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April 2024

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Free Speech On The Ropes
Featured Article

Free Speech On The Ropes

The Establishment’s War on the Internet

In George Orwell’s dystopian nightmare novel, 1984, a tyrannical future government brainwashes its impoverished citizens with lies and propaganda dispensed by the Ministry of Truth. No dissent is tolerated. The population is united only in hatred against archenemy Eastasia in a fabricated war that never ends, justifying all the austerity, oppression and bloodshed. Orwell’s prognosis was off by a few decades, but it did accurately outline the current shocking trajectory not of the old Soviet Union (his inspiration) but of the United States.

After 18 years of continuous warfare with no discernible endgame, the military-industrial complex is starting to lose control of the narrative. Many Americans voted for Trump based on his promise to wind down the costly, futile war on terror. A majority of us favor diplomacy over military interventions. Dissenting voices on both the left and right are getting louder on the troublesome Wild West internet, and some have even taken to reading unfiltered foreign news sites, offering a more balanced, truthful perspective on the U.S. role in world affairs. Horrors!

Enter the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) to save the day. In March 2018 the Command held a conference—“Is Truth a Commodity? Sovereignty in the Information Age”—laying out the blueprint for a virtual Ministry of Truth in the United States. In attendance were U.S. Special Forces officers, New York City police officials, Richard Haas (president of the uber-hawkish Council on Foreign Relations), representatives from 43 countries and executives from tech companies like Microsoft.

“Sovereignty,” or governmental authority, according to the conference report, “faces greater challenges now than it ever has in the past,” because the pernicious internet is “creating conflict and disruption” similar to how the printing press caused “decades, and arguably centuries, of conflict and disruption.” Translation: Goddamn that punk Gutenberg! Before he disrupted the medieval status quo with subversive literacy, perfumed aristocrats and their mounted warlords could wage endless warfare with no dissent—plundering, murdering and enslaving the ignorant peasants and proles, who had no voice of their own. Ah yes, the good ole days, in the view of hawkish think tank the Atlantic Council, publisher of the conference’s 21-page report. It continues: “Trust in Western society is experiencing a crisis.…Technology has democratized the ability for sub-state groups and individuals to broadcast a narrative with limited resources and virtually unlimited scope. In the past, the general public had limited sources of information, which were managed by professional gatekeepers.” (In the good ole days, they wore clerical robes.) “Radical and extremist views” and “incorrect ideas” are flourishing, but simply “eliminating those individuals and organizations will not be sufficient to combat the narrative and may in fact help amplify it.”

So, no gulags or lethal injection for antiwar activists—yet. We do still have that irksome First Amendment, spawn of Gutenberg’s revolution. Instead, the best way to brainwash the now too-literate masses, according to these war hawks, is through the dominant tech giants—Facebook, Google, YouTube and Twitter—who “determine what people see and do not see.” They all must “use a grading system akin to that used to rate the cleanliness of restaurants.” The report even advocates that news sites “consider disabling” their comments section. No back talk from the peons, please.

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