Censoring Alex Jones
Tuesday, August 14, 2018
Something happened recently that made me feel like a bit of an endangered species. A set of transnational internet companies, including Google, Facebook, Apple and several others, all synchronously removed content belonging to infowars.com, which is run by Alex Jones. Such synchronicity is a sure sign of conspiracy—something that Alex Jones harps on a lot.
I once appeared on a radio show run by Alex Jones, and he did manage to boil down what I had to say to “the USA is going to collapse like the USSR did,” which is pretty good, considering how poorly we managed to connect, having so little in common. He is a conservative and a libertarian whereas I think that conservatives don’t exist in the US. What have they “conserved” lately—other than the right to bear small arms? As far as libertarianism, I consider proper historical libertarianism as a strain of socialism while its American cooptation is just plain funny: these ones remain libertarian only until they need the services of an ambulance or a fire engine, at which point they turn socialist. To boot, American libertarians like Ayn Rand, who to me was a relentlessly bad writer full of faulty thinking. However, I find her useful as a litmus test for mediocre minds.
Moreover, Jones is political while I remain convinced that national politics in the US is a waste of time. It has been statistically proven that the US is not a democracy: popular will has precisely zero effect on public policy. It doesn’t matter who is president; the difference is a matter of style. Trump is a bull in a China shop while Clinton would have been a deer in the headlights. The result is the same: the US is bankrupt and its empire is over.
There is also the mismatch of genre between Jones and me. I am first of all an experimenter and an essayist, and to me personal experience and literary form are vitally important, while Jones is light on research and happy to work with hearsay, and is rather hackneyed and repetitive, but has the right instincts for a rabble-rouser. He harkens from a long American tradition of itinerant preachers spouting jeremiads, thumping the bible and hurling fire and brimstone. His content is secular, but his rhetorical techniques are revivalist. He is preachy, screechy and emotional. There is some carnival cryer in his cultural makeup as well, and he is not above peddling some survivalist/prepper snake oil
That said, we share certain important similarities. Neither of us is part of the official narrative that is endlessly being hammered home by US mass media with increasingly poor results. Thinking Americans are just not gullible enough any more. Jones has exploited this gullibility shortfall in the general public for all it’s worth by going after every conspiracy theory out there, while I am just like you—gullible. Sure, a few Arab tourists armed with box cutters destroyed three steel skyscrapers by flying two aluminum planes into them. Do your own math, but that’s just 2/3 of a plane per skyscraper—ought to be enough, right? Jet fuel, which burns at 800° to 1500°F, melted steel columns. (Steel melts at 2750°F.) Two aluminum cans packed with kerosene, meat and luggage destroyed three steel structures. I find this explanation perfectly satisfactory; do you? If you need to know more, it’s easy to find out, but don’t wait on me because, being so gullible, I am perfectly satisfied.
Jones and I are also different in that he is hugely popular whereas I am popular enough for me and generally lacking in worldly ambition. I enjoy writing, my readers enjoy what I write, and everyone is happy except the kids, because while I am writing I am not playing with them. But Jones is becoming huge—popular enough to displace mass media, which is continuously losing mind share. In part, that is its own fault: how long do they think they can they go on flogging the dead horses of “Russian collusion” and “Russian meddling” before people start shaking their heads and walking away? In part, the verbal diarrhea that we hear on CNN or read on nytimes.com is intended as a smokescreen because the truth has become toxic to the interests of those who are in charge mass media in the US. I will delve into this subject further on Thursday. The political decision to censor Jones was a sign of desperation: the verbal diarrhea is not working, and so it’s time for Plan B, which is simply to scream “Shut up!” as loudly as possible.
Due to his huge and burgeoning popularity (which these latest attacks on him have actually served to enhance) Jones is a huge target, whereas I am but a tiny one. Still, first they came for Alex Jones, and then they may very well come for me, and so the time to start paying attention and pushing back is now. These internet entities—Google, Facebook, Apple, Google Podcast, Spotify, iHeartRadio, MailChimp, Disqus, LinkedIn, Flickr, Pinterest and several others—have no more right to censor him than does your phone company to screen your calls for you or to determine whose number you should be allowed to dial. What was done to Jones was blatantly illegal under both US and international law, and while these companies don’t have much to fear in the US, where they are politically protected, they have a great deal more to fear internationally.
Morell: “We need to make the Russians pay a price in Syria.”
Rose: “We make them pay the price by killing Russians?”
The context and the facts are: the Russians were in Syria by official invitation from the internationally recognized Syrian government to defeat terrorists and foreign mercenaries and to reestablish Syria’s control over its sovereign territory. The US forces weren’t doing much of anything helpful in Syria, but whatever it was, it was illegal: they were an invading force. And here is Morrell proposing that we kill Russian troops who are fighting terrorists, just to send a message. If that’s not “inciting violence,” it is really difficult to imagine what would be. And yet a full two years after this outrage PBS remains on the air; what gives?
Spurious claims of “hate speech” and “inciting violence” aside, what happened is that an order to shut down Jones was issued from Washington, DC. In response an impressively large group of transnational internet companies saluted and marched off to carry out the order, thereby making it perfectly obvious who they work for. And that is likely to become a big problem for them.
First, these transnational companies are allowed to provide services around the world based on international law. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights defends the right to freedom of opinion and expression: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” Jones should sue the US and the companies that censored him in the European Court of Human rights in Strasbourg, France and seek redress both against entities within the US government which issued the illegal order (to be ferreted out in the course of discovery) and against the transnational companies that carried it out.
Second, these transnational companies operate around the world based on local law which in many cases prevents them from acting as agents of foreign governments without first registering as such. If Google and Facebook execute orders issued by the US government, then they are acting not as businesses but as clandestine representatives of a foreign power. Being recognized as such would significantly curtail these companies’ international reach, growth potential and valuations.
And since Google, Facebook and Apple are public companies committed to the pursuit of shareholder value, it would be time for their shareholders to get involved and replace the management teams. After all, what would be more profitable for them: illegally conspiring with the US government while becoming pariahs and losing the world market, or scrupulously maintaining arm’s-length relationships with all governments while working to uphold international law? There is still the opportunity for them to defuse the whole situation: call it a mistake, restore the services, compensate Jones for lost revenue and promise to never do it again.