Privatized Censorship

Here is a very long, yet very important, post on how censorship works.

For those who have no time to read: a guy who moderated a huge (and overwhelmingly liberal) forum on culture wars was driven into a nervous breakdown by progressive right-fighters who believe that anybody whose opinions depart an inch from the progressive dogma is a Nazi and has to be eviscerated.

The interesting thing is that there is no government involvement anywhere in the story. Censorship, like most of the state’s functions, has been completely privatized. There is no coercive power at all here. People are destroying the existence of free speech – a right which was unattainable for centuries and only historically recently became a reality – on their own and for the simple reason that this is what they want to do. Also, of course, it’s useful to capital.

The neoliberal model is predicated on a minimalist state – withdrawal of the state from the process of economic and social see development and its replacement with the ‘free market.’ (Petras and Veltmeyer 241).

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10 thoughts on “Privatized Censorship”

  1. As for Internet culture wars and people rabidly barricading themselves from real life in “Twitter and FB fester holes,” as you’ve expressed in “Contempt” post, I remembered the following three paragraphs from Yuval Harari’s “21 Lessons for the 21st Century” (my thoughts are after the quote):

    //

    Perhaps the most successful experiment so far in how to live a contented life in a post-work world has been conducted in Israel. There, about 50% of ultra-Orthodox Jewish men never work. They dedicate their lives to studying holy scriptures and performing religious rituals. They and their families don’t starve partly because the wives often work, and partly because the government provides them with generous subsidies and free services, making sure that they don’t lack the basic necessities of life. That’s universal basic support avant la lettre.

    Although they are poor and unemployed, in survey after survey these ultra-Orthodox Jewish men report higher levels of life satisfaction than any other section of Israeli society. This is due to the strength of their community bonds, as well as to the deep meaning they find in studying scriptures and performing rituals. This is due to the strength of their community bonds, as well as to the deep meaning they find in studying scriptures and performing rituals. A small room full of Jewish men discussing the Talmud might well generate more joy, engagement and insight than a huge textile sweatshop full of hard-working factory hands. In global surveys of life satisfaction, Israel is usually somewhere near the top, thanks in part to the contribution of these jobless poor people.

    Secular Israelis often complain bitterly that the ultra-Orthodox don’t contribute enough to society, and live off other people’s hard work. Secular Israelis also tend to argue that the ultra-Orthodox way of life is unsustainable, especially as ultra-Orthodox families have seven children on average. Sooner or later, the state will not be able to support so many unemployed people, and the ultra-Orthodox will have to go to work. Yet it might be just the reverse. As robots and AI push humans out of the job market, the ultra-Orthodox Jews may come to be seen as the model of the future rather than as a fossil from the past. Not that everyone will become Orthodox Jews and go to the yeshivas to study the Talmud. But in the lives of all people, the quest for meaning and for community might eclipse the quest for a job.

    //

    Aren’t many of those self-identified as progressive missionaries educated and underemployed people who try to find meaning in life via “studying holy scriptures and performing religious rituals” of their own ? They have too much free time, so they’ve found a (alas, usually not paying) job of being a censor and a guru for their real and/or imaginary followers. This description suits Shakesville to a T.

    I predict that the number of “Twitter and FB fester holes” and the passions raging in them will increase exponentially with the future increase in un(der)employment and with the growing precarity of the job market. One reader of your blog talked about the freedom to explore and create art that UBI will bring to the masses; however, as you’ve said, most people won’t be able to have anyone read or listen to their ‘artistic’ creations for free, so imo they will have to join ‘the yeshivas’ of culture wars to gain any attention and enjoy an illusion of having a community. Of course, to prolong the illusion of a community, new enemies will have to be created on a daily basis. (Today, it’s still more like on a weekly basis since most people still work.)

    You talk of the danger of those people, but I mainly pity them and fear whether the future will bring more and more of the rest to this state of being unnecessary and grasping at straws to hide it from oneself and others.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is a great insight. These folks in fester holes are riled up by the elites precisely be a the elites are defending their place in the social hierarchy.

      There is a glaring difference between the Twitter bullies and the religious Hasidim. In order to find real contentment and peace, you need real faith. Going through the motions of mimicking religous fanaticism is only going to produce bitterness, emptiness and anger.

      But absolutely, the connection between the social media hate mobs and lack of community and purpose is a great observation.

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    1. The author is a psychiatrist obsessed with antipsychotic meds. So it’s not my thing, necessarily. But he’s very brilliant and very popular, which he massively deserves.

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  2. Maybe I’m being unrealistically hopeful, but I’ve actually been feeling more optimistic regarding push back against this stuff lately than I have in years.

    The swagger and self-confidence that these moral censors and scolds had back in 2015 feels like it’s being replaced by a tone that is increasingly shrill and hysterical. There’s no humor in it any more (to the extent there was any to start with). There’s snark, but that’s not at all the same thing. And more and more people are openly talking about how sick they are getting of this whole freak show. The backlash to the Covington thing would have been unthinkable 3 years ago.

    I’m reminded of what Hunter S. Thompson wrote about the counter culture explosion of the 60s: “The cookie cutter conformity of the Eisenhower era created so many socioeconomic rejects that it finally became fashionable to be one”. I feel like maybe the same thing is starting to happen the ever changing new orthodoxy creating heretics.

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    1. Oh, I hope so. I really really hope so.

      I have to say that I have lost much of the fear I used to have, and this happened as a result of Covington and the Smollett hoax. I just lost the capacity to care about what these angry trolls say and do. They are so clearly in the wrong that fuck them, you know? Even as late as yesterday I had a bunch of folks I know rant on FB against the Covington kid and in favor of Smollett. They are so delusional that I don’t care any more if they hate me.

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  3. I’m not sure if I agree entirely. Yes, in many instances, censorship is privatized. But let’s take a look at college campuses: censorship here often takes the form of appeals to the administration (which is equivalent to the authorities or the state) to cancel events. If I remember correctly, this is the argument that Wendy Brown makes in States of Injury: identity politics and the demand for censorship involve appeals to the state for protection from harm. One good example is the anti-pornography feminist movement of the 1970s and 1980s–they sought to get the government to prohibit pornography. Of course, asking the state to intervene isn’t always successful–the anti-pornography campaign, for example, was not successful. Of course, things have changed now that social is so powerful…But I bet a lot of SJWs would like the government to ban hate speech. And if you think about enhanced sentences for criminals who have committed hate crimes–in this instance, trying to stop hate has only strengthened the power of the state.

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    1. The state acquiesces, that’s for sure. Because it defends the entitlements of these same elites who are promoting the witch hunts. It’s class warfare at its purest.

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