamation accusations hold water only if its targets really said those things. This has not been shown. At what point did anyone visible expressed “hatred” for the victim of the car attack? Perhaps such statements can be found on a few extreme-right forums where anything goes. As I don’t visit such sites I have no idea what’s on them. Jones is surely not responsible for their content, and I doubt he threatened anyone in Gilmore’s family which is, of course, reprehensible.

But if YouTube were to get away with shutting down Alex Jones’s channel, or if Gilmore and his Deep State connected law firm can wage the increasingly common practice of “lawfare” to harm him monetarily nevertheless, think what these and other powerful players could do to us lesser-knowns who are struggling financially — mainly because of our truth-telling activities!

Are we nearing a day when anyone branded a “conspiracy theorist” on, say, CNN, or demonized as a “hater” by the equally well-connected (and immensely well-funded) Southern Poverty Law Center, will have no First Amendment protections?*

When the First Amendment is interpreted by the Supreme Court as protecting huge campaign contributions from billionaires (Citizens United), but a court will not protect criticisms of radical feminist assumptions by a James Damore, has free speech not become as big of a joke as the idea of a free press?

Do you really believe you have freedom of speech on social media?

To continue with Part 2, go here.

Part 3 is here.

*UPDATE April 24, 2018: a number of Sandy Hook parents have also filed suit against Alex Jones on similar grounds. Jones had claimed that the mass shooting of December 14, 2012 at Sandy Hook High School in Newtown, Ct., was a staged event and that the parents were crisis actors. The issue is not whether Jones is right or whether he is wrong, but whether what he says on his own channel is protected speech under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which never promised anyone an offense-free environment.

About Steven Yates

I have a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Georgia and teach Critical Thinking (mostly in English) at Universidad Nacionale Andrés Bello in Santiago, Chile. I moved here in 2012 from South Carolina. My most recent book is entitled Four Cardinal Errors: Reasons for the Decline of the American Republic (2011). I am the author of an earlier book, around two dozen articles & reviews, & still more articles on commentary sites on the Web. I live in Santiago with my wife Gisela & two spoiled cats, Bo & Princesa.
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