I have been watching tech companies start to censor groups such as QAnon, and I will tell you now: This is bad. This impacts us all. It’s been bad for a while, but this is now way out of hand.
Yep, I am going to defend QAnon.
Not because I agree with them, but precisely because I don’t.
We have a major problem with the Internet, of which QAnon is the latest of a long line of victims… and will most certainly not be the last.
We need to stand up for our right to speak, our right to think wrong thoughts, our right to be unpredictable and make mistakes, and ultimately our right to live our lives. Tech, in collusion with the military-industrial-media-politico-complex are fast narrowing the window of acceptable conversation and heading scarily into the world of Newspeak and Thought Reform.
Censorship of ‘bad’ information, however well-intentioned, inevitably means censorship of information the powerful deem ‘bad’.
This never ends well.
It allows potentially anyone who breaks a story, supports a cause or even does research to be discredited, censored, slandered (and even harassed or imprisoned). This strikes at the heart of free speech. You know, that thing that everyone says them and their friends should have, but their political opponents, or people they find irritating or crazy, shouldn’t.
That’s not how this works. You either have freedom of expression or you do not. Everybody should have it, as the law allows. It is a cornerstone of democracy, and, in the case of QAnon, their censorship shows a deeply troubling trend, which is that they are not only going to ban your speech, but they are going to ban you by association – hiding behind something that is ‘true’, but is really a lie by omission. Is QAnon crazy? Yes. Culty? Yes.
Welcome to Oceania. Read your fucking Orwell. Then read Chomsky. Then about Securitization if you’re feeling masochistic. The fact is, you are either for lawful freedom of expression, or you are pro-censorship. If you are pro-censorship, especially if you just go along and don’t even check to see if the allegations are true – you are the bad guy.
Sorry. It’s time to choose.
I don’t care if someone’s speech hurts feelings. I don’t care if it makes you uncomfortable. I don’t care if they’re batshit insane. Trial by media and deplatforming is not the answer (and, in most cases it just makes radicalisation worse because, funnily enough, persecution tends to feed a persecution narrative). It is in times of discomfort when our principles are tested. Our principles are only tested when it’s hard to defend them. If you have a principle that you only defend when it is comfortable for you, it isn’t a principle. Sorry.
Tech companies (who, despite the jeans and kicks and the perfect American Ivy League smiles, are still massive global corporations) should not be deciding who gets to speak or not. If it is illegal and a judge has ordered it, fine. And even then, maybe. There’s laws and mechanisms for that to occur. If you want to change the law, then work through the correct democratic processes to change it. But unilateral, secretive, unethical, arbitrary and often downright maliciously deciding what people are and are not acceptable and what people can and cannot read? Removing a person’s access to financial services, email, social support, website hosting, and deplatforming entire groups of people who have the ‘wrong’ opinion with no recourse or remedy?
The thing is (aside from the unprecedented power of tech companies and governments’ sheer incompetence at regulating any of it effectively), the fact remains that one person’s “conspiracy theory” is another person’s investigative journalist or exposer of corruption. And even the most insane conspiracy theories start with truth, and might have information that leads us to a very real story. Which is why I tend to be suspicious when large corporations start writing things off as a “conspiracy theory” – because it is well established that many of them, or at minimum some aspects, turn out to be true with time.
And that’s the point. That’s why I have no choice but to look ridiculous and defend QAnon’s right to be nutcases, and Alex Jones to do… whatever it is he does. Because I care about the truth – wherever it comes from and whoever uncovers it.
Because sometimes, they’re right. Even in a sea of wrong. And every time someone you don’t like is taken down, you can guarantee that those same precedents can and will be used to silence all dissent that is even remotely associated. Snowden. Assange. Manning. And, sure enough, with time, countless others who defended them because an algorithm said they met the same profile. Algorithmic judge, jury and executioner, with nary a human, a warrant or a jury to be seen.
‘Conspiracy theories’ often contain some truth in terms of the building blocks, material facts, or relationships etc (in fact, that is usually what makes them so compelling… there’s truth in it), but they have simply taken a wrong turn and come to the wrong conclusions. Some of the information might still be important, for someone else to make better sense of, and to put people back on the right track.
Obviously, the *leap* is the conspiracy part. Or the aliens. Or the conclusion that it is all orchestrated, rather than simply how power, propaganda, human psychology, capital, US interests, patriarchy, human trafficking, warfare & PsyOps etc work and have worked throughout history.
Anyone who has done any kind of intensive research work on one topic knows that it is very easy to occasionally go far too deep in the wrong direction, and that even legitimate academic research on a complex topic resembles a crazy board at some point or another.
Our brains are wired to look for patterns and have a number of cognitive biases that make it very easy to turn a wrong corner and end up lost in Tin Foil Town. Mine definitely does occasionally. But, with more information, a grounding in theory, and a willingness to hear different perspectives, I then self-correct and find a better answer. That’s how it works. That’s how we get to truth. That’s how we learn.
With new, and sometimes confronting, information. By limiting access to information, you not only make the bad information more interesting, but you also prevent those who might self-correct or find a better answer from getting there. Which is kind of the point. This is only ever going to lead to the powerful abusing it to quell dissent, for corporations to bust unions, for the corporate media to continue to just manufacture consent for whatever supports their advertisers and the bottom line.
Propaganda, and particularly propaganda in the corporate media (with jet fuel poured on it via social media), is really, really difficult to fight off. It is literally designed to hijack our biases and get us to make irrational and emotional decisions based on our lizard brains. Single issue activists, in particular, can be weaponised through tunnel vision and redirected in favour of – I dunno – a synthetic version that makes them feel better about progress. That’s why we study how to overcome those hundreds of biases in Postgrad. I’ve been fighting this shit HARD for the last few years. Hell, I have even realised how wrong I was in my last major blog post.
I write this as I realise that I am literally writing about the CIA and their fuckery over the years within left wing politics, and it is all truth. There’s no “conspiracy” as such, but explaining a political strategy and system and history that underpins a lot of what we are seeing now. In fact, when you look at it and know your theory, the conclusion is just boring as fuck business as usual.
In different hands, with a simpler vocabulary, this could easily look like a “conspiracy theory”. And it’s hard not to see how this has been weaponised over the years.
It is important to know what Big Tobacco did with cancer researchers. What Monsanto did to environmentalists. What the US Intelligence community have done to every single whistleblower since the beginning of time. They do what abusers do to their victims: they call them crazy.
They even imprison them and have them tortured and killed, or drive them to suicide. Troll farms and buying gutter press hit pieces from bloggers who identify as journalists are child’s play by comparison.
And it begins with having to defend QAnon, and every other victim of deplatforming, whether you like it or not. I sure don’t. It just ends really badly. And, you know… is a little… fascistic.
It’s frustrating that people write off/mock everything a group says based on them coming to the wrong conclusions with the information that more informed people might be able to explain better. I often joke that QAnon is International Relations without the books, and Chomsky without having to read Manufacturing Consent. I can look at Q and see what is batshit and what might have some truth in it, trace it back and how they got to where they ended up/went wrong. It’s actually kind of funny to reverse engineer these things and see where it took the turn it did.
But, I am concerned about people writing *all* dissident information off as a “conspiracy theory”, because it is also a convenient way to discredit and silence critics when corruption IS going on. It’s getting pretty chilling, watching ordinary and fairly intelligent people suddenly dismissing perfectly reasonable comments and claims as “conspiracy theories” or “disinformation”, as if they are in some sort of trance. It creeps me the fuck out, because, at the risk of invoking Godwin’s Law, people seem to have no idea where this leads if we don’t say no.
Especially all these so-called journalists, who, let’s be honest, have had their masks slip pretty epically. Just as I think I can’t have any more contempt for the world’s oldest profession (boot-licking), let’s not forget, they’re ONLY there to propagandise for corporate interests, not to get to the truth. They’re only in the job in corporate media because they have been selected as someone who can spin facts and lie by omission. That is the only job of the corporate journalist: branded content.
That’s why, even though I think QAnon are batshit and attracts batshit people who want everything to make sense and connect in a linear way where people are evil, rather than victims of our own human weaknesses when in a group in a system that rewards those who exploit, we should still, always, have the ability to see if there is any truth in the actual information underneath.
Anyone who doesn’t want people to have more information is not to be trusted.
Totalitarianism starts with Thought Reform. People who control information control what you think. Censorship is bad. Censorship is wrong and oppressive. Censorship is how the powerful retain power and the powerful will stop at nothing to keep their power, which is why it will inevitably be abused and used against those who speak up against the powerful. The only way to beat bullshit is by debunking it, understanding the root cause and logical leaps that leads people there, and by telling the truth and having an ARGUMENT.
Or, ya know, work on that whole public trust thing. That.
Don’t forget, that the idea of a “conspiracy theory” has been used for decades to also silence genuine dissent. And continues to be. Look at the people who say biological sex is not a “social construct” up against the billions of dollars of the “gender” movement, who call working class feminists and victims of domestic violence “Nazis”. Or how you can’t even ask a question about vaccines or masks without a pile-on from lunatics in all directions, who seemingly don’t connect how toilet paper and censorship share a common enabler: our lizard brains.
Also , seriously, don’t demonise the Q. Or anyone that is engaged with finding truth or sleuthing. There’s a pandemic on, people are afraid and coping the way they’re going to cope. Some will try to connect dots in the wrong directions, and it is up to our leaders to persuade them otherwise, and win back their trust. At least they’re trying to think for themselves. Most don’t. Most of you just laugh at the nutjobs and do sweet fuck all whilst the 1% fuck us, all whilst mindlessly quoting the New York Times and the ABC and sharing random thunkpieces from acceptable outlets without questioning it. But hey. Your media is the acceptable-thought media, so no problem.
Until you have to ask a question or have an opinion that the increasingly narrow window of acceptable thoughts decides is a threat to yourself, society or the powerful, and you find yourself securitized, cut off from your social networks, debanked and fighting for your life. And if that happens, I’ll be right here, speaking up for you too. It’s what I do.
Please, especially at the moment, teach your kids to think, and discover, and research. Commit to some uncomfortable learning and thinking so that you can engage curious people in a conversation, rather than shut it down. And don’t be afraid get it wrong, or receive blowback, because until that is again just part of a normal healthy society, rather than a thought crime, we do not have a chance and it will get worse.
And ask questions, especially of media, corporate interests and the powerful. If you laugh at people who do that, then frankly you’re an elitist asshole and a sellout.
Curiosity is a gift.
Sincerely, someone who is about to be very unpopular and called such things, purely because my work has uncovered something people don’t want to know.