One Party State
pirate wires #77 // a brief history of tech industry stasi shit, the downfall of andrew tate as a blueprint for 2024, and the final boss of internet censorship
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Canary in the coal mine. The first hints of our new order appeared a few weeks ago, when Andrew Tate, a controversial social media influencer / “get rich quick” self-help guru / pick-up coach, I guess, is what you might call him, was banned from every major social media platform in the country, and for no particular content violation. The problem, it seemed, was not some specific thing he said on any of his channels, but rather his overall shitty vibe. This — the “hey we just don’t like you” ban — was a kind of thing we’d seen before. But there was one new development. On TikTok, the seat of Tate’s power, it was further determined not only could the man no longer post, but his fans could no longer share his video clips, regardless of whether or not they violated any policy. The directive was clear, it was to be a total purge of the Bad Man, and all semblance of Tate would be vanished forever. At least, this was TikTok’s stated goal, with assurances they were working hard to perfect the technology required. Great. Follow-up question: what is their policy on politicians?
It’s easy to forget how controversial bans on social media were before our present age of Stasi shit, in which five or six wealthy tech executives casually enforce the bounds of acceptable politics for the entire western world. But in 2016, when Jack Dorsey clipped pop star Azealia Banks’ wings for hurling a racial slur at Zayn Malik, the question of whether it was justifiable to remove a public figure from our defacto town square — no matter how vile her speech — animated a fierce, national discourse. This was a slippery slope. What if the technology industry’s incredible powers were used for political purposes? Detractors were told such concerns were crazy, and four years later a sitting president was permanently muzzled.
That the leader of the free world could no longer speak on our major communication platforms was of course insane, but his supporters could at least still speak about him. Given policy evolution across the industry, there is no reason to believe this will continue to be the case. In the story of Tate, a clownish kind of “tough guy” internet loser who has sex, we get it, my God, shut up, we’re looking at the blueprints for a very real, very dangerous, and very total form of political censorship.
Today, “misinformation” and “hate,” defined to include any topic sufficiently threatening to the politically-obsessed, exclusively-woke content moderators who police our nation’s communication platforms, are already removed from the internet. Likewise, people who share “misinformation” and “hate” are banned. For years, this process was litigated independently, from platform to platform. Then came Alex Jones.
Following months of media pressure, the infamous “conspiracy theorist” was banned overnight — first on Apple, then everywhere. In so doing, it was determined a man deemed sufficiently “dangerous” by leftist cartoon cops on one platform could be banned from every other platform, regardless of whether he violated each platform’s content policy. While the precise method of platform collusion remains unclear to this day, the Jones ban presented for the first time our technology industry’s wildly dangerous institution of coordinated digital unpersoning. But power is never satisfied, and the logic of “content moderation” evolved.
By 2022, the tech industry’s power class no longer felt it mattered if they didn’t understand the coded language of political untouchables, or what, exactly, was being communicated. It was safe to assume all information produced by a “dangerous individual” was, in some way, dangerous. Therefore, a ban on specifically “bad” pieces of language, and the “bad men” who use the bad language, could not possibly be sufficient. This is how it came to be considered critical, by both tech executives and their cheerleaders in the press, that every picture of the bad men, every video clip the bad men ever appeared in, and every scrap of information the bad men ever produced be erased.
But wasn’t Tate, our most recent “bad man” in question, an especially bad guy?
The Guardian, one of the more obvious state press outlets operating in the mainstream aesthetic, describes Tate as a violent misogynist. Editors weave a hideous portrait of the man from a small handful of his worst quotes, all taken out of context, and frame him as a cult leader radicalizing young boys to commit acts of violence against women rather than a professional clown trying to sell a product. The quotes are his, regardless of their context or rarity, and the extrapolation is hysterical. It’s a typical hatchet job. Fan fiction. Fake news. But even if it were all true, it wouldn’t matter.
I don’t care what Andrew Tate did or didn’t say, the latest focus in our endless culture war, because what Andrew Tate did or didn’t say will never matter as much as the tools designed to stop him from speaking. The only thing anyone should care about is how these tools are used, by whom, and how they will be used in the future — against whom.
Our usual free speech voices have mostly missed the extent of the Tate purge because they don’t know who he is, and the new element of his ban occurred on TikTok, where they don’t go. These blinders are unfortunate. In the first place, regardless of the fact that nobody over 30 seems to have heard of Andrew Tate, he is one of the most popular men in the country. He achieved this incredible state of celebrity almost entirely because of TikTok, the Chinese-controlled social media platform used by something like 100 million Americans, which increasingly shapes our entire youth culture. Second, and more importantly, TikTok’s policy is already shared by most major platforms. Industry leadership hasn’t yet acted on the policy, or at least not in a high-profile manner, but there is nothing stopping them from a cross-platform, total purge of any individual. A much-loathed presidential candidate, for example.
Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, currently maintains a policy of removing pictures and video of “dangerous individuals” that don’t explicitly condemn the individual. In other words, if you post a video clip of Hitler you are required to explain you do not endorse his views. Cool, seems innocuous enough. Hitler’s really bad! But what else, or rather who else, might our tech platforms consider dangerous?
It’s an interesting moment to parse this question of “dangerous individuals,” given President Biden just delivered a massive campaign speech, flanked by soldiers while lit in demonic red, on this very issue. Last week, he not only referred to Trump as “semi-Fascist,” but to his supporters as “a clear and present danger” to the country.
“MAGA Republicans,” Biden’s press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre made sure to clarify, are extremists who are “dangerous” to our democracy.
Now, you may be thinking it doesn’t matter what the White House says because we’re not living in a world where the government controls our press and industry. This is technically correct. We are merely living in a world where all of these people work together, and share the same politics.
We already know tech censors have at least some working relationship with the present administration, as it was reported out when former Press Secretary Jen Psaki bragged about the fact. The nature of this specific Covid collaboration was only meant to reassure double-masked Connecticut Karen, who earnestly believes her fourth vaccination will prevent her third Covid infection. But the ties between our largest communication platforms and the State was a worrying revelation for everyone sane.
If Meta’s policy is to evaporate “dangerous people,” and the state position, loudly celebrated by every major media outlet, is picked up as the latest cause by the small class of professional activists most of these companies for some reason employ, the trap is set. We are approaching end game.
Provided Trump doesn’t end up in prison (possible), it’s easily conceivable he will in the first place not be let back on social media, a return I’m not sure anyone expects. But then, given we have already established this man is dangerous, why, in the middle of an election, would we allow his speeches or campaign videos to circulate? Why would we allow his supporters to publicly argue on his extremist behalf? Are we to believe the man the press just spend the last two years accusing of literal treason is now, in some way, not dangerous? And if he is dangerous, is Meta not duty-bound, by its own explicit policy, to erase his presence, as well as the presence of his supporters, from Facebook and Instagram? Sorry, folks, these are just the rules.
If Trump secures the Republican nomination for the 2024 presidential election, everything you read about him could be filtered through the press that hates him. Fox News clips not sufficiently critical? Chopped. Candidates endorsed by Trump? Chopped. Supporters simply posting about the man? Not even once.
But I’m told Trump is a unique, generational evil, and desperate times call for desperate measures. No “reasonable” Republican candidate would ever be treated in so draconian a manner. Okay. If Trump doesn’t secure the nomination, what about his Party? Republicans, for the most part, supported the man. The media crazies are already arguing Ron DeSantis is just as bad, or worse. An argument here can easily be made to bring down the whole “dangerous” Republican machine.
Wall Street, Hollywood, academia, nearly the entire press, overwhelmingly the entire technology industry, and of course the actual government: every fount of power, excepting perhaps only the judicial branch of our government, is controlled by the political left. Still, while the left maintains such extraordinary power, the rule is not systemic. You might be punished if you speak your mind, but that’s just “consequence culture.” By the letter of the law, power can change hands. The country is technically free.
But change is impossible without the ability to communicate. What happens when the tech oligopoly actively censors political opposition? I’m not talking about a few bans of a few individuals, the suppression of important health information, or a problematic Hunter Biden story. I’m talking about the active suppression of an entire branch of politics deemed, by people who simply don’t like it, “dangerous.”
Insofar as the bounds of our politics are shaped entirely by what we’re allowed to say, the tech industry’s communication capture appears to now arrive at its inevitable conclusion: if one of your two major political parties can’t speak, you are living in a one party state. But don’t worry, the “dangerous” men are gone.
Are you feeling safer yet?