by Victor Davis Hanson
A shared theme in all dystopian explorations of future and current totalitarian regimes – whether China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, or Cuba – is government control of all media information, fueled by electronic surveillance.
A skeptical public learns to say one thing publicly but quite another privately. It nervously nods yes at the news while at work, but at home cynically assumes the opposite of whatever is publicly said to be true.
RIP, First Amendment
Such electronic propaganda has sadly become characteristic of the world’s oldest consensual government.
In America we once believed our First Amendment prevented a government monopoly on information. But in the age of globalization, the Internet, and social media, the state has become the enemy – not the protector – of free speech.
One obvious sign is that the Biden Administration keeps trying to create new sorts of ministries of truth or “Disinformation Governance Boards.” It alleges such Orwellian censors must combat “disinformation” and “misinformation.” In fact, these bureaucracies are designed to criminalize unwanted free expression while also advancing state propaganda.
Among our Washington officials, the following myths were once declared the official version of the “truth”:
- Mounted border patrol agents “whipped” innocent illegal aliens.
- Officer Brian Sicknick was violently “killed” by Trump protestors.
- An “armed” insurrection sought to stage a pre-planned coup on January 6 designed to overthrow the government by violent means.
- Christopher Steele’s dossier was a factual, well-researched compilation.
- Justice Brett Kavanaugh was a serial sexual assaulter.
- Jussie Smollett in Chicago’s wee hours valiantly fought off white, racist MAGA-hatted thugs.
- Hunter Biden’s laptop was abject Russian disinformation.
- And Joe Biden does not suffer from serious cognitive issues.
What is unique about these lies is not that the government and its media partners advanced them, but that to this day, some continue to disseminate such untruths in spite of widespread and publicly available information discrediting them.
California Governor Gavin Newsom just signed into law a bill criminalizing the work of doctors who express public doubts about medical orthodoxy. Specifically, the law warns that so-called dissident opinion is synonymous with “misinformation.” It is now a crime for doctors to spread “false information that is contradicted by contemporary scientific consensus contrary to the standard of care.”
If we were to criminalize all of history’s doctors who “contradicted scientific consensus contrary to the standard of care” then Hippocrates, Edward Jenner, Louis Pasteur, and Marie Curie would have been felons in their day.
In America at one time “contemporary scientific consensus” assured us that cigarettes were not inherently carcinogenic, that H. pylori played no role in stomach ulcers, and that 120/80 is the perfect desired blood pressure.
In contrast, if recent orthodoxy and “contemporary scientific consensus” is defined by the sayings of the now sainted Anthony Fauci, and if we canonized all his social media-spread misrepresentations, then today we would believe the following:
- The Wuhan lab had no role in the birth of the COVID epidemic;
- The United States did not subsidize gain-of-function research in China;
- No masks, one mask, and two masks are advisable;
- Travel bans were unwise during a pandemic but cruises were acceptable;
- Variously, two mRNA shots, three shots, four shots, and now five shots are needed for immunity from COVID;
- and shutting down the entire economy and the schools was far less costly than keeping both open during the COVID epidemic.
Big Tech and D.C. Fusion
The war on free expression is occurring not just because the government arbitrarily decided to brand some ideas criminal and others orthodox and then to mete out rewards and punishments accordingly.
It has also de facto fused with the multitrillion-dollar, left-wing media monopolies of Silicon Valley to help ensure that progressives benefit from such fusion misinformation while its opponents suffer. Cyberspace is a public domain. Those companies who use it to profit are public utilities. And yet California leftists who once regulated the power company Pacific Gas and Electric into insolvency mysteriously exempt tech utilities with far more life-and-death power over the public.
Silicon Valley and both the Washington media and government assured us that the Russian collusion hoax was a slam-dunk conspiracy. Indeed, it would be quickly exposed by old Bob Mueller and his “dream team” run by zealot Andrew Weissmann. Twenty-two months and $40 million later it was exposed as a complete fraud. The fantasy ended with the bathos of a doddering Bob Mueller claiming he had no knowledge of Fusion GPS or the Steele dossier, the twin catalysts for his special counsel appointment.
We soon learned that an FBI lawyer confessed to altering court documents to frame an innocent citizen. The bureau operatives also admitted to offering a $1 million payoff to Steele if he could just prove anything in his otherwise concocted dossier that the FBI nonetheless would knowingly continue to pass on as gospel to the FISA judges.
Certain topics have become taboo on social media and government-sanctioned monopolies – most egregiously any discussion of alternative COVID-19 policies and treatments deemed antithetical to those advanced by Drs. Fauci or Deborah Birx.
To suggest that January 6 was not an insurrection but a buffoonish riot of a few violent idiots who stormed the Capitol chambers (dwarfed in magnitude by 120 days of continuous looting, rioting, arson, and violence that killed 35-40, injured 1500 police officers, and accounted for $2 billion in damage) was punished by denial of the right of communication. To suggest that the 2020 election was essentially decided in Spring 2020 when left-wing fusion groups, against the laws of state legislatures, changed the voting laws in swing states under the pretense of the COVID pandemic, earned cancellation.
More specifically, the twin monopolies of Twitter and Facebook both helped to suppress the truth and spread the lie about the provenance of the Hunter Biden laptop and thereby warped the 2020 election news coverage.
Progressive Molly Ball’s infamous Time braggadocious essay boasted of the fusion efforts to ensure a Biden victory in 2020 (e.g., “There was a conspiracy unfolding behind the scenes”). Indeed, she gushed, the conspiracy “both curtailed the protests and coordinated the resistance from CEOs.” And of that media-government-left-wing fusion, Ball further bragged, “That’s why the participants want the secret history of the 2020 election told, even though it sounds like a paranoid fever dream–a well-funded cabal of powerful people, ranging across industries and ideologies, working together behind the scenes to influence perceptions, change rules and laws, steer media coverage and control the flow of information.” (Emphasis added).
Mark Zuckerberg did not just use his companies to modulate and censor information for political purposes or collude with the FBI media teams. He also infused $419 (tax-deductible) million into supposedly nonpartisan, tax-exempt political groups that were created to absorb or fuse with the work of registrars in key left-wing precincts to warp and expand the Biden vote.
Upstarts vs. Startups
The California political clout and media monopolies of Apple, Facebook, Google, and Twitter are not that much different from the infamous “Big Four,” whose monopolies and capital ran the late 19th century Central Pacific Railroad – and with it, California. Like the old railroad, Silicon Valley usually insults the efforts of fledgling rivals and alternative social media as pathetic, insignificant, doomed to failure, amateurish, irrelevant, incompetent, and of no concern – all as the proper prelude to their paranoid efforts to abort them.
In the case of kindred left-wing “start-ups,” Big Tech buys them out and absorbs them. In contrast, they seek to destroy the tiny few “up-starts” on the Right by denying them platforms and application access or bleeding them out in court. Their modus operandi is similar to what Frank Norris once outlined in his 1901 novel The Octopus: A Story of California.
The story of California’s demise is largely the use and abuse of Silicon Valley’s billions of dollars to pass crack-pot laws and regulations that exempt their elite creators at the expense of the middle class. Remember, cool left-wing hipsters with nose rings, T-shirts, tattoos, and flip-flops are the most ruthless monopolistic, crony capitalists in America’s history. They make a Jay Gould or William Randolph Hearst look like pikers in comparison.
How does such an octopus continue to grow?
First, there is the Big Tech two-step. When a Republican administration takes power, any effort to break apart the monopolies immediately is met with shrieks of “government attacks on the free-enterprise system!” Thus, to conservative administrations, CEOs of Silicon Valley pose as veritable Milton Friedmans, eager to claim ideological affinities with 19th century free-market, good ol’ American success stories.
To left-wing administrations, they revert to form and assure that mega-profits will pour into the campaign coffers of hard-Left Democrats while six-figure jobs await revolving-door Washington left-wing apparatchiks.
Second, true to its railroad octopus model, Silicon Valley is adept at suffocating any competitor that threatens its status-quo strangleholds over electronic communications or is deemed an ideological contrarian. And the powers of the corporate Valley are unlimited, enjoying the greatest concentration of wealth in the history of civilization, with some $11 trillion in market capitalization between San Francisco and San Jose alone.
Google, Apple, and Facebook themselves are worth multi-trillions of dollars. Google controls 90 percent of all Internet searches. Over half the world’s smartphones are Apple branded. Facebook claims nearly 3 billion monthly users, almost half the world’s population. Along with Amazon and Twitter, these mega-corporations decide who can disseminate the news and how.
After Trump was banned from social media, he and millions of his followers poured into the only existing alternative, the upstart rival to Twitter, Parler. That effort lasted just hours. Almost immediately, Apple, Amazon, and Google, on Washington’s prompt, suspended Parler’s social media platforms – claiming it was a conduit for January 6-like “insurrectionary” activity.
None of them remembered that the 120 days of 2020 rioting, arson, looting and death were often carefully planned and coordinated by BLM and Antifa on left-wing social media platforms. We now know that Facebook, to take one example, censors content in a manner that the FBI or Pfizer – or other agencies and corporations – directs.
Third, a revolving door ensures that those in left-wing administrations retire to and then reemerge from these media entities – earning fabulous salaries and stock options. The subtext is that their past federal service to the octopus should be rewarded, even as these political hires will at some time re-enter government and continue their left-wing Big Tech advocacy.
Currently, 13 top White House aides to Joe Biden previously worked for Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Lyft, Microsoft, Twitter, or Uber. And 50 or more “senior officials” in the Biden Administration worked for Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, or Microsoft. It is now impossible for a Democratic administration to oversee Silicon Valley, when so many of its top-ranking appointees were enriched by Big Tech and likely will be again upon completion of their brief tenures. Currently, Biden grandees like Alejandro Mayorkas or Antony Blinken can claim prior dutiful legal service for Facebook, and likely will soon return to do work for their former paymasters.
Target Truth Social
We end with the latest example of Truth Social, the demonized Trump effort to provide a social media alternative to Twitter and other social media, currently run by the bête noir of America’s left wing, former California Republican Representative Devin Nunes.
Note that all media coverage of Truth Social is by definition negative. It is almost as if the new company had nefariously worked hand-in-glove with the FBI to censor opinion or had sent millions of dollars into election precincts to warp voting, or was removing participants for suggesting mRNA vaccines do not stop the spread of COVID. Oh, wait . . .
Instead, in perfect fusion fashion – prompted especially by the New York Times and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) – the SEC and apparently the Department of Justice are combining to “investigate” Digital World Acquisition Corp (DWAC). That investment company had been planning to merge with Trump Media and Technology Group, and then to take the new aggregate company public to obtain critical investment.
Naturally, the Biden Administration is attempting to slow down or block the merger of Truth Social, and thereby starve the company of critical operating capital. After bitter complaints, and the bad publicity that followed the Parler strangulation, Apple and Google recently allowed Truth Social apps to be sold in their online application stores. And the result? Within hours of Google’s about-face, Truth Social became its number one app seller.
Truth Social earns state and corporate hatred in a trifecta fashion: one, for allowing coverage of anti-woke subjects; two, for being run by CEO Devin Nunes who was despised by the Left for early on exposing the nature of the its Clinton-FBI-fed, Russian collusion hoax as a naked attempt to ruin the Trump presidency; and three, because Truth Social is now the social media home of Donald Trump himself – along with his reported 4 million followers.
Even in their infancies and against daunting odds, companies like Truth Social offer alternative news. They can offer some reassurance that artistic or political expression in America can at least still reach the public. The frequently banned and ostracized “Libs of TikTok” or the journalists of Project Veritas found in Truth Social a temporary refuge in which to continue to communicate freely.
Edgy entertainment expression – whether the hounded country-western star John Rich’s release of his patriotic, anti-woke song “Progress” (number one on the charts for two weeks) or Breitbart’s debut of “My Son Hunter” – have alike found sanctuary in Truth Social.
As long as there are at least some alternatives to Twitter and Facebook, like a Truth Social or a Parler, that can escape the media-D.C. tentacles, these monopolies at least have to be cognizant that their own repressive and anti-constitutional practices have the potential to fuel the growth of dynamic competitors.
The sharper wits of Silicon Valley rightly assume that if their commercial products are finally imprinted in the public mind as toxic extensions of their left-wing groupthink, then the majority of Americans will shun them – and that is why they seek to ensure that the public has no such alternatives.
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Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He is an American military historian, columnist, a former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004.