Free Speech

Alex Jones Was Victimized by One Oligopoly. But He Perpetuated Another

This month, Twitter joined Apple, Facebook, Spotify and YouTube in banning the popular right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones from its platform. Like the other bans, Twitter’s decision was announced as a fait accompli, with opaque justifications ranging from “hate speech” to “abusive behavior.”

The seemingly arbitrary nature of these bans has raised fears from all political quarters. Alexis Madrigal, writing in The Atlantic, cited the development as proof that “these platforms have tremendous power, they have hardly begun to use it, and it’s not clear how anyone would stop them from doing so.” His sentiments were echoed by Ben Shapiro in the National Review, who expressed alarm at “social-media arbiters suddenly deciding that vague ‘hate speech’ standards ought to govern our common spaces.”

Even some on the left displayed concern. Steve Coll wrote in the New Yorker that “practices that marginalize the unconventional right will also marginalize the unconventional left,” and argued that we must defend even “awful speakers” in the interests of protecting free speech. Ben Wizner of the American Civil Liberties Union described the tech giants’ behavior as “worrisome,” and suggested the policies used to justify the bans could be “misused and abused.”

It is indeed worrying that some corporations now have the power to restrict how much influence someone can have on the marketplace of ideas. But what is more worrying, and what few people seem to be considering, is how Alex Jones was able to gain such influence in the first place. In my view, the ideological forces responsible for his rise are a greater threat to free speech than the corporate forces responsible for his “fall.” Principled defenders of free speech would therefore be unwise to rail against the former while ignoring the latter.

The reason tech giants like Twitter and Facebook are able to exert such worrying control over our speech is that they comprise an oligopoly, with no significant competitors. Such oligopolies tend to form in business due to the Matthew principle, which holds that advantage begets further advantage. If Facebook manages to get all your friends to use it, then Facebook’s chances of getting you to use it are drastically increased, because you want to be connected with your friends. This particular example of the Matthew principle is known as a “network effect.”

Crucially, network effects don’t just apply to free market economies; they also apply to the free market of ideas. Concepts that get more exposure will get more exposure. This virality can cause the arena of debate to quickly become dominated by an “oligopoly” of perspectives.

Hence, just as the free market of infotech is now dictated by the Googles and Facebooks of the world, so too has the free market of ideas come to be controlled by a few political narratives, particularly the social-justice narrative of the left and the anti-globalism narrative of the right. The social-justice left dominates among the cultural elite, including the mainstream media, the literati, the tech industry, Hollywood and academia. The anti-globalist right, meanwhile, is popular among the general public, as evidenced by the success of the U.K.’s Brexit campaign, and the election of Donald Trump in the U.S. and a host of nativist parties in Europe, such as Poland’s Law and Justice and Italy’s Five Star movement.

The story of Alex Jones brings these two strands together, because he has fueled the surge of right-wing populism in large part by leveraging the power of tech oligopolies. Far from being a “fringe” figure (as he is often portrayed), Jones is a key conduit of a popular narrative, broadcasting to over 3.6 million unique online monthly viewers, and apparently having the ear of the American president (which may help explain why baseless conspiracy theories about a “deep state” keep circulating around the White House). Jones, in short, is an ambassador for one half of an ideological oligopoly, which is just as hostile to competition as the tech oligopoly.

But how could this be? To some, the very idea of an oligopoly on ideas may seem bizarre; we are all free to believe whatever we wish. Unfortunately, our brains did not evolve to understand the world but to survive it. Reality is software that doesn’t run well on our mental hardware, unless the display resolution is minimized. We therefore seek out stories, not because they are true, but because they reduce the incomprehensible into that which is comprehensible, giving us a counterfeit of truth whose elegant simplicity makes it seem truer than actual, authentic truth.

A typical mental schematic that allows us to do this is the Karpman drama triangle, which divides people into victims, oppressors and rescuers. We have a tendency to view events using this cognitive compression algorithm because it simplifies reality into drama, offering not just clarity to the confused, but also belonging to the lonely, purpose to the aimless, battle to the bored, and scapegoats to the vindictive.

The social-justice left and anti-globalist right both fully embrace the Karpman drama triangle as a lens for looking at the world. In the social-justice narrative, minorities are the victims, the white patriarchy is the oppressor, and the social-justice activists are the rescuers. In the populist-right narrative, the silent oppressed majorities constitute the victims, the globalist elites are the oppressors, and certain maverick figures (such as Alex Jones and Donald Trump) are the rescuers.

Anyone who doesn’t neatly fit into a corner of the drama triangles will either be shoehorned in, or ignored. This simplification of reality into a dramatic struggle is what makes these narratives so hostile to competing ideas; disagreement is viewed not as a legitimate difference of opinion, but as an attempt at oppression. And when you feel you are being oppressed, you can justify the use of any tactic to fight it.

This is why we see those on the social-justice left using their influence in media, academia and the tech industry to forcefully suffocate the expression of alternative viewpoints — including by the firing of those with different opinions, or by shouting them down at universities, or by physically assaulting them.

And on the populist right, we see similar tactics of intimidation and ostracism, whether through the harassment of climate scientists, the denial of security clearance to former CIA directors who won’t toe the president’s line, or the demonization of conservative pundits who fall out of love with Donald Trump.

Alex Jones himself has been among the biggest instigators of right-wing intimidation. For years, he has concocted lies about those who don’t agree with his narrative, claiming they are agents of foreign governments, literal demons, or child molesters. He also has suggested that his followers should take up arms against the nonbelievers (which is why Twitter suspended him), and his conspiracy theories have led his followers to harass and threaten people with violence.

Unfortunately, this sometimes has led to actual violence. In 2009, Richard Poplawski, who regularly commented on Jones’ Infowars website, and cross-posted many of Jones’ articles on neo-Nazi forums, killed three police officers with an AK-47. The following year, Byron Williams, who cited Jones as an influence on his thinking, engaged in a firefight with police, injuring two. A year later, Jared Lee Loughner, who counted among his favorite documentary films the Jones-produced Loose Change, attempted to assassinate U.S. representative Gabrielle Giffords, injuring her and 12 other people, and killing six. Later that year, Oscar Ortega, having watched the Jones-produced film The Obama Deception, shot at the White House. In 2014, Jerad and Amanda Miller, both regular commenters on Jones’ Infowars site, posted anti-government videos and then went on a shooting spree, killing three before dying themselves. Two years later, Edgar Maddison Welch, convinced by the Pizzagate conspiracy theory pushed by Jones, shot up the Comet Ping Pong pizza parlor in Washington D.C.

It is difficult to determine how much influence Jones’ views had on these atrocities. However, the link between hateful Infowars-style rhetoric on Facebook and hate crime was explored by an extensive study of 3,335 attacks against refugees in Germany, where the populist right-wing Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) has developed a major web presence. The study found that such attacks were strongly predicted by social media use: Wherever per-person Facebook use rose to one standard deviation above the national average, attacks on refugees increased by an average of 50 percent.

Violence is the most direct and dramatic way that the social-justice left and anti-globalist right censor speech. But it is just one tactic among many — including threats, doxings, firings, harassment, mobbings and demonization. This is why the radical left and right, led by demagogues like Alex Jones, represent an even greater threat to our speech than the tech giants. They are gradually turning the free market of ideas into a kind of ongoing hostage crisis, by which people are either afraid to speak their minds, or are doomed to have their words interpreted in the worst possible way when they do so.

I don’t want to make the same mistakes as Jones, so I should emphasize that these drama triangles that are so hostile to free expression weren’t engineered by a secret cabal of ideologues or tech CEOs. They arose organically, regulated only by laws of nature such as the Matthew principle, network effects, and the public’s demand for easy answers. Sure, there are individual Facebook employees who may be interested in pushing a political agenda, but Facebook as a business is not. It seeks to do what is best for profits: making its platform as inviting to as many people as possible.

That’s not to say it is successful in this venture. Corporations are ill-equipped to police the information traffic of millions of users, which is why they frequently get things wrong (such as censoring the Declaration of Independence as hate speech). And even when they get things “right,” they usually only end up benefiting their targets — as evidenced by the fact that, in the wake of Jones’ de-platforming by the major media companies, his Infowars app surged up the download charts. The greatest endorsement a conspiracy theorist can receive is censorship by authority figures. It’s a golden opportunity to portray themselves as the victim in their Karpman drama triangle.

So, if we can’t rely on powerful organizations such as governments or corporations to protect our voices from mob rule, what then?

In my view, it leaves only one real option: We must be the protectors of our own free speech, and habitually speak out not just against designated “oppressors” like the tech giants, but also against designated “victims” and “rescuers,” like Alex Jones, who seek to oppress by dehumanizing others as oppressors. And we must do all this without constructing our own drama triangle of oppression, or else we’ll become part of the very problem we seek to solve.

John Stuart Mill believed that in a free market of ideas, good ideas would naturally trump bad ones. But experience has shown that this won’t happen unless the marketplace is populated by those who actively seek truth and openness. Free speech is the foundation of all other rights. It is the seed of innovation, the wheel of progress, the space to breathe. It must therefore be protected at all costs — including, at times such as these, from itself.

Feature photo by Jarretera / Shutterstock.com

 

Gurwinder Bhogal is a U.K.-based writer. You can follow him on Twitter at

79 Comments

  1. David Mysterious says

    “In my view, the ideological forces responsible for his rise are a greater threat to free speech than the corporate forces responsible for his ‘fall.'”

    You appear to be drawing some sort equivalence or similarity between the power inherent in hs rise with the power inherent in the corporate forces responsible for his fall. That view is detached from reality.

    • boldmug says

      People like Gurwinder do this every time, i.e. holding some sort of evaluative norms as static and equal while ignoring the dynamic and asymmetric competitive aspects of every other factor. If this were a war, and you did a comparative threat analysis of each warfighting organization’s finances, logistics, weapons, troop count, geography conquered, their alliances, etc. there’d be no comparison between Jones and the other side. Jones would be dwarfed by his opponents in terms of resources and skill. But people like Gurwinder, who lack any strategic acumen, want to pretend this doesn’t matter, which is why eventually he’ll lose because he doesn’t understand how power works. He has tacitly taken the side of his enemies, i.e. pwned. He’s been brainwashed by mainstream propaganda that somehow the opposing forces are exactly the same threat. A drunk on the corner in Chicago waving a cardboard biblical apocalyptic quote and yammering about the space vampires is equivalent to the local corrupt alliance between the mafia, cops, street gangs, politicians, etc.

      Curiously, Gurwinder sees an asymmetry in their epistemic output, believing the left, liberalism, woke capital and the rest of the globalist’s unnatural alliance over Jones. Which is why Gurwinder is in the precarious position of simultaneously speaking out against the mainstream left yet also believes the bullshit about their mythic enemies. One wonders if Gurwinder will have his Cartesian moment and start to think that maybe he should be skeptical about all claims coming from the left and its allies, given his enemies have their hands on the epistemic inputs into the only social epistemology that matters in democracies: the education system and the media.

      • C. Randall says

        Your comment is filled with straw men. How exactly is the owner of a media empire with 3 million unique monthly visitors and influence over the president of the United States himself a “drunk on the corner in Chicago waving a cardboard biblical apocalyptic quote and yammering about the space vampires?”

        And do you have any proof for your Alex Jones-esque assertion that Big Tech is part of a “local corrupt alliance between the mafia, cops, street gangs, politicians, etc?”

        • Yes proof that big tech has become a quasi-fascist partner of big government just as the military industrial complex had become a partner of big government. Big tech and all of the intelligence agencies have been working together and scratching each other’s backs for at least the last 15 or 20 years . One very obvious example is the clearly unconstitutional complete surveillance put in place by NSA and other agencies with the help and complicity of big tech, quid-pro-quo here to make both parties richer and more powerful while relegating the common man to no more than a monitored cipher and tax slave for generations to come.. without this collaboration the drive to dismantle the rest of the constitution – next in line the 1st and 2cd anendments will put the 5th 6th etc nails in the coffin of u.s. freedom. The 16th amendment allowing for Federal taxation internal revenue ACT, the Federal Reserve ACT were among the important first nails in the coffin of freedom.
          Include also in that drive to curb freedoms and centralise power with the federal government the federal communications Act passed under Bill Clinton which literally monopolized the broadcasting and communications Industries

          • Jack B Nimble says

            @David A

            Liberal DEMOCRATIC senators were the main opponents of S.652 – Telecommunications Act of 1996 of the 104th Congress (1995-1996):

            Bingaman (D-NM), Boxer (D-CA), Bumpers (D-AR), Byrd (D-WV), Conrad (D-ND), Dorgan (D-ND), Feingold (D-WI), Graham (D-FL), Kerrey (D-NE), Leahy (D-VT), Lieberman (D-CT), McCain (R-AZ), Moynihan (D-NY), Packwood (R-OR), Pryor (D-AR), Reid (D-NV), Simon (D-IL), Wellstone (D-MN) all voted nay.

            Similarly, 85% of the ‘nay’ votes in the House were by Democrats or Bernie Sanders (I). See: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Telecommunications_Act_of_1996 for legislative history.

            Democratic opposition to the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was fueled by the belief that the Act was a green flag to further consolidation and centralization among the big telecoms, and that is just what happened:

            “….It is evident that the Telecommunications Act of 1996 has failed to produce the consumer benefits policy makers promised because competition has failed to take hold across the communications industry. The Act’s failure is not because, as some have suggested, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was overly regulatory in seeking to create conditions ripe for competition. The fundamental problem is that the huge companies that dominate the telephone and cable TV industries prefer mergers and acquisitions to competition. They have refused to open their markets by dragging their feet in allowing competitors to interconnect, refusing to negotiate in good faith, litigating every nook and cranny of the law, and avoiding head-to-head competition like the plague….”
            Source: https://consumersunion.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/lesson.pdf

            Bottom Line: Republicans are the main defenders and enablers of Big Tech and Big Media, not Democrats.

          • Wilson says

            @Jack B Nimble

            (1) The Democrats may have played a central role in the banning of Infowars.

            On July 17 Democrats grilled social-media companies about Infowars in a House Judiciary Committee hearing.

            For example, Rep. Ted Deutch of Florida said:

            “How many strikes does a conspiracy theorist who attacks grieving parents and student survivors of mass shootings get?”

            Facebook representative Monika Bickert responded that while some of Infowars postings had been taken down they hadn’t seen enough to justify taking down the entire account.

            Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland then accused Facebook of taking “positions in the interest of the right-wing politics” and threatened to “have to look at what’s happening there, because then at that point there’s not viewpoint neutrality.”

            Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island said that Facebook had “bent over backwards to placate and mollify conservatives based on fiction.”

            https://www.politico.com/story/2018/07/17/facebook-infowars-alex-jones-congress-726301

        • Still much much smaller in scope then the forces alinged against him and just about everybody on the left AND right thinks he is an idiot. He doesn’t have any real influence over Trump either. Trump uses people like Alex Jones, rightly or wrongly, its not the other way around.

      • You sound like a SJW. First, there is no equivalence here. Second, it isn’t about power. Third, you are falling into the very trap the article warns about: Gurwinder doesn’t fully disagree with your enemy, so you make him one.

        Gurwinder argues that the reduction of discussion to right against left, or visa versa, is more a danger to free exchange of ideas, than FB censorship. While he doesn’t minimize tech’s power.

        • Jack B Nimble says

          @Ryan

          I was specifically responding to David A, NOT the author. David A’s argument is that Big Government, Big Tech and Big Military-Industrial-Complex all have a vested interest in expanding govt. surveillance programs, and he specifically said that Republicans and Democrats were equally complicit in the power grab. I pointed out the the legislative history of the act that he specifically cited doesn’t support his argument about Ds and Rs both being in bed with Big Tech.

          David A’s position is similar to the anarcho-libertarian Sovereign Citizen Movement [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sovereign_citizen_movement]. See also 3-percenters, Oath Keepers, Militia Movement and so forth; all of these right-wing groups use social media to spread their radical and sometimes violent anti-government message.

          • Jack i am in violent agreement with you but we must face the fact that both parties are virtually owned by the big special interests.. a few Democrats can virtue signal that they did not vote for that act that they did not vote to go to war in Iraq etc and it’s all posturing for the people who are so damn easy to fool. Clintonwas president he could have stopped it from getting off the ground in the first place or he could have threatened veto but he was for it under the guise that it would Foster competition. these pols are more clever and duplicitous than they look 😉 they make it seem like there helping you while they’ve got both hands in our pockets. If you will recall also it was under Clinton that glass-steagall was repealed for one transaction the merger of Smith Barney and citigroup which was also a Ruse to create more efficiencies and benefits for society hahaha…are you beginning to see the pattern and similarly the fed Reserve act was passed under the guise of providing stability for the ordinary people and avoiding Bank runs.. in hindsight its 20/20 that the bank runs and crises were actually engineered by The Very bankers that wanted to own/monopolize the Federal Reserve Bank and price and supply of money, thus gaining the most critical leverage over our entire society and government. And as you likely know in conjunction with the passage of the 16th amendment in 1913 this gave the money Powers a virtual stranglehold over the American taxpayers to bleed them at will for huge govt spending and to fund the debt created money and fiscal deficits, etc.. neo feudalism is in full swing…the middle class may not know it or term it as such, but most feel the symptoms and pain.

        • Point #2 why was Google going all out to get Democrat Hillary Clinton elected? Face it again both parties are owned … literally coin-operated the
          Politicians are near quotations Talent just like the movie actors or Talent for the film industry pretty much political clowns and actors there are all dispensible bit players compared to the global money powers of hundreds of years accumulation of money and power I’m amazed at how otherwise intelligent logical thinkers are duped into taking sides with the Democrats or republicans wake up

        • Jack B Nimble says

          @Wilson

          Look, my broader point was that the Telecom Act of ’96 was about deregulation, and Republicans are almost always on the side of less regulation. Democrats tend to be more equivocal, as shown by the vote totals I cited.

          FWIW, I disagree with the following quote from the Politico article you linked to:

          “You guys are private, journalistic entities right now, but if you’re going to be ideologically badgered and bulldozed to take positions in the interest of the right-wing politics, then we are going to have to look at what’s happening there, because then at that point there’s not viewpoint neutrality,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin.

          because private entities, unlike public utilities, do not have to be viewpoint neutral.

          Finally, I suggest that readers actually read the staff-written white paper in question:

          https://www.axios.com/mark-warner-google-facebook-regulation-policy-paper-023d4a52-2b25-4e44-a87c-945e73c637fa.html

          because there are some good things in there, like added protections for consumers’ privacy and data, as well as some questionable items. The notion that this ‘paper’ prompted the takedown of Infowars on social media, though, is laughable.

  2. Useful article – thanks for introducing me to the drama triangle framework. Small error: Jones didn’t produce Zeitgeist, that’s Peter Joseph.

  3. Commenter says

    So you’re saying we have to defend Alex jones’s right of free speech and denounce his ideology at the same time. I’d like more of a elaboration by the author how to moraly and logicaly justify this.

    • Yes, I agree. An interesting article, but the argument is a bit under-developed. If Jones is as dangerous as you suggest, isn’t this a good case for silencing him? I don’t see how adding more voices seeking “truth and openness” to the marketplace of ideas would stop any of his more loony followers from picking up a gun and shooting people. These sort of people tend not to listen.

    • Sam Hall says

      Well, that is literally the core argument for freedom of speech. As Voltaire said, “I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

      You can denounce what a person says, and still acknowledge–even defend–their right to say it. For example, Erik Brady of USA Today is a despicable human being who deliberately implied that Brett Kavanaugh is a pedophile in a since-deleted Tweet. I hope he stubs his toe every day for the rest of his life, but he should not go to jail or suffer private retaliation in unrelated areas of life.

      • Freedom of speech doesn’t mean you can say what you want whenever you want without consequences.
        Try that at work.
        There is no law prohibiting Jones from “speaking” his absurdities.

  4. David Norman says

    There is a considerable amount of false equivalence in this article. The author seems to want to persuade us that those on what he calls ‘the populist right’ have the same weight of influence as those on the SJW side. No, they don’t, they really, really don’t. It isn’t people putting forward SJW arguments that are in danger of losing their voice on social media platforms.

    • josh says

      The populist right currently controls the presidency and both houses of congress, you nut. Meanwhile the actual politically powerful wing of the Democrats is not SJW. Neither Hillary nor Bernie ran on SJW platforms. Moreover, Jones wasn’t deplatformed because he misgendered someone or some such, but because he promoted Sandy Hook conspiracies that made life hell for people who lost their children to terrible violence. Personally I don’t like social media haphazardly trying to regulate such things, but let’s not pretend was hounded out for minor social infractions.

      • You two are talking past each other. “Weight and influence,” as David wrote, isn’t specific enough so leaves room for correction.

        The typical Fortune 500 workplace (and of course academia) is far more under the influence of SJW themes than populist right themes. Diversity and globalization is such a core part of how they operate, how could they not be? But…

        …if you’re talking about the typical state legislature in 2018 or the culture of the Salt Lake City Police Department or the like, sentiments more aligned with Republicans is what you’ll find.

        Depending on the institution and locale, you’ll suffer under the “weight and influence” or different political nostrums.

  5. Pingback: Free speech is the foundation of all other rights. It is the seed of innovation, the wheel of progress, the space to breathe. It must therefore be protected at all costs — including, at times such as these, from itself. https://quillette.com/2018/09/30/

  6. E. Olson says

    “This is why we see those on the social-justice left using their influence in media, academia and the tech industry to forcefully suffocate the expression of alternative viewpoints — including by the firing of those with different opinions, or by shouting them down at universities, or by physically assaulting them. And on the populist right, we see similar tactics of intimidation and ostracism, whether through the harassment of climate scientists, the denial of security clearance to former CIA directors who won’t toe the president’s line, or the demonization of conservative pundits who fall out of love with Donald Trump.”

    So the author (Bhogal) equates firing and physical assaults on the left with harrassment and demonization on the right? In other words, you think ruining someone’s life by killing their career or physically damaging for expressing an alternative viewpoint is the same as asking challenging questions about climate science or Trump critics? The problem with the left is that they need to shut down “alternative viewpoints” because their own viewpoints don’t stand up to rational debate. In contrast, your specific examples of the right are all examples of highly debatable topics where the “harrassment” is generally an attempt to engage in debate. For example, the right’s criticisms of climate scientists has mostly been about the failure of climate models to predict actual temperatures over the past 20 years and/or the apparent lack of consideration of the high costs of shutting down 80% of human sourced greenhouse gas emissions – which are certainly topics that should be debated. The denial of security clearance for a former CIA director is also worthy of debate – why should non-employees of the federal government keep security clearances – particularly those involved in questionable ethics/legalities while they were under federal employ? And criticisms of “never Trump” pundits are also mostly debate topics involving Trump’s “lack of class” versus Trump’s seemingly very effective promotion of conservative causes such as Constitution following judge picks, immigration law enforcement, deregulation, and cutting taxes. If Alex Jones is a crackpot – then the proper tactic to reduce his influence is to engage him in serious debate and demonstrate that the facts are mostly not on his side. If Jones ducks debate then his cowardice should be publicized, but as in all debates, each side must consider the risk that the other side raises legitimate points that will consequently receive publicity, and it seems that this is a risk that the left is generally not willing to take.

  7. How can I take your article seriously when you state unfounded, uneducated statements such as, “which may help explain why baseless conspiracy theories about a “deep state” keep circulating around the White House”
    If you don’t recognize a concerted global effort to change international politic, you just aren’t paying attention.

    • I think the deep state is the kind of organic oligopoly described in the article.

      • Hardly organic. It is planned and orchestrated in a very structured process.
        Oligarch does not apply, it is tyranny.

      • C. Randall says

        Yup. All the commenters attacking the author of the article seem to be proving his point.

  8. Another blatant dose of insight into your unmitigated bias,
    “And on the populist right, we see similar tactics of intimidation and ostracism, whether through the harassment of climate scientists, the denial of security clearance to former CIA directors who won’t toe the president’s line, or the demonization of conservative pundits who fall out of love with Donald Trump”
    How can I take you seriously when you spout such utter nonsensical rhetoric.
    From that statement I see that you are:
    1. A dogmatic climate change supporter.
    2. Completely ignorant of ‘security clearance’ rules and requirements.
    3. You don’t know what a RINO is.

    • tarstarkas says

      The right to bear arms is the foundation of all other rights. Free speech cannot survive without the ability of the people to defend it. That is why all tyrannies, from Late Imperial Rome to the Soviet Union, took that right (along with the weapons) from their subjects, so that they would be helpless when authority decides to steal their possessions (or their children).

      • @ tarstarkas

        “The right to bear arms is the foundation of all other rights.”

        No it isn’t. And that isn’t even a foundational right – as there is no such right. The actual right is to defend one’s self. And in right times it is a very good idea not to carry weapons.

        In other words it doesn’t matter if you bear arms or not. First thing any intelligent tyrant will do is take weapons away from opponents.

          • @ david of Kirkland

            “Nature proves we have zero foundational rights.”

            I hear what you are saying. Most of what we takes as natural foundational rights are legal rights. In that scope – there are certain foundational rights as many philosophers have argued.

            The only real natural right perhaps the right to one’s own life.

  9. False equivalency, is a logical fallacy.
    This article cuts under the credibility of Quillette.

  10. augustine says

    Notice that in the author’s false equivalence between the alt-Left and alt-Right, the aspect of truly dangerous far Right actors (who use actual violence against “political enemies”) is highly individualized. This could have something to do with the tendency of those on the Right to be schismatic and individualistic by nature in the first place. Rugged individualism and all that. Meanwhile radicals on the Left are more inclined toward mob violence. Centralized planning and all that. Maybe the author could have explored this dichotomy instead of distracting from his main theme by equivocating Left-Right traits.

    The tech giants cannot easily shut down groups or memes and it seems unlikely they would want to do so in the case of causes on the Left, due to the political and social predilections of their operators. So they strike where they can– against individuals– to signal to the world that they are reliable arbiters of truth and protectors of justice for all. Picking low-hanging fruit and showcasing the results is a common tactic of agencies whose real targets are more difficult to acquire. They can then try to monitor any resulting chilling effect.

  11. I guess it is Human Nature to want to pick a side . looking at the facts it doesn’t make any sense to pick a side 😉 the Republican side the party identified with national defense strays far from that narrow objective and has spent trillions and not achieved much in the last 70 years in fact it probably created a less stable world. Not to mention that Obama a Democrat did far less than promised in winding down military operations foreign lands little benefit to United States. Democrats have spent billions or trillions on the great Society and their results are equally as horrendous so they both are failing us…and by passionately taking sides with one party or another it allows us all to be divided and serially duped into spending hard earned money on pie-in-the-sky projects again and again…. try to refute that with facts and not emotional pleas and platitudes…

  12. I’ll make it really simple for you and anyone that is in agreement with your view that Alex Jones’ influence is problematic…

    You fight bad ideas with good ideas. Period.

    • Trying to take control of private spaces like Twitter and Facebook is communism.
      Your boss also doesn’t have to allow your speech, nor combat it with counter arguments.

  13. James Lee says

    Overall, this is a good article. When demogogues whip up their rabid supporters with dangerous rhetoric, they should be called on it. Many have called Alex Jones on peddling dangerous rhetoric, and to my understanding he has retracted his horrible claims about Sandy Hook.

    So how did our sense-making media institutions treat the rhetoric of Democratic Senators who referred to conservative Brett Kavanaugh as *evil*, and the many millions of people who support him as *complicit in evil*?

    How did the left-wing media portray the Sandy Hook-like, evidence-free, conspiracy theory that Kavanaugh ran a “rape gang” in high school? Did they ask tough questions about the absurd story, or did the New Yorker, one of the few legacy media institutions that still had a high reputation, run the story with no corroborating evidence?

    What was the response from the media to Maxine Waters’ exhortation to her followers to harrass Trump officials (and by implication, any Republican official) in public? I live in one of the coastal American lefty bubbles, and I have heard it openly said that Republicans are actually *evil.* Morally speaking, they should be harrassed (if not treated worse), am I right?

    Does anyone even remember when an unhinged Bernie supporter drove from Illinois to suburban D.C and shot up a Republican baseball game, almost killing Steve Scalise but miraculously not killing any of the many congressmen present?

    The author is correct to call out dangerous demogoguery. Unfortunately, there is a huge asymmetry in who gets called out in our society. The number of double standards is now growing exponentially in the West, which is what one would expect when the dominant ideology is so far removed from lived reality. I doubt it is sustainable.

  14. C. Randall says

    Is it just me or has everyone in this comments section completely missed the point of the article? Maybe it’s the author’s fault for not being clear enough, but all of the complaints here seem to be straw men. Nowhere does the article say that we should censor people like Jones. Nowhere does it say the far-left and far-right are exactly equivalent (but it pretty clearly points out the size of the hard-right’s following and mentions many real events demonstrating that the hard-right is indeed a serious threat). As for all the comments implying that the author is a tool of evil globalists, well, you’re proving his point, and justifying his writing of the article.

    • Farris says

      “It is indeed worrying that some corporations now have the power to restrict how much influence someone can have on the marketplace of ideas. But what is more worrying, and what few people seem to be considering, is how Alex Jones was able to gain such influence in the first place. In my view, the ideological forces responsible for his rise are a greater threat to free speech than the corporate forces responsible for his “fall.” Principled defenders of free speech would therefore be unwise to rail against the former while ignoring the latter.”

      This paragraph appears to be justifying censoring Jones. Your thoughts?

    • augustine says

      “Nowhere does it say the far-left and far-right are exactly equivalent”

      No, not equivalent exactly. More like a false equivalence where “firing, shouting and physical assault” on the far Left is compared with “ostracism, harassment and demonization” on the far Right, with the important yet misleading addition of a whole paragraph of examples of lunatic gun violence *on the Right*. It doesn’t even look like an attempt at equivalence. Instead it looks like a defense of corporate censorship/moralizing and the beat-down of a rightwing agitator. (FWIW I’ve been happily living in ignorance of AJ’s offerings and I’m sure many others on the Right consider him to be a marginal pop star in the sphere of serious public thought.)

      See also E. Olson’s comment (above).

      A few lunatics anywhere along the L-R spectrum are a continual potential threat in one form or another. It seems disingenuous to raise this specter when the real battle, or war, is one of words and ideas.

      • I’m not fan of far-anything (even far-libertarian is just anarchy that would fail any actual society). But the right has been shown to shoot left protests (University of Washington), run down protestors and kill a woman (Charlottesville), shoot up a black church, bomb an FBI building…. And ISIS/Al Qaeda like terrorists seem more far-right than far-left.

  15. James Lee says

    One last point about Facebook. The author writes:

    “Sure, there are individual Facebook employees who may be interested in pushing a political agenda, but Facebook as a business is not. It seeks to do what is best for profits: making its platform as inviting to as many people as possible.”

    What happens when what is best for profits *is* pleasing the political powers that want your business to push a particular political agenda?

    We know that Google has been in talks to assist the Chinese Communist Party to censor, monitor and track online users.

    https://www.businessinsider.com/google-kill-leak-about-china-plans-report-2018-9

    Germany has perhaps the strongest “hate speech” laws and fines against tech platforms who do not remove the offending material within 24 hours. Of course, who gets to decide what is “hate speech”? Is the mere criticising of Merkel’s immigration policy now “hate speech”, as decided by Merkel and her allies?

    We do have this gem of a conversation from 2015:

    “The Facebook CEO was overheard responding that “we need to do some work” on curtailing anti-immigrant posts about the refugee crisis. “Are you working on this?” Merkel asked in English, to which Zuckerberg replied in the affirmative before the transmission was disrupted.”

    https://www.cnbc.com/2015/09/27/angela-merkel-caught-on-hot-mic-pressing-facebook-ceo-over-anti-immigrant-posts.html

    • Just don’t use those platforms if you think them bad. I find no problem not using Facebook or Twitter, places of ignorance and bragging. I do use Google for searches, but if it ever became clear that they were censoring results, I’d go elsewhere.
      Markets work if you exercise your intellectual liberty with actions.

      • James Lee says

        @david of kirkland

        Do you use email, or send email to other people’s gmail accounts?

        How would it become clear that Google were biasing search results in favor of certain political agendas, particularly in light of the obvious “algorithmic error” defense?

        Eric Weinstein performed a small experiment which suggested that google was indeed censoring specific results.

        https://twitter.com/ericrweinstein/status/968887623635779585?s=21

        Google makes many things in modern life extremely convenient. I only want to point out that we should be skeptical of massive companies that possess more surveillance power and influence than the intelligence services of many nations combined.

  16. Farris says

    “my view, the ideological forces responsible for his rise are a greater threat to free speech than the corporate forces responsible for his “fall.”
    “Jones, in short, is an ambassador for one half of an ideological oligopoly, which is just as hostile to competition as the tech oligopoly.”
    How, by criticizing climate change theory? Hardly comparable to being de-platformed.

    The author takes a myopic view of the Freedom of Speech. He fails to mention instances where the Left is equally unhinged and violent, but not de-platformed. I don’t read or listen to Alex Jones. I will not notice his lack of presence on social media or the internet. But I will defend his right to be heard. Because if people like Alex Jones are not free to speak, no one is really guaranteed freedom of speech.
    The author’s stance breaks down to that the right is free to speak until it matches the vitriol on the left. Respecting Freedom of Speech requires being tolerant of speech one finds vile, disgusting and vitriolic. Reminder, we are talking about words. Disgusting, deplorable, hateful yes but still just words.
    Google, Twitter, Facebook, ect. have no obligation to provide Alex Jones a platform. Neither do these corporations have an obligation to be fair or even handed regarding left/right viewpoints. But I would caution that it is generally the forbidden fruit which is most desired. The chosen spoken or written word says much more about the speaker than the audience. Personally I prefer to have the hateful and disgusting characters reveal themselves. It makes it easier to know who to avoid.

  17. “The link between hateful Infowars-style rhetoric on Facebook and hate crime was explored by an extensive study of 3,335 attacks against refugees in Germany, where the populist right-wing Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) has developed a major web presence. The study found that such attacks were strongly predicted by social media use: Wherever per-person Facebook use rose to one standard deviation above the national average, attacks on refugees increased by an average of 50 percent.”

    Corelation is not causation.

    100% of the offenders got out of their homes, while the main population stayed indoors at such a different rate that there is a significant discrepancy. Then, will you conclude that going outside leads to attacking foreigners?

  18. Just a Little Crazy Talk says

    @Jack B

    The Telecommunications act isn’t relevant here. While it may be responsible for concentrated telecoms, the telecoms aren’t the ones doing the censoring. You want the vote on the Communications Decency Act. According to the CDA no technology company is ever wrong in its decisions about who to censor, regardless of what the contract says or if it would normally be libelous. it also means that they’re not responsible for a failure to enforce the TOS, allowing for one sided moderation. While the first amendment platforms to decide what is and isn’t allowed, it’s this law that lets them do this in a arbitrary manner with no recourse to the contract, and which brings purely service platforms (like Paypal) under protection.

    I’m not going to bother counting the more numerous house votes but the position appears to be the same for the CDA, of the 18 Nays only 2 were R.

    • Jack B Nimble says

      @Just a Little Crazy Talk

      @David A brought up the Telecom Act of ’96; I was responding to his remarks. The monopoly power of the telecoms has a different origin than the monopoly power of FB, Microsoft and Google, of course. The telecoms, mostly the regional components of the Bell Telephone System, were heavily regulated by both the Feds and the individual states for decades. The breakup of AT&T, the implosion of WorldCom and the development of broadband cable all contributed to the concentration of economic and political power in a few corporate giants that are mostly unregulated.

      David A. seems to be more worried about telecoms snooping for the NSA than he is about censorship. My own view is that people in the US have to deal with the devil in the form of utility cos., petrochemical cos., ISPs, Big Agriculture, etc.–unless they want to live completely off the grid.

  19. Daniel says

    I generally agree with much of what you’ve written here, but …

    You wrote: “(which may help explain why baseless conspiracy theories about a “deep state” keep circulating around the White House)”

    I would like to point out that various leaks to the press and, more importantly, the NYTimes piece: I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration tend to lend credence to the notion that a “deep state” circulating around the White House is more than a baseless conspiracy theory.

  20. Elvis Horsworth says

    Very interesting article. Also nice that is a very balanced view. And it introduced some interesting concepts I had never heard of.

    Thanks for writing and hopefully read more articles from this author.

  21. Coolius Caesar says

    I stopped reading at “deep state” being a myth. The FBI actively protected Hillary Clinton from prosecution. The DOJ, FBI, and the Obama White House actively tried to prevent Trump from being President and faked evidence to investigate him. Leaks abound from within by so called “resistance” fighters. There was just an undercover video released by James O’Keefe that saw government employees talking about how they “resist” Trump, one calling for the IRS to put pressure on Conservatives even if it’s illegal, etc. Tell me again how there isn’t a “Deep state”?

  22. The author’s argument that businesses are not interested in pushing political agendas because they “only seek to do what is best for profits” is…….mind-blowingly naive.

    • Obviously you are correct. Watch a few TV ads for overwhelming evidence that pushing a political-cultural agenda is something that is very good for profits. Whether they are a reflection of society or they are shaping it becomes irrelevant.

  23. Personally I feel the author displays a strong bias and a rather juvenile oversimplification of important points, however I delighted he could freely express his opinion.

  24. This is a remarkably shifty piece.

    The ultimate message seems to be that we should all get on our little social media platforms and “speak out against” “bad ideas” such as rightwing conspiracy theories, because even corporate censorship – regrettably – can’t eradicate the popularity of someone like Alex Jones.

    Which is strange, because the article begins by agreeing that corporate censorship is ‘worrying’ in and of itself – just not as worrying, it goes on to argue, as the ‘ideological forces’ that allowed Jones to rise to power.

    But then, at the end, there is the strange conclusion that we can’t rely on corporations and governments to “protect us” from people like Alex Jones because censorship creates the Streisand effect.

    In other words, now corporate censorship is no longer “worrying” in and of itself – it can in fact be a force for good – the only problem is that it is insufficient to protect us from ‘mob rule’.

    There is also the argument that any “narrative” with an “oppressor/victim” dynamic is wrong and leads to violence and intolerance. Further, the rightwing narrative – that elites oppress the masses – is just as wrong as the leftwing narrative that white people oppress minorities.

    Also, the leftwing narrative is not being pushed by corporations and businesses, because they only care about being “as inviting to as many people as possible.” Anybody here agree with that? The implicit argument is that corporate censorship should not be worrying because businesses don’t push political agendas.

    Then there is this line:

    ‘We must be the protectors of our own free speech, and habitually speak out not just against designated “oppressors” like the tech giants, but also against designated “victims” and “rescuers,” like Alex Jones, who seek to oppress by dehumanizing others as oppressors.’

    First, who is “We”? The mob? But what about “mob rule”, which we were just warned about?

    And notice the sarcastic – “designated ‘oppressors’ like the tech giants” – line. The suggestion is that the tech giants aren’t really oppressors. They’re just businesses trying to be “as inviting to as many people as possible.” Also, why doesn’t the author include those who push the leftwing narrative in his summing-up list of those we should “speak out against”? I think I know why.

    Finally, there is the last line. “[Free speech] must therefore be protected at all costs — including, at times such as these, from itself.”

    Free speech must be protected from…..free speech. That statement can be interpreted in several ways. But one way is that good ideas beat out bad ideas only when all the bad people have been censored.

    Anyway, this sounds like it was written by somebody employed in a public relations department at one of the tech giants. (Sorry, please ignore my little conspiracy theory, I don’t want to incite any violence.) There’s a lot of apologetics for corporate censorship here, a lot of re-directing focus to the danger of “conspiracy theorists” and rightwing “narratives” (with only lip service paid to the dangers of leftwing narratives, of course) and finally a call to use social media more.

    And don’t forget that paragraph about how our brains aren’t structured to grasp reality, and human reason is inherently defective when it comes to understanding the world. Stuff like that should instantly make you suspicious of the author’s intentions.

    Conclusion:

    PROLE-FEED.

    (Disclaimer: I hate Alex Jones and his brand of fear porn, which is partly a marketing strategy, I think, to sell prepper gear. However, some Infowars reporters, I seem to remember, do put out good stuff, although I haven’t read any Infowars material in years.)

    • Circuses and Bread says

      @breathnumber

      I think you hit the nail on the head: agitprop.

      Remember to be thankful for the prescient wisdom and insight of your Benevolent Overlords.

  25. Circuses and Bread says

    I wanted to address a this quote in the article.

    “But what is more worrying, and what few people seem to be considering, is how Alex Jones was able to gain such influence in the first place. In my view, the ideological forces responsible for his rise are a greater threat to free speech than the corporate forces responsible for his “fall.”

    The author seems to actually be serious in asserting that Alex Jones somehow equal or more powerful than the multi billion dollar tech oligarchs. Really? The comparison of a horsefly to a herd of elephants would be more apt. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have zero use for either the tech oligarchs or Alex Jones, but to say that they somehow wield comparable levels of power is patently absurd.

  26. Fran says

    The author need an editor. On a quick read, I couldn’t tell what he was on about. breathnumber above seems to have it right.

  27. Greg Lorriman says

    Conservatives and those on the right are being oppressed, by having their businesses and jobs threatened by equality fanatic laws and Twitter mobs that abolish the right to refuse cooperation (ie, with something you believe to be wrong), as a result of the disastrous piercing of the private sphere by the Civil Liberties laws conflation “public accommodation”, of what were not public but private.

    The same has happened in the UK with the 2010 Equality laws, and the sleight of hand pretending that private businesses are “public services” because they are “open to the public”. Utter rubbish. Yet the the UK’s Conservative Party did little to resist this nonsense.

    The UK is no longer a ‘free country’ and the US is rapidly doing the same State by State.

    And inspite of the gloating of those on the left at the distress of the religious, this affects everyone. Where there is no private domain, there is no liberty. Where you can’t refuse cooperation in your own private business serving other private persons and entities, you don’t have liberty. Where freedom of conscience is denied (even despite constitutional protections), you are not free.

    Freedom has a high price, for sure. But the cost of its loss is incalculable.

    • Really, the best criticism of Big Tech censorship you’ve ever read is that such censorship is well-meaning but counterproductive, because it just confirms the far-right’s perception that they are being persecuted?

      That’s the best reason you’ve ever read for why Big Tech censorship is bad?

      Really?

      Really Trudy Fenner?

      Really?

      • Trudy Fenner says

        No offence, but I don’t think you’re very good at reading.

        • I’m afraid to a wholly unproductive statement like that I can only respond in kind, and say that I don’t think you’re very good at thinking or reading, my dear.

  28. Tolerance can tolerate anything except Catholics and atheists said John Locke, but then he hadn’t heard of Infowars.

  29. Former Congressman Jason Chavez authored: “Deep State: How an Army of Bureaucrats Protected Barack Obama and Is Working to Destroy the Trump Agenda.”

    Former Congressman,Jason Chaffetz explains how we ended up with a politicized federal bureaucracy that actively works to promote the Democrat party agenda and undermine Donald Trump.

    The liberal media loves to characterize the Obama years as free of scandal. They pretend this is true because virtually every office in the executive branch worked to withhold evidence of wrongdoing, silence witness testimony, destroy federal records, classify embarrassing information, and retaliate against truth tellers. Yet these same tight-lipped lifers leaked like a sieve once President Trump was sworn in, freely promoting the illusion that everything he does is the new Watergate.

    Sometimes even conservatives portray the Deep State as nothing more than dumb inefficient bureaucracy. In fact, it’s the opposite; the Deep State is intentional, unconstitutional, and organized.

    In Deep State, Jason Chaffetz reveals an entrenched leadership within the civil service that resists exposure, accountability, and responsibility. At the highest levels, they fight back, outlast, and work the system for their own advantage. And they certainly don’t like disruptive forces such as Donald Trump.

    As Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Chaffetz was the tip of the spear challenging the Deep State and trying to hold them accountable. He and his colleagues took on the powerful forces at the IRS, the EPA, the DOJ, the Department of State, and more. The deeper he dove in, the more shocking he found the brazen approach by the power brokers. The balance of power has shifted. The Deep State has gotten used to operating anonymously and without consequence. This is a problem bigger than we can even imagine and getting worse. Unless we do something dramatic to wrest back control, we risk losing the ability to successfully challenge wrongdoing by the most powerful bureaucracy in the world.

    In Deep State, Chaffetz highlights the Deep State’s tactics, illuminates the problems, and offers a way to fight back and win. It is important to expose the stories, but if the American People are going to win, Congress is going to have to do things differently. This book helps the concerned citizen understand what must be done–so they can demand real change.

  30. Caligula says

    “And on the populist right, we see similar tactics of intimidation and ostracism, whether through the harassment of climate scientists, the denial of security clearance to former CIA directors who won’t toe the president’s line, or the demonization of conservative pundits who fall out of love with Donald Trump.”

    1. Harassment of climate scientists? Has someone been shouted down? Or has someone been denied funding, or publication, for reasons other than the quality of the work? Surely criticism (even ignorant criticism) is not “harrassment.” Is it?

    2. Denial of security clearance to former CIA directors? Perhaps that was petty, but (a) the President does have the authority to do is, and (2) perhaps it’s just good policy to deny security clearances to anyone who does not actually need them?

    3. Does “demonization” mean “harsh criticism” and, if so, what, exactly is wrong with that? Do you think Pres. Trump has been “demonized” and, if so, would you also support banning “demoniszation” of Trump from popular media platforms?

    I doubt anyone will disagree that violence, or credible threats of violence, are not and should not be protected speech. However, nutcases have committed acts of violence for all sorts of “reasons,” usually “reasons” that the rest of us would consider nonsense. If you ban any and all speech that might trigger some nutcase to commit violence, nothing but the most innocuous and banal speech will remain. And even some of that will trigger some nutcases (who tend to discern deep meaning in what the rest of us either can’t see or hear, or in what the rest of us perceive as mere noise).

    By the Left’s own arguments, it is Apple, Facebook, Spotify and YouTube and Twitter- especially when acting in concert- who have the power to deny some of the most effective speaking platforms available to those who are not already famous or published. Compared with these, Alex Jones is relatively powerless as he simply lacks the means to prevent practically everyone from speaking.

    Far from being a “key conduit of a popular narrative,” most people reacted to hs ban from all the popular tech platforms with “Who’s that?” Alex Jones might prefer that he had more power, but, he doesn’t. He is at least as fringe as those claiming vaccines cause autism, or those who claim the Apollo moonshots were fake, or those who claim Israel was behind 9/11: nutcases all, and more than a few of these potentially far more likely to cause injury or loss of life than Alex Jones.

    And, no, this is hardly a defense of Alex Jones; it’s a defense of but a defense of keeping media open even to fringe voices. The cure for bad speech is not suppression of speech but more speech, right up to (but not beyond) violence or credible threats of violence.

    Really, most adults can handle even very nasty speech (by ignoring it, if one so chooses: no one is forced to read or watch anything on the internet). And the few who can’t are likely to get set off by something (anything) anyway.

  31. Victor Lestyan says

    Few Quick points:

    What happens if you deploy a Karpman drama triangle in pursuing a goal of Freedom of Expression? It is an analytic tool after all, and tools are used to pursue a goal. While still low resolution and prone to error, aren’t its worst tendancies tempered by the goal itself?

    Much if not all of Alex Jones’ Infowars character is an act. His is an entertainment segment; a bone-broth and male-vitality meme generator. Paul Joseph Watson’s segment handles the serious political commentary. I believe this subtext is understood by the vast majority of Infowar viewers.

    What gives you such insight into Alex Jones’ mind that you can identify him as a villian, and place him on same Karpman drama triangle you so deride? Is there no room for a joker, fool, and provocateur in your analysis?

  32. david of Kirkland says

    The Internet is a common space. Those platforms are private spaces. And Jones being banned is not exactly arbitrary, as if he’s just making intellectually backed arguments.
    Should the NY Times be forced to publish my articles?
    Should Amazon be forced to sell my products?
    Does Quillette needs permission from Twitter/Facebook/Google to publish?

    • I agree that private companies should set the rules. However, if they engage in editorial decisions (like censorship) then they should be subject to civil liability like editors are, and which big tech internet companies are not.

      Further, if it is ultimately intended as a “commons” type of space, it should probably be regulated like a monopoly.

  33. Overton Embrasure says

    This is thw lowest quality article I’ve read on Quillette. The false equivalence is dissappointing. Some fringe “harrassment” of climate change researchers and the popularity of the Republican party in the states is irrelevant because:

    1- these actors are not impacting free speech really

    and

    2- they are hopelessly outgunned by the Left

    To think that in an age of near totalitarian extermination of conservative speech that a place like Quillette would fall for this “muh both sides” whataboutery is quite depressing.

    The opponents of the ideas on Quillette are going to hate the site regardless. Don’t bother pandering to them by trying to be “impartial”. And if you are going to bother, at least criticise the GOP or Alex Jones for some of the many, many shady things they actually do

  34. Timm says

    When a “reporter” makes a statement like this,

    “(which may help explain why baseless conspiracy theories about a “deep state” keep circulating around the White House). Jones, in short, is an ambassador for one half of an ideological oligopoly, which is just as hostile to competition as the tech oligopoly.”

    It’s over. No credibility at all.

    The guy is a snake trying to slither his snake shit in. At the same time talking down to the “conspiracy theorists” e.g.

    “Reality is software that doesn’t run well on our mental hardware, unless the display resolution is minimized. We therefore seek out stories, not because they are true, but because they reduce the incomprehensible into that which is comprehensible, giving us a counterfeit of truth whose elegant simplicity makes it seem truer than actual, authentic truth.”

    What a cute piece of bloody arrogant crap.

    Trudy Fenner shared a link above to another article written by this guy,

    start

    “… This was the central part of my plan; I would debate Chelsea honestly, but my ultimate gambit was not any particular argument — it was the act of polite debate itself, which by its very existence disproved her conspiracy theory more eloquently than anything I could say.

    The next day, I gathered all my links to academic sources. I’d researched all night, and felt I had an answer to anything Chelsea could throw at me.

    I logged onto Twitter. I clicked on Chelsea’s profile page.

    Her account had been suspended for breach of terms and conditions.

    I slapped my forehead.

    This is how the far-right grows online; by Twitter and other social networks’ efforts to suppress it. Chelsea spoke of a conspiracy of silence, and was silenced. Now embittered, locked out of the arena of ideas, her fears of censorship confirmed, she’ll seek sanctuary in far-right corners of the Web, where her opinions will boomerang back at her, and her howls of rage will echo in a chorus of comments that proclaim, “To hell with the globalist Jewish thought-police! We won’t be silent anymore!”

    Globalist Jewish thought-police, if you’re monitoring this: you didn’t protect me from Chelsea’s views. You protected Chelsea’s views from me.”

    over

    Then there’s this comment about him on that same page:

    “Gurwinder Bhogal is a freelance writer and researcher. His work has been featured in the UK’s Sunday Express and on the blog of the counter-extremism think-tank Quilliam, which advises the UK government.”

    Maybe Gurwinder is reading this right now… Hey Gurwinder! Wanna know why I’m a “alt right conspiracy theorist”? Well one of the first reasons is I saw Building 7 fall in on itself in a absolutely textbook controlled demolition. Wanna know who brought that information to my attention? IT WAS ALEX JONES. Have you seen the video? Here check this out,

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bWorDrTC0Qg

    Do you get it? If that building was destroyed with controlled demolitions then maybe the other two…

    There’s no changing his mind. And he’s writing this article AT the conspiracy theorists trying to sweet talk us into an epiphany with a bunch of underhanded insults.

    Jones has an audience and a growing one because he’s been very diligent talking about and exposing this type of Building 7 fuckery. Yeah he has plenty of character flaws and the fear porn and all that. But he’s doing what he’s doing and it’s making an affect. Same with the other reporters on infowars.com Paul Joseph Watson and Owen Stroyer, both who are a lot more tolerable than Alex. Alex is always interrupting people being a self centered egotistical prick (it takes one to know one), and his fear porn puts food on his plate so he has intrinsic bias. He’s not perfect, but he’s an American Patriot (but maybe he’s the controlled opposition!) Well, maybe he is, I think he’s just doing the best he can with what he’s got.

  35. ukcj4 says

    So anyone with 3 million followers represents an oligopoly in the age of social media? Though that’s an enviable audience in some sense, it is a drop in the bucket in our vast online world now and it is dwarfed by the kind of audience that cultural leaders had in the monoculture of the 70s and 80s for example (I guess all of those that had cultural or political significance were “oligopolies” too?).

    We are in such a time of fragmentation culturally speaking (largely, ironically, as a result of the tech explosion) that something like the Big Tech oligopoly (nascent oligarchy?) sticks out so much and seems so inconsistent both in mere existence and now increasingly in actual behavior with the kind of Wild West of ideas that the tech itself has made possible. To pick a large thread or “network” out of that mass and call it an “oligopoly” and then equate it to the actually oligopoly that is living on as merely one of many very active parasites is silly. I can’t stand either (really any, because there are far more than two) of the left or right radical narratives or online “networks”, but neither is in any meaningful sense an oligopoly.

    This smacks of many types of left academia that try to take some concept form an academic field and falsely apply it to make some opposing movement look even more sinister and powerful than it already is, much like Alex Jones himself might do as well as he “fights back” by mimicking the left’s tactics. This is a spiraling devolution that needs to stop.

    • ukcj4 says

      “. . . the actual oligopoly that it is living on . . . “

  36. Alex Jones is a wacko. No question about that.

    But, it’s not the place for private tech companies to make that decision for us, any more than it’s the place for profit driven ‘news media’ to do it. I don’t think Jones is a wacko because he was banned. I think he’s a wacko because I made a cursory examination of infowars, and thought… this guy is a wacko. Most of his writings appear to be the end result of paranoia, not a logical thought process.

    It is the responsibility of each one of us to make that determination. In every case, not just the case of Alex Jones.

    If enough of us are susceptible to Alex Jones’ ramblings, then so be it. Fortunately, most of us aren’t. We’re not children. We’re grown adults. We can make up our own minds, using our own judgment.

    Private, for profit companies are no more fit to be an arbiter of our discussions than the current for profit news media. No matter how altruistic one might think their motives, censorship is bad.

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