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The Censorious Left Strikes Again
Michael Walsh • 30 May, 2020 • 5 Min Read
Here today, gone tomorrow.
Believe it or not, there are a few honest Lefties -- Van Jones and Bill Maher (language warning) immediately come to mind-- and journalist Matt Taibbi is one of them. So, perhaps, is Michael Moore, whose refreshingly honest documentary about the "environmentalist" grifters just got yanked on YouTube for political wrongthink. Here's Taibbi's decidedly non-tribal look at what's going on on the censorious Left:
On April 21st, 2020, just before the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day, Oscar-winning director/producer Michael Moore released a new movie called Planet of the Humans. Directed by Jeff Gibbs, the film is a searing look at the ostensible failures of the environmentalist movement, to which Moore and Gibbs both belonged. “Jeff and I were at the first Earth Day celebrations,” Moore laughs. “That’s how old we are.”
Distributed for free on YouTube, the film’s central argument is that the environmentalist movement, fattened by corporate donations, has become seduced by an industrialist delusion. “The whole idea of the film was to ask a question – after fifty years of the environmentalist movement, how are we doing?” recounts Moore. “It looks like, not very well.”
That's an understatement. "No enemies to the Left," has long been a "progressive" rallying cry; one of the reasons the Left is constantly on the attack is that it rarely if ever has to protect its left flank, or worry about the enemy getting to its rear. Moore's movie changed that. Which is why, after a manufactured outcry from the usual suspects whose gravy-trained oxes just got gored, YouTube took the film down for a "copyright infringement" over four seconds of fair-use footage.
The significance of the Moore incident is that it shows that a long-developing pattern of deletions and removals is expanding. The early purges were mainly of small/fringe voices on either the far right or far left, or infamously fact-challenged personalities like Alex Jones. The removal of a film by Moore – a heavily-credentialed figure long revered by the liberal mainstream – takes place amid a dramatic acceleration of such speech-suppression incidents, many connected to the coronavirus disaster.
A pair of California doctors were taken off YouTube for declaring stay-at-home measures unnecessary; right-wing British broadcaster and trumpeter of shape-shifting reptile theories David Icke was taken off YouTube; a video by Rockefeller University epidemiologist Knut Wittknowski was taken down, apparently for advocating a “herd immunity” approach to combating the virus. These moves all came after the popular libertarian site Zero Hedge was banned from Twitter, ostensibly for suggesting a Chinese scientist in Wuhan was responsible for coronavirus.
These and many other incidents came in addition to a slew of moves aimed at right-wing speakers accused of varying degrees of conspiratorial misinformation and/or hate speech, from a decision by Twitter to begin “fact-checks” of Donald Trump to wholesale removals from Facebook of “anti-immigrant” sites like VDare and the Unz Review.
One problem is the so-called “reputable” fact-checking authorities many platforms are relying upon have terrible factual histories themselves. There’s an implication that “misinformation” by foreign or independent actors is somehow more dangerous than broadly-disseminated official deceptions about U.S. misbehavior abroad, or manufactured scandals like Russiagate. We now expect libertarian or socialist pages to be zapped at any minute, but none of the outlets which amplified the bogus Steele dossier have been put in Internet timeout.
Taibbi notes correctly that the partisan "regulation" and "fact-checking" of speech on social media platforms is simply censorship. Sheep on the Right will bleat that it's not the government taking down speech it doesn't agree with it (that would be forbidden under the First Amendment) -- but the Bill of Rights has now been thoroughly shredded by the absurd Wuhan panic, so what difference, at this point, does it make?
Censorship -- especially the arbitrary takedown of a film by a mainstream leftist like Moore -- is still censorship.
The drive to step up “content control” isn’t all driven from the top down. A major additional factor has been the growth of a new intellectual movement geared toward delegitimizing speech and rationalizing censorship. The Moore incident provided a clear demonstration of how this new social reflex works. “Maybe we’re wrong,” Moore says. “We’d have liked to have that discussion. That was a big reason we made the movie.”
Instead, critics rolled out a now-familiar playbook to depict the movie as too villainous to exist.
"Too villainous to exist." This is the Leftist argument against everything it hates. Tax it! Criminalize it! Ban it! Everything from fossil fuels to free speech has come under their baleful gaze, and all of it must go. That way lies totalitarianism; on the Left everything that has outlived its usefulness, such as the First Amendment, is Nikolai Yezhov (pictured, and non-pictured, above), a secret policeman known as the "Bloody Dwarf," who helped run Stalin's purge, until the purges finally got him too, and he had to be "disappeared" -- not just physically, but from the pages of history as well. Having long hidden behind the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech, the Left no longer finds it useful, and wishes to criminalize it under the rubric of "hate speech."
Section1. Policy.Free speech is the bedrock of American democracy. Our Founding Fathers protected this sacred right with the First Amendment to the Constitution. The freedom to express and debate ideas is the foundation for all of our rights as a free people.
In a country that has long cherished the freedom of expression, we cannot allow a limited number of online platforms to hand pick the speech that Americans may access and convey on the internet. This practice is fundamentally un-American and anti-democratic. When large, powerful social media companies censor opinions with which they disagree, they exercise a dangerous power. They cease functioning as passive bulletin boards, and ought to be viewed and treated as content creators.
Today, many Americans follow the news, stay in touch with friends and family, and share their views on current events through social media and other online platforms. As a result, these platforms function in many ways as a 21st century equivalent of the public square.
That's how they were sold, of course -- free and open to everybody. That, however, turned out to be the drug-dealer approach to marketing his wares: a free trial, then the hook, then a lifetime of misery and penury. As Moore correctly notes, no one is safe in this latest version of the Great Terror:
In the past, a copyright dispute would have been a matter for courts. So, too, would questions of defamation that might have been raised by the likes of McKibben. Now critics can just run to Mommy and Daddy tech companies to settle disputes, and there’s no clear process for those removed to argue their cases. This is a situation that carries serious ramifications, especially for people who have less reach and financial clout than Moore. “If they can do it to me, they can do it to anybody,” is how Moore puts it.
Maybe Moore is wrong about the environmental movement, but these new suppression tactics are infinitely more dangerous than one movie ever could be, and progressives seem to have lost the ability to care.
This is the world the Left is preparing, not only for its ovine followers but for free-thinking men and women everywhere. Who's in? Who's out? Just ask Nikolai Yezhov, if you can find him.
Michael Walsh is a journalist, author, and screenwriter. He was for 16 years the music critic and a foreign correspondent for Time Magazine. His works include the novels As Time Goes By, And All the Saints, and the bestselling “Devlin” series of NSA thrillers; as well as the nonfiction bestseller, The Devil’s Pleasure Palace and its sequel, The Fiery Angel. His latest book is Last Stands, a study of military history from the Greeks to the present, published by St. Martin's Press. He is also the editor of Against the Great Reset: 18 Theses Contra the New World Order, coming this fall.