by Michael K. Emerson / March 16th, 2021
On Jan. 8, 2021, two days after the Capitol Hill “insurrection”, the Parler social media app was the number #1 most downloaded app in the Apple App Store. On “January 10, 2021, Parler CEO John Matze announced the company had been ‘dropped by virtually all of its business alliances after Amazon, Apple and Google ended their agreements … Every vendor from text message services to email providers to our lawyers all ditched us too on the same day.’” By Jan. 11, Apple, Google, and Amazon had successfully colluded to destroy the capacity of one of the most popular apps on the web to operate.
It was a blatant violation of antitrust laws during a period in which Big Tech has been repeatedly investigated and accused of similar infractions. In October 2020 top Democratic congressional lawmakers reported that “… Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google engage in a range of anti-competitive behavior, and antitrust laws need an overhaul to allow for more competition in the US internet economy.” The report recommended new legislation that could lead to the breakup of tech giants such as Facebook and Google.
Yet the overnight shutdown of Parler was accompanied by deafening cheers from the media and politicians across the country. While the elimination of a rising competitor no doubt played a significant role in the takedown, ensuring coordinated messaging across the major social media platforms was likely the deciding factor in Parler’s demise. The same journalists and politicians applauded the heroic tech titans just as loudly when Twitter suppressed evidence of Hunter Biden’s corrupt dealings three weeks before the election and when Trump was permanently banned from Facebook.
Parler’s targeted takedown by a conspiracy of tech giants signaled a new phase in the war for strategic reality control. The narrative managers find it quite inconvenient that the pandemic propaganda campaign has not gone completely according to plan. Resistance to the mainstream covid story has turned out to be more widespread than expected. There was a whiff of desperation about this open crushing of a rival platform.
Parler’s real offense was to offer a media delivery system designed to foster free speech. Their service was a reaction against the rapidly multiplying and often inscrutable rules about what speech is allowed and what forbidden on the major platforms. Unlike Facebook and Google, Parler’s users choose what they want to see and are allowed to express their beliefs without the risk of being booted off the service for inadequate doublethink.
Parler was not shut down because it allowed violent postings. Calls for violence were far more prevalent on Facebook and Twitter during the Capital Hill “coup attempt.” Its real crime was to provide a platform where users could express ideas that undercut the dominant narrative without fear of censorship. Its brutal shutdown sent a stark warning to potential competitors who might be similarly tempted to open their platforms to free speech.
Since the beginning of the 2020 U.S. election cycle, the tech giants have unleashed multiple large-scale crackdowns on the content that challenges elite narratives. To understand the scale of the current censorship drive, consider a few of the major actions by Facebook and Twitter:
- (10/14/2020) The New York Post, which has the 4th largest distribution rank of all newspapers in the U.S., published an article about Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, claiming that he traded on his father’s position to obtain a seat worth $50,000 a month on the Board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma. Two hours after the story broke, Facebook announced that it was “’… reducing [the article’s] distribution on our platform’: in other words, tinkering with its own algorithms to suppress the ability of users to discuss or share the news article.” This was done before the article had been fact-checked. Shortly after this, Twitter banned “… entirely all users’ ability to share the Post article — not just on their public timeline but even using the platform’s private Direct Messaging feature.” Twitter users who tried to link to the New York Post article received an error message explaining that such linking was disabled due to the potentially harmful nature of the content. Shortly after, Twitter prevented the New York Post from posting any content, though later it was allowed to resume posting. It was a blatant act of censorship designed to influence the election.
- (1/7/2021) Facebook bans the sitting President of the United States from further Facebook posting due to events that, according to Mark Zuckerberg, “… clearly demonstrate that President Donald Trump intends to use his remaining time in office to undermine the peaceful and lawful transition of power to his elected successor, Joe Biden.” Note that Zuckerberg directly accuses Trump of planning to impede his lawfully elected successor from assuming power with minimal evidence.
- (1/8/2021) Twitter permanently removes Trump’s account, “After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account … we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence.” Once again, a social media giant accuses the President of inciting violence on the basis of weak evidence.
- (1/19/2021) Facebook announced that “As of January 12, 2021, we have identified over 890 militarized social movements to date and in total, removed about 3,400 Pages, 19,500 groups, 120 events, 25,300 Facebook profiles and 7500 Instagram accounts. We’ve also removed about 3,300 Pages, 10,500 groups, 510 events, 18,300 Facebook profiles and 27,300 Instagram accounts for violating our policy against QAnon.”
- (2/8/2021) Facebook reported that, “Today … we are expanding the list of false claims we will remove to include additional debunked claims about the coronavirus and vaccines. This includes claims such as:
- COVID-19 is man-made or manufactured
- Vaccines are not effective at preventing the disease they are meant to protect against
- It’s safer to get the disease than to get the vaccine
- Vaccines are toxic, dangerous or cause autism”
In each case, the de facto union formed between media outlets and the tech giants initiated a massive censorship campaign without provoking the journalistic outrage that would have erupted a few years ago. Open censorship is now not only accepted by mainstream media but celebrated in the post-pandemic world as a much needed “weaponization of truth.”
Accompanying this unprecedented wave of repression is a new subgenre of journalism which Glenn Greenwald describes as “… an unholy mix of junior high hall-monitor tattling and Stasi-like citizen surveillance. Its primary objectives are control, censorship, and the destruction of reputations for fun and power.” These journalists rationalize their sanitized tyranny as “working in the disinformation space” where their job is to identify offensive memes and shame those responsible for them.
One reason the tech giants have recently abandoned their earlier restraint in eliminating dissident perspectives is that they are now being ridiculed by the world’s most influential media organizations whenever they fail to suppress so-called “fake news” with sufficient zeal. But the more significant reason is that mainstream media outlets are an organic extension of the intelligence apparatus that helped build Google, Facebook, and several other tech giants. These companies supply the tools to detect, demote, and remove content when it threatens their control over internet information.
The attitude of many mainstream journalists is encapsulated in the recent recommendation by a New York Times reporter who called on the Biden administration to, “… put together a cross-agency task force to tackle disinformation and domestic extremism, which would be led by something like a ‘reality czar.’” This cross-agency task force leader “… would allow platforms to share data about QAnon and other conspiracy theory communities with researchers and government agencies without running afoul of privacy laws … it could become the tip of the spear for the federal government’s response to the reality crisis.” This task force would coordinate the forces required for strikes against those found guilty of offering alternative accounts to officially defined reality.
A Wilderness of Mirrors
“It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they’ve been fooled.” – Unknown.
According to his press, Tristan Harris is the trusted voice of the technological conscience. He co-founded the Center for Humane Technology (CHT) to drive a shift toward technology that operationalizes our informational well-being. The top priority in the site’s “Ledger of Harms” is social media users’ rampant addiction to disinformation.
The CHT cites a finding from a recent scientific study that false news “… spreads six times faster than true news. According to researchers, this is because … fake news items usually have a higher emotional content and contain unexpected information which inevitably means that they will be shared and reposted more often.” This finding was based on the work of six fact-checking organizations.
Unfortunately for Tristan, there is a fundamental deception lurking behind the “fake news” meme. Whenever we hear the term it evokes a conditioned reflex that tends to short-circuit any reflection on its actual meaning. “Fake news” is intended to signify falsehoods that qualified information professionals are able to refute based on careful research. This is the rarely questioned myth behind “fact-checking.” However, it is more accurately understood as an ideological trap intended to inculcate a reductive concept of truth that can be easily manipulated to advance elite agendas.
How reliable is the “fact-checking”, the mechanism used by the major platforms to find and remove false news? A few months ago, OffGuardian published an article titled “WHO (Accidentally) Confirms Covid is No More Dangerous Than Flu.” According to a follow-up article, “… the WHO’s Dr Michale Ryan claimed ‘about 10%’ of the global population had been infected with Sars-Cov-2. With an alleged death toll of roughly 1 million, that puts the infection-fatality ratio at roughly 0.14%.” 0.14% is 24 times lower than WHO’s “provisional figure” of 3.4% which was used to justify the lockdowns that devastated the world economy. That would put the IFR rate for covid right in line with the seasonal flu, which has a mortality rate of about 0.1 percent.
However, the fact-checking organization known as Health Feedback claimed the following statement to be false, “The coronavirus is no more deadly or dangerous than seasonal flu.” Health Feedback is a member of the WHO-led project Vaccine Safety Net (VSN) which claims that each reviewer “… contributing to our analyses holds a Ph.D. and has recently published articles in top-tier peer-reviewed science journals.” Their parent organization Science Feedback works with Facebook as part of its fact-checking program.
Close analysis of the article indicates that the fact-checkers lied about Dr. Ryan’s actual claims. The lie was this: “Ryan said that, according to the WHO’s best estimates, the virus that causes COVID-19 could have infected up to 10% of the global population.” In fact, Ryan stated that “about 10%” was infected, not “up to 10%.” By reducing the size of the infected population, the IFR rate for covid can be bloated to the pandemic proportions needed to drive the elite agenda. To camouflage their mendacity, the fact-checker found a way to avoid directly quoting Dr. Ryan’s actual words by linking to Zero Hedge’s reblog of the article which provides a summary of his statements without quoting them directly.
This egregious example is only one of many that demonstrate how fact-checkers squeeze the facts into the straitjacket of official truth. Since fact-checking is the central pillar of disinformation detection, its failure to stand up to analysis means that the entire superstructure behind the disinformation purge falls apart. As one fact-checking critic put it, “… this is what is known as a ‘wilderness of mirrors’ – a chaotic information environment that so perfectly blends truth, half-truth and fiction that even the best can no longer tell what’s real and what’s not.” Propaganda can be much amplified by technology, but it is the believability of its stories that drives the strategic reality operation. Its goal is to bury the text of truth under a scaffolding of interpretive lies.
A Bodyguard of Lies
“In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.” – Winston Churchill
In the eyes of the elite, it is not the COVID-19 disease that is the existential threat to humanity, but alternative viewpoints about it. The “Doomsday Clock” released by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists on Jan. 27, 2021 highlighted three existential threats to humanity “… a resurgent nuclear arms race, climate change, and online misinformation about the Covid-19 epidemic.” The key question is whose existence is being threatened by covid misinformation – the planetary population or the great resetters who unleashed it? This could be a sign that the covid propaganda campaign has not lived up to elite expectations.
It’s clear that in the last several months the elite have felt compelled to pursue a much more aggressive disinformation campaign. Facebook recently decided to prohibit all COVID-19 or vaccine-related posts that contain erroneous claims as defined in the “COVID-19 and Vaccine Policy Updates & Protections” posting. The new rule is that any claim that calls into question information provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) or other reliable health sources will be removed.
While Mark Zuckerberg constantly invokes AI as the ultimate solution to fake news, research shows that it can support, but not solve the problem of finding and suppressing news stories that undermine dominant narratives. Evaluating the threat, a story might pose depends on awareness of its social and political context. Yet even the most advanced natural language processing (NLP) algorithms are currently incapable of identifying such contexts. Therefore AI-based content analysis does not yet provide reliable methods for the initial identification of misinformation except in straightforward scenarios such as detecting duplicates of previously debunked stories. Automation can speed up the work of professional fact-checkers, but at this time it can’t replace them.
However, some advanced AI-based approaches have shown promise in the initial detection of dangerous postings. One method is to use AI to detect a story’s pattern of propagation. Since, according to the scientific study by the CHT previously cited, “fake news spreads six times faster than true news”, by scanning for stories with rapid spread patterns, researchers believe that AI might automatically detect information that could endanger official narratives. Using this method, fact-checkers can rapidly sift through a much greater volume of material to uncover offensive memes. The tech giants never seem to consider the possibility that the rapid spread pattern might in some cases be driven by a massive unsatisfied hunger for truth.
Once a story has been tagged as disinformation, both defensive and offensive options need to be evaluated. If it is posted on a controlled social media platform such as Facebook or Twitter, the platform can reduce its distribution, label it, or directly remove it. If it is on a platform that permits free speech such as Parler, the platform itself can be targeted by removing its hosting service in the way Amazon did in the wake of the “violent insurrection” on Capitol Hill.
In the case of websites not hosted on an elite-controlled platform, these can be deplatformed by removing its domain name from the centralized DNS (Domain Name System) that controls access to web sites through its registered name. Since DNS is a centralised system, legal pressure from law enforcement agencies can force the domain name to be deleted so that the website becomes inaccessible. From 2018 to 2019, several police agencies seized 30,500 domain names in 20 different countries.
Further steps may be needed in some cases. In November 2020, “… the national-security states of the U.S. and UK have discreetly let it be known that the cyber tools and online tactics previously designed for use in the post-9/11 ‘war on terror’ are now being repurposed for use against information sources promoting ‘vaccine hesitancy’ and information related to COVID-19 that runs counter to their state narratives.” Journalists who raise unwelcome concerns about covid vaccines can be de-platformed and where feasible, their stories algorithmically erased from the internet.
The UK signal intelligence agency, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) has been assigned the task of targeting websites that raise concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine. GHCQ’s cyberwar will not only take down anti-vaccine propaganda but will also seek to “… disrupt the operations of the cyber-actors responsible for it, including encrypting their data so they cannot access it and blocking their communications with each other.’” These targeted strikes against information terrorists will be coordinated through the “Five Eyes” alliance of intelligence agencies (U.S., Australia, New Zealand and Canada).
Resisting the Reality Engineers
An alliance of intelligence agencies, fact-checkers, and think tanks have decided that the world population must be electronically immunized against information which undermines approved biosecurity narratives. Their tactical strikes against “disinformation” cloaks an attack on our capacity for independent thought. The algorithms used by the social media giants to generate obsessive user engagement transform us into easily manipulated slaves of semiconscious emotional stimuli. They are not protecting us from “fake news”, but from our own collective powers of discernment.
Yet the current hysteria about “disinformation” is also a tacit admission that mainstream media has lost so much credibility that it has to resort to increasingly harsh censorship to force their former audience to listen to them. An effective resistance strategy must include developing the tools of critical thinking such as the ability to detect logical fallacies. Only by keeping our powers of discernment switched on at all times can we retain both our freedom of thought and the sane vision of the world that it empowers.
Despite the social unrest that false news stories could and did cause, the founding fathers of the United States thought, in the words of Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, that those “… who won our independence believed that the final end of the State was to make men free to develop their faculties … They valued liberty both as an end, and as a means. They believed liberty to be the secret of happiness, and courage to be the secret of liberty. They believed that freedom to think as you will and to speak as you think are means indispensable to the discovery and spread of political truth …” In their minds, part of being an adult was the often-difficult art of distinguishing true from false information. The founders believed that truth is only accessible to free minds and that any attempt to curtail freedom weakens our access to truth.
- Image credit: MSNBC