Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Damming of the Free Flow of Information

As some of you know by now, after an over eight year presence on Facebook with thousands of followers there alone, I have been declared as persona no grata by the powers that be. 

Actually, that isn't completely true. Just as Mark Twain never had a passport, CDR Salamander does not have a photo ID. Millions of profiles are on FB that don't have one either, but they get by. They just don't acquire enemies like so many beggarweeds. You have enough people report you as not receiving a 1099 in the same name as your FB account, and there you go.

Well, it is a shame. I put some original stuff on there, like my recent commentary on the Imperial City, that I can no longer access, but no big deal. Skipper, Old Blue and a few others have been given boot too. Such is life.

I was thinking about this as I have been watching the slow motion train wreck that has been twitter in the last few weeks. There is something going on, what it is ain't exactly clear - but this much is; it is not trending in the direction of individual liberty.

I'm old enough that I remember when the internet was supposed to be this great open space for rough and tumble discussion. Regulars on the Front Porch here know that those who have a fetish for the jack-boot have always tried to silence those who differed in thoughts than their blinkered views - but they always seemed to lose out to the default towards freedom. Not any more. Freedom is waning.

If you don't like something, don't read it. If you don't want to hear something, block it, unfollow it, generally get on with your life. Sticks and stones may break my bones and all that. 

Well, no. In 2016, the bullies and fascists are on the march. Like rust, they never sleep.

Of all I have read recently, no one has put it together better than William A. Jacobson over at LegalInsurrection.

He starts out reviewing what some of those younger readers never knew - the salad days when I started blogging in 2004;
I’m so old I remember when conservative blogs and websites used to communicate with each other on email lists and by frequent linking to each other.

When Legal Insurrection started in October 2008, that was how we let the world know we existed and what we were writing. So-called “blog whoring,” whereby smaller blogs clogged the inboxes of people at larger websites hoping for a link, was how it was done. This website would not have thrived without the appreciated links from Instapundit, Hot Air, Michelle Malkin, and dozens of other blogs.

Our Twitter page says we joined in December 2008, but I think it was another year or so before Twitter became a central communication focus for conservatives. In those “early” days I remember conservatives dominating Twitter — the common wisdom was that liberals ruled on Facebook and conservatives ruled on Twitter. That has changed over time, and liberals are just as if not more influential on Twitter.

Along the way Twitter changed how conservatives interacted. Who needed mass emails when we could send a tweet and be seen by other conservatives? That ease of interaction and ability to mobilize people had a downside. I credit/blame Twitter for the demise of most smaller conservative websites.

I went through our blogroll recently, and deleted dozens of links to defunct or barely functioning conservative blogs. It was truly shocking how many no longer exist or rarely post. Part of it certainly is dreaded Blogger Burnout. But part of it is that Twitter is the new blogosphere.

Twitter helped destroy the conservative ecosystem of small blogs by replacing it with something easier to use and more effective.

But in the process, I can’t help but feel we have become prisoners of Twitter.
I remember it well. From bookmarks on the browser, to RSS feeds, to email - even pimp'n posts to those who started earlier. Checking where you were in the TTLB Ecosystem. Sigh.

That is why the recent changes at twitter, where they have brought on a strange mix of Star Chamber and French Terror committee, has left me a bit flummoxed. In a blink of an eye, what was once a libertarian bastion has become almost Stalinist;
Baldwin, who currently stars in the TNT hit show ‘The Last Ship,’ tells Independent Journal Review that Twitter’s new policy of punishing users for speech it finds “offensive” is the reason for his departure from the social platform:

“It’s really a shame that so-called ‘liberal thinkers’ and the so called ‘tolerant crowd’ is intolerant of varying viewpoints. They’re so afraid to hear people disagree with them. Instead of ignoring it or providing their own arguments in return, they say “shut up!”
“I’ve had enough. Twitter is dead to me,” Baldwin tells us, “I’m going to find greener pastures elsewhere and I’m not coming back.”
Baldwin cites the banning of prominent conservative tweeter Robert Stacy McCain as a major reason for leaving and points to a recent article by The Federalist for an explanation of the situation:

On Friday, Twitter suspended the account of Robert Stacy McCain, a conservative blogger and dogged critic of feminism, apparently without warning or explanation. This has led, in true Twitter fashion, to protests under the hashtag #FreeStacy.

Only a few weeks earlier, Twitter had announced the creation of a “Trust and Safety Council,” to which it appointed Anita Sarkeesian, a feminist known for denouncing “sexism” in video games, a prominent figure in the Gamergate controversy—and oh yes, a frequent target of criticism from McCain. So it sure looks like the moment Twitter gave Sarkeesian the power to do so, she started blackballing her critics.
Baldwin tells us Sarkeesian’s role in the new Safety council directly affected his decision.
The lights are going out all over the place. To be frank, I'm a little bit flatfooted on knowing what to do about it. Let's go to PopeHat;
I don’t have any problem with Twitter deciding that it wants to be less of a shithole and more of a place where people can go to express themselves and read other peoples’ expressions without it turning into an intellectual trash-heap. Remember: it’s their site, their rules.

Nevertheless, I do fault Twitter for is its hypocrisy and its outright lies about what it claims that it is doing. Twitter is not at all interested in making Twitter a "nicer" place, nor promoting more constructive discourse. Twitter is taking a side in the culture wars, and it has chosen that it will be the destination of choice for the "social justice warriors" echo chamber.

A stark example came to light this weekend when Milo Yiannopoulos discovered that his account had suffered the “discipline” of having his official public figure status revoked. On Twitter, the real public figures get a blue checkmark next to their names so that people realize that they’re dealing with the real celebrity, and not one of any number of imposters, impersonators, or satirists. Mr. Yiannopoulos is, for those who are uninitiated, a conservative who frequently disagrees with the “social justice warrior” mentality. And that’s strike one against him. Yiannopoulos had the audacity to disagree with certain politically correct notions, and thus he was subjected to this minor form of discipline.
There’s not a damn way that his account would have suffered any discipline at all had his views not been from the disfavored side of the debate. For all Twitter’s lip service to freedom of expression and prevention of abuse, Twitter believes in neither. As Allum Bokhari wrote, "The fingerprints of social justice warriors, who delight in redefining political disagreement as “harassment,” are all over this new rule. Twitter’s reputation for arbitrary, politically-motivated punishment looks set to grow."

In fact, in order to test Twitter’s so-called newfound prevention of harassment, I have tracked a number of Twitter accounts and even have set up decoy accounts. In what I've tracked, so far, pretty strong “harassment” emanating from accounts that purport to promote a "social justice" or feminist agenda remain unscathed – even with pretty extreme content, up to and including death threats. However, even slightly offensive messages coming from conservative voices wind up being disciplined. Thus far, the experiment has not gone on long enough to actually call it "scientific," so I'm not going to say that the early stages of studying the bias in Twitter suspensions is ready for prime time – but it is certainly confirming what we hypothesized.

Twitter, we see through your bullshit. It’s okay, you can simply announce that you’ve decided to take a side in the culture wars and you’re just not going to apply the rules the same way to conservatives as you will to liberals. You can say you’re going to discriminate on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, and anything else you want. But please don’t pander to us by trying to tell that this has anything to do with “harassment” or “free speech.” Somebody, or a group of somebodies in your organization has a political agenda and you’re going to use your power, diminishing as it is, to promote that agenda. That’s allowed. Maybe it will even make you more popular than ever, but just cut the lies. Because some of us are watching and we know better.
For now, I'm still on twitter. I'm also on Instagram, Snapchat, Periscope, Yik Yak and all that jazz ... but nothing seems to work or build community like facebook did and twitter once had.

I'm not sure if everyone sees what is going on here. There is a top-down narrowing of voices. Facebook and twitter are selling their souls and businesses for an ideology that is based on exclusion, punishment, and just petty bullying.

If you are interested in more detail on twitter specifically, TechRaptor is a must read.

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