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Title: The Inevitable Coronavirus Censorship Crisis is Here (Internet Speech Will Never Go Back to Normal)
Source: Reporting by Matt Taibbi
URL Source: https://taibbi.substack.com/p/temporary-coronavirus-censorship
Published: Apr 30, 2020
Author: Matt Taibbi
Post Date: 2020-05-03 18:50:47 by Deckard
Keywords: None
Views: 224
Comments: 1

Earlier this week, Atlantic magazine – fast becoming the favored media outlet for self-styled intellectual elites of the Aspen Institute type – ran an in-depth article of the problems free speech poses to American society in the coronavirus era. The headline: Internet Speech Will Never Go Back to Normal

In the debate over freedom versus control of the global network, China was largely correct, and the U.S. was wrong.

Authored by a pair of law professors from Harvard and the University of Arizona, Jack Goldsmith and Andrew Keane Woods, the piece argued that the American and Chinese approaches to monitoring the Internet were already not that dissimilar:

Constitutional and cultural differences mean that the private sector, rather than the federal and state governments, currently takes the lead in these practices… But the trend toward greater surveillance and speech control here, and toward the growing involvement of government, is undeniable and likely inexorable.

They went on to list all the reasons that, given that we’re already on an “inexorable” path to censorship, a Chinese-style system of speech control may not be such a bad thing. In fact, they argued, a benefit of the coronavirus was that it was waking us up to “how technical wizardry, data centralization, and private-public collaboration can do enormous public good.”

Perhaps, they posited, Americans could be moved to reconsider their “understanding” of the First and Fourth Amendments, as “the harms from digital speech” continue to grow, and “the social costs of a relatively open Internet multiply.”

This interesting take on the First Amendment was the latest in a line of “Let’s rethink that whole democracy thing” pieces that began sprouting up in earnest four years ago. Articles with headlines like “Democracies end when they become too democratic” and “Too much of a good thing: why we need less democracy” became common after two events in particular: Donald Trump’s victory in the the Republican primary race, and the decision by British voters to opt out of the EU, i.e. “Brexit.”

A consistent lament in these pieces was the widespread decline in respect for “experts” among the ignorant masses, better known as the people Trump was talking about when he gushed in February 2016, “I love the poorly educated!”

The Atlantic was at the forefront of the argument that The People is a Great Beast, that cannot be trusted to play responsibly with the toys of freedom. A 2016 piece called “American politics has gone insane” pushed a return of the “smoke-filled room” to help save voters from themselves. Author Jonathan Rauch employed a metaphor that is striking in retrospect, describing America’s oft-vilified intellectual and political elite as society’s immune system:

Americans have been busy demonizing and disempowering political professionals and parties, which is like spending decades abusing and attacking your own immune system. Eventually, you will get sick.

The new piece by Goldsmith and Woods says we’re there, made literally sick by our refusal to accept the wisdom of experts. The time for asking the (again, literally) unwashed to listen harder to their betters is over. The Chinese system offers a way out. When it comes to speech, don’t ask: tell.


As the Atlantic lawyers were making their case, YouTube took down a widely-circulated video about coronavirus, citing a violation of “community guidelines.”

The offenders were Drs. Dan Erickson and Artin Massahi, co-owners of an “Urgent Care” clinic in Bakersfield, California. They’d held a presentation in which they argued that widespread lockdowns were perhaps not necessary, according to data they were collecting and analyzing.

“Millions of cases, small amounts of deaths,” said Erickson, a vigorous, cheery-looking Norwegian-American who argued the numbers showed Covid-19 was similar to flu in mortality rate.  “Does [that] necessitate shutdown, loss of jobs, destruction of oil companies, furloughing doctors…? I think the answer is going to be increasingly clear.”

The reaction of the medical community was severe. It was pointed out that the two men owned a clinic that was losing business thanks to the lockdown. The message boards of real E.R. doctors lit up with angry comments, scoffing at the doctors’ dubious data collection methods and even their somewhat dramatic choice to dress in scrubs for their video presentation.

The American Academy of Emergency Medicine (AAEM) and American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) scrambled to issue a joint statement to “emphatically condemn” the two doctors, who “do not speak for medical society” and had released “biased, non-peer reviewed data to advance their personal financial interests.”

As is now almost automatically the case in the media treatment of any controversy, the story was immediately packaged for “left” and “right” audiences by TV networks. Tucker Carlson on Fox backed up the doctors’ claims, saying “these are serious people who’ve done this for a living for decades,” and YouTube and Google have “officially banned dissent.”

Meanwhile, over on Carlson’s opposite-number channel, MSNBC, anchor Chris Hayes of the All In program reacted with fury to Carlson’s monologue:

There’s a concerted effort on the part of influential people at the network that we at All In call Trump TV right now to peddle dangerous misinformation about the coronavirus… Call it coronavirus trutherism.

Hayes, an old acquaintance of mine, seethed at what he characterized as the gross indifference of Trump Republicans to the dangers of coronavirus. “At the beginning of this horrible period, the president, along with his lackeys, and propagandists, they all minimized what was coming,” he said, sneering. “They said it was just like a cold or the flu.”

He angrily demanded that if Fox acolytes like Carlson believed so strongly that society should be reopened, they should go work in a meat processing plant. “Get in there if you think it’s that bad. Go chop up some pork.”

The tone of the many media reactions to Erickson, Carlson, Trump, Georgia governor Brian Kemp, and others who’ve suggested lockdowns and strict shelter-in-place laws are either unnecessary or do more harm than good, fits with what writer Thomas Frank describes as a new “Utopia of Scolding”:

Who needs to win elections when you can personally reestablish the social order every day on Twitter and Facebook? When you can scold, and scold, and scold. That’s their future, and it’s a satisfying one: a finger wagging in some vulgar proletarian’s face, forever.

In the Trump years the sector of society we used to describe as liberal America became a giant finger-wagging machine. The news media, academia, the Democratic Party, show-business celebrities and masses of blue-checked Twitter virtuosos became a kind of umbrella agreement society, united by loathing of Trump and fury toward anyone who dissented with their preoccupations.

Because this Conventional Wisdom viewed itself as being solely concerned with the Only Important Thing, i.e. removing Trump, there was no longer any legitimate excuse for disagreeing with its takes on Russia, Julian Assange, Jill Stein, Joe Rogan, the 25th amendment, Ukraine, the use of the word “treason,” the removal of Alex Jones, the movie Joker, or whatever else happened to be the #Resistance fixation of the day.

When the Covid-19 crisis struck, the scolding utopia was no longer abstraction. The dream was reality! Pure communism had arrived! Failure to take elite advice was no longer just a deplorable faux pas. Not heeding experts was now murder. It could not be tolerated. Media coverage quickly became a single, floridly-written tirade against “expertise-deniers.” For instance, the Atlantic headline on Kemp’s decision to end some shutdowns was, “Georgia’s Experiment in Human Sacrifice.”

Full article here: The Inevitable Coronavirus Censorship Crisis is Here

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#1. To: Liberator, Stoner, A K A Stone, Gatlin (#0)

Fom The Atlantic:

But the “extraordinary” measures we are seeing are not all that extraordinary. Powerful forces were pushing toward greater censorship and surveillance of digital networks long before the coronavirus jumped out of the wet markets in Wuhan, China, and they will continue to do so once the crisis passes. The practices that American tech platforms have undertaken during the pandemic represent not a break from prior developments, but an acceleration of them.

Don't be alarmed folks, Chinese style internet control is a GOOD thing.

As surprising as it may sound, digital surveillance and speech control in the United States already show many similarities to what one finds in authoritarian states such as China.

Government is in the last resort the employment of armed men, of policemen, gendarmes, soldiers, prison guards, and hangmen.
The essential feature of government is the enforcement of its decrees by beating, killing, and imprisoning.
Those who are asking for more government interference are asking ultimately for more compulsion and less freedom.

Deckard  posted on  2020-05-04   16:49:08 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


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