“The Internet as we know it was developed by taxpayer-funded research, using taxpayer-funded grants in taxpayer-funded labs,” the Sanders plan said. “Our tax dollars built the Internet, and access to it should be a public good for all, not another price-gouging profit machine for Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon.”
Presidential candidate and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders yesterday released a plan to overhaul the US broadband market by breaking up giant providers, outlawing data caps, regulating broadband prices, and providing $150 billion to build publicly owned networks.
“The Internet as we know it was developed by taxpayer-funded research, using taxpayer-funded grants in taxpayer-funded labs,” the Sanders plan said. “Our tax dollars built the Internet, and access to it should be a public good for all, not another price-gouging profit machine for Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon.”
If enacted, Sanders’ “High-Speed Internet for All” plan would be the polar opposite of the Trump administration’s treatment of broadband companies and far more aggressive than the regulatory approach of the Obama administration. Sanders pledged to “use existing antitrust authority to break up Internet service provider and cable monopolies,” specifically by “bar[ring] service providers from also providing content and unwind anticompetitive vertical conglomerates.”
Perhaps most notably, this could force Comcast to divest NBCUniversal and force AT&T to divest Time Warner. Of course, a US president can’t simply issue an order to break up these companies. But if Sanders is elected, he could nominate Department of Justice officials who are likely to file antitrust lawsuits against the companies that dominate the broadband industry.
Bring back Title II regulation
Sanders also pledged to regulate broadband providers as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act, reinstate net neutrality rules, and impose other pro-consumer rules. This could be achieved via legislation, appointments of aggressive regulators to the Federal Communications Commission, or a combination of both.
Sanders said he would “eliminate data caps and ban throttling” and “instruct the FCC to regulate broadband Internet rates so households and small businesses are connected affordably.” This would include a requirement “that all Internet service providers offer a Basic Internet Plan that provides quality broadband speeds at an affordable price.”
The FCC is an independent agency, so it wouldn’t have to do what Sanders says. But if Sanders was president, he could nominate commissioners and appoint a chairperson who is likely to carry out his wishes. 1935, a time when 90 percent of rural households lacked it.”
Sanders’ $150 billion proposal includes a Department of Agriculture Rural Utility Service program “to provide capital funding to connect all remote rural households and businesses and upgrade outdated technology and infrastructure, prioritizing funding for existing co-ops and small rural utilities.” Sanders said that $7.5 billion should be set aside for tribal areas and that all public housing should provide free broadband to residents.
Sanders said the $150 billion investment will “ensure that communities stay connected during natural disasters.” Sanders also proposed a full review of broadband networks to make sure they are “resilient to the effects of climate change.”
Sanders aims to lower prices
US government plans for broadband often focus on network access without talking much about lowering prices. Sanders wants to do both. His plan said:
Large Internet service providers have enjoyed government funding, protection from competition, and light regulation while gouging customers with some of the highest prices for service in the world. Bernie will regulate these providers like a utility. The FCC will review prices and regulate rates where necessary, ensuring areas without competition aren’t able to run up prices.
Moreover, Sanders proposed eliminating the hidden fees broadband providers use to make the actual cost higher than their advertised rates. ISPs would have to “clearly state the cost of service” and not impose “unexpected rate increases” or “service termination fees.”
Sanders also wants the FCC to define broadband as a minimum of 100Mbps download speeds and 10Mbps uploads, instead of the current 25Mbps down and 3Mbps up. Sanders would also “reinstate and expand privacy protection rules,” reversing the Trump-era decision to eliminate broadband-privacy rules.
And how do we pay for these spiraling out of control costs? By borrowing more, of course.
If we had to choose one “big picture” reason why the vast majority of households are losing ground, it would be: the costs of essentials are spiraling out of control. I’ve often covered the dynamics of stagnating income for the bottom 90%, and real-world inflation, i.e. a decline in purchasing power.
But neither of these dynamics fully describes the relentless upward spiral of the cost basis of our economy, that is, the cost of big-ticket essentials: housing, education, and healthcare.
The costs of education are spiraling out of control, stripping households of income as an entire generation is transformed into debt-serfs by student loan debt. The soaring costs of healthcare are a core driver of higher costs in the education complex (and government in general), and to cover these higher costs, counties raise property taxes, which add additional cost burdens to households and enterprises as rents rise.
Rising rents push the cost structure of almost every enterprise and agency higher.
Then there’s the asset inflation created by central bank ZIRP (zero interest rate policy) which has inflated a second echo-bubble in housing that has pushed homeownership out of reach of many, adding demand for rental housing that has pushed rents into the stratosphere in Left and Right Coast cities.
The increasing dominance of monopolies and cartels has eliminated competition in sector after sector. Monopolies and cartels skim immense profits even as the value, quality, and quantity of their products and services decline: The U.S. Only Pretends to Have Free Markets.From plane tickets to cellphone bills, monopoly power costs American consumers billions of dollars a year.
Thanks to their political influence, monopolies and cartels have legalized looting, raising prices and evading anti-trust regulations because they can pay whatever it takes in our pay-to-play political system. Let’s look at a few charts that illustrate the relentless rise in costs:
Do you reckon these two charts are connected–soaring costs and ballooning administrative payrolls?
Student loan debt is soaring above $1.5 trillion, guaranteeing profits to lenders and debt-serfdom to the students exiting with degrees that are in over-supply, i.e. possessing little scarcity value in an over-credentialed economy:
The echo housing bubbles in many locales exceed the nosebleed valuations of the previous bubble:
And how do we pay for these spiraling out of control costs? By borrowing more, of course:
Even at low rates of interest, the cost of servicing skyrocketing debt increases, leaving less net income to support additional borrowing. What will it take to radically reduce the cost basis of our economy? A fundamental re-ordering that breaks up all the cartels and monopolies that push prices higher even as they deliver lower quality goods and services would be a good start.
World wide web inventor Tim Berners-Lee has released an ambitious plan for online governance designed to counteract the growing prevalence of misinformation, data surveillance and censorship.
The Contract for the Web, created by Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web Foundation, seeks commitments from governments and the industry to make and keep knowledge freely available.
“If we don’t act now – and act together – to prevent the web being misused by those who want to exploit, divide and undermine, we are at risk of squandering” its potential for good, Berners-Lee said in a statement from his foundation on Monday.
Partners in the non-binding endeavour include Google and Facebook, whose data-collecting business models and sensation-rewarding algorithms have been blamed for exacerbating online toxicity.
The British engineer said the contract, developed in cooperation with dozens of experts and members of the public, is “a roadmap to build a better web”.
He called on governments to “strengthen laws and regulations” and companies “to ensure pursuit of profit is not at the expense of human rights and democracy“.
“Citizens must hold those in power accountable, demand their digital rights be respected and help foster healthy conversation online,” Berners-Lee added.
The Web Foundation
The web is one of the most powerful tools we’ve ever had to transform our lives for the better.
But never before has the web’s power for good been more under threat.
More than 150 organisations including Microsoft and Reddit and interest groups like Reporters Without Borders and the Electronic Frontier Foundation have backed the plan.
Meanwhile, the governments of France, Germany and Ghana are on board, as are thousands of individuals.
The unveiling of Berners-Lee’s contract comes as leaders from government, business and civil society gather in Berlin, Germany for the four-day United Nations Internet Governance Forum.
“I will stand up for the preservation of the free internet that we have grown to know and love in recent decades,” German economy minister Peter Altmaier said in a statement ahead of the UN gathering.
Among the concerns that prompted the creation of the contract, Berners-Lee mentioned cyberbullying, uneven access to the internet worldwide and increased governmental control of domestic networks in countries including China, Iran and Russia.
“The trend for Balkanisation is really worrying and it’s extreme at the moment in Iran,” said Berners-Lee. “A strong government exhibits tolerance, the computer scientist added, for other voices, opposition voices, foreign voices to be heard by its citizens.”
Social media can be a powerful weapon for truth in the right hands. Unfortunately, Twitter and Facebook have done their best to keep it out of those hands – and people are starting to call them out for the damage they’ve done.
“It’s hard to think of a company that’s hurt this country more than Twitter,” Fox News host Tucker Carlson said on Tuesday night, in conversation with congressman Devin Nunes (R-California), who is suing Twitter for allegedly permitting users to gang up on him.
If you look at the hate, division and the cruelty that’s now common, it wasn’t common 10 years ago. Twitter’s a huge part of that.
Carlson may be unfairly singling Twitter out – Facebook and, to a lesser extent, YouTube have also contributed to the rapid deterioration of civil discourse in the US – but as a whole, the major social media platforms are transforming a huge cross-section of American internet traffic into petty groupthink-driven drama factories. Worse, their ubiquity has made them all but imperative to anyone who hopes to work in any public-facing profession. After all, only an antisocial person would consciously avoid social media!
Trapped in the echo chamber
Twitter and Facebook keep users on their platforms by serving up more of what the user likes, creating an echo chamber that can be impenetrable, depending on how comfortable the user is with unfamiliar ideas. If one doesn’t take care to interact with users elsewhere on the political spectrum, it’s easy to believe that the entire country wants President Donald Trump impeached, or that the average Iranian is hungry for regime-change.
Studies have confirmed that the echo-chamber phenomenon is strongest when it comes to political content, and users can make this worse by muting or blocking those they disagree with. When they do finally collide with reality, the awakening is seldom pleasant – as was the case in 2016, when blue-state liberals belatedly realized there was a whole other America they’d been ignoring, and it was upset enough to elect a reality-show personality as president.
The two biggest platforms have made the echo-chamber phenomenon worse by deplatforming large numbers of users who dissent from the neoliberal-centrist views of their CEOs. Thousands of Iranian Twitter accounts supporting their government got the boot in June, while Facebook and Twitter both deleted hundreds of Iranian accounts they said were bots last year. Yet thousands of Twitter accounts operated by the Mujahedin e-Khalq (MEK)- a cult of Iranian exiles loathed by their countrymen for collaborating with Iraq against Iran – remain in operation, tweeting (usually in English) about their desire for the US to take out the “regime.”
The same technique has been used to silence pro-Chinese voices in the wake of the Hong Kong protests, which began in opposition to an extradition bill that has since been shelved, and are heavilybacked by American and British money, and to silence Venezuelans opposed to the US-backed opposition leader Guaido – to say nothing of the “Russian bots” used as the rationale for kickstarting the whole mass-deplatforming craze. Included in these sweeps are many American users who’ve done nothing more than support a foreign government that the US doesn’t like.
Beyond convincing Americans that the world really does love the US’ belligerent foreign policy, Twitter and Facebook have a death grip on domestic politics, aided and abetted by Google. “Rogue” political candidates like Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard are blocked from trending on Twitter, and even Trump has his ads removed by Facebook.
The ever-shifting rules of what constitutes “hate speech” keep users whose political views are outside the mainstream from expressing opinions that are too strong, while those whose views align with what they see on TV need not take such precautions and can merrily smear and abuse those with whom they disagree.
Twitter does add insult to injury in a way that even Facebook doesn’t, by gaslighting its users within an inch of their sanity – calling itself “the free speech wing of the free speech party,” a line CEO Jack Dorsey claimed last year was meant in jest (a qualifier that was nowhere near the original 2012 statement).
Indeed, both platforms are effectively shrinking-room traps that lure everyone on with the promise that their freedom of speech will be respected, then gradually ban more and more opinions until users are incapable of anything but parroting pre-approved soundbites.
YouTube has perhaps taken this further than anyone, appending Wikipedia blurbs to videos that discuss controversial topics like the September 11 attacks or mass shootings. CEO Susan Wojcicki insists the company is “committed to openness,” even as it mass-deplatforms users whose content doesn’t even violate the rules.
Perhaps the worst effect of Twitter and Facebook’s consolidation into monopolies controlling the lion’s share of US internet communication has been that they now dictate social norms. Twitter has kicked users off its platform for making the rather uncontroversial statement that men aren’t women – a view held by most of the American population.
Both platforms have done more than perhaps anyone other than the National Security Agency (NSA) to get Americans used to the idea that privacy is an outmoded, useless concept – even an undesirable one. And by redefining “hate speech” to mean “speech that makes [advocacy group] uncomfortable,” they’ve deftly eviscerated the First Amendment while trivializing the existence of actual bigotry.
The rise of “woke” Twitter has also forced celebrities, companies and journalists to police their speech to the point of absurdity. Twitter ‘detectives’ dig through decade-old tweets and Facebook posts of public figures in the hope of surfacing a racist rant or two and getting that figure “canceled.”
Companies from Home Depot to Blizzard have suffered customer boycotts at the hands of woke-Twitter mobs. People have lost jobs, roles and significant amounts of public status over statements that were not even controversial when they were uttered – thanks to the rapid adoption of politically-correct speech norms, largely at the hands of those same social media platforms.
And even for those users who avoid politics completely (or try to), social media has reduced the national attention span to sub-goldfish levels, with users perpetually refreshing their feeds to make sure they don’t miss anything and spiraling into anxiety when separated from their phones or wifi for any length of time.
The concept of FOMO or “fear of missing out” did not have a name before Facebook (and later Twitter and Instagram) turned it into an epidemic. Numerous behavioral studies have linked social media use to depression and anxiety, especially in young people without a solid identity. Instagram ‘celebrities’ are literally called “influencers” because their followers emulate them. Those influencers in turn feel such pressure to perform they’ll run up thousands of dollars in debt trying to maintain the picture-perfect lifestyle.
All of the problems that social media causes in adults are magnified in children. If Tucker Carlson thinks Twitter has ruined America now, he should see it in 20 years – assuming it’s still around.
Facebook is dangling a multimillion-dollar carrot before cash-strapped news outlets, offering a hefty licensing fee in return for the right to use headlines and even entire stories in a new “news section,” insiders say.
The social media giant has offered mainstream outlets as much as $3 million per year for the privilege of using their headlines, article excerpts and stories, according to people familiar with the deal who spoke to the Wall Street Journal on Thursday. The Journal’s parent company Dow Jones was reportedly one of the companies approached, along with the Washington Post, Bloomberg, and ABC News.
Facebook plans to launch its “news section” in the fall, the insiders claim, though it is not known which – if any – of the outlets accepted the licensing offer. Many of them could certainly use the money. More than 3,200 jobs have been lost across online news media in 2019 alone, and many outlets are struggling to stay afloat with platforms like Facebook taking an increasing share of online advertising revenues. Facebook may have made these outlets an offer they can’t refuse.
Mark Zuckerberg’s platform has come under fire for cannibalizing ad revenues that once accrued to individual news outlets. Facebook and Google together took over 60 percent of US digital advertising revenues in 2018. Google alone made $4.7 billion in 2018 off the backs of news publishers, according to the News Media Alliance – and the journalists and publishers who created and posted that content didn’t see a cent of it.
Facebook has made a concerted effort to shore up mainstream media’s declining popularity, however, both by deplatforming alt-media competitors and by bankrolling expensive but sparsely-watched shows for its Facebook Watch internet TV platform featuring establishment darlings like CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
Last year, Facebook partnered with the notorious Atlantic Council to fight the lurking threat of “fake news” – just a few months before enacting a massive purge of popular political pages, some with millions of followers. The shuttered pages represented a wide variety of views from both the left and the right, with little in common other than their aversion to the mainstream narrative.
With the 2020 election a little over a year away, the social media behemoth no doubt has a few more tricks up its sleeve as it seeks to tighten control of the narrative in the hope of avoiding a repeat of 2016 – after which Facebook (along with everyone from actress Susan Sarandon to FBI chief James Comey) was blamed for failing to prevent Hillary Clinton’s election loss, and has been doing penance for it ever since.
I may not like right-wingers and think they are a bunch of eejits, but I believe in freedom of speech. Facebook has no right to decide who and who isn’t right on anything. Facebook is a marketing company and they should stick to what it is they are, a chat and communication platform. Period. I don’t want to hear what Zuckerberg, the fake so-called genius who created FB with the help of the CIA and his Illuminati family ties, thinks or believes. Methinks he is merely a hypocritical marketer imbued with the power he does not deserve.
Facebook has issued an ominous new policy permitting death threats and calls for violence – so long as they’re directed against “dangerous” individuals or organizations, or someone accused (but not convicted) of a crime.
Facebook has updated its “community standards” to carve out a few exceptions to its “no death threats” policy. Calls for “high-severity violence” are now permitted, as long as they’re directed at individuals “covered in the Dangerous Individuals and Organizations policy” or individuals “described as having carried out violent crimes or sexual offenses” by media reports. After all, are people banned from Facebook really people at all?
The change was spotted on Tuesday by commentator Paul Joseph Watson, who along with his former Infowars boss Alex Jones was one of a handful of mostly-conservative personalities banned from Facebook in May under its “Dangerous Individuals” policy. Back then, even mentioning one of the banned names could get a user banned – unless the mention was derogatory.
Facebook has apparently taken that “hate the haters” tactic and run with it. While the “Dangerous Individuals” policy supposedly only covers “terrorist activity, organized hate, mass or serial murder, human trafficking, and organized violence or criminal activity,” none of the commentators banned – including Watson, Jones, conservative political performance artist Milo Yiannopoulos, and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan – were involved in any of those activities. But, Watson discovered, a person wearing an Infowars t-shirt is enough to get a photo removed from Instagram, and photos that include banned individuals – even if their faces are blurred out – have been deleted as well.
Equally ominous is Facebook’s decision to dispense with the concept of “innocent until proven guilty” that forms the core of the US legal system (Facebook is based in Menlo Park, California, and at least theoretically subject to US laws). Individuals need only be accused in the media of violent crimes and sexual offenses to become fair game for death threats – not convicted in court. For a company that claims to take the threat of “fake news” very seriously, Facebook is surprisingly cavalier about the potential for media misinformation to lead to violence.
But then, Facebook never even tried to prove Watson, Jones or any of the other banned users were “Dangerous Individuals,” either – its policy has always been that banned users are guilty until proven innocent, as any user who’s ever been forced to jump through its tech support hoops to restore a banned account can attest.
“The largest social media company in the world with over 2 billion users literally says it’s fine to incite violence against me, despite this being illegal,” Watson wrote at Summit.news, pointing out that sending death threats or threats of violence is, in fact, a crime under UK law (as it is under US law and the laws of most developed countries with substantial Facebook-using populations).
They are painting a target on my back.
Facebook even tracks off-platform behavior to determine whether users should be blacklisted as “hate agents,” according to internal documents seen by Breitbart, meaning merely showing up at the same event as a “dangerous individual” can potentially earn a user the designation. The site’s list of “hate agents” is reportedly quite exhaustive and includes British politicians Carl Benjamin and Anne Marie Waters as well as conservative commentators like Yiannopoulos and Candace Owens. Because all this classification goes on in secret, users have no chance to appeal their un-personing, and may never even know they are being judged, until they start receiving Facebook-approved death threats of their own.
Crowder’s offense involved calling Vox journalist Carlos Maza a “lispy queer” and a “gay Vox sprite,” leading, says Maza, to further harassment. Much press commentary either cheered YouTube’s move or called it belated.
Simultaneously, YouTube announced it would ban whole genres of videos that fell under a hate/conspiracy label. From a Yahoo news summary:
“YouTube announced Wednesday it would ban videos promoting or glorifying racism and discrimination as well as those denying well-documented violent events, like the Holocaust or the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting.”
Yahoo quoted a YouTube announcement:
“Channels that repeatedly brush up against our hate speech policies will be suspended under our YouTube Partner Program.”
Many greeted these stories with a shrug. If blue-state audiences even know who Steven Crowder is, they think he’s a jerk. And what could be wrong with removing videos “denying well-documented violent events”?
At least two big things, as it turns out:
1. Platforms may not distinguish between reporting on hate speech, and promoting it
Fischer was one of the first people I spoke with for a Rolling Stone story about Internet censorship published last year. His site acts as a kind of clearing house for political footage of all kinds, including demonstrations, marches, police misconduct and even flash mobs.
It’s valuable, original journalism, not aggregated clickbait.
“Almost the entire channel is video shot by me, or someone I hire,” Fischer says.
Two videos apparently determined his fate under the new program. One involved a pro-Israel activist and pro-Palestine activist arguing with a Holocaust denier. The second was video of a speech given by white nationalist Mike “Enoch” Peinovich.
Fischer says that “while unpleasant,” the footage is “essential research for history.” It was even used as part of a PBS documentary called “Charlottesville.” Fischer was listed as an executive producer in the film.
His work regularly appears in documentaries about subcultures of all types, including the Frontline series “Documenting Hate” (you can see him credited just above Getty Images at the end). Fischer’s videos have even appeared in Vox.
Now his work has been removed because the new policy does not distinguish between showing a Holocaust denier or a white supremacist, and being one. Fischer describes the first video that got him in trouble, which showed Antifa protesters arguing with a Holocaust denier: “While it’s true that the Holocaust denier says Holocaust-denier stuff,” he says, “this is raw vid documenting him being shut down.”
Being demonetized on YouTube will deal a blow to Fischer’s business. He says YouTube ad revenue is “about half of my reliable, baseline income,” the rest coming from Patreon.
The Fischer case speaks to the inherent inanity of asking nameless, faceless Silicon Valley overlords to weigh things like journalistic intent. While there’s an argument to be had about clamping down on the purveyors of hate speech, what social or journalistic purpose is served by concealing the existence of such people? And what possible rationale could there be for allowing PBS or a commercial news network to publish such videos, but not smaller shooters like Fischer?
As part of the new program, YouTube also pulled down a video published by the Southern Poverty Law Center. In it, journalist Max Blumenthal interviewed Holocaust denier David Irving. Blumenthal quickly said the removal program had “gone beyond its stated aim” to “carpet-bombing style censorship.”
Blumenthal, like many of the people targeted in removal campaigns, is a controversial figure who has been a consistent critic of U.S. policy. He worried that such deletions are “just a test balloon for a much wider campaign to suppress content by dissenting voices.”
Everyone loves the Free Market until it starts working against them. In a globalized world said economic philosophy stands in the way of “Making America Great Again” as a free market pits heavily taxed American firms using expensive labour against the cost-cutting Chinese. However, the results of Protectionist moves especially Trump’s attack on Huawei could backfire.
On the surface this makes it seem as though this is a clear victory for Trump and American business due to the “natural” monopoly that is generated by the need for operating systems to have high usage/compatibility. Naturally any new system will have low usage/compatibility making entrance onto this market by a new OS nearly impossible. Furthermore, producing an operating system itself for computers or mobile devices is no easy task and can only be done by a truly massive organization.
Regarding desktop operating systems’ market sharesWindows is #1 at almost 80%, Mac OS has about 15% and the biggest star of the little guys is Google’s Chrome OS at barely over 1% usage. For mobile devices Android has roughly 70% of the market, Apple’s iOS has nearly 29% and the abandoned Windows Phone has less than 1%. Excluding some very tiny operating systems for niche users, both these markets look the same – one giant system used by a strong majority of consumers followed by Apple’s firm elite second place with everything else in a distant irrelevant third. It is important to note that since Apple only allows its OS to be used on its own products, this effectively this means that Microsoft has a monopoly on the desktop and Google has a monopoly on the mobile device market. Additionally, since every company mentioned above is American, this means that in the OS game the US has complete and total domination.
If you want to make a cellphone in China, Russia or elsewhere, then you MUST use Android or else you will have a miniscule amount of apps and content for your users rendering your device unsellable. This situation is very good for America and Americans should be proud of their massive national successes in this industry that affects all our lives today. But the question is, was it such a great idea for Trump to stick his nose in to all this? What sort of results will this attack on Huawei actually yield?
A company producing cell phones without an OS is about as good as a dairy farm with no cows. If Trump’s desire was to break the will of Huawei and keep them from getting too big then it is “mission accomplished” and a win for the President. Huawei has already been accused of numerous crimes and working too closely with the Chinese government to influence beyond their borders. Part of MAGA does mean making sure that foreign powers have their influence over America restricted. So in the sense of getting rid of the Red Menace by black listing of Huawei, Trump is serving the desires of those who voted him into office.
However, this move could have a large amount of blowback. At this point the only companies to make serious attempts at developing operating systems in the 21st century are Microsoft, Google and Apple. All these gigantic corporations use much-praised Chinese and Russian programmers, who in theory have the talents to try to make a competing OS back home if given the money and leadership to do so.
As of a few days ago the entire world seemed happy to just pay Google good money to use Android. Trying to compete with that titanic platform would be silly, it is much cheaper to just buy the rights to use it. But now, thanks to Trump slapping Huawei in the face and putting the fear of God into other non-Western manufacturers, there has arisen a need for a new OS that won’t be bound to Washington’s whims.
— There’s an awesome social network startup called Minds, but you probably don’t know about it if you get your news from Facebook. That’s because the tech giant is essentially blocking links to Minds.com across the platform.
Minds.com has a very familiar functionality and feel to Facebook, except the philosophy behind the social network startup is in stark contrast to Mark Zuckerberg’s vision for his increasingly authoritarian conglomerate.
While Facebook reads your private messages and sells your conversations to large corporations, Minds encrypts them. While Facebook stifles free expression, Minds embraces it. While Facebook basically “steals” the content you create on the platform and sells ads around your posts, Minds rewards your activity with tokens that can be used to boost your posts so more people see them and will eventually be convertible to real currency. Where Facebook exploits your privacy, Minds protects it. Where Facebook has centralized the flow of information, Minds has deployed blockchain technology to ensure decentralization. Where Facebook has censored, banned, and deleted independent media, Minds is welcoming independent media with open arms.
As you can see, while the basic user experience on both platforms is very similar, the way each company values its users varies greatly. Perhaps this is why Facebook makes it nearly impossible for the news of Minds.com’s platform to be shared. This is what happens when you try to post or share a link to Minds on Facebook:
As many of our readers already know, Anti-Media was deplatformed from Facebook and Twitter back in October of last year. We’re now using Minds.com to share our articles instead, after having tried multiple other alternative platforms. You can join us on Minds by following this link.
Bill Ottman, the founder of Minds, was recently on Joe Rogan’s podcast to talk about his social network and the philosophy behind it, which you can view below:
While Minds isn’t going to look exactly like Facebook in terms of number of users, content, and groups right away, those of us who truly desire to use a social network that supports free speech need to start spending time on one in order for it to be successful. If you’re tired of what Facebook has become, give Minds.com a try and invite your friends — because a successful alternative platform isn’t going to appear out of nowhere, we have to help create and build it.
On October 11, I was one of the hundreds of individuals and pages “unperson-ed” from some of the biggest social media platforms in the world.
Poof. Disappeared. Deleted.
The news organization I work for was “unpublished,” along with its more than two million Facebook followers. Hours later, it was also wiped from Twitter. So was my personal Twitter account, along with the accounts of our Twitter handler and our chief creative executive. The double-pronged purge, which was far more extensive on Facebook, created the appearance of at least some level of coordination between the two sites, neither of which had ever suspended or unpublished us before.
“Specifically for?” you might be wondering. Specifically for: nothing, at least according to Twitter.
More than a month later, Twitter responded to my appeal for my personal account (not my news outlet), vaguely suggesting I had engaged in behavior intended to artificially amply or suppress information or manipulate or disrupt Twitter users’ experiences on the platform. I never did that, and if I did, I was unaware of it and received no warning. However, because Twitter provided no examples of this alleged behavior and advised me not to contact them again, I am indefinitely suspended from the platform without any substantive explanation. So is my company.
A Product of the Ron Paul Revolution
I started writing for the Anti-Media in September 2014, after one of their journalists interviewed me about a YouTube video I made where I blow-torched my old Obama shirt after coming to terms with the reality that his “hope and change” rhetoric amounted to nothing more than brilliant political doublespeak for “maintaining the status quo.”
That’s the kind of approach the Anti-Media, where I’m currently editor-in-chief, has always taken: loudly challenge unjust government corruption, oppression, and authority—no matter who is in power.
Our two founders, Nick Bernabe and Scott Gibson, were, like me, drawn to activism after discovering the Ron Paul revolution. As members of the millennial generation, which came of age in the post-9/11 era, we felt we had good reason to push back against the ever-encroaching political system that has heavily indebted us and increasingly infringed on our rights while expanding its reach and power.
We have spent the last four-plus years growing Anti-Media and working to awaken people from their passive subservience to big government and corporatism. We have done so by offering information that runs counter to the often pro-government narratives of traditional media outlets. I think it’s safe to say people want that information considering the number of followers we amassed before our removal. At our height in 2016 (before our reach began to rapidly decline amid algorithm changes following the election), we were reaching tens of millions of people per week.
Because we have built a dedication to factual reporting without sensationalism into our founding principles—we believe the confirmable truth is bad enough—I assumed we’d be safe from social media bans even when it became clear in August, when controversial commentator Alex Jones was purged, that crackdowns were likely coming. We don’t promote “hate speech,” nor do we spread disinformation, which is why, on the morning of October 11 when Nick first notified me the page had been unpublished, I assumed it was a glitch. (Facebook tends to have a lot of those.)
I didn’t start to worry until I read a couple of reports from mainstream outlets.
Unsurprisingly, the same media we often critique hardly reported on the purge of more than 800 Facebook accounts. Media that did cover it mostly repeated the official statement from the company’s press release, explaining that Facebook had simply taken action to remove “spam” and “fake accounts” that targeted users with the intent of misleading them with “inauthentic” behavior and driving them to ad farms to profit. But we didn’t do any of that, and many other pages, which are political in nature like ours, are also denying they employed such practices.
Along with Anti-Media, where we have been outspoken critics of President Trump and publish articles focused almost exclusively on government corruption, surveillance, the warfare state, police accountability, the failed war on drugs, and market solutions to government-created problems, dozens of pro-freedom libertarian pages were deleted. Pages like “Police the Police,” “Hemp,” and the popular libertarian news page TheFree Thought Project, which boasted more than three million followers, were all taken down without warning. A few hours later, the Anti-Media was removed from Twitter, and so was I. It seemed apparent that the reason for my removal was my association with the Anti-Media.
To be fair, left-wing pages and pro-Trump pages were also removed, at least according to reporting from the likes of the LA Times. But as Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi, who investigated the recent developments in the December 2018 issue of the magazine, observed on Twitter, one common thread seemed less about ideology and more about themes:
Of course, Facebook denies removing any accounts over their content, and it’s safe to presume that at least some of the banned accounts were violating their policies. While the Anti-Media maintains we did not violate those standards with “spam” or by tricking users into visiting ad farms, many pages that have employed similar social media strategies to ours—but more or less toe the mainstream line, like the popular left-wing establishment page Occupy Democrats—remain intact.
According to founder Nick Bernabe, the main administrator of our Facebook page:
Groups within Facebook’s realm of acceptable opinion have long used similar “inauthentic” tactics that the Anti-Media used, namely Occupy Democrats and their consortium of partner pages, which all drove traffic to their website, washingtonpress.com, a liberal clickbait site. Since the October 11 purge, it appears they have discontinued these practices, but their Facebook page, which has 7.5 million followers, is still active.
It’s also worth noting that later in October, Facebook removed the libertarian page Liberty Memes, which had more than half a million followers, this time asserting their content violated community standards. They swiftly removed Liberty Memes 2.0, the page administrators’ attempts to relaunch.
If Anti-Media was engaging in activities that violated their policies, no one told us, and you’d think they probably would have, considering that in July, Facebook assigned us a representative as part of their “Publisher Solutions” program. Through that program, they gave us $500 in free ad credit to help us promote our work. It’s hard to imagine they would do that for an organization in violation of their standards.
In another instance of potentially ill-advised business practices, in the same swath of removals Facebook unpublished Right Wing News, whose administrator claims he had invested $300,000 in advertisements on the platform. It’s worth noting that Right Wing News has been accused of circulating fake news. Anti-Media, however, has not been hit with such allegations—aside from a shoddy piece of journalism published by the Washington Post shortly after the 2016 election, which journalists such as Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi and The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald quickly debunked, leading the outlet to issue a clarification.
It has been over four months since Anti-Media was banned, and all we can do is wait for Facebook and Twitter to address our appeals, which we filed the day we were removed. However, my personal Twitter account and Scott’s multiple personal Twitter accounts have been confirmed as indefinitely suspended. The justification? One account, @AntiMediaRadio, was allegedly “violating [Twitter] rules against evading permanent suspension,” but it had been inactive for several years (this account was Anti-Media’s original Twitter, but Gibson changed the handle to represent our radio show and made zero tweets following that switch). The other account, @AntiMediaUK, was permanently removed over claims it violated “Twitter Rules against managing multiple Twitter accounts for abusive purposes.”
Our former Twitter handler, Patti Beers, had her suspended account reinstated the same day the LA Times wrote an article about her experience.
“Facebook and Twitter Are Private Companies”
When it comes down it, Facebook and Twitter are private companies, and they have every right to curate their users and content as they see fit. They can also partner with whatever organizations they choose.
For example, in May, Facebook announced a partnership with the Atlantic Council, a NATO-linked think tank, with the express purpose of combating threats to elections and democracy that have apparently emerged as a result of activity on social media. Some members of the independent news circuit have expressed near-certainty that the new partnership is the reason behind our October bans, but this is impossible to prove. While the optics of a powerful group linked to an international governing body conspiring with massive platforms to censor anti-government content may make for a sensational, attention-grabbing narrative, there is no direct evidence that this is the case. If anything, it appears Facebook has partnered with the Council in an effort to add authoritative legitimacy to its post-2016 election efforts to clean up the platform.
Matt Taibbi noted the “official” influence on social media in his recent piece on the October purge (he interviewed me over the phone while working on this investigation):
Facebook recently began working with a comical cross section of shadowy officialdom: meeting with the Foreign Influence Task Force at the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security; partnering with the Atlantic Council, a NATO-connected organization featuring at least six former CIA heads on its board; and working with a pair of nonprofits associated with the major political parties, the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute.
Often described by critics as the unofficial lobby group of NATO, the council is a bipartisan rogues’ gallery of senior military leaders, neocons and ex-spies. Former heads of the CIA on its board include Michael Hayden, R. James Woolsey, Leon Panetta and Michael Morell, who was in line to be Hillary Clinton’s CIA chief.
The council is backed financially by weapons-makers like Raytheon, energy titans like Exxon-Mobil and banks like JPMorgan Chase. It also accepts funds from multiple foreign countries, some of them with less-than-sterling reputations for human rights and — notably — press freedoms.
Asked about “the apparent contradiction of advising Facebook on press practices when it is funded by numerous speech-squelching foreign governments,” the council told Rolling Stone that “donors must submit in writing to strict terms.”
Their statement read:
[The] Atlantic Council is accepting the contribution on condition that the Atlantic Council retains intellectual independence and control over any content funded in whole or in part by the contribution.
Taibbi also noted that Facebook recently became one of the Atlantic Council’s biggest donors around the same time it announced their partnership in May. “The social media behemoth could easily have funded its own team of ex-spooks and media experts for the fake-news project,” Taibbi observed.
But Facebook employees have whispered to reporters that the council was brought in so that Facebook could “outsource many of the most sensitive political decisions.” In other words, Facebook wanted someone else to take the political hit for removing pages.
While there is no evidence Facebook is working directly with the board of directors, the company boasted that the Council’s “network of leaders is uniquely situated to help all of us think through the challenges we will face in the near and long-term.” More directly, Facebook is working with the organization’s Digital Forensic Research Lab to “help prevent abuse while also ensuring people have a voice during elections.”
Twitter, too, has partnered with the Digital Forensic Research Lab, as well as the National Democratic Institute, another think tank. This one is chaired by former Secretary of State Madeline Albright and funded by the US government and numerous foreign governments.
But connections cannot be conflated with causation, and despite social media companies’ cooperation not only with government-linked organizations but also government agencies themselves, I have no way to prove we were removed for our anti-government views.
Even if we were removed for our views, which is not confirmable, again, Facebook and Twitter are private companies, and private companies didn’t create the problem we’re currently facing. Their behavior is a reflection of a society plagued with an increasingly pervasive mentality of political intolerance, suppression, and authoritarianism.
Facebook and Twitter are unfortunately responding to market demand.
Regulating Speech to…Save Democracy?
In the wake of the “fake news” and “Russian bot” narratives that emerged after the 2016 election, ‘Democracy is at risk’ emerged as the rallying cry in favor of suppressing and regulating information on these platforms.
Facebook and Twitter have been removing accounts and posts for months, citing political reasons and the need to maintain the integrity of elections. In one example, Facebook removed 32 accounts at the end of July, citing “inauthentic” and “misleading” behavior largely revolving around political discussion. They shared their findings with Congress, the Atlantic Council, and US law enforcement agencies, affirming the growing precedent for government involvement. As Sen. Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, said:
Today’s disclosure is further evidence that the Kremlin continues to exploit platforms like Facebook to sow division and spread disinformation… I also expect Facebook, along with other platform companies, will continue to identify Russian troll activity and to work with Congress…
In another example of the intersection of social media and government influence, Facebook’s partnership with the Atlantic Council was announced after Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress and took a national flogging for his alleged role in handing the presidency to Trump. Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, too, testified before Congress. Considering the relentless media narrative claiming that the Russians, exploiting social media, elected Trump, it’s not a stretch to consider the possibility that their purges have been attempts to avoid extensive government intervention.
This is another example of big government’s influence over these platforms’ recent behavior; because of much of the political establishment’s refusal to accept Donald Trump as president, calls for government intervention have grown louder, and Facebook and Twitter’s shifts toward working with government are quite conceivably attempts to show good will toward those in power.
This threat of government crackdowns is very real. Democratic Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island recently tweeted that “Facebook cannot be trusted to regulate itself,” also claiming “it is long past time for us to take action.” Given this chronic, looming threat, it is unsurprising these social media platforms feel compelled to take preemptive action to avoid more stringent government control in the future.
In another example of the current political paradigm affecting Facebook and Twitter’s evolving policies, it is worth noting the personal political ideologies of those in charge of Facebook and Twitter. Zuckerberg has historically donated campaign funds to Democrats, as has Sheryl Sandberg. Facebook’s COO. Facebook’s head of cybersecurity is none other than Nathaniel Gleichner, former Director for Cybersecurity Policy on the National Security Council in President Obama’s White House. As a company, Twitter harbors left-wing sentiments to the point where, by some accounts, conservative employees feel intimidated, and CEO Jack Dorsey admitted in September that his platform’s algorithm ‘unfairly filtered 600,000 accounts.’
In yet another disturbing move demonstrating the power of the current big government paradigm, Twitter recently decided to ban users who host hacked materials on the platform, and Facebook may follow suit. For an idea of what might constitute “hacked” materials, think of Wikileaks’ releases of emails from Clinton and her campaign staff that flooded the news cycle in 2016. These leaks have been accused of throwing the election to Trump, and Twitter’s decision to ban users hosting such content shows not only a reaction to Clinton’s loss but also submission to the notion that government authority should never be defied—that the people do not have a right to know what their government does behind closed doors.
Intolerance Is Polarizing—and Increasingly Popular
Though some of the purged pages have been quick to blame their dissenting points of view as cause for their removal, at this point it is impossible to prove. As our production of original articles remains suspended in light of decreased revenue (independent media as a whole has long been heavily dependent on Facebook for traffic), I’m still hoping against hope that we were accidentally caught up in a well-intended operation and will have our page restored.
What is clear either way, however, is that the actions stem from an overarching influence of government and politics in our day-to-day lives, as well as the population’s fading commitment to free expression.
When the loathed Alex Jones was removed from YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms in early August, many cheered because of his use of “hate speech,” which companies should obviously be free to remove. But the lack of foresight and the extreme enthusiasm with which proponents of his purge celebrated the bans were disturbing. Unsurprisingly, there was little outrage surrounding the October 11 purge. On the other side, a recent poll showed nearly half of Republicans believe the president should have the right to shut down news organizations for “bad behavior.” This is hardly in the spirit of America’s founding principles.
“To preserve the freedom of the human mind then and freedom of the press, every spirit should be ready to devote itself to martyrdom,” wrote Thomas Jefferson in 1799, “for as long as we may think as we will, and speak as we think, the condition of man will proceed in improvement.”
Today, on both sides of the political spectrum, many seem more concerned with securing power (for themselves or their favored political faction) than advocating the free flow of information.
At the time of Jones’ removal, I suggested that Americans’ mounting intolerance for differing opinions in their snowballing craving for control of the government would lead to wider purges. I just didn’t think I’d be part of them.
However, considering that suppression of free speech rarely stops with expressions deemed “bad,” the recent imposition of censorship is unsurprising. Though the recent trend of censorship started with Alex Jones, who is undeniably fringe and on many counts detestable, the lack of public resistance indicated there would be tolerance for further bans.
Sure enough, alternative media has become the next target in the expanding waveof silencing speech. Martin Niemöller, a former German soldier who spent seven years in a concentration camp after his support for the Nazi regime turned to opposition, famously recalled his refusal to speak up for victimized groups. “First they came for the socialists—and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist,” he said, going on to reference trade unionists and Jews. “Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me,” he concluded. A variation of that sentiment has emerged amid the recent bouts of censorship: “First they came for the journalists. We don’t know what happened after that.”
While these private companies may be working with government-linked organizations in their increasingly systemic removals of political content, the deeper problem is not ‘private companies imposing censorship’ but the far-reaching effects that the public’s adherence to the current political paradigm has on creating demand for such censorship. It’s not just the government and government-linked groups—it’s the people who believe in them.
As platforms like Twitter and Facebook continue to respond to the Russia narrative, which is ultimately a product of intolerance of Trump and the Republicans’ current control over political system (in favor, of course, of the Left’s control of the system), it becomes ever more apparent that they are simply responding to the political climate—not the other way around.
As Bernabe said, “If these actions go unchecked, we’ll be ushering in a new era of privatized censorship by companies fearing political backlash in an effort to protect the state.”
It is evident that the recent behavior of these private companies cannot be separated from our current political climate. Facebook and Twitter may be private companies that can do what they like, but in the free market, consumers are also free to express their preferences, and I’m hoping that some may choose to disapprove of the recent purges.
Intended to be open, free, and decentralized, it’s now dominated by a handful of companies that control what we see and what we can say.
The internet was meant to be open, free, and decentralized, but today it is controlled by a few companies with grave consequences for society and the economy. The internet has become the opposite of what it was intended to be.
In the early 1960s, Paul Baran was an engineer at the RAND Corporation when he began thinking about the need for a communications network that could withstand a nuclear strike. RAND was contracted by the Pentagon to create a system that could continue operating even if parts of it were destroyed by an atomic blast. It was supposed to be the ultimate decentralized system.
Baran went on to publish a paper in 1964 titled “On Distributed Communications,” which was influential in establishing the concepts behind the architecture of the internet.
Vint Cerf and Robert Kahn put these concepts into practice at the Department of Defense’s Advanced Research Projects Agency in the late 1960s, and created the communication methods that make the internet possible. The principles of freedom and openness were at the heart of the design—packet switching made the system robust in the face of nuclear attacks and Internet Protocol allowed for open interconnection.
Years later, Cerf said, “The beauty of the internet is that it’s not controlled by any one group.” In his view, “this model has not only made the internet very open – a testbed for innovation by anyone, anywhere – it’s also prevented vested interests from taking control.”
The principle of decentralization went directly against the business models of technology giants like AT&T and IBM. Until AT&T’s monopoly was broken up in the early 1980s, communications were extremely centralized and traveled through dedicated, point-to-point channels. The use of third-party devices on the network was prohibited.
The internet would have remained an obscure channel for government and scientists to communicate had it not been for Tim Berners-Lee. In the late 1980s, he created a way for information to be shared easily using hypertext via the World Wide Web.
Berners-Lee could have become fabulously wealthy, but instead he released the source code for free, embodying the democratic spirit of the internet. Berners-Lee wanted “an open platform that would allow everyone, everywhere to share information, access opportunities, and collaborate across geographic and cultural boundaries.”
In recent years, the great hope of an open and free internet has given way to a dystopia where a few big companies control what we see, how we communicate, and what we can say online.
Today, Berners-Lee thinks the internet is broken. In a 2018 interview with Vanity Fair, he recalled its early days.
“The spirit there was very decentralized,” Berners-Lee said. “The individual was incredibly empowered. It was all based on there being no central authority that you had to go to to ask permission. That feeling of individual control, that empowerment, is something we’ve lost.”
Berners-Lee is taking a break from his work at Massachusetts Institute of Technology to launch Inrupt, a startup that he has been working on for the past nine months. His mission is to decentralize the internet, reclaim power from tech giants like Google, Facebook, and Amazon, and allow individuals to control their own data.
US Airstrike Wipes Out Allied Afghan Base In ‘Friendly…
In the latest bizarre story to come out of the US “endless war” in Afghanistan, American warplanes obliterated an…
Although the architecture of the internet is still decentralized, the ecosystem of the World Wide Web is not. A few giant companies have near-monopolistic control of traffic, personal data, commerce, and the flow of information.
If you had to choose a date for when the internet died, it would be in the year 2014. Before then, traffic to websites came from many sources, and the web was a lively ecosystem. But beginning in 2014, more than half of all traffic began coming from just two sources: Facebook and Google. Today, over 70 percent of traffic is dominated by those two platforms.
The internet was meant to be open, anarchic, decentralized, and above all free. In the 1990s, America Online helped people connect and discover content, but it failed to meet the internet’s founding ideals because it was ultimately a “walled garden.” AOL determined and curated the user experience, which was contrary to the spirit of the web. Once users started going online with their local cable companies, and Google began helping them find the information they needed on the web, people began to leave AOL.
Facebook has since become AOL 2.0, a centrally designed internet for its users. You discover only what the company wants you to. It is about as uncool as AOL, but it won’t die the same death because personal Facebook accounts contain so much of a user’s life history, photos, and friend and family connections. Many articles and videos only appear behind Facebook’s walled garden, and many apps and sites will not even let a user join without a Facebook account.
Vint Cerf, the father of the internet, decries Facebook’s walled garden. Cerf, however, now works at Google and is the firm’s chief internet evangelist. He fails to see how Google also is swallowing up the internet.
Google started out as a search engine that helped users quickly find the information they needed. It’s since gone from directing people to content to directing traffic inwards to itself, according to Rand Fishkin, the world expert on search engine optimization.
Even though competitors like Yelp might have superior local reviews, Google Reviews are given preferential placement in search results. Even though shopping comparison websites like Foundem in Europe might offer better results, Google can effectively blacklist them. Increasingly, Google offers snippets and previews of Wikipedia and Getty Images. Traffic to these websites has subsequently collapsed. Far from directing users to other sites, Google today starves content creators of traffic.
As Fishkin notes, “Google’s behavior over the last few years away from an engine that drives searchers to other websites for the answers to their problems and toward self-hosted answers and solutions. That’s made SEO much more difficult, as Google, for the first time in its history, is sending less outbound traffic.”
Google is eating the web through its new technologies. Pages load faster with tools like Accelerated Mobile Pages or Firebase. Both are like Facebook’s Instant Articles. They sound great, until you realize that the faster pages run on Google’s and Facebook’s servers, displacing third-party advertising networks and further centralizing the web into their ecosystem where they exercise control.
Google also kills off technologies that would reduce the need to search using Google. In 2013, the company announced they were discontinuing Google Reader, which relied on RSS. An RSS feed was a way for publishers to reach their readers directly without using Google Search. But the death of Google Reader in 2013 marked the end of interoperable web services like RSS from large organizations like Google, Facebook, and Twitter.
The current configuration of the web’s ecosystem advances Google’s business model. Google’s Android mobile operating system powers most smartphones in the world with a whopping 85 percent market share. It has integrated the Android OS into its own search engine, and has integrated Android into its own app store, effectively becoming the gatekeeper to what websites, apps, and companies consumers can access.
It uses its dominance in browsers to its own advantage as well. Its Chrome browser has a 60 percent market share globally, and comes with a new ad-blocking feature, which it claims is the work of a collective, industry-wide effort to get rid of annoying ads. Yet the software only blocks certain types of online advertisements. Mysteriously, the ads that are blocked are ones its competitors use, not its own.
Confronted with a closed web controlled by two private companies, users are increasingly demanding that Facebook and Google fix themselves. As journalist Matt Taibbi has succinctly put it, “For Google and Facebook to be the cause of and the solution to problems tells you how irrelevant governments and regulators have become.”
There is currently a vast imbalance of power between individuals and private companies. The web is not free and open if two companies control the flow of information. André Staltz, a computer programmer, has noted that that the tech giants can ban users and “don’t need to guarantee you access to their networks. You do not have a legal right to an account in their servers, and as societies we aren’t demanding for these rights.”
Conservatives who love democracy should prefer decentralization, as it allows each user to make their own choices. In a centralized system, users have no control over what standards Google or Facebook deem acceptable—someone else makes those choices on our behalf.
Jennifer Granick, the director of civil liberties at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, has noted that techno-utopians once said things like “the Internet treats censorship as damage and routes around it.” Today, that is no longer possible. The centralization of the internet by monopolies “increasingly facilitates surveillance, censorship, and control.”
It’s a sad irony that the internet, intended to be decentralized and free, is dominated by monopolies with ever-increasing control of our lives.
(Natural News) In a series of shocking “demand” emails containing screen captures showing lists of Natural News articles, Apple has demanded Natural News stop publishing articles critical of abortions or Satanism, threatening to block the Natural News app from all Apple devices if Apple’s demands are not met.
This is the first time that a dominant tech company has overtly come out in defense of Satanism while threatening to censor a prominent publisher that exposes the evils of Satanic influence. Many people will see this as yet more proof that Apple, along with other tech giants, is literally aligned with Satan and is exploiting its power of censorship to silence those who criticize Satanism.
With Democrats now openly pushing infanticide and the legalization of the serial killing of infants, tech giants like Apple are serving as the censorship “speech police” to silence all criticism of the gruesome practice. In threatening Natural News over our coverage of infanticide and abortions, Apple is staking out the position of being pro-infanticide, and anyone who dares to speak up for innocent children is deemed by Apple to be engaged in “hate speech.”
According to apple, opposing the murder of children is now “hate speech”
Yes, you read that correctly: Speaking out to stop the mass murder of newborns is now “hate speech” according to the deranged, mentally ill Leftists who run Apple, Twitter, Google, YouTube, Facebook and Snapchat. Techno-fascism has now become a movement of mass infanticide that demands the silencing of those who oppose it. “Hate speech” means standing up for the innocent and demanding an end to the murder of children.
Here’s one of the many screen shots sent to Natural News by Apple, along with a warning that these stories would result in our app being blocked:
Apple claims all these articles are “objectionable content” that people might find “offensive.”
Some of the headlines named by Apple as “objectionable” include these important reports on Satanism, vampirism and blood harvesting from children, vaccines, cannabis, freedom of speech, the failed war on drugs, anti-Semitism and much more:
Here’s another screen shot sent to Natural News by Apple, along with demands to remove all this content or face the consequences:
There are more screen shots, too, sent to Natural News by Apple, indicating that Apple is trolling all Natural News content and trying to find examples of stories to be “offended” about. Some of the other content the Apple says is “offensive” includes articles about abortion, infanticide, censorship, the LGBT agenda and illegal migration.
Fight back against Apple censorship
We must all fight back against Apple censorship. There are several ways you can help us do that. We need your help to take action now and let Apple know that we will not be silent in the face of techno-fascism and censorship:
First, fill out this Apple feedback form for the iPhone, and tell them you don’t want Apple censoring the Natural News app:
And how we can restore to America a rational media landscape.. The media recently was all over Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib for calling Donald Trump a “m@therf*cker” in the context of wanting to impeach him. It got lots and lots of coverage, over a period of several days, while the really big work the Democrats were doing in the House is largely ignored, along with most other consequential issues of the day.
Watch a few hours of national cable TV media, and—outside of a very few shows—odds are you won’t hear any detail of actual policy whatsoever.
The media recently was all over Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib for calling Donald Trump a “m@therf*cker” in the context of wanting to impeach him. It got lots and lots of coverage, over a period of several days, while the really big work the Democrats were doing in the House is largely ignored, along with most other consequential issues of the day.
Ever since the media began, in a big way in the 1980s, to ignore actual news and go for highly dumbed-down or even salacious stories, many of us who work in the media have been astonished by this behavior by the network and cable news organizations and the major newspapers.
They used to report the details of policy proposals in great detail (see this report from the 1970s about Richard Nixon’s proposal for universal health care, comparing his with Ted Kennedy’s, for example). But since the Reagan era, the networks have largely kept their coverage exclusively to personality, scandal, and horse race.
Why would that be? Why, since the late 1980s, has the “news” lost any semblance of actual news and detail, and degenerated into a cleaned-up version of the National Enquirer?
For example, on January 3, the House of Representatives passed one of the most sweeping political reform bills since the Nixon era, including automatic voter registration, 15 days of nationwide early voting, and an end to gerrymandering. Not to mention a totally revolutionary code of ethics for the Supreme Court.
But was there any coverage of these details—or even of the bill itself—in the media? Even though there’s no way it would pass the Senate, it’s worthy of discussion and debate.
This is just one example of dozens of events that happen every day and are completely ignored by the media in favor of “who’s up and who’s down” horse-race reporting, and gotcha or scandal coverage.
Watch a few hours of national cable TV media, and—outside of a very few shows—odds are you won’t hear any detail of actual policy whatsoever.
Watch a few hours of national cable TV media, and—outside of a very few shows—odds are you won’t hear any detail of actual policy whatsoever. Every issue is instead framed in the horse-race format of “who’s going to win this fight”—leaving Americans uninformed about the consequences to themselves of the issues being fought over.
But the networks love scandal and conflict. So, to get issues on TV, maybe it’s time to make them obscene.
Imagine if the Democratic Party were to enlist a dozen or so members of Congress to go on national TV and say things like:
“We’re going to stop that m@therf*cker Brian Kemp from blocking any more black people from registering to vote in Georgia!”
Even if the Democrats did this, the only dimension of it that would get covered would be how much political damage (or benefit) the profanity may be doing to the politicians who are the source or butt of it, as happened with Representative Tlaib. In other words, they’d turn the issues aside and focus on the personalities and the horse race.
Which brings us back to the media refusing to actually discuss or inform the American public about actual issues.
Why would it be this way in 2019, when there’s such a demonstrable thirst for issues-based discussions, as we can see with the ratings of the few top cable network shows that actually do discuss issues and don’t spend half their hour with a “panel”?
Trying to figure out why this is, I’ve come up with four possible reasons (none of which are mutually exclusive; it may be all or a combination of them). Let me know on Twitter or call into my show if you have additions to the list.
1. The End of the Fairness Doctrine
In 1987, Ronald Reagan ordered his FCC to cease enforcing the Fairness Doctrine. This much-misunderstood regulation required radio and TV stations, in order to keep their licenses, to “pay” for their use of the public airwaves (the property of We the People) with actual news. It was called “broadcasting in the public interest.”
Because of the Fairness Doctrine, every one of the networks actually lost money on their news divisions, and those divisions operated entirely separately from the entertainment programming divisions of the networks.
CBS, ABC, and NBC had bureaus all around the world and employed an army of reporters. At the little radio station where I worked in Lansing, Michigan, in the 1970s (WITL), we had, as I recall, five people staffing the newsroom, and it was a firing offense if we were caught hanging out with the sales staff. While stations lost money on news, the payoff was the much larger sums they could earn with entertainment during the rest of the hour or day.
The Fairness Doctrine also encouraged a discussion of the issues of the day with the “balanced commentary” (probably not the official name; it’s what we called it in the ’70s) requirement. This did not say that if a station carried an hour of Limbaugh, they’d have to balance it with an hour of Hartmann. “Entertainment” programming (see Joe Pyne, William F. Buckley, etc., etc.) could have any tilt it wanted.
But when a station ran an editorial on the air that conveyed the opinion of the station’s owners, they then had to allow a member of the community to come on the air and present a balancing and different perspective. If this provision was still in the regulations, every time Sinclair Broadcast Group requires their local stations to air their “must-carry” right-wing editorials, they’d have to follow them with a left-wing perspective rebutting their points.
2. The Rise of “Reality TV”
Reality TV grew out of the twin writers’ strikes of 1988 and 2001. In each case, the networks had to figure out a way to offer compelling programming with shows that didn’t require union writers. In 1988, they mostly did documentaries on policing like “Cops” and “America’s Most Wanted”; in 2001 they rolled out the full-blown reality programming we know today, starting with “Survivor.”
The networks learned two big lessons from this. The first was that “reality” programming actually pulled an audience, and thus was profitable. Extremely profitable, in that it didn’t require union writers and generally didn’t even require union actors.
The second was that it was incredibly cheap to produce.
If you tuned into TV prior to the Reaganification of the news, you may still have heard “experts” discussing things, but there were several differences. First, they were usually actual experts on actual issues that were before Congress. Second, they were a very, very small part of the overall program.
In the years since the rise of reality TV, the news networks have discovered that it’s a hell of a lot cheaper to have four or five or six “pundits” join a host for an hour and “discuss” the issues of the day than it is to pay for actual salaried reporters and news bureaus around the nation and the world.
So every hour, at least on the low-budget or weak-talent shows (notice what a contrast the Maddow show is to this truism), plan on hearing a half-dozen very, very familiar talking heads discussing ad nauseam the same four or five stories all day long.
So every hour, at least on the low-budget or weak-talent shows (notice what a contrast the Maddow show is to this truism), plan on hearing a half-dozen very, very familiar talking heads discussing ad nauseam the same four or five stories all day long. (One wonders why the networks don’t encourage their talent to do more of the kind of in-depth reporting and analysis found on Rachel’s show, particularly since it’s profitable and draws killer ratings. Perhaps the answer is found in reasons three and four.)
Guests like you see on the panels that fill daytime news programming start out working for free, and if they become an “analyst,” “contributor” or some other title for the network are paid between $500 and $2,500 an appearance. In a world where on-air personalities often start with seven-figure salaries, this is incredibly cheap programming.
Even cheaper for the networks is to have politicians on as guests—they show up for free!—which may be why they’re almost never held to account in any serious way. After all, if you piss off a politician on your network and they refuse to ever come back on the air, you’ve lost another bit of “free” talent. And if you piss off an entire political party, and your programming model doesn’t work without “balance,” you’re really screwed.
There’s a reason people all over America are screaming at their TVs every Sunday morning: the majority of guests are conservatives or Republicans, and much of what they offer as “fact” or “opinion” is merely lies and propaganda. Which leads us to number three.
3. Media Corporations Are Corporations, Too
It’s easy to postulate that the absolute lack of coverage of the death, at GOP hands, of net neutrality is because two of the big three cable TV networks are (or soon will be) owned by internet service providers (NBC/MSNBC is owned by Comcast, AT&T is trying to buy CNN), and other big corporations see all sorts of financial advantage if they can use their financial and programming muscle to dominate a newly sliced-and-diced corporatized internet.
Consider: When was the last time you heard an intelligent discussion on TV about taxing the rich? Or holding corporations accountable when they break the law? Or how destructive oligopolies and monopolies are to workers? Or how big pharma scams us about their R&D expenses and price fixing, buying up generic companies, etc.? The list could go on for pages.
Back in the day, the big joke in corporate America was, “You know it’s going to be a bad day when you get to work in the morning and there’s a ‘60 Minutes’ news truck outside the building.” The last time this was seriously considered was in the late 1980s, as in this article about “60 Minutes” doing an exposé of the meat industry. Now, not so much.
The simple fact is that TV “news” organizations are now for-profit operations, and, lacking regulation like the Fairness Doctrine, thus have the same natural and inherent biases toward protecting corporate power and privilege, and the wealth and privilege of their management and largest shareholders.
They also derive the bulk of their money from two sources—billionaire-funded political campaigns (have you noticed how there’s no in-depth coverage of the political spending of the Kochs, Adelsons, and Mercers of the world?), and giant transnational corporate advertisers.
They also derive the bulk of their money from two sources—billionaire-funded political campaigns (have you noticed how there’s no in-depth coverage of the political spending of the Kochs, Adelsons, and Mercers of the world?), and giant transnational corporate advertisers.
All those campaign ads represent hundreds of millions of dollars going right into the pockets of the networks and their affiliates, along with other corporate advertising revenue. Lacking a regulation like the Fairness Doctrine to require actual “programming in the true public interest news,” who’d bite those hands that feed them?
4. Corporations Like Republicans
The final possibility that occurs to me (and others in media with whom I’ve discussed this over the years) is that the large TV and radio news operations simply like what the GOP stands for. They also know that if GOP policies were widely understood, the Republican Party would fade into the kind of powerless obscurity it enjoyed for most of the FDR-to-Reagan era, when working people’s salaries were growing faster than management and the middle class was solid and stable.
TV networks don’t like unions or uppity workers or regulation any more than any other billion-dollar corporation. They’d prefer the salaries of their senior corporate management weren’t debated (or even known). They prefer to live in today’s semi-monopolistic system where they’re only minimally held accountable, and want to keep it that way.
This is the core of GOP ideology that media shares: Cut taxes on rich people, kill off the unions, cut welfare so more of that money can go to rich people’s tax cuts, deregulate big corporations so they can act without regard to the public good, and subsidize big corporations with government funds whenever and wherever possible.
But if any of these issues were ever explicitly discussed on TV, all hell would break loose. Can you imagine if Bill Kristol or Rick Santorum or any of the other dozens of right-wing trolls who inhabit cable TV were ever asked about their actual positions on policy?
Should we sell off (privatize) Social Security to the big New York banks as the GOP has wanted to do since the 1930s? Should we end Medicare and Medicaid and turn everybody over to the tender mercies of the insurance industry? Should we stop subsidizing the fossil fuel industry? What should we do about the audit that found $21 trillion (yes, with a T) missing from the Pentagon? How do we break the stranglehold monopolistic drug corporations have on the pricing of our pharmaceuticals?
The networks are equally terrified of having actual progressives on to discuss actual progressive issues—because the majority of American voters largely supports these issues and, if well informed, will start to vote out Republicans and vote in progressive Democrats.
Similarly, the networks are equally terrified of having actual progressives on to discuss actual progressive issues—because the majority of American voters largely supports these issues and, if well informed, will start to vote out Republicans and vote in progressive Democrats.
Imagine how things would go down if the networks started having actual discussions and debates about free college education, free national health care, the environmental impact of big oil, how well publicly owned utilities and internet services (like Chattanooga) work?
The simple reality is that the media oligopoly and the GOP work hand-in-glove, and the Democrats (and particularly the progressives) have been locked out since the Reagan era.
The solutions to these problems are not particularly complex, although the GOP will fight them tooth-and-nail.
Reinstate the Fairness Doctrine, put back into place ownership rules, and break up the big media monopolies so there’s a diversity of voices across America. Overrule the Supreme Court’s (by legislation or constitutional amendment) Citizens United (and similar) ruling to regulate money in politics, diminishing the power of big corporations and billionaires (and foreign governments).
In other words, restore to America a rational media landscape.
Today, you can drive from coast to coast and never miss a moment of Hannity or Limbaugh on the radio, so complete and widespread is the nation’s network of corporate-owned radio stations that will only carry right-wing talk. You’ll be hard-pressed, outside of a few major cities, to find any progressive or even moderate talk programming.
This has corrupted America’s politics and led to a nation divided.
The country that presents itself as a universal model of democracy does not meet the basic standards of a system in which the majority makes decisions
“The government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich.” By replacing the term “people” in Abraham Lincoln’s well-known phrase with those who have real power in the United States, we gain a more exact idea of how U.S. politics and society work.
Progressive thinkers have been warning for decades that it is money that pulls the strings in Washington; while the democratic system, since the country’s founding until today, is a mask to conceal the interests of the rich minority.
The striking thing is that this idea has now spread to sectors of the U.S. intelligentsia that in no way could be labeled as leftist.
Interest in this issue has grown since the arrival of New York billionaire Donald Trump to the White House, and the implementation of his tax reform plan that benefits the mega-rich to the detriment of many low-income voters, who contradictorily put him in the Oval Office.
But the data has been in existence for some time. A study carried out in 2014 by Martin Gilens, of Princeton University, and Benjamin I. Page, of Northwestern University, demonstrated that elites always fare better than the middle class in political decision-making.
After checking thousands of legislative bills and public opinion surveys of recent decades, Gilens and Page found that any policy change with little support from the upper class has about a one in five chance of becoming law, while those backed by the elites triumph in about half of occasions, even when they go against majority opinion.
The academics noted, “When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the U.S. political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.”
This reality explains the difficulties the movement of young people in favor of gun control currently faces to obtain the support of legislators, who receive millions of dollars from the National Rifle Association and other conservative groups that consider carrying a rifle a symbol of the American way of life.
And the differences that are demonstrated in politics are getting bigger in the economic sphere.
The conservative Hudson Institute, reported in 2017 that the wealthiest 5% of U.S. households held 62.5% of all assets in the country in 2013, compared to the 54.1% they had three decades before. That is to say, the richest families are becoming even richer.
But even more noteworthy was the finding of academics Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, who in their research on inequality found that the wealthiest 0.01% controlled 22% of all wealth in 2012, when in 1979 the figure was just 7%, according to a recent BBC report.
Such data shatters the myth of U.S. democracy, in which decisions must be made based on the view of the majority.
On the contrary, the United States shows the clear characteristics of an oligarchy, a system in which power is in the hands of a few people who generally share the same social class.
ELECTIONS IN THE UNITED STATES: THE MOST EXPENSIVE SHOW IN THE WORLD
However, the study by Gilens and Page does not go much further, and points out that “Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association.”
However, even those basic pillars of the U.S. system are foundering, and are not enough to convince anyone.
The last presidential elections showed once again how, due to the complicated U.S. Electoral College system, a candidate who receives less national support than his or her rival can end up the winner. Democrat Hillary Clinton secured almost three million more votes than Trump at the national level, and was still defeated.
Not only that, but in recent decades an organized plan has been carried out to make it more difficult for African-Americans, Latinos, and poor sectors to vote.
The reconfiguration of voting districts is a habitual practice that restricts citizen participation and guarantees the pre-eminence of the elites despite their numerical inferiority.
The financing of election campaigns, which in the end entails the support of legislators, further widens the gap.
The ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court in the case Citizens United v Federal Electoral Commission revoked the legal limits that prevented companies, non-profit organizations, and trade unions from financing electoral campaigns.
This opened the way for the so-called super PACs, which are today the real protagonists of presidential and legislative elections.
According to official figures, more than 2.4 billion dollars were spent on the last presidential race, and it is estimated that an additional 600 million dollars was invested, the origin of which is unknown.
This reality sparked former president Jimmy Carter to lament that any candidate to the Presidency of the United States needs at least 200 million dollars to set foot on the path to the White House.
“There’s no way now for you to get a Democratic or Republican nomination without being able to raise $200 or $300 million or more,” Carter told Oprah Winfrey on her talk show in September 2015.
The book Dark Money by journalist Jane Mayer, which has become a bestseller, also clearly describes how the U.S. political system is dominated by dollars, which implies that even the most modest attempts to tackle climate change, gun control, etc., fail before the real power of the oligarchy.
Mayer destroys another thesis that sustains supposed U.S. democracy, claiming that the political thought of the elites and the middle class is very similar.
In her investigation, the journalist describes how huge fortunes, mainly of the conservative classes, are invested in intellectuals, think tanks and universities to elaborate and socialize their reactionary ideas, and that these are assumed naturally.
They even go so far as to hire “scientists” to counteract proven hypotheses such as the role of human beings in climate change or the damage to health caused by certain products.
DEMOCRACY MADE IN THE USA
Despite the overwhelming evidence, Washington still tries to sell itself as a global reference of an open political system that guarantees the rights of its citizens.
“Democracy” is perhaps the most advertised export product under the Made in USA label. The United States has spent billions of dollars since the end of World War II to impose regime change and destroy any alternative project to that of neoliberal capitalism, based on the uniqueness and universality of its political model.
Continental institutions such as the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Summits of the Americas have in the political organization of Washington the yardstick to measure the rest of the countries and classify them as democratic or not, according to their rules.
However, U.S. elites can no longer deceive their academics or their own citizens, as they increasingly see through the blindfold imposed by the mass media. Will they manage to continue to fool the rest of the world?
Composite by Peter Slattery. Images via Wikimedia Commons (Jeff Bezos), Pixabay (flag) and PNGIMG (money).
It wasn’t all that long ago that the idea of someone like you going on strike was enough to scare the hell out of rich people and politicians across America. Richard Nixon deployed the National Guard in hopes of quelling a “wildcat” (or possibly illegal) strike by postal workers in 1970; the federal employees eventually got their raises. But of all the sometimes bloody spats between regular people and bosses over the years, the 1894 Pullman Strike still stands out, in part thanks to its colorful characters, and the ugly role played by the feds. The episode saw labor organizer and future Socialist presidential candidate Eugene Debs lead the charge against what you might call the Jeff Bezos of his era, luxury railroad car baron George Pullman, who lowered wages for employees in his Chicago-area company town without cutting rent or other fees, sending many to the brink of (or actual) starvation. Workers who raised beefs with management were ordered fired, and a violent strike soon erupted and spread, with Debs and his American Railway Union swooping in to lead the fight.
Instead of sitting the saga out or doing anything to help workers toiling in hellish conditions, the US government—spooked by vaguely anarchist vibes—backed Pullman and deployed troops to put down the strike by force. The conflict may have helped accelerate the onset of the Progressive Era: President Grover Cleveland instituted Labor Day to appease enraged workers that year, and various labor protections emerged in the following decades, culminating in the New Deal. But ultimately, when it came time for choosing, the feds sided with the rich.
In his forthcoming bookThe Edge of Anarchy: The Railroad Barons, the Gilded Age, and the Greatest Labor Uprising in America, Jack Kelly looks back at the clash of ideals in the Pullman era and compares it to what’s going on today. VICE talked to Kelly to find out why the scenes from his book are so resonant in our current moment, why big business is always trying to screw over workers, and how much progress America has made on inequality since the Gilded Age.
VICE: Even though your story takes place well over a century ago, many of the scenes from the book could be taken from today’s headlines. How do you explain that? Jack Kelly: One of the parallels to the Gilded Age and today would be technology. We’re in the age of hi-tech technology and between the railroads, telephones, just general industrialization, and the changing nature of labor, technology was really a more disruptive [force] back in the 1880s and 1890s. Everything was in transition and they were trying to figure out how to adjust to it. Somewhat like we’re trying today to figure out. They had the rise of corporate capitalism in the 1880s, which led to the same type of inequality.
The term “the 1 percent” was actually invented in the 1890s to talk about the ultra rich. Working people [were] trying to adjust to a really new situation where a lot of them were put on piece work. They didn’t have the dignity and were looking for their fair share of the great boom that came in the post-Civil War era.
Was the way bosses tried to maximize profits actually different back then? Would it be fair to say the railroad bosses represented the worst of capitalism, or just another flavor?
They represented capitalism in all its aspects, both the good and the bad. The railroads were immensely influential and had introduced huge improvements in the country. But they were people [like] George Pullman, Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller—they understood how to work this abstract game of capital, of finance. And you see it today in venture capitalists, or hedge fund managers, or private-equity firms. It eased up a little bit in the middle of the 20th century, [but] it’s come back in a very toxic way I think, this hyper capitalism, where everything is to maximize profit. Its roots [stretch] back [to] then, but today is a new version of it.
When Sears was riding high they were very generous with their employees. They had profit-sharing and if you were working in a Sears store you could do quite well if you worked hard. Today you have Amazon and there’s none of that. There’s no sharing the wealth. At Amazon all of the money goes to the top, particularly to the top executives. That’s the idea of hyper capitalism.
You can’t rise to the top of a corporation unless you go along with the system to maximize profit. It doesn’t matter how you do it. [There’s lots of] drug companies that raise the price of drugs or it’s the oil companies [who’re] willing to bring on climate change as long as they can make their profits. There’s no human factor in it. It’s interesting that it goes back to the 1890s with George Pullman—a corporation as a system [that] just disregards the human.
Why did the federal authorities work with Pullman against the strikers and why does the government continue to side with corporations? Has that relationship changed?
For the same reason as today, which is they were in the bag. You know, they were paid off. The Attorney General was a railroad director and a railroad lawyer at the very same time that he was serving as Attorney General. He knew where his loyalties lie. And President Grover Cleveland happened to be a very pro-business president. But it was money. Money and politics back then and the same thing now. So they danced to the corporate tune.
How would you compare the monopoly that some of these guys operated to Bezos and Amazon?
Monopoly was really at the heart of the capitalism of the Gilded Age. Rockefeller created a monopoly of standard oil and Pullman wanted a monopoly of making these specialty rail cars. That’s the tendency of business and you see it today in not only Amazon, but Microsoft and Facebook. Capitalists are always trying to get a monopoly because then you can make the most money. The old Gilded Age is being repeated today.
Is it reasonable to compare someone like Eugene Debs and what he represented to modern movements that use Antifa-style tactics?
After Debs became a socialist one of the things he did was to join up with the Western Miners Union and create the International Workers of the World, which was known as the Wobblies. He didn’t stay with the Wobblies. They believed in violence and Debs never thought that violence would accomplish anything for the working class. To that extent I [don’t] think that he would really approve of the tactics, even though he might approve of the principles.
How does the modern labor movement compare to the movement that Debs organized?
The heyday of the labor movement was from the 30s up until the 70s. It’s hard to even talk about a labor movement now. I think that in a way there’s a parallel with what Debs was doing because he was trying to find a way for labor to accommodate these new conditions. Today the labor movement is also looking for a new model. There’s a lot of interesting things going on, but labor is on the ropes and they have to find a new way of bringing the struggle to their opponents. Because labor has so little power now it’s sad.
One thing that really struck me about your book was all the archival images—every photo depicts an African American as a servant. How much progress do you think America has actually made on class and race in particular in the context of labor organizing?
We’ve made some progress, but I think that it’s sort of another parallel between today and back then. George Pullman was the largest employer of African Americans in the country. They all worked as servants, essentially, on the trains. They were porters [that] made up the beds and brought the drinks and so forth. They had no opportunity to rise and were very poorly paid. Eugene Debs proposed bringing those men into the union because if they were in the union the union would have more clout because [the African Americans] were essential to running these Pullman cars. [But] the union rejected that. They said, “We don’t want black people in our union.”
That [was] a short sighted self-destructive attitude that unfortunately went on for years in the labor movement. They didn’t want to reach across the race lines. Black people couldn’t get jobs on the railroad, except for these demeaning jobs as Pullman Porters. It was only in the 60s [that] they finally opened up the railroad unions to black people, [but] by that time the railroads were on the decline and there were no jobs. It’s a sad commentary. It’s one of the things that Eugene Debs preached. Solidarity meant everybody. It didn’t mean just white people, [but] a lot of people in the labor movement couldn’t grasp that and just weren’t willing to do it.
Tech giants will now pay more tax in France, after the country decided not to wait for the rest of the EU to introduce the measure. The so-called GAFA tax targeting major digital firms comes into force on January 1.
Tech giants will now pay more tax in France, after the country decided not to wait for the rest of the EU to introduce the measure. The so-called GAFA tax targeting major digital firms comes into force on January 1.
The French government hopes to raise €500 million ($572 million) with levies specifically aimed at multinational tech firms, including Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said, announcing the move in December. He stressed that “the tax will be introduced whatever happens.”
Paris has been pushing for what it sees as fairer taxation of the big-tech firms in the European Union. Progress on the issue has stalled in Brussels, as the 28-member bloc is divided on imposing the levies on Silicon Valley giants. Any changes must receive unanimous approval by member states.
Critics say that the big-tech firms are making money from European countries’ economies, but use their complex structure to route some of their profits to low-tax member states.
The opposing block is led by Ireland, which has become a sort of Mecca for US tech companies, and hosts many of their headquarters. Estonia and Sweden are also among those who do not favor France’s bid, fearing that the taxes could trigger US retaliation.
The EU has been discussing plans for a three-percent tax on the revenues of large internet companies that make money from user data or digital advertising. However, the last round of talks on the matter in November resulted in no significant progress, apparently pushing France to move forward with it alone.
Separately, France and Germany reached a consensus on a three-percent levy on digital ads after Paris agreed to water down its initial proposals on a broader tax on data. The two EU powerhouses plan to introduce a new joint measure in 2021, unless the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) members have agreed on a global approach by then.
France might have its own domestic reasons – like the consequences of the massive Yellow Vest protest – to impose the GAFA tax, named after Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon. The recent nationwide demonstrations will cost the French economy a hefty sum and have already resulted in lowering the country’s economic growth forecast for 2018 and 2019, while its budget deficit for next year rose to 3.2 percent, breaching EU rules.
“Our citizens should know the urgent facts…but they don’t because our media serves imperial, not popular interests. They lie, deceive, connive and suppress what everyone needs to know, substituting managed news misinformation and rubbish for hard truths…”—Oliver Stone