Big Tech Censorship: Challenge Those Protecting Big Pharma Scoundrels From Dissent
Imagine you run a slave plantation in the Southern United States in 1835. You have no qualms about the accusations of immorality inherent in your operations, in fact, you may even regard what you do as necessary “for the greater good.” The American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS) begins printing more than a million anti-slavery pieces of literature to mail to slave owners and others in the South in an effort to change public opinion on slavery. This obviously threatens the continuation of your business and threatens to shift the entire paradigm upon which your society and way of life depends. What do you do? Well, as history tells it, the pro-slavery powers that were in the South at the time did what every rights-infringing exploitation regime has done throughout human history – they turned to authoritarianism and censorship to limit the spread of ideas threatening their grip on power.
The effort of the AASS in 1835 to saturate the South with anti-slavery literature has since been dubbed the Great Postal Campaign. Needless to say, the slave owners in the South did not appreciate it. Powerful interests persuaded the Postmaster General of the United States, Amos Kendall, to give permission to postmasters throughout the South to refuse delivery of the AASS mail and other abolitionist material. This was contrary to the law at the time which guaranteed the security of the mail. It was also clearly contrary to the spirit of the First Amendment and the inherent value of free and open debate within society. This is of course just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the effort expended by Southern pro-slavery oligarchs to keep slavery alive and well in the South. But it is an interesting parallel to that which we see today in our society; as the dominant interests – some with monopoly-like influence – push to censor, demonize, destroy, and deplatform any person or group espousing ideas deemed dangerous to the bottom line of corporate interests and/or the control of status quo bureaucratic political powers.
Fast forward to 2022 and we come into a very different United States than in the pre-Civil War era. Some things however, never change. Just like in 1835, there are industries where big money is made and powerful interests are willing to do anything to keep control. Naturally, there is a merging of these forces in the economic and political realms. One such example is the massive for-profit medical-pharmaceutical industry and the reciprocal revolving-door relationship they have with bureaucratic research and regulatory agencies in the government and with lawmakers too. The result has been a skewed health policy in the United States towards industry-dependent, mandated, top-down, one-size-fits-all, reactionary care; at the expense of natural health, holistic approaches, preventative medicine, and personal choice.
Medical freedom and natural health advocates have been fighting for a better, less coercive and more accountable health policy for a long time, however the stakes became infinitely higher with the start of the COVID era. Much could be said about the push to promote the preferred policy and solutions of the aforementioned powerful interests, but here we are focusing on their blatant censorship tactics. Like the slave owners of 1835, the mainstream medical community, emboldened by their government backing and the mass media organizations in their pockets, have unleashed a censorship and attack campaign on their detractors that puts the collusion between the slave owners and the Southern postmasters to shame. Old-school Herman and Chomsky-style “Manufacturing Consent” editorial bias still applies in today’s media, but technology has unfortunately made it easier for them to shape narratives and censor dissent via the collaboration between the terrible trio of Big Tech, Big Pharma, and the bureaucratic health agencies.
Tech company control over the digital space where free speech and association ought to thrive makes them important gatekeepers. Aside from merely abiding by the law and going along to get along, many of these tech companies may have additional longterm interests in the complying with the Big Pharma/government censorship game as well. In the age of COVID, author Naomi Klein’s “Shock Doctrine” concept gets a tech boost, as these interests take advantage of the disaster to institute what Klein calls the “Screen New Deal.” This all requires control and consolidation of power around this shared purpose. Just like the slave owners in the South, the medical establishment today is stuck in its own self-reinforcing feedback loop. They have been wrong about so much, yet they deem themselves the only source of authority on matters of health. It may be good for their interests, but as far as the rest of us are concerned what they need are more checks and balances and criticism from both within and outside the establishment. Unfortunately the trend has been moving away from this despite all the promises of technological advancement fostering more cooperation and interconnectedness.
In 2020, amidst the COVID pandemic, the environmental health and government watchdog organization Children’s Health Defense (CHD) filed a First and Fifth Amendment lawsuit against Facebook over its collaboration with the government to censor CHD and other people and organizations that question or challenge preferred government policies. From the lawsuit:
“This is a case about how an officer and an agency within the U.S. Government “privatized” the First Amendment by teaming up with Facebook to censor speech which, under the Bill of Rights, the Government cannot censor. In February 2019, Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA) threatened to introduce legislation to remove Facebook’s immunity under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act unless Facebook implemented algorithms to “distinguish” and suppress “vaccine misinformation” and advertising. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) and, under its aegis, the World Health Organization (“WHO”) then collaborated at length with Facebook to suppress vaccine safety speech with a “warning label” and other notices that appear to flag disinformation, but in reality censor valid and truthful speech, including speech critical of those agencies and their policies. A judicial remedy is urgently required to redress that system of prior restraint which will otherwise go unredressed.”
“Warning labels” were merely the start. What they really warned us about were the Orwellian turns towards censorship and the coercive nudging of scientists, government officials, and the general public towards approved groupthink on health-related topics. How has Facebook responded to this lawsuit? How have they, and other tech giants, acted since its initial filing? By increasing their censorship and suppression of speech and content with which they do not agree and doubling-down on their collaboration with government and industry sources to promote “the official truth.” Facebook and other tech companies have a barrage of excuses and legal loopholes to deny their role as de facto government censors; including invoking their “private” status as a company and the claim they are fighting the self-defined enemy of “misinformation.” They have had a lot of success beating back legal challenges and keeping government regulations on their side so far. At the end of the day however, they cannot get around the fact they are stifling the free flow of ideas to promote specific preferred ends. They go to great lengths to convince the public their actions are honest and necessary, but we must not let them fool the people and continue with their denials of censorship. Nothing says “we don’t do that” like “doing that” even more.
“Facebook is acting here as a surrogate for the federal government’s crusade to silence all criticism of draconian government policies. Our constitutional framers recognized this peril of government censorship. We don’t need the First Amendment to protect popular or government-approved speech. They incorporated the First Amendment specifically to protect free expression of dissenting opinions. They understood that a government that can silence its critics has a license for every atrocity.”
The only thing surprising is that Facebook did not outright deplatform CHD sooner. Over the last couple years other groups and individuals had already received the boot and/or had content removed from Facebook and other sites including Twitter and Google-owned YouTube. Scientists cannot count on neutral and fair platforms with large audiences to freely report independent findings or critical studies. Check out this analysis of just one of the many highly credentialed scientists censored early on in 2020 that happened to be right about vital COVID-related science (more so than the “authorities” at the time). Imagine if the authorities had listened to more like him and crafted policy off of such considerations. We could have saved more lives with less coercion and disruption of the normal operations of society. Furthermore, political organizers all around the United States (and indeed the world), such as those shut down in Michigan organizing against the Governor’s oppressive COVID orders, cannot rely on the dominant “digital public squares” to organize protests or groups. Organizing people to protest against fast-moving tyrannical “Executive Orders” is difficult enough without platforms acting like publishers and deciding instantly your ideas and causes are not worthy of propagation. What a travesty for American Democracy. This has got to stop. People that claim to support free speech have been rather mute on this subject. Is this because they agree with these company’s claims that health information contrary to “official sources” is really that harmful, or are they largely in the dark about its occurrence given these are the companies from which they receive the majority of their news? The answer is probably a bit of both.
That slavery was wrong was an obvious truth to many before the Civil War. It took time to convince others that it was morally repugnant and even longer to get them over their cognitive dissonance. Today, the evil being protected is not so obvious to the majority- they don’t know what they don’t know, and the information gatekeepers who profit off controlling the ignorance of the masses aim to keep it that way. Whatever one may think about a given topic, including health policy, logic and principle requires we allow for, and defend, free speech and debate so that we may work out differences and create wise and just policy. Few things could be considered more essential to the continuation of the American ideal than this.