Twitter’s suspension of Donald Trump is a chilling sign of tyranny to come.
Cancel culture doesn’t exist, they say. And yet with the flick of a switch, billionaire capitalists voted for by precisely nobody have just silenced a man who is still the democratically elected president of the United States.
With the push of a button in their vast temples to technology, the new capitalist oligarchs of Silicon Valley have prevented a man who won the second largest vote in the history of the American republic just two months ago — 74million votes — from engaging with his supporters (and critics) in the new public square of the internet age.
Not only does cancel culture exist — it is the means through which the powerful, unaccountable oligarchies of the internet era and their clueless cheerleaders in the liberal elites interfere in the democratic process and purge voices they disapprove of. That’s what Twitter’s permanent suspension of Donald Trump confirms.
The new capitalists’ cancellation of the democratically elected president of the United States is a very significant turning point in the politics and culture of the Western world.
We underestimate the significance of this act of unilateral purging at our peril. It demonstrates that the greatest threat to freedom and democracy comes not from the oafs and hard-right clowns who stormed the Capitol this week, but from the technocratic elites who spy in the breaching of the Capitol an opportunity to consolidate their cultural power and their political dominance.
Twitter’s ban on Trump is extraordinary for many reasons.
First, there’s the arrogance of it. Make no mistake: this is the bosses vs democracy; corporates vs the people; exceptionally wealthy and aloof elites determining which elected politicians may engage in online discussion, which is where most political and public debate takes place in the 21st century. Those who cannot see how concerning and sinister it is that a handful of Big Tech companies have secured a virtual monopoly over the social side of the internet, and are now exploiting their monopolistic power to dictate what political opinions it is acceptable to hold and express in these forums, urgently needs a wake-up call.
Secondly, there is Twitter’s deeply disturbing justification for why it suspended Trump. It says Trump’s account ran the ‘risk’ of ‘inciting violence’. And yet the two tweets of his that it cites do nothing of the sort. In one, Trump describes his voters as ‘great American patriots’ and insists they will have a ‘GIANT VOICE’ in the future. In the other he confirms that he will not be attending the inauguration of Joe Biden.
That’s it. In what warped moral universe can such standard, boastful Trump-made statements be interpreted as calls for violence?
In the warped moral universe of pre-emptive, precautionary censorship being built by our tech overlords, that’s where. Strikingly, Twitter says its censorship of the president is based on how other people might read and interpret his words. It says its censorious motivation is ‘specifically’ the question of ‘how [Trump’s tweets] are being received and interpreted on and off Twitter’. Trump’s comments ‘must be read’ in the broader context of how certain statements ‘can be mobilised by different audiences’, Twitter decrees. So Trump’s words, strictly speaking, are not the problem; it’s the possibility, the risk, that someone, somewhere might interpret them in a particular way.
This sets a terrifying precedent for the internet age. It legitimises a new regime of online censorship which doesn’t only punish inflammatory speech — which would be bad enough — but which punishes normal, legitimate political speech on the grounds of how other, unnamed people or groups might respond to it.
There would be no end to what could be censored. Trans-sceptical feminists, already victims of Silicon Valley’s woke purges, would be completely wiped out on the basis that some idiot might interpret their intellectual, non-bigoted critiques of genderfluidity as an instruction to bash a trans person. Christians sceptical of gay marriage, pro-life campaigners furious about abortion, radical leftists who say ‘smash the system’ — all could potentially fall foul of this new diktat that says we are not only responsible for what we ourselves think and say, but also for the myriad interpretations that everyone else, from the man in the street to the weirdo incel, makes of what we think and say.
On this basis the White Album should be banned, given its songs ‘Helter Skelter’ and ‘Piggies’ were ‘mobilised by different audiences’ to terrible ends — the killings carried out by Charles Manson’s Family. Catcher in the Rye Censor it. Don’t you remember how it ‘mobilised’ Mark David Chapman to kill John Lennon? As for the Bible, the Koran and any number of political texts and anthems — the risks of ‘mobilisation’ that they pose are clearly too great, so, to be on the safe side, let’s scrub those too.
It isn’t just Twitter. Mark Zuckerberg (zero votes) had already indefinitely suspended Trump (74million votes) from Facebook. Reddit has scrubbed its Donald Trump thread. All social-media accounts that promote the mad Qanon conspiracy theory are being suspended. Mike Flynn and Sidney Powell have been banished from Twitter. YouTube is now banning any video and account that says the American election was fraudulent. This shows how ideological Silicon Valley oligarchs have become. For four years leading members of the media and cultural elites in the US and the UK have said the American presidential election and the EU referendum of 2016 were frauds. That they were meddled with, illegitimate, should be overthrown. You’ll find tens of thousands of videos on YouTube featuring people saying the vote for Brexit was a fit-up by Ruskies or an ‘advisory’ vote fraudulently turned into an instructional one. They won’t be taken down. Because our tech overlords are engaged in acts of openly political censorship.