Are We Headed for a ‘Digital Dachau’?

What has become of American journalism? 

In the aftermath of the January 6 Capitol incident, social media was quick to pass judgment not only on those who entered the rotunda, floor, and congressional offices but also on those who merely attended or even supported the gathering in Washington. Retribution was swift, most notably for Trump’s more prominent supporters, with calls for the firings of attendees who could be identified, and the boycotting of businesses whose executives publicly supported the president’s reelection campaign and subsequently voiced support for the widespread notion that the November 3 election was anything but free and fair. These social purges are more vicious in the age of tech, as My Pillow entrepreneur, Mike Lindell, will certainly be able to attest. Examples abound.

The rather obvious implication of Seren Morris’ January 25 Newsweek story, headlined “MyPillow Products Are Still Being Sold by These Companies,” for example, is that action should be taken against these companies so as to discourage their continued support of Lindell’s product. Although Twitter merely flagged Lindell’s election fraud claims as “disputed,” Morris twice states as fact that Lindell’s claims were false. Morris also appears to admit that the boycotts were based on “Lindell’s support for former President Trump’,” not just the events of January 6. Lindell had already lost Kohl’s and Bed, Bath and Beyond as distributors for his products and he, along with several other noteworthy conservative voices, was permanently suspended from Twitter. 

Morris’ column is intended to be a pirate’s map of sorts, not only reminding readers of Lindell’s alleged sins, but marking with an “X” the spots where conservative Lindell’s business interests are located. The article was published on the heels of Parler’s deracination. It’s clear that more stringent restrictive measures are close at hand, as defenders of free thought, association, and speech are marked for elimination as if they were toxic waste sites buried together on the metaphysical map. 

It is said that history repeats itself. 

Opened in March 1933, Dachau was the first of the Nazi concentration camps. It was built to gather, incarcerate, and then execute political dissidents. The voices who defied the Third Reich were permanently silenced.

The Nazis incarcerated enemies of the state from across the social strata: trade unionists, Communists, clergy, politicians, professors, artists, writers, and finally Jews. Oppositional luminaries, like Martin Neimöller, author of the famous poem “First They Came,” after surviving internment, wrote about the horrors of Dachau having witnessed starvation, executions, and the escalation of the Nazi purge.

The meaning of Neimöller’s poem seems to have been forgotten in the United States. Perhaps because while we can recall widescale injustices—slavery, the Japanese internment camps, and Jim Crow come to mind—there is nothing in our experience approaching the Nazis’ systemic form of murder. 

Could such a genocide happen here? We imagine it cannot at our peril. 

Of course, there are many cold steps to traduce between angry boycotts and deplatformings based on political differences and calls for elimination on the same grounds. But it is useful to remember that Twitter, Google, Amazon, and Apple have eclipsed the power of some nation-states. While many companies have a global reach, these conglomerates negotiate with foreign governments on their own terms and in their own interests. They market a form of tyranny that exploits American preoccupation with social conformity and acceptance. Conservatives are the new “other.” We are said to have violated these shared spaces by having expressed beliefs we have been informed are offensive.

The message is that nobody should associate with conservatives. Our expressed beliefs are so offensive they are sometimes even said to justify physical violence (“punch a Nazi” is a mantra of Antifa in response to Trump supporters). 

Americans struggle with the dichotomy between social acceptance and reverence for individualism that exists in our culture. Most of our heroes, real and fictional, are iconoclasts. These rebels fight personal and professional circumstances that oppress the human spirit—like racism, crime, poverty, sexism, and myriad other hardships to achieve success. Values like hard work, risk-taking, fidelity, and tolerance are generally accepted as part of the national fabric, but those have been replaced by a reverence for victimization, intolerance (deceptively called “tolerance”), and hand-outs to encourage dependence on government. 

Part of this is an outgrowth of Madison Avenue proselytizing. We all want to smell good and, to be regarded as desirable by those around us. We have extended that natural and laudable desire not to offend others to ideological positions—senseless to the fact that in doing this, we demonize half the country as morally repugnant.

The Biden Administration, so keen on “unity,” had nothing to say about Parler’s erasure and made no statement about the vilification and persecution of Lindell. Lindell has become a lightning rod for left-wing criticism. He is not an educated man. He has struggled with substance abuse and has broken marriages. He is also unashamed of being a Christian conservative, and will not denounce his friendship with Trump. 

Lindell, in many ways, is an American everyman. His targeting by Newsweek, Twitter, and other publishers is meant to serve as an example of what happens when anyone challenges the moral shortcomings in the Left’s corrupt message. 

America should have outgrown this type of ostracism. We don’t hang witches, nor do we send the Anne Hutchinsons of our country to face the wilds because they don’t conform to what social and governmental magistrates dictate. Americans generally strive for fairness. It is why the Civil Rights Movement succeeded. 

It was unconscionable to turn water cannons on men, women, and children, and to burn down houses of worship. It is equally unacceptable to allow these corporate entities to decide who is American and who is not.

About Elizabeth Fortunato

Elizabeth Fortunato is a wife and mother from New York. She has a background in liberal arts and philosophy.

Photo: iStock/Getty Images

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