When Disappearing People On Social Media All Started
Some of you might remember that when the banning, de-platforming, and censoring of independent voices all started, I was there. I spoke out in an article, of August 2018: Alex Jones is a nut, but his being universally banned is chilling. I knew I was taking a risk in defending free speech, but did so anyway. This was my opening paragraph, which has come true:
I’d sooner get my news from The Onion or The Weekly World News than from Alex Jones, but his sudden disappearance is cause for alarm. The underlying and inescapable message is that anyone can be scrubbed from social media without accountability. Your on-line existence can be ERASED, and we must simply have blind faith that the people who would do this, do so in the name of the good (and would never abuse that power, nor be corrupted by it). Fat chance.
The most chilling part of Alex Jones being banned was that it happened simultaneously on multiple platforms: Facebook, Apple, Spotify, and YouTube. Those companies needed to be unified in their beliefs and convictions, and this was a coordinated move to take out Jones.
Jones was a soft target because many of his conspiracy theories were both outrageous and offensive. The one that struck me as the most moronic was his attempt to convince us that Michelle Obama is a man:
That is patently stupid. She’s a mother.
Once he was banned, a new precedent was set. Big tech had the power to erase us, and we mostly applauded or meekly agreed to grant them this super weapon, against which we are defenseless. Once we gave them the right to shut us down with impunity, they ran with it.
Today, people get banned and censored with the wave of a hand, and average citizens are too afraid of getting erased themselves to say anything about it. At some point it’s too late to fight back, and a lot of us have already given up, and are presenting ourselves as mild and obsequious, so that we aren’t ourselves targeted. That tactic, however, means we lose additional ground, and will have to be even more overtly docile and subservient so as not to appear remotely threatening.
Jack Vale Shut Down!
Jack is the original YouTube fart prank guy, and the inventor of “The Pooter”. Part of me has never grown up, and I’ve been laughing at fart prank videos for a decade.
Oh no, I just figured something out. Well, I have a hunch, which I don’t like.
I was about to say that there are many YouTubers that have followed in Jack’s fart steps, made a career off of fart prank videos, and virtually all of them take it further than he does into the tasteless. He’s the cleanest, and the most family friendly. And then I realized that might be why he of all people was selected to be made an example of, which I would never have dreamed of.
If it were deliberate, it would be the opposite tactic of taking out Jones. With Jones, we could say that if anyone deserved to be silenced, it was him, and we would never have to worry about them coming after us. But with Vale, the message is that if they can silence him, they can silence anyone, and we are no longer safe. Well, you might be thinking, “He must have done SOMETHING wrong.” Are you ready? Behold:
If you can’t read what it says on the video excerpt, showing the timestamp of the offensive material, here’s the text:
Nudity and sexual content
Content relating to fetishes may be age-restricted if the content isn’t appropriate for all audiences. Please note: We don’t allow this kind of content if we know the uploader is under 18.
You can see Jack is leaning forward, arms folded, and secretly squeezing the “Pooter” to make a pretend fart. Is this someone’s idea of “nudity” or “sexual content” or “fetishes”? I guess someone can make the argument that their butts are touching, though only as pictorial elements (as in his overlaps hers in the photo because he’s in front) though not in real life. The charge is preposterous. He appealed it, and was rejected. Below, YouTube says, “We reviewed your content carefully, and have confirmed that it violates our sex and nudity policy.”
Jack highlighted the “nudity” part because it’s inescapably obvious that there’s no nudity. As it happens, I saw the video when it came out, and it was his standard, innocent routine he’s been doing for at least a decade.
His punishment is that his content will be age-restricted, and he can’t make money off of ads. In other words, they closed his business.
I think enough people might “raise a stink” about this insanity that YouTube may roll back their cuckoo punishment of a guy who is totally innocent. Unless they really are completely trying to intimidate hundreds of prank channels on YouTube. You can watch Jack’s video about being shut down below.
The important thing here is that this kind of overreaching content curation, even if it is a oversight that may be fixed at some point, or is a mistake (though they “carefully” reviewed it] was never possible until Alex Jones was cancelled.
Back in 2018, I wrote in my article on Jone’s being cancelled:
America without Alex Jones and the brilliant parodies of his ridiculous rants is not my America. I don’t know what it’s becoming, but it has less options, less humor, less dialogue, less freedom, and more fear.
Surely, Alex is, intentionally or not, an example to others.
The Curious Silence in the NFT Community About the Battle For Free Speech
Free speech and artistic freedom are inseparable, and yet NFT artists are completely silent about freedom of speech where they sell their art.
Crypto currency is a form of decentralized finance, and artists have always been vulnerable to censorship. I’d have thought, if I didn’t already know better, that NFT artists would be among the most concerned about censorship. Now it occurs to me that I may have that wrong. They may be concerned, just not willing to stick their necks out. Or maybe they just think they don’t personally have to worry about it, though the above story should give them reason to reconsider how safe they are.
I’m a part — an infinitesimally small part — of the NFT community on Twitter. Now that Elon Musk is trying to buy Twitter in order to open it up to free speech, I thought some of my artist peers on Twitter might have a thing or two to say about that. Other than a few tweets from yours truly, and a link to my ambitious article on shadow-banning on Twitter, there was virtually nothing.
Or at least nothing visible. My post sharing my article was only seen by 15 people, and only liked by one. Therefore, I can only say that among the people who rank higher in searches and in my feed, I saw nothing at all. This morning I scrolled through hundreds of tweets and, again, nothing.
I think I didn’t get the memo. Apparently good artists know their place and don’t rock the boat on topics like censorship and free speech. I have noticed that most discussions are fairly tightly focused on the business of NFTs. It’s good business sense, but makes a slaughterhouse out of stimulating discussions about art in a forum about art.
The result is that at least 90% of the discourse could be performed by AI, and I’m being generous. As I once aptly put it, participating in the NFT community reminds me of those movies where an adult has to go undercover as a student in High School. Another way I put it is, it’s like Body Dylan auditioning for a boy band.
However you slice it, NFT artists appear to be among the most meek and quiescent when it comes to challenging Twitter’s behind-the-scenes censoring. Not one mention of Elon Musk. Further, not one retweet from the crypto community supporting him or free speech that I’ve seen. When Russia invaded Ukraine, almost everyone had something to say, so it’s not that the NFT community is completely averse to politics. I have to wonder if the NFT and crypto community support the corporate takeover of free speech, and are happy with the dominant narrative and belief system provided for them.
Again, maybe some other artists, like me, are speaking out and standing up for free speech, but their posts are mysteriously not very visible, or they themselves aren’t. It could be Twitter is driving content about free speech down, rather than that artists aren’t making a peep, but I checked individual artist’s profiles, and there was nothing, not a whiff about Elon, censorship, or free speech on Twitter.
It’s as if people belief the mask of benevolence worn by malevolence. And if you point out the facade, then your are ostracized as the bad guy. More on that another time.
Well, let me just do a little provocation with a quick graphic:
I like experiments. I predict this will get zero likes (the one you see is my own, to show my support], and that of my 653 followers, less than 30 will ever see it.
Curiously, NFT artists on Twitter are very prone to “conformity bias”, which I just don’t get. I’m cut from the cloth where artists are anti-conformity, and that’s one of our chief roles to keep society from becoming too sheepish. Hopefully, I’m wrong about the NFT community, and just got the wrong impression.
The video above addresses how we humans are pack animals, and are hardwired to conform to the rest of the group. However, often the impression of what the group believes does not represent the cumulative individual beliefs. Rather, the loudest or more influential people will dictate what the whole of individuals believe, even if it is contrary to their beliefs.
NFT artists are very likely to be free speech die-hards, but because the big influencers are not saying anything to support it, they convinced themselves it’s an unpopular belief, and therefore meekly are marching lock step with censorship. Gone are the days when artists were among the most vocal opponents to corporate rule, and reliable advocates of free speech. Many, I’m sure, even believe the smear tactics and rhetoric that tells them that free speech is somehow a pro-Orange Man and Sleestack position. It is anything but that!
Why Don’t Twitter Users Get a Say?
Something occurred to me today, as things do, and I hadn’t heard anyone express this idea before. We know that the board of Twitter is battling Elon’s attempt to buy the company, and according to him, make it into a free speech public square for the world. And we know that they initiated a “poison pill” technique to sell stocks on the cheap to all but Musk, in order to thwart his attempt.
But you know who has no voice in this? The users of Twitter. And that’s just a wee bit odd. What if we were given a vote whether we wanted to keep the current CEO and board, or adopt Elon Musk? That would be democratic, or at least enlightening (though, it would be hard to trust Twitter to not rig a vote on their platform in their favor). But the idea hasn’t come up among any of the big voices I’ve heard from.
I asked this question. Nobody responded, or liked it, but I at least formulated the question in my mind. Does anyone care what the users of the platform want?
Every super mainstream corporate media source (CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, LA Times, The Guardian, the WaPo …) is busy smearing Musk and saying he poses some great danger and would bring back the Orange Man and embolden the Sleestack; meanwhile every independent voice whose intelligence I respect is on the other side, championing the hope of regaining free speech (Matt Taibbi, Chris Hedges, Russell Brand, Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying, Breaking Points with Krystal and Saagar …]. Significantly, the sources that are opposed to Musk are overwhelmingly owned by billionaires themselves, but in their cases the companies are not beholden to free speech.
This is a war between corporations/entrenched politicians/traditional elite controlling the narrative versus everyone else having the opportunity for their own views and arguments to count. We are at a crossroads. Elon is merely a guy who has the funds and the commitment to free speech to challenge the monopoly big media has on what information we have access to and what we think and believe. This is a struggle of power between the people and corporate rule.
We don’t know for sure that Elon would provide the “free speech” he promises, but it’s worth giving it a try.
The fact that (as far as I can tell) it hasn’t even occurred to anyone to ask the people who use Twitter what they think or want powerfully suggests that the people currently running Twitter don’t value our opinions.
It’s most comical when corporate big media spokespersons now start talking about free speech itself as dangerous, rather than stick to smearing Musk. What historical precedent is there for a country that suffered from too much free speech? It seems like free speech is a litmus test of how authoritarian a country is, and how oppressed its people. When we lose the reach of our free speech, we forfeit that territory to the powerful, and make of ourselves third-class citizens.
And now we are being told that free speech is dangerous. 1984 wasn’t supposed to be a “How To” manual.