Jumping on the excuse of the ‘storming’ (which, by all accounts, was a rather mild display when compared to the brutal coups the US ruling class is so fond of organising abroad) of the US Capitol building on 6 January, the giants of the technology industry, egged on by the rest of the imperialist ruling class, have acted as one to tighten their vice-like grip on what is supposed to be our ‘fundamental right’ to free expression.
For some time now, big tech has been using its phenomenal power over social media to silence many of those who express ‘unacceptable’ (to the ruling elites) opinions – sometimes by outright bans, often by subtler behind-the-scenes means that limit a person or organisation’s reach. After 6 January all of the main social media platforms took advantage of the liberal hysteria over the Capitol ‘uprising’ to expel the outgoing US president Donald Trump, even while he was still in the White House.
The glee of his opponents, who have spent the four years of his presidency desperately trying to have him evicted from that holiest shrine of US imperialist brigandage – even to the point of openly discussing his assassination – was unbounded. Clearly, they intend to hound him relentlessly to make sure he and others like him get the message that they are not welcome in the executive offices of the US ruling class.
Trump was an objectionable character in a thousand and one ways, but that is beside the point. What we need to ask ourselves is: what does his banning from supposedly ‘open’ social media platforms really signify for workers?
How did we get here?
Unless you have been living in a cave for the past four years with your eyes shut and fingers in your ears, you can’t have missed the unceasing assault upon the sitting US president from all directions.
Since Donald Trump’s victory in 2016, won largely on the back of his appeal to the vast swathes of the downtrodden American population who knew something was wrong yet did not possess the political knowledge or leadership to fully grasp what that something was, the drive to oust him by establishment media and politicians has been relentless. They knew from the off that he wasn’t one of them and couldn’t be trusted to toe the line.
In all regards, Trump is an boorish simpleton who speaks before thinking and is proud of his brash manners. He lacks the polish and refinement preferred by the imperialists in their chosen spokespeople. Their ideal is exemplified by deified war criminal Barack Obama, who speaks with sincerity and resonance, looks good in a suit, and knows which side his bread is buttered. Such smooth professionals are clearly much safer frontmen for a US desperate to continue deceiving the world at large into believing that America is a stalwart leader of the ‘free world’ and ‘beacon of democracy’.
Donald Trump, by contrast, was a terrible salesman for US imperialism, since he openly and shamelessly revealed the USA as it actually is, shorn of the rainbow flags, smiley faces and polished manners used to hoodwink the gullible and naive. The real USA is a greedy, intolerant bully, which cares for the wellbeing only of its disgustingly wealthy rulers and is bent on propping up the zombie system of capitalist imperialism at all costs, crushing (or attempting to crush) underfoot any nation that dares to stand in its way.
Trump, as ignorant as he was opinionated, was as liable to fire shots at his own side as at the enemies of imperialism. In short, he was a loose cannon of the imperialist deck, of whom the majority of his class was desperate to be rid.
His presidency was replete with intrigue: the ‘Russiagate’ debacle, which proved to be pure and unsubstantiated fantasy, dominated ‘mainstream’ political discourse for years; there were a couple of abortive attempts at impeachment; and then, when he lost the 2020 election and made known his opinion regarding the circumstances of his defeat, the social media giants began labelling his posts, along with others sharing similar sentiment, as ‘disputed’, redirecting users to read the ‘truth’ and to receive the facts as dictated by the heads of Twitter et al.
Imperialist media – press, TV and social alike – acted in unison to vilify the man and turn public opinion against him.
Running in parallel, we have also witnessed the rise of ‘cancel culture’, whereby the vicious hounding of individuals on social media for something they have (or are alleged to have) said or done – either recently or the far distant past – is encouraged as if it were a sign of great virtue, although the goal of that hounding is to turn the target into a social pariah, unable to find employment and denied the right to speak in public on any topic.
All this is done under the banner of being ‘woke’: a toxic ideology of extreme intolerance that is dedicated to censoring speech, ostensibly on the pretext of avoiding ‘offence’ or ‘distress’ to a given minority, while holding high the most decadent ideals of modern bourgeois culture. Ironically, these cretinous ‘woke’ keyboard warriors claim to be standing up for ‘inclusivity’ and to be the nemeses of bigots. Many even style themselves as ‘leftists’, although ‘left liberal’ (the left wing of imperialism) would be a more accurate description.
Regardless of the individual intentions of the champions of woke culture, they are in reality pawns who serve ruling-class interests. Their voices are promoted precisely because their activities are useful in the fight against the rising working class, sowing petty division, sapping vital energy into worthless causes, and endlessly substituting any number of academia-defined identity-based dead ends for the real, class-focused struggle against capitalist rule.
Until now, the hand of “>censorship and cancel culture has come down most heavily on right-wing figures such as British national-chauvinist Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon (aka ‘Tommy Robinson’) and American equivalents like Alex Jones. Such demagogues as these do indeed spew a whole heap of bile and rot, which ultimately serves imperialism not the working class. But, like Mr Trump, they mix their demented rantings with occasional pot-shots at their masters and closing a few of them down is a useful way of disguising the real targets of imperialist attack.
The events of 6 January provided a perfect opportunity for big tech and the imperialist ruling class to take their censorship drive to the next level – all on the pretext of defending truth and liberty, of course!
Censorship reaches new heights – to the delight of liberal cretins everywhere
This wave has been rising steadily for years.
When the crest broke in early January 2021, leading the charge were the notorious duo Facebook and Twitter, the all-powerful giants of social media.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg initially banned Trump from his platform for 24 hours, before realising that he was actually going to be able to get away with an indefinite ban. Trump’s “decision to use his platform to condone rather than condemn the actions of his supporters at the Capitol building has rightly disturbed people in the US and around the world. We removed these statements yesterday because we judged that their effect – and likely their intent – would be to provoke further violence,” wrote Zuckerberg in a blog post.
Twitter used the same rationale – “the risk of further incitement of violence” – to give Trump the boot from his social media platform of choice, fulfilling a long-held and barely-disguised desire. Laughably, Twitter’s bosses followed this up by claiming that their platform “is built on a principle that the people have a right to hold power to account in the open”. But who is holding these titans of technology to account as they wield their immense power over public discourse?
The ostensibly independent Snapchat quickly followed Facebook and Twitter’s lead, like an obedient puppy to its master. Amazon-owned streaming platform Twitch also deleted Donald Trump’s account, though it is unclear what use he might have had for it anyway, not being especially popular amongst teens!
Then even bigger dogs stepped into the fray: the monstrous, privacy hating, all-powerful Google and its ubiquitous compatriot, Apple.
After removing from YouTube any videos that dared to discuss the possibility of fraud in the 2020 US presidential election, Google was joined by Apple in taking aim at up-and-coming social app Parler, threatening to remove it from Google Play and the Apple store.
Until recently, Twitter wannabe Parler had refused to bow to the prevailing diktat, and had for this reason become popular with supporters of Donald Trump, conservatives and others looking for a place to voice opinions free from the censorship of the rest of social media.
Apple went first, claiming in an email that an investigation had “found that Parler is not effectively moderating and removing content that encourages illegal activity, and poses a serious risk to the health and safety of users in direct violation of your own terms of service”. It gave Parler’s CEO 24 hours to bend the knee or face deletion from the app store.
Google decided that 24 hours was too lenient, declaring: “In light of this ongoing and urgent public safety threat, we are suspending the app’s listings from the Play Store until it addresses these issues.”
The final nail in the Parler’s coffin was hammered in by Amazon, which removed the app from its hosting service in the early hours of Monday 11 January.
The floodgates were thus flung open for tech companies of all sizes to act with impunity. A mad censorship free-for-all saw platform after platform joining in the fun, eager to put their ‘progressive’ credentials on show.
Reddit removed the ‘r/DonaldTrump’ subreddit, citing “site-wide policies” that “prohibit content that promotes hate, or encourages, glorifies, incites, or calls for violence against groups of people or individuals”.
Discord, a voice chat app popular with gamers, banned a server named ‘The Donald’ that had been linked to the aforementioned subreddit, even though, by the company’s own admission, there was “no evidence of a server called The Donald being used to organise the 6 January riots”.
TikTok, the app that caters to teenagers and others with goldfish-like attention spans, took to redirecting content marked with hashtags such as #stormthecapitol and #patriotparty to its ‘community guidelines’ page, while removing other associated content altogether.
Online marketplace Shopify took down two online stores affiliated with the outgoing president, one peddling Trump Organisation wares and the other being his campaign store.
Even non-profit Mozilla, creators of the Firefox web browser, felt the need to get in on the action, posting a holier-than-thou blog entitled ‘We need more than deplatforming’.
All this occurred within a few days of the incident on Capitol Hill. No doubt much more and much stricter censorship will follow.
The class composition of Big Tech
It is worth looking more closely at who exactly are the key players in the technology industry, and to which class they belong.
After a year of staggering growth, Apple is now valued at some $2 trillion, of which CEO Tim Cook holds a personal net worth of $1bn. Twitter’s dishevelled CEO Jack Dorsey commands a personal fortune of $10bn, while the platform itself is valued at $40bn. Facebook’s market value currently sits at $527bn, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg personally sitting on a whopping $105bn.
And then, of course, comes the notorious Jeff Bezos. For some years (until overtaken recently by con artist Elon Musk) the richest man in the world and owner of Amazon and its myriad subsidiaries, Bezos has a net personal worth of an unimaginable and disgusting $185bn.
These people are the human (though we use the term loosely) personification of the vast sums of capital at their command; people whose whole lives are devoted to the increase of their already enormous wealth. They are capitalists of the highest order and in full allegiance with aims and ideals of the imperialist system: monopoly, domination, superexploitation and war.
Their way of life, world outlook and political beliefs are not, and can never be, reconciled with those of the working class. They are our class enemies and must be recognised and fought as such.
Reaction from the ‘left’
Only individuals possessing the naivety and political immaturity of an infant could believe that these big tech multibillionaires have the interests of the masses at heart.
That being the case, one might think we could rely on the political left to point this out and make a stand against their tyranny. Unfortunately, one would be woefully mistaken.
Shamefully there are many who not only endorse the actions of these nefarious actors, but demand they go ever further in the efforts to suppress all voices of dissent.
Take for example ‘not-for-profit activist community’ 38 Degrees, which, mistaking its subscribers’ email inboxes for toilets, sent out a call to sign a petition to have US President Donald Trump permanently banned from Twitter.
Incentivised by Facebook’s “decisive action” of indefinitely banning the presidential pariah from their rotten platform, 38 Degrees raved: “It’s time to get Trump and his hatred banned from Twitter as well.”
The email went on, infuriating and alienating a sizeable section of it subscribers, to crow about the “small steps” that had been taken by social media platforms, before opining: “it isn’t enough … we need decisive action now” and begging for the jackboot of media censorship to stomp ever more forcefully on the throat of free political expression.
The liberal cheerleaders might just have well have saved their breath (and their subscriber list). Twitter did indeed delete Mr Trump’s account, but not because 38 degrees ‘demanded’ that it should. The platform is powerful enough to ignore the will of the public, whether it voices support or opposition to its designs, and will act according to its owners’ class interests first and foremost.
Only those who lack any confidence in their own political views are so scared by the existence of opponents as to require them to be stamped out, rather than facing them head on.
The useful idiots cheering on the censorship of big tech don’t seem to realise that the mailed fist of censorship will be coming for them next.
The first and foremost target of all media and political censorship in a capitalist society is working-class, socialist ideas and organisations. Persuading sections of the working class to champion the principle of censorship is understandably a priority of the ruling class, given the glaring failures of the capitalist system; it is absolutely against the interests of workers to help in this endeavour.
This whipping up of a hysteria in favour of censorship has vast implications reaching far beyond the silencing of an unlikeable US politician. Censoring someone as popular and prominent as President Trump is a milestone in the ongoing drive for full control over what is said online; one that sets a chilling precedent.
With this act, the technology industry has sent a clear message to the world that it will be the arbiter of ‘truth’, deciding for itself, without any oversight, which political views are deemed acceptable or correct and which are to be silenced. Given the class composition of big tech’s ownership, how long will it be before only such political views as are deemed permissible to the imperialist ruling class – opinions that bolster their class position and further their agenda – will be allowed to circulate freely in the public domain?
Social media and the technology industry at large have now fully exposed themselves as a social prop of imperialism.
Donald Trump was a loose cannon on the deck of imperialism. Such a figure occupying such a position as president of the imperialist heartlands had the potential to do some real damage to the imperialists’ cause by exposing them for what they really are.
While, as of now, it is largely dissenters from the conservative side who face the wrath of the sultans of censorship, it is only because they at present command a relatively large audience among the downtrodden, maligned and disaffected masses, who lack, at present, the political leadership and organisation to direct their anger in more meaningful ways.
By this act of censorship, the ruling class has once again shown itself weak and fearful. Deep down, it knows that its position of power is becoming more tenuous and open to a breach. By clamping down on opposing voices it hopes to destroy its enemy – the working class – which is destined to overthrow it.
We must fight with full force against the tyranny of the capitalist class, in whatever form the struggle may take. In time, when the workers’ movement for socialism has gained greater strength and traction, we can expect to become the main target of all such attacks by the state machinery and the ruling class’s media.
This is not a grim fantasy, but a very real challenge that is bound to face us as we grow. We must be prepared to fight, and we must be prepared to win.