America • Big Media • Free Speech • Post • Silicon Valley • Technology • The Culture • The Media

Just Log Off

Facebook’s latest public-relations nightmare increasingly looks likely (and finally) to be the proximate cause of regulation or, at least, interrogation of the company for its business practices. Already, the Federal Trade Commission has signaled that it plans to investigate the company over the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and Congress appears to be growing restive. Even if nothing else happens, the company’s stock has tanked and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg personally has lost billions of dollars.

On the one hand, this is good news. Facebook has become a dangerous Panopticon, easily exploited by advertisers, intelligence services, and Facebook staff themselves. It richly deserves the scrutiny it is receiving, and likely will receive for some time to come.

But there is another hand: Facebook’s sins do not absolve our own. The fact is, the tendency of Americans to live their lives almost entirely online would have found some outlet ready to abuse their trust. It just so happened to be this one.

What’s more, that same tendency to live our lives online has given rise to the very monopoly powers and dangerous, unaccountable surveillance that render strict regulation of tech giants a political, social, and moral necessity. So at the same time Washington finally starts to dig into the guts of Facebook and its peers, I would like to propose a complementary solution more radical, and also simpler, for everyday Americans.

Just log off.

This is a tonic that has been badly forgotten. Some have come close to it, with injunctions like #deletefacebook. I suggested something similar about Twitter in an early essay for American Greatness. I have since followed that advice, maintaining a Twitter account in name only.

While one could go on at great length about the evils of Facebook in a companion piece—and there are evils to spare—the truth is that cataloguing the evils of any one company misses the point. The point is we have made the internet into a home, when previously it was only a very weird, psychedelic place to visit. This is not how it should work.

Granted, I’m old enough to remember when “just log off” was common sense. In fact, it was practically a mantra of the 4chan imageboard back when I first encountered it in college. The implicit assumption behind the trolling and playfulness that 4chan and other sites like Something Awful pioneered was simple: if people attacked you on the internet, it wasn’t real life. It was the internet, and “The Internet Is Serious Business” (which, in ironic 4chan speak, translated roughly to “the internet is not serious at all, you f—king idiot”).

In a world where we had to physically be near a computer to check our emails, or to use any web-based form of communication, this was a thoroughly plausible way of doing things. After all, the physical world was where our lives happened. The internet was just where we went for certain minor forms of convenience. One irreverent ditty from the early 2000s summed up this breezy attitude perfectly: Right from your own desktop,/You can research, browse and shop,/Until you’ve had enough, and you’re ready to stop . . . for porn.

Then came smartphones, and suddenly the internet was in our pocket. And so were our emails, and our online friends, and our social media. Then came Twitter, and the hashtag, and thinking in 140 characters, and then clickbait, and so on and so on until suddenly, the idea that the internet didn’t matter was completely reversed. Now, something that happened on the internet could ruin our actual, real, in-person lives. Now, real life is where we go to meet people from the internet, but the internet is where we really live.

Those genies probably can’t be put back in the bottle. But just because something can’t be ended is no reason to invite it into your house.

Which is why I am proposing that we should all remember a lesson that has gone forgotten for arguably over a decade now and Just. Log. Off.

Maybe not forever. Maybe only for small doses at a time. But try it.

It may be harder than you think, but try it. Heaven knows, it was hard for me to even figure out where to start—I had to actively look up where the “Log Out” button was on Facebook, so used to being permanently there was I.

For every person who refuses to engage with the internet as a master and landlord, rather than as a distraction, a small revolution will take place. In a world where we don’t live on the internet, what power does clickbait have? Who will read the listicles and/or hit pieces based solely on performing colonoscopies on someone’s Twitter feed? At what price an end to the “This Celebrity Did X and the Internet is Furious” headlines? Or the endless quest for the most visceral reaction perpetuated by Facebook’s pitiless algorithms, or Twitter’s asinine trending hashtags? What price a world where we live as people, rather than as profiles and data?

I know, I know, shut up grandpa. But seriously, think about it. The fact is that you can try to give us that world, at very little cost to yourself. It won’t take a massive rejiggering of your life, fleeing off the grid, or trading in your iPhone for a flip phone (though I am seriously considering that, myself). All it will take is a simple resolution . . . now and then, when you think the internet is starting to consume your life, take a deep breath, rebel against the dopamine-driven tyrants of social media, reject the siren song of mental junk food from YouTube or Twitter or anywhere else. Do yourself that favor, and once in a while…

Just. Log. Off.

Photo credit: Nasir Kachroo/NurPhoto via Getty Images

America • Center for American Greatness • Cultural Marxism • Post • Progressivism • Silicon Valley • Technology • The Culture

A Nation of Passengers

One of the hallmarks of American freedom is one’s sense of personal autonomy: we are free to go where we want, whenever we want, subject only to our finances and schedules. Except in extraordinary circumstances, the state cannot tell us where we may or may not go, or how to get there.

True, the government began controlling access to airplanes as far back as the Cuban hijackings in the 1960s, and more intrusive screening was instituted in the wake of 9/11. But, as yet, we do not have a system of internal passports, such as the Soviet Union did, nor is there any agency preventing you from getting in your car and driving the length of the continent should you so desire.

But just wait until you’re forced into a “driverless” car.

As I noted on Twitter the other day, these vehicles are emasculating, imprisoning, anti-American, and inhuman. And now, in the wake of the first fatal accident involving an “autonomous vehicle,” they’re deadly as well.

Elaine Herzberg, 49, was struck by an Uber driverless Volvo SUV in Tempe, Arizona, and died of her injuries. In the wake of the accident, Uber temporarily suspended its four-city testing program, although Tempe police are saying the Uber car was not at fault, and nothing could have prevented the tragedy, so suddenly did it occur.

Maybe—but even though the Uber car had a “backup driver,” we’ll never really know, will we?

Whence comes this rush to robot cars? Did the public demand it? Or have our betters in the tech industry and in the bowels of the bureaucracy taken it upon themselves to correct our lamentable human failings and, in the name of “safety,” shove these vehicles down our throats?

Already there are 400 pilotless Johnny Cabs (the reference is to the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, Total Recall) on the roads in California, and the state is about to permit cars with no backup drivers onto state highways on April 2. Had April Fool’s Day fallen on a Monday this year, instead of Sunday, the symbolism would have been perfect.

In any case, the joke’s on us. The nominal reason for introducing technology that absolutely no red-blooded American male could possibly want is that cars with no drivers and no steering wheels are somehow going to be safer, and that by eliminating human error—stupidity, drunkenness, distracted driving, texting and a million other crazy things people do in their cars while in motion—we’ll all get where we’re going in one piece. But given the still-imperfect state of the technology, how could driverless cars be perfectly safe? We don’t even have consistent cell service yet.

But even if Johnny Cabs were perfectly safe the moral argument against them would be strong.

We know, for example, that roughly 30,000 Americans will die in traffic accidents every year—a number that has been steadily declining for decades, by the way, even as the population has increased—and yet that minuscule risk is one we all willingly assume every time we get behind the wheel, whether it’s to run to the store, take the kids to after-school activities, or to drive across country just for the hell of it. Are the tech giants and the auto manufacturers really arguing that this number will now magically and precipitously fall?

Further, the point of driving for many of us is not simply to get there alive, but to enjoy the trip; that’s why some folks prefer to saddle up a Mustang or lasso a Jaguar. Driving is supposed to be fun and, for most men of my acquaintance, it’s never any fun being a passenger, or piloting a Prius. The lure of the open road created the American muscle car, while the joy of a Sunday drive in the country paved the way for generations of touring sedans, as ordinary Americans decided to see the U.S.A in their Chevrolets.

And what’s the point of listening to Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild” if you’re not putting some pedal to the metal?

There are more sinister reasons to be wary of driverless cars, however. In the post-9/11 age, the government has a limitless appetite for surveillance power—law enforcement is now able to track every American carrying a cell phone—a robocar is a “convenience” just waiting to be exploited and abused. Who, for example, programs the ride? Who controls it? Should the police decide that they have a few questions for you, what’s to prevent your Johnny Cab from detouring from grandma’s house to the local precinct station? And if it does, what are you going to do about it?

These are not idle questions. The assault on the Fourth Amendment is by now nearly complete. “Terrorism” is the all-purpose excuse for monitoring the innocent along with the potentially guilty, and just about everybody can fall under suspicion. The very act of boarding a plane now exposes to you formerly unreasonable search and seizure, and there’s not a thing you can do about it. So why would you climb into a robocar and take yourself hostage on purpose?

For the same reason you’ve willingly surrendered your rights of privacy to entities like Facebook and Google. As Instapundit Glenn Reynolds and others have long noted of social media and search engines, you’re not the customer, you’re the product.

It’s amusing that the same folks celebrating the Obama campaign’s skillful exploitation of social media, especially via Facebook, are now reacting like virgins in a bordello when confronted with the media-fueled Cambridge Analytica scandal—which is only a scandal because the press can attach the names of some of their favorite right-wing bogeymen to it, including Robert Mercer and, of course, Donald Trump. And now Robert Mueller seems to be getting into the act, too.

“Convenience,” however, is no reason to voluntarily surrender your personal autonomy to something that will, by definition, be subject to close governmental scrutiny and control. When Huck Finn felt the chains of civilization closing in on him, his impulse was to “light out for the territory.” Today, we call an Uber, and leave the driving to . . . who, exactly?

But that’s what the land of the free is rapidly becoming: a nation of passengers, without even enough gumption to be backseat drivers. Enjoy the ride.

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America • Defense of the West • Economy • Energy • Greatness Agenda • Infrastructure • military • Post • Progressivism • Silicon Valley • Technology • The Culture

The Space Race: Ground Control to Elon Musk

When Elon Musk divested of his interest in Paypal in 2002, he was fantastically wealthy but obsessed with technological projects.

Part two of a two-part series. Read part one.

Musk turned to the development of Tesla, an electric vehicle. Contrary to popular opinion, electric vehicles are not new technology. Thomas Edison, who understood the advantages of electric automobiles now evident in Tesla vehicles, had worked furiously to conquer the range and recharge problems that dog Tesla vehicles today. Edison conceded to his young employee, Henry Ford, that the combustion engine was the more robust platform. A triumph of “engineering over design,” the combustion engine ruled the automotive world almost exclusively for more than 100 years.

To achieve success in the development of the electric automobile, Musk needed to co-opt the progressive state to receive extensive subsidies and to co-opt the opinions of a narrowing progressive elite interested in virtue-signaling their environmental commitment while consuming luxuries.

While one might recoil from the “crony capitalism” of Musk’s Tesla, these managerial and political skills have fed into another venture, SpaceX. Like Korolev and von Braun before him, Musk has ingeniously manipulated a state actor interested in other priorities into funding the development of an enterprise the sole purpose of which is the expansion of the human horizon. Musk is precisely the talent needed for human space exploration.

What’s Old is New
SpaceX is superficially billed as lowering the cost of delivering payloads to orbit by means of a reusable first stage, which returns to earth landing vertically on a pad. But this is not a new idea.

The Space Shuttle, too, was a reusable rocket. The Shuttle’s solid rocket boosters parachuted to earth to be recovered, disassembled, and repacked with solid fuel, and the three massive (and expensive) shuttle main engines—Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-25s—glided back to earth attached to the orbiter. Only the massive liquid oxygen/hydrogen tank would be lost to reentry. The shuttle’s design failure was that it required extensive inspection of and repair to the underside tiles for every flight. A failure of these tiles caused the loss of Columbia, and the inability of the NASA—stymied by conservatism—to find a solution destroyed the intended cost-effectiveness of the program (although not its ability to inspire).

Musk’s reusable system is the Falcon 9. The Falcon 9, burning liquid oxygen and kerosene, is capable of placing 50,000 pounds of payload in low-earth orbit (LEO). The Falcon 9 gets its name from the nine Merlin engines that provide the thrust needed to launch the payloads and to arrest the descent of the booster. According to SpaceX, the Falcon 9 can complete its mission with the failure of two of the nine engines. This compares favorably to von Braun’s much larger Saturn V, which could complete its mission with the shut down of one of five of its Rocketdyne F-1 engines.

In February, Musk’s SpaceX successfully tested its Falcon Heavy rocket. Falcon Heavy, capable of delivering 140,000 pounds to LEO, has, according to SpaceX, the largest payload to LEO other than Saturn V. If, however, you count the orbiter itself (which weighed 150,000 pounds) as payload delivered to LEO, the Space Shuttle actually had significantly more heavy lift capacity (approximately 220,000 lbs).

Three Falcon 9 rockets strapped together in a lateral plane comprise the Falcon Heavy, with the center rocket core topped with a payload. For the recent February 6 test launch, Musk used as a dummy payload a Telsa convertible, which Falcon Heavy sent on a trajectory to Mars—a brilliant marketing ploy. In our democratic-republic, you win public opinion or you lose. This showcases Musk’s power to manage, inspire, and manipulate, which makes him a potential heir to the genius of Korolev and von Braun.

Questions of Design
Nonetheless, there is a question mark over the Falcon Heavy. As three Falcon 9 rockets strapped together, Falcon Heavy has no less than 27 engines firing at launch.

This raises a serious question of design. When Korolev tried to build a rocket to compete with Saturn V, he lacked a technology that von Braun possessed. The Russians had been unable to develop a large engine like the supermassive F-1 which powered Saturn V. Korolev was forced to include 30 rocket engines in the first stage of his giant N-1 rocket. More engines and turbopumps mean a higher chance of failure. A rocket engine with a failure rate of 1 percent when multiplied by 30 results in a 26 percent chance of failure of one engine of the cluster. Korolev’s complex N-1 never got far off the ground.

The Falcon 9 can fly with two of nine engines shut down. But that does not translate into a successful mission with six of 27 engines shut down on the Falcon Heavy because the failure would depend on the distribution of the failures across all three cores. The lack of development of a large motor with fewer moving parts suggests a high risk that Falcon Heavy will not be able to demonstrate the reliability needed to fulfill its mission of human space exploration and that a new design may be needed, making Falcon Heavy a concept demonstrator, but not the real deal for a manned mission to Mars or even to the Moon.

Falcon 9 has a 95 percent reliability, too low for human payload. Saturn V flew 13 times without a loss, not counting the deaths of Gus Grissom, Edward White, and Roger Chafee in the Apollo 1 launchpad fire. The Space Shuttle flew 135 times, with only two losses—and only one on launch—a record of 98.5 percent reliability. The R-7 family of rockets has flown 1,700 times with a 96 percent success rate. R-7 family Suyoz manned missions have a 98 percent success rate overall and a near 100 percent success rate for three decades.

Assuming that the added complexity of Falcon Heavy does not increase risks (a counterfactual assumption because complexity increases risk), a 95 percent success rate multiplied by three produces an appalling 85 percent projected success rate. When Musk himself said of the launch of Falcon Heavy that he gave it a 50 percent chance of succeeding, he was likely thinking of these factors.

SpaceX still has a long way to go if Musk is to fill for this generation the shoes of a Korolev or von Braun. He has mastered the managerial and political art of corralling sponsors into the profitless enterprise of human space exploration. All that is left is for the master engineer to master the technology.

Photo credit: Paul Harris/Getty Images

America • Americanism • Conservatives • Donald Trump • Post • Silicon Valley • Technology • The Culture • The Left • The Resistance (Snicker)

Rules for Right-Wingers on Facebook

Are the left-leaning engineers at California based social media giants plotting to censor right-leaning people? Perhaps. Are right-leaning people on Facebook being targeted or silenced? Possibly. But maybe the energy put into our complaints about it could be put to better use . . . on Facebook and in other social media platforms.

How so? A clue might be found in asking why these left-leaning companies might wish to do what they appear to be doing and, more importantly, how we can continue to frustrate their efforts.

The country has been inundated with stories of the fear that Russian bots took over Facebook during the election and turned people against Hillary Clinton. True, it seems rarely to dawn upon these fear-mongering folks that Clinton didn’t need much help in turning people against her; she and her perfect contempt for the typical American voter were the single best source of anti-Clinton material. And Americans responded to her cues. I wonder if the lefties are merely looking for a way to blame the Russians when they know that one of the reasons Hillary lost the election is that people on the right are finally catching up to them in the ability effectively to use the platforms their friends created. In short, the Right has been effective on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and other platforms.

During the election, I saw all kinds of wonderful and convincing posts on my Facebook timeline. I continue to see them today. I’ve been able to witness people who were either leaning liberal or situated in the squishy middle transform themselves into right-leaning citizens over the years on Facebook. Perhaps our arguments—made day after day and offering a point of view that is contrary to the ordinary left-leaning and uninspired media—had an influence, not only on their thinking, but on their voting. Perhaps reality is getting through to our friends through an exposure to an alternate viewpoint. Amid all the cat videos, there are ideas that never get the time of day in the culture. But there they are on Facebook often going “viral.”

I don’t believe for one minute those at Facebook, Twitter, and Google don’t understand this. It’s certainly why they react quickly to any complaints about known conservatives on their platforms. And they have an army of assistants who do not get a paycheck from their companies to help them with that. Leftists troll Facebook to find right-leaning posts they can “report.” Facebook will respond and issue warnings to the member if enough people complain about “objectionable” content.

Sometimes Facebook will suspend an account for a short period of time until a real person is able to make a decision about the supposed offensive post. In the majority of cases, the person’s account is reinstated because the report is deemed baseless. In some cases, someone’s account is suspended for a longer period of time. Facebook keeps their processes secret, so no one knows for sure how they make these decisions. It’s possible they are actively looking for ways to reduce reach of right-leaning thought.

That said, Facebook is in the business of making money. The company really doesn’t want a mass exodus of their members to any other social media outlet, not least because Facebook executives imagine that would limit the company’s influence. Twitter has already felt the pinch.

I may be an optimist, but I do believe the executives at Facebook want to walk a fine line between keeping the faith with progressivism and not infuriating valuable members who post right-leaning messages that resonate with a lot of people. I would hope the company’s engineers are working on algorithms to target members who spend the majority of their time looking to find ways to take offense at and report or block other users all day, and reduce the impact of these overly zealous trolls.

Those of us on the Right, especially those who post publicly on Facebook, take risks every day for our beliefs. Our families sometimes turn away from us. We may get a reputation for being aggressive or out of touch, even as we go out of our way to be generous-hearted with those who disagree. It’s a risk many are willing to take. For the most part, I believe those of us who use Facebook as an outlet for our political advocacy are always looking to convince, not aggravate. And I believe we are making inroads.

I know a number of apolitical people who have been moved by the counterarguments to left-wing talking points they have encountered on Facebook. Yes, it’s anecdotal, but multiply that effect by the massive number of right-leaning people on this particular public platform, and you have a critical mass of people who are actually taking a second look at the zeitgeist of liberalism in its many forms.

So, I would encourage those who threaten to quit Facebook or those who have been suspended to hang in there and be clever. Take care to do the things that will prevent your being targeted by trolls who live to report you. First, cull your friends’ list. Remember, you aren’t a celebrity. You don’t need 5,000 Facebook friends. Among those you accept with abandon in order to increase your numbers are bots, identity thieves, desperate weirdos, and political trolls who want to silence conservatives. If you’re suspended, if your identity is stolen, if you keep getting messages from weirdos, you’re wasting your time. Friend smart.

Second, make sure your settings only allow friends to comment on your posts. If someone wants to opine, they need to ask permission. You don’t need to give it. If your goal is the change hearts and minds, you can just as easily do it with 300 well-behaved and thoughtful friends as with 5,000 raucous and therefore uninteresting ones. Focus not on changing the world, but on that one friend you have who has always been apolitical and a bit nervous about speaking her mind. Show her where to find the truth. Show her how she can be courageous by speaking out to her child’s teachers when she finds them reading Howard Zinn. Show her how she can speak up on behalf of the unborn without fear of rejection.

If we concentrate on doing a little on Facebook, we can and will force a correction on our culture and on our politics. It’s already happening. I truly believe it was our presence on social media and not the Russians that caused Trump’s victory. And I think Facebook execs and Democrats know this all too well. Keep up the good work and be smart. Carry on.

Photo credit: Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images

Big Media • Conservatives • Cultural Marxism • Democrats • First Amendment • Free Speech • Post • Silicon Valley • Technology • The Culture • The Left • The Media

The Great Social Media Purge: No One Is Safe

Social media is often abuzz with politics—from immigration and gun control to infrastructure and tariffs. Rarely is the social media itself the topic of discussion. But now is long past time for that discussion.

It is certainly no secret that social media companies are overwhelmingly left-wing, fueling the fake “Russia” conspiracy theory, and endlessly bashing President Donald Trump. But now, the social media giants of the Internet—Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube (one of the main subsidiaries Alphabet, which is the corporate parent of Google)—have been preparing their next big, heinous move: an attempt to ban right-wing voices outright from their platforms.

It started small, with random small-scale conservative accounts being banned from Twitter in small batches. Since December of 2017, a handful of fringe figures have also been banned from Twitter, including white nationalist Jared Taylor, alt-Right Internet personality Anthime Gionet (also known as “Baked Alaska”), and anti-Semitic congressional candidate Paul Nehlen. But this wasn’t the extent of it. While this period saw the banning of mostly fringe figures, a handful of larger voices were also no-platformed, including paleoconservative YouTuber James Allsup and longtime Trump advisor Roger Stone.

Then in late February, Twitter went all-out and banned more than 2,000 right-leaning accounts at once. These attacks were dismissed by the Left, who wrote off all of these accounts as either Russian bots or Nazis, without any evidence to support their claims.

Also keep in mind that prior to this, an alternative website to Twitter finally emerged and threatened its stranglehold on the “microblogging platform” portion of the Internet: Gab, a website dedicated to completely free expression in short posts. When Gab showed signs of growing prominence, all the major social media websites teamed up against it: Google, Apple, and Twitter all engaged in a well-coordinated “blitz-smear”, writing off Gab as a website full of “hate speech,” and with Apple and Google removing Gab from their respective app stores.

Similarly, another major potential alternative, Minds, which is more of a social networking site like Facebook, with some video-sharing capabilities similar to YouTube was denied a platform when Google banned it from their advertising platform, thus essentially removing the website from Google’s search results.

Facebook also has been engaged in similar actions. At first it was mere virtue-signaling over the alleged “Russia” conspiracy, with founder Mark Zuckerberg volunteering to cooperate with the investigation by handing over “evidence” of Russian-financed ads. But then, very recently, it was reported that Facebook made a serious change in its news feed algorithm, allegedly designed to emphasize posts from family and friends rather than businesses and media. This algorithm change resulted in a 45 percent drop in engagement with President Trump’s official Facebook page.

Then, as if that was not enough, the censoring spread to Google’s largest subsidiary website, YouTube. Just as Twitter completely dominates the micro-blogging portion of the Internet, YouTube has a complete monopoly on video-sharing websites, as it far outranks any potential competitors by lightyears.

YouTube recently was censoring and removing videos critical of David Hogg, the student-turned-gun-control-advocate in the wake of the Parkland shooting, even after one such video became the #1 trending video on the site for a brief period of time. To this end, YouTube has been zeroing in on the official channel for Alex Jones’ website InfoWars, which has more than 2.2 million subscribers and has amassed over 1.5 billion total video views. Emphasizing Jones’ past history of insane and baseless conspiracy theories, and his recent coverage of the major push for gun control after Parkland, YouTube has given his channel two “strikes,” putting him one more strike away from a permanent ban.

But just as with Twitter, this censoring is not limited to far-right and fringe figures. A couple days after InfoWars’ second strike, Google and YouTube essentially outright banned another prominent user: Carl Benjamin, also known as “Sargon of Akkad.” Benjamin, who has more than 760,000 subscribers and over 200 million video views, describes himself as a classical liberal, and is often called a “centrist” or a “skeptic.” Although his videos primarily focus on criticizing the far-left, he has also occasionally clashed with the alt-Right, including a recent five-hour live stream where he debated white nationalist Richard Spencer. On March 1, Benjamin used his Facebook page to post a screenshot of an email from Google, informing him that he has been locked out of his Google account, effectively banning him from YouTube even though his channel had zero strikes. He ended the caption with a blunt and ominous warning: “The purge is here.”

All of this is happening because the Left and the Right can agree on one thing about the 2016 presidential election: Social media played a massive, historic role in Donald Trump’s victory. There’s a reason Trump named his 2016 social media director, Brad Parscale, as his 2020 campaign manager.

Some have already taken legal action against the social media giants in question; Jared Taylor and Roger Stone both have sued Twitter over their respective bans, while the conservative publication Prager University (also known as “PragerU”) has sued Google and YouTube over the censoring of more than 40 of its videos.

What about starting up alternatives to YouTube, Facebook, Google, and Twitter? That would be a massive undertaking. Although Gab and Minds both paid a high price for taking that bold step, they still have achieved impressive results in their respective Alexa rankings: Minds is ranked in the top 13,000 websites in the world (despite a significant decline since July), and Gab has continued to rise, seeing a massive increase since August that has placed it among the top 14,000.

There is no question that the overwhelmingly left-leaning social media giants and their bosses would love to see Trump lose in 2020, and they will do whatever they can to make that happen. They will change entire website algorithms, ban thousands of users, and remove scores of viral videos to get their way. Now, more than ever, the fight over the Internet is crucial as 2020 slowly approaches, and indeed, it could set the tone for all future presidential elections.

America • Big Media • Democrats • First Amendment • Free Speech • Post • Silicon Valley • Technology • The Culture • The Left

The Great Information War is Here

A few days after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, many conservative commentators began to notice they were also being targeted. They were not being “flamed” by bloggers or online trolls but instead were simply erased from social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube by the Big Tech companies. Some of them were little known, while others were popular media figures such as Dennis Prager and Mike Cernovich.

In some cases, their videos were taken down on YouTube without warning; or their Gmail accounts were terminated without explanation; or their Twitter pages were shadowbanned. Much of the censored material had nothing to do with the Parkland tragedy. It was simply a moment for the Left to flex its muscles.

Sadly, this was merely the latest in a series of battles over the information that American citizens will ultimately be allowed to see. Let’s call it the Great Information War. It started a decade ago with the landmark Supreme Court decision in Citizens United vs. FEC, which allowed a film critical of Hillary Clinton to be aired just before an election. That ruling did not end the debate over free speech—it was, in fact, just the opening salvo. For a decade now, the Left has never stopped trying to overturn that ruling or mitigate its effects. In that sense, it’s a shadowy conflict because officially this country cannot allow any abridgment to free speech. The Left now believes that it can run over the First Amendment and limit free speech on social media platforms because the Internet is ruled by corporations and not the federal government.

Ironically, the Left used to rail at corporate ownership of the media, when the target was Salem Media, Fox News, or Citizens United. When corporate media is Google and Facebook, however, censorship is their friend.

Since 2008, too many people have been fired like James Damore, or seen their numbers drop on Facebook, or had their website downsized to be coincidental. The new reality that all Americans must face is that prominent members of the Democratic Party are openly collaborating with Big Tech to silence their fellow Americans and render the First Amendment inoperative.

Sadly, this is not just the tyrannical view of a few politicians. Various polls in the last few years have shown that a majority of Democrat-leaning voters are in favor of limiting free speech. Since leftists can’t get their way through the ballot box, they are more than happy to use social media companies to do their bidding. But that is exactly why we have a First Amendment—so that no political faction can silence the opposition. As even leftist intellectuals like Franklin Foer have argued recently, the time has come to “protect privacy as the government protects the environment” or there will be none left.

In fact, the time has come for these social media monopolies to be broken up or regulated like utilities. They simply cannot be allowed to continue in their current forms if the citizens of this country value their freedom of speech or their privacy or the power of their vote.

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“Run, Rabbit, Run!” Rabid Parents on the Prowl

These days, nothing is safe from an attack of the PC moralists. Not even classic children’s literature. In the latest edition of the PC “police blotter,” a film adaptation of the Beatrix Potter series, “Peter Rabbit,” has been attacked and now boycotted. The attack was started because of a scene in the film, which shows Peter Rabbit and his forest friends ganging up on Rabbit’s arch nemesis, Mr. McGregor, by throwing blackberries on him. Mr. McGregor is allergic to blackberries, he begins to choke, and has to inject himself with epinephrine.

The parents were shocked and scandalized by such a careless exhibition of “allergy bullying,” which, we are asked to believe, will scar their children for life. Food allergies are not a laughing matter (for these folks, what is?), they intone. And so, in the grand tradition that is the SJW tribes manner, they condemn the producers of the film for showing bad form and poor taste by including such a scene in the film.

As is to be expected in today’s weak-willed corporate atmosphere, Sony Pictures apologized, citing lack of sensitivity on their part for such a “serious issue.” Apologies like these usually ring hollow because they are. They mean nothing. Usually, they are mere statements issued either to protect the “offending party” legally or to make sure no money is lost on the project.

For some children, food allergies are, indeed, a serious health issue. They and their parents have to closely monitor the condition. No intelligent person disputes that, but the relative seriousness of actual food allergies is not the concern here. At the heart of this particular problem is the phenomenon we see all too often in our society—the culture of embracing victimhood for power.

This extreme form of narcissism threatens to destroy any semblance of imagination that is left in this world. It is a cruel ideology that lacks authentic emotion, and instead has replaced it with a primitive sensitivity to anything which is distinctive in character and experience.This particular form of victimhood is rooted in conspicuous parenting, which means that anyone who either is not a parent or who doesn’t have a child with some kind of disability must conform to their reality. The idea that society owes one deference is not only moralistic but also unrealistic and impractical.

These same types of parents also continuously dote on their children, expect them to be recognized as “special,” and of course recognized as fully equal in their abilities—even when they are manifestly lacking or mediocre.  And yet, this insistence that children should not engage in competition or that reality should in some other way be denied, reveals the hypocrisy of the entire phenomenon of victim culture. The whole thing is based on a twisted sense of competition. What we hear in the constant hue and cry reverberating from the trumpets of this endless parade of fake grievances is a competition for “America’s Top Victim.”      

The controversy over Peter Rabbit’s transgression has nothing to do with actual food allergies. At least, it’s not mainly about that.  Another aspect of our society’s glorification of victimhood status is an inability to recognize and understand conflict for what it is. This is not limited to moralistic parents. Rather, this is part of the globalist mind—the notion of embracing incompatibility, competition, and real-life conflict as a necessary part of the human experience is a foreign idea to too many people. And yet, it is part of human nature. So as much as the victim mongers try to eliminate it, these competitive aspects of human nature simply manifest themselves under the new and artificial rules they’ve established. Thus we get competition for victimhood status and among victim groups.

 Returning to “Peter Rabbit,” if we simply analyze the scene in question, we will see a very basic plot structure. In order for any story to move in a literary and imaginative fashion, particularly children’s stories, there has to be some kind of conflict followed inevitably by a resolution. In order to have a conflict, the story has to have a variety of characters—some are good, some bad, some antagonistic, some nice and friendly. These are human archetypes anthropomorphized in animal form and they have been a part of all great Western literature aimed at children as early as Aesop’s fables. To impose one’s own personal difficulties and challenges onto a children’s story is not only an attempt at censorship, it is a sure way of killing off imagination, so necessary for the proper growth of a child’s moral character.

Whether we like it or not, conflict is part of life. Some conflicts are bigger than others, but there will always be some resistance in every endeavor. The outcry over this film tells us more about the character and entitlement of the screamers than it tells us about the film. Without a doubt, every normal parent wants what’s best for their children. But expecting society to bend over backwards to accommodate one’s idiosyncrasies is not teaching children to be compassionate. It is teaching them to be bullies. Worse, it stultifies creative thinking and imagination. It feeds an already regrettable inclination toward narcissism in our society and teaches children, incorrectly, that conflict and misfortune (and by implication, evil) can be erased by sheer force of will. This is a dangerous lesson unworthy of citizens who value freedom.

Administrative State • America • Americanism • Congress • Deep State • Foreign Policy • Law and Order • Post • Silicon Valley • Technology • The Courts

Sovereignty is Critical, Even In a Cloud-Based World

President Trump stands for putting America first. This means putting U.S. interests and values ahead of the interests and values of foreigners. It means insisting on trade deals that are fair and that protect American jobs and technological preeminence. It means avoiding pointless foreign military adventures and spending our money on domestic priorities instead. It means requiring our allies to pay their way and shoulder their share of the burdens of maintaining global peace and security. It means responding vigorously and decisively to any and all challenges to our power and our way of life. Finally, it means upholding our territorial integrity, including our borders and our immigration laws.

Put simply, we want the world to respect America, including its territory, its trade interests, and its laws. But respect is reciprocal. If we insist that countries respect our sovereignty, we’d better be willing to respect theirs. Sovereignty, after all, is the idea that a nation-state (any nation-state) has the right, within its own territory, to make its own decisions. We cherish this right for ourselves. To be consistent, we cannot deny it to others.

Unfortunately, Americans have a long history of violating the sovereignty and territorial integrity of other countries. We have projected military power globally, especially with airstrikes and drone attacks, whenever our interests demanded it. We have lectured other nations on the form of government they should choose. We have used economic pressure, including sanctions, to punish those who run their internal affairs in a way that conflicts with our interests or values. We have even invaded and occupied other countries for a long list of reasons—but rarely, if ever, because our own national security required it.

In a hypothetical world where sovereignty is sacrosanct, the United States wouldn’t be nearly so aggressive. Rather, our government would acquire the habit of minding its own business and holding its tongue when we disagreed with other countries’ sovereign decisions—and in so doing we would be setting them a good example, and perhaps deterring them from seeking to interfere in our own internal affairs.

If only we had learned this lesson sooner. Would the Russians, for example, ever have tried to manipulate our election process, if we had not first stuck our noses into their flawed democracy, praising dissidents and criticizing the conduct of Russian elections, as indeed we do in so many parts of the world?

Is the Cloud All-American?
The United States could take any number of measures to rebuild trust and confidence in the principle of national sovereignty worldwide. This week, Congress will begin debating an important step forward with the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data (CLOUD) Act. The legislation, which has support from members of both parties, would create a framework for resolving disputes between nation-states over access to electronically stored information.

It may sound like an obscure issue, but it is integral to the future of sovereignty.

The legislation is a response, in part, to a case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court. The Justice Department has been seeking emails from Microsoft stored in its servers housed in Ireland. The U.S. government contends that if it wants data that could be accessed in the United States through the Internet, privacy laws or the sovereignty of the country where the information happens to reside shouldn’t be an issue. But those most certainly are crucial questions that the U.S. government cannot imperiously wave away.

The CLOUD Act would require the United States to make bilateral agreements with countries where the federal government seeks data. The idea would be to protect the privacy rights of individuals and companies as well as respect the sovereignty of the country involved. That would be vastly preferable, clearly, to the existing model that allows the U.S. government to reach blithely into the global computing cloud and snatch whatever information it desires.

Sovereignty’s Enemies
Data storage is but one domain in which sovereignty is germane—and in which, let’s face it, the United States has not taken sovereignty seriously. Who, then, are the enemies of sovereignty?

Sometimes, they are deep state bureaucrats who want no niceties of constitutionalism, rule of law, or international comity to interfere with their freedom of action. Sometimes, they are elite internationalists, who see national independence as an obstacle to their utopian striving for a global order. Sometimes, they are international capitalists, who prize uniformity and pliability in governments, rather than real self-government.

Whoever the enemies of sovereignty may be, they are, in the end, the enemies of the American people. As President Trump said in his State of the Union address, we desperately need “reciprocity” in our relations with other countries. We need them to respect our rights and independence, yes, but we need to respect theirs in return. Any other way risks our freedoms and our way of life, putting them in the hands of globalists and foreigners.

Putting America first means “we’ll do it our way, and you do it yours.” That was what we fought for in 1776, and we should not surrender an inch of those gains today or in the future.

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California’s Left-Wing Oligarchy Profits from “Scarcity”

There is no good reason for home prices and rent to be so much more expensive in California than they are in the rest of the country. The supposed shortages of land, energy, and water, as well as the poor condition of our roads and freeways, are all problems that might have been avoided by good government.

California’s punitively high cost of living is the result of conscious choices made by California’s state legislature, and the primary force behind these choices is not desire to protect the environment, it is greed. The people who profit by artificial, contrived scarcity, don’t want anything to change. They are the utility companies, the trial lawyers, the Silicon Valley “green” entrepreneurs, and billionaires who already own the artificially limited supplies of land and housing.

California receives between 150 and 300 million acre feet of precipitation per year. This, plus desalination and sewage reuse, along with reasonable conservation measures, guarantee ample supplies of water. There is no water shortage, only a shortage of creative policies to increase water supply.

California has 163,000 square miles of land, and less than one-fourth of that land is prime agricultural land. In fact, the absolute prime farmland is less than one-tenth of that amount. It is an absurd falsehood to state that new suburbs, even if they’re built to house another 10 million residents, are going to use up all of California’s open land. There is no shortage of land.

California sits on the Monterey shale formation, a massive onshore deposit of oil and gas that could yield tens of billions of barrels of oil. If California permitted safe extraction of in-state natural gas and built natural gas power plants to generate more electricity, their electricity would be cheap and affordable instead of the highest priced in America. There is no shortage of energy.

Public sector unions, the senior partners in California’s leftist coalition, love the doctrine of scarcity. When no tax revenue goes into infrastructure spending, there’s more money available to keep their pension systems solvent. Endlessly appreciating asset values thanks to artificial scarcity also helps the pension funds which invest in these assets. And when home prices are stratospheric, property tax revenue also helps pay their bloated compensation. Ironically, if these public servants made less, it would help free public investment in infrastructure to lower the cost-of-living so they wouldn’t have to make so much to live and work there.

California’s left-wing oligarchy distracts voters with unfounded panic over environmental concerns, as if Californians, of all people, cannot figure out how to safely build up water infrastructure, energy extraction, and new home construction. Public funds, and, more significantly, unleashed private funds and private investment via regulatory reform, could easily facilitate abundant supplies of water, energy, and housing.

The trump card used to stifle dissent, however, is the threat of “climate change,” wherein virtually any development, anywhere, is alleged to contribute to “greenhouse gas emissions.” California’s left-wing oligarchy has convinced the average Californian that anyone who even questions these theories is either morally bankrupt or mentally unhinged. All development projects must tip-toe around the beast of climate change, which in practical terms means only permitting ultra-high density housing and rationing of energy and water.

If that trump card isn’t sufficient, and it usually is, the other trump card wielded by California’s left-wing oligarchs is to completely change the subject, and convince millions of voters that the only thing really worth thinking about are issues of race and gender discrimination—concerns that have far less basis in fact than the reality of California being totally unaffordable. And they are laughing all the way to the bank.

feminists • First Amendment • Free Speech • Hollywood • Identity Politics • Post • Silicon Valley • The Culture • The Left • The Media

#MeToo is a Moral Panic—That the Left Deserves

In 2018, it already appears that the Left will have to reckon with a famous lesson from a book that most of them have likely never read. I refer to the famous line “Live by the sword, die by the sword” from the Gospel of Matthew. Or, to make it more current for the Left’s travails: Live by the sexism accusation, die by the sexism accusation.

At least, such would seem to be the lesson of the Left’s kowtowing to the #MeToo movement, which has transformed accusations of sexual harassment into the nation’s foremost political weapon. In fact, so successful has #MeToo been, that many are now beginning to fret that the movement has the makings of a moral panic, or a “warlock hunt.”

In most cases, I believe they are right. The vagueness of the idea of “sexual harassment,” combined with the movement’s “listen and believe” ethos, is a recipe for eventual ugliness and abuse of power by activists involved. I say this both as a man and as a longtime critic of sexual Puritanism in American culture, of which #MeToo is a prime example.

Silicon Valley is Decadent and Depraved
However, for now, there’s just one problem: You can’t argue with a warlock hunt until it accuses someone who isn’t a warlock. And based on what has come out about the cultural Left’s most precious industries as a result of #MeToo, I would say that the activists behind #MeToo are either spectacularly lucky, or possess the most efficient warlock hunting guide since the
“Malleus Maleficarum. Just look at what has emerged in the past year about Hollywood, the news media, Democratic politicians, and—recently—Silicon Valley.

Anyone in doubt about the Valley’s warped proclivities need look no further than the recent publication of an excerpt of the book “Brotopia” by Emily Chang. As reproduced at Vanity Fair, the excerpt details endless, orgiastic sex parties that take place within Silicon Valley: parties that are sold with the mantle of progressive-minded boundary pushing, but that actually involve large amounts of professional and personal coercion directed toward relatively powerless women by very powerful, and apparently very entitled men.

Not to mention, the lurid details of the parties themselves, which apparently involve ubiquitous drug use and bondage, and are kept secret to avoid compromising the reputations of their participants, are hardly flattering optics in any way. And no, before you ask, it’s not just random men you’ve never heard of participating in these affairs. Elon Musk himself apparently attended one and “left early.” Which is to say, he left at 1 a.m.

For me in particular, this story is both horrifying and disgusting. Years ago, I argued that the panic over sexuality among socially awkward but rich young men of the type the story describes had all the overtones of not just a moral panic, but one motivated by very old and very troubling prejudices. Now, I am not so sympathetic.

The fact is, in the past few years, it has become clear that the titans of Silicon Valley are not the put-upon, harmless nerds arguing for freedom in every area of expression and life that they portrayed themselves to be around 2013. Rather, they are opportunistic, predatory, and entitled would-be tyrants who believe it is their right to sanitize the Internet of anything that falls short of performative wokeness (or just hurts their business model) at the very same time they flagrantly and viciously flout their own professed morals in private.

And—and this is the worst part, which applies to more than the tech sector—by making such monstrous hypocrites of themselves, these Leftist-dominated industries have cast doubt on everyone who engages in the otherwise noble tasks they originally set for themselves.

Vindicating the Bullies
It is monstrously unjust and wrong that Hollywood titans like Harvey Weinstein (and
his brothel madame Oprah) tainted all artists with the brush of potential sexual predation, in this era when so much art seems to need to seek permission from the Puritans to exist. It is horribly irresponsible that a few partisan scumbags in the ranks of journalism have cast the pall of potential rape on everyone else who might seek to ask inconvenient questions and ferret out the truth.

And, by acting like the very sex-crazed and callous overgrown teenage boys that their critics at first only imagined them to be, the men exposed by Chang have vindicated the very worst of the feminist bullies who would resent their success and maleness regardless of guilt, while simultaneously empowering those feminist bullies to seize control of the lives and livelihoods of countless innocents.

So yes, #MeToo’s overly restrictive sexual ethics and its contempt for doubt and evidence are likely to sink it in the long run.

But for now, the people who it snares appear to be the very people who not only let those toxic ideas run wild, but shut down anyone who questioned them. They are hypocritical fiends, drunk on power, and just as they lived by the sword, they will die by the sword. With any luck, art, journalism, and technology will survive this corruption by so many who seek to hide their own flaws behind the karma offsets offered by the woke Puritans, and are now facing the fact that those Puritans will rightly expose them when they no longer need them.

Administrative State • Big Media • Economy • Free Speech • Infrastructure • Post • Silicon Valley • Technology

Against Net Neutrality

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Net neutrality has a nice ring to it. Who doesn’t want an even playing field? But the internet evolved rapidly in a deregulated environment. And most of its trappings—a lack of censorship, equal access, tremendous diversity of viewpoint, an alternative means of accessing media, and deep stores of information—evolved before net neutrality was a legal mandate.

After numerous attempts at congressional action failed to result in new laws, the Federal Communications Commission in 2015 adopted net neutrality rules in under the leadership of Obama appointee Tom Wheeler. Now, under chairman Ajit Pai—a Trump appointee—net neutrality is at risk, as its legal underpinnings have come under greater scrutiny.

But should the end of “net neutrality” worry anyone?

Who Subsidizes Whom?
It’s worth thinking for a moment about how the internet works, and from where the FCC gets its authority. The internet, as we know, is a network. It is minimally regulated, and those regulations chiefly involve the routing of data packets and the addressing of websites. The internet involves a combination of public infrastructure as well as private architecture. The latter includes broadband cables that lead to neighborhoods, apartment complexes, and individual homes.

Internet service providers (ISPs) are a critical part of the system. They’re the ones who are paid monthly by customers for internet access and include companies like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T. They provide the extensive and expensive “last mile” of architecture. This access is typically priced based on speed and often bundled with other offerings, such as landline telephone service, cable television, or, in the case of mobile phone providers, cellular phone service. Historically, ISPs offer something of a commodity product. And in many locales, particularly rural areas, ISP provision is not terribly competitive, growing as it does on the backbone of what were once government-protected monopolies in phone or cable television service.

As Netflix and other streaming applications have become more popular, more data-intensive use by customers taxed ISP networks that were designed for discrete and less-data-intensive website usage.

Net neutrality is particularity aimed at preventing any kind of discrimination among content, including “throttling” or price discrimination against data-hogs like Netflix. It would not allow, for example, a higher price to be charged for streaming movies versus a more modest use of data to check an email account. More important, it would not allow an ISP to privilege its own data streams; for example, if Amazon teamed with an ISP, they would not be allowed to do so in a bundled way that charged less for access by preferring Amazon’s own streaming movie and TV services. Such a joint venture couldn’t even do so in order to subsidize the extension of broadband access to rural areas currently without high-speed internet access.

Far from a sinister outlier, this kind of cross-subsidization is a familiar feature of economic life. We all know you’re not supposed to bring your own popcorn into a movie theater; the pricey concessions are part of how the theater makes a profit. In devices like Xbox or PlayStation, only compatible games work on the system. The platform provider is able to pay for its initial investment, in part, by the prospect of returns by these partially locked-in customers.

Improving Platforms
The prospect of channeling internet customer usage to favor a platform should not be worrisome, so long as there are a variety of choices on providers. These full platform modes of competition historically lead to competition at the platform level. The risk of monopoly abuse is countered because technology changes too quickly to allow any single platform to remain locked in for long.

Consider gaming systems. The move from Atari, Nintendo, and Play Station, and then to the Xbox and PS4 systems, have led to improved quality, lower prices, and wide choices for consumers. On the other hand, if Atari and its competitors were mandated to make their platforms accessible to all content providers at its height in the mid-1980s, the return on investment to create the competing platforms likely would never have occurred. But, hey, at least PacMan would be available for everybody on a “net neutral” basis.

That consequences of mandating access to ISPs as “common carriers” under Title II of the Communications Act is the chief reason conservatives should be wary of government-mandated “net neutrality.” Disruptive players are not typically neutral. They usually provide partial (and profitable) access in order to establish themselves. This model would be disallowed by “net neutrality.”

Remember the 1930s?
More ominously, numerous other regulations drafted in 1934, in the days of local telephone monopolies, could be applied to ISPs, such as limits on technology, price controls, and the like. Right now, the FCC’s “net neutrality” rules only are abstaining in this regard voluntarily, i.e., forbearance. But net neutrality rules would allow this regulatory overreach in principal.

By way of reminder, old-fashioned taxicabs are common carriers, but Uber started as a more limited access system. The unknown Uber of the future internet cannot come into existence under the net neutrality regime.

The old rules of common carriers typically involved a regulatory bargain. A limited number of cabs were permitted to operate—the limits vouchsafed by their pricey medallions—and in exchange, prices were set, and the providers were required to serve all comers on an equal basis. This limit on competition was more explicit in the case of expensive local networks with natural monopoly features, such as cable television, landline telephone, and the like.

But these natural monopolies, in spite of their monopoly protections, were often left behind by technological change. Landline use is down today due to the rise of cheap, mobile phone technology. Widespread high-speed internet access has cut into the typical “necessity” of cable television. And, as discussed above, the sharing economy has undermined the traditional market power of regulated industries like cabs, hotels, and others.

All of these disruptive technologies typically grew up not because of protective government regulation, but in spite of it. Indeed, and Uber is a perfect example, new services offered on a non-neutral basis often evolved to meet a need that was only partially and poorly met by a government regulated system.

Once upon a time, conservatives were wary of excessive regulation. They knew it meant increased government power, slowing down technological innovation, and an opportunity to substitute the goals of government regulators for the diverse desires of market participants. Attempts to corral technological growth in ways that place government regulators over ISPs are worrisome. We’ve seen other types of gatekeeping stifle technological change. One classic example is “catalytic converters,” where the technological solution was mandated by government regulators in the 1970s. Alternative, cheaper methods to accomplish the same goal have been unexplored during the interim. Similarly, in the age of “Ma Bell,” everything that hooked into the telephone network was controlled, including the telephone handsets themselves. Only when freed from regulation, did everything from answering machines to Mickey Mouse phones proliferate.

Dangers to Free Speech
The internet is empowering. But its empowering elements, not least anonymity and content neutrality, are far less endangered by the actions of ISPs than they are by the role of content aggregators like Facebook or Twitter and search engines like Google. Each of these important virtual gatekeepers has abandoned content neutrality to favor the distinct, socially liberal, but technocratic economic outlook of Silicon Valley.

In recent months, Twitter has silenced a significant number of conservative voices with their selective use of “verification” and outright bans of individuals. Facebook has gotten in bed with the Anti-Defamation League to root out “hate speech.” Web service hosts have kicked off controversial websites, almost always for right-wing views of one kind or another. And Google notoriously plays games with its search algorithm to channel viewer’s search results in a particular and ideologically-tinged direction. If these voices—some of whom are strong proponents of so-called net neutrality—continue in this direction, the prospect of neutral ISPs will matter little, as the virtual gatekeepers of the Internet will stifle free expression by leveraging their privileged, near-monopoly positions to do so.

The legacy internet—what Pai calls the “free internet”—would allow, for example, an ISP to charge Netflix or other heavy-users of web infrastructure greater access fees to reach their customers. These charges could subsidize the expansion of broadband to underserved areas. In addition, it would allow new, unseen ISPs, to offer subsidized services of their own.

Few would sign on for a highly restrictive ISP. But that doesn’t mean some might not be willing to pay less for a lower-speed offering when they currently don’t use streaming services. And fewer still would complain if that lower speed offering were bundled with limited, high-speed access to proprietary offerings made by an ISP. An overly restrictive ISP would likely face competition from alternatives, including pure wireless alternatives that can move into underserved areas with greater ease.

More internet investment and freer access to internet content is, on balance, a good thing. Like any technology, it can be used or abused. But in areas ranging from telephony to tractors, government mandates stifle innovation, favor connected companies, and allow the imposition of ideological goals. Net neutrality, far from making the internet freer, would make it more expensive, both in terms of cost and in the unknown “price” of future, ideologically driven government mandates.

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America • Center for American Greatness • China • Economy • Infrastructure • Post • Silicon Valley • taxes • Technology • Trade

Stop Griping About Musk, Start Spending on R&D Again

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Conservatives are angry about Elon Musk and all of the subsidies his companies receive from the federal government. Musk reaps hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, whether it’s lucrative contracts for SpaceX from NASA or energy rebates and other incentives to manufacture his Tesla electric sports cars. To many Americans on the right, it smacks of corporate welfare. And why in the world should the federal government subsidize a product—in this case, an electric car costing upwards of $135,000—that few people want and even fewer can afford?

But Musk’s critics miss the mark. The reason to back Musk and his ventures isn’t so one-percenters can get a discount on a new Model S. More important than the products he makes are the research and development he undertakes. Musk’s ideas will very likely result in everything from cheaper rockets and smaller, higher-capacity batteries.

Yes, of course, Musk stands to become even wealthier than he is today. But that kind of R&D is gold for the country that adopts harnesses the resulting technology first. Properly understood, R&D isn’t corporate welfare—it’s an investment in the future.

U.S. Lags in New Innovation
A generation ago, the United States led the world in semiconductor and fiber-optic technologies that fueled the information revolution. Much of the research that made those innovations possible was government-funded.

Today, China is in danger of overtaking the United States with advances in quantum computing, nuclear fusion, and renewable energy development. America is lagging in those and other fields of cutting-edge research, in no small part because we’ve let research and development slip away while our international competitors have stepped it up.

Without question, China, not the United States, is leading the way in technological innovation. A recent KPMG tech innovation survey of 841 international technology industry leaders found that most believe Shanghai, not Silicon Valley, would lead the world in innovation by 2020.

Meanwhile, China has surpassed the United States as the leader in global patent applications. Hong Kong has been ranked as the “most economically free” place in the world for the 22nd year in a row. The United States, on the other hand, is ranked 17th . . . and falling. Since the 1980s, despite billions of dollars and innumerable fads passing for “reform,” the U.S. education system largely has failed in terms of preparing Americans to compete in the global market. This, at a time when China is surging forward in producing the world’s next great innovation leaders.

And, it’s not just in the science and technology fields that Chinese students are besting their American counterparts. For instance, you’re looking for young people studying and performing the music of Bach and Beethoven, they are most likely in Shanghai, not San Francisco.

Historians once credited Islam with “preserving” part of Western civilization during the so-called “Dark Ages” in Europe. Similarly, China might one day become the place where American children from elite families go to learn and experience the treasures of the West, as Western Civilization declined into mediocrity—unless we start getting more competitive in the new global information and technology economy.

Certain Investment, Uncertain Outcome
As the United States has consistently underfunded R&D, our economy has suffered. The industries of the future all have some technological component that, if not developed fully, will hamstring the entire economy—and
weaken our national security.

Elon Musk and others like him recognize the value of developing and testing new technologies that many today consider unnecessary or haven’t bothered to consider.

The thing about innovation is that nothing is certain. Trying really does count. Ask yourself: how many people attempted to build a working flying machine before the Wright Brothers pulled it off? Did the Wright Brothers simply invent the technology from nothing, or did they build upon theories and concepts that others had tested?

Fact is, most great innovations are the result of years of trial and error. Innovation is hard to follow and, given the requirements in today’s technical world, it is an extremely onerous—and expensive—task. Yet, it is the sine qua non of a modern economy. We should be celebrating the few who have the gumption and willingness to try, not relishing in the defeats of those innovators.

Learn to Stop Worrying and Love (Some) Subsidies
Philosophically, I understand and share in a distaste for government subsidies to industry. But innovation is indispensable for remaining competitive in the world today. We should be helping innovators whenever possible, not griping about the subsidies.

Historically speaking, subsidizing successful innovations has proven to be the silver bullet for maintaining America’s overall dominance. The Chinese have no qualms about fully supporting their tech innovators—no matter how many failures those innovators may suffer before they create the next “killer app” (emphasis on “killer”).  

Here’s another fact: nonrenewable sources of energy, such as oil, natural gas, and coal, despite their popularity today, are declining in terms of availability. This explains why Russia and ExxonMobil are racing to the inhospitable Arctic in search of new oil and natural gas fields (and if they ever can tap them fully, where do they go when these new Arctic sources have been depleted in 30 or 40 years?). It’s also why Saudi Arabia is trying desperately to cut its reliance on the petro-economy by 2030. In 2015, Goldman Sachs reported that we reached peak coal, and thus far no data has arisen disproving this assessment. This also explains why China has been seriously squawking about reducing their own considerable reliance on coal.

All of this indicates that the world is going to need new sources of energy outside of fossil fuels. Neither wind nor solar are practical solutions (despite what several people, including Musk, argue). Nuclear fusion is likely going to be our future. Even if solar and wind do end up working as advertised, America will be increasingly dependent on things like electric cars. So, Tesla’s commitment to developing the electric car is a net benefit for society.

Otherwise, We Lose
Without greater direct investment in R&D, however, the only incentive the government can offer is in the form of subsidies and tax breaks. Whatever happens with the profitability of Tesla Motors, the research that Tesla has done will go a long way into making electric cars more efficient in the years ahead. As society moves closer toward fully embracing electric cars and renewable sources of energy, American firms might just have a decisive advantage, since groups like Tesla were experimenting with the technology before the Chinese ever took the product seriously.

Elon Musk isn’t our savior. And for the record, Musk this summer insisted the federal government stop subsidizing Tesla Motors. (Despite what many conservatives argue today, Tesla’s subsidies are nothing compared to the subsidies other industries receive.) Nevertheless, Musk and other innovators like him will be responsible for keeping America competitive—and dominant—in the global tech economy.

America doesn’t win just because we used to win in the past. Winning the future means making an investment today (and adapting to the new, competitive international environment, where state-owned enterprises are serious competitors for American firms). The country needs Elon Musk and the few others who are like him, and we need to help them remain competitive against cutthroat international opponents.

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America • Big Media • First Amendment • Free Speech • Post • Silicon Valley • Technology • The Culture • The Left • The Media

Tech Giants Are Biggest Threat Facing Trump Supporters

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Illustration by Ben Garrison

After tech giants testified before Congress on Tuesday, Americans should realize the richest and most powerful U.S. companies wield power and influence in a way not seen since the railroad tycoons and John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil. Their ability to affect society and crush any potential competitors is unchallenged.

Facebook, Amazon, Google, and Apple have a combined market value of $2.6 trillion, which is larger than the entire economy of the United Kingdom. Executives and employees of those companies are also very large donors to the Democrat Party and left-wing causes. They all have vocal Democrats at the helm.

Today’s tech companies are even more powerful than their historical monopoly predecessors because of one key component: data. The information derived from our data is now king in everything from selling a product to shaping the news to—as we are now seeing—electing a president.

The Left is well aware of this power. After losing to President Trump, they are determined to shut down conservatives and not lose again.  

Google just announced it would partner with the George Soros-backed Poynter Institute to provide “fact-checking” for its search functions. In other words, Google and Soros (by proxy) will determine what is factual and whether it will appear in search results. This suppression of views is occurring even as Google is being sued by conservative radio host Dennis Prager over censorship of his Prager University educational videos.

In other not-fake news:

And let’s not forget Twitter, which has now openly set itself up as the arbiter of acceptable speech. Twitter recently removed U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s video announcing her candidacy for the U.S. Senate because it expressed her pro-life position. After considerable backlash, Twitter relented and reinstated the Tennessee Republican’s ad.

These companies are so big and powerful that they have no fear of blatantly censoring conservative speech—they will even censor Blackburn, who chairs the communications and technology subcommittee in the House of Representatives! Just imagine how they can use opaque computer algorithms and terabytes of data to exploit the views of the average person.  

It is important to recognize that these companies can do this because they have special protections not afforded other industries. In 1996, to spur growth during the early years of the Internet, Congress passed Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act to protect “interactive computer services” from lawsuits based on what users say or do on their systems. Section 230 also immunizes Internet companies from liability for removing content they deem “objectionable,” even if it is constitutionally protected content.  

With the protections of Section 230 of the Community Decency Act, Silicon Valley executives can undermine the First Amendment rights of all Americans with no accountability.

Helping foster the growth and economic development of the Internet with particular—and extraordinary—legal protections might have made sense in the 1990s. In 2017, however, extraordinarily wealthy and powerful companies are abusing those particular provisions. Congress never intended to give a handful of Silicon Valley executives the keys to the First Amendment when it adopted Section 230.

Technology companies cannot simultaneously claim special legal status and pose as speech arbiters censoring conservative views. They are run by some of the most vocal left-wing executives that are actively pushing their ideology on the country. Allowing these same companies to silence opposing views is dangerous.

The most immediate legislative solution would be to remove the legal protections of Section 230 should an “interactive computer service” be found to practice viewpoint discrimination. Opening these companies to full legal liability for censorship is essential to ensure Americans keep free speech rights.

It is time for Congress to act to protect the First Amendment and the values fundamental to the republic.

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America • China • Defense of the West • Economy • Education • Post • Silicon Valley • Technology • The Culture

America Must Innovate or Die

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America is in decline. Since the end of the Cold War—thanks to the fecklessness of our political and business leaders—every single competitive advantage that the United States enjoyed has been methodically eroded by our competitors.

In the economic realm, America’s elite convinced themselves it would be acceptable essentially to redistribute wealth and middle class jobs to China and India. They promised us that in exchange for shedding antedated “old economy” jobs, we would be getting high-paying, “knowledge economy” jobs in return.  Anyone living in the United States outside of the wealthy coastal enclaves knows this was a false promise.

Now even those enclaves are at risk. According to latest global tech innovation survey from the global consulting firm KPMG, China is “now closing the gap with the United States in leading the development of disruptive technology breakthroughs.” The global consulting firm interviewed 841 of the world’s leading tech executives, who also believe that Shanghai is the “city that will rival San Francisco, along with California’s Silicon Valley, as the world’s leading innovation hub over the next four years.”

The reason?

As the United States has embraced fads and adopted mediocre academic standards across the board, the Chinese have forced their people to study the technical and math-related fields that are vital for dominating the global knowledge economy.

China has also fed their young people a hefty helping of  “wolf’s milk”—that is, nationalism and the politics of historical grievance against the West. This, in turn, has created a fiery patriotism that now drives the Chinese people to innovate. In the United States, meanwhile, our kids are taught stifling lessons in political correctness and moral relativism. Patriotism, meanwhile, is out of fashion among the elites in education, entertainment, and industry. Is anyone surprised that KPMG’s survey indicates that China is taking the lead in technological innovation?

At the same time, America’s once-robust investment into research and development has declined precipitously just as China’s investments into new technologies has exploded.

This has profound economic and national security implications for the United States.

We soothed ourselves at the start of the millennium that our innovators were and always would be the greatest in the world. Our technological superiority was backed by overwhelming military dominance. For a period of time, America enjoyed a “unipolar moment.” We were Colossus bestriding the world. No one dared challenge us.

But by 2003, those days were numbered. Not only had America made itself vulnerable to China’s unremitting economic warfare, but the U.S. had been left to bleed in the Middle East. With the 2008 Great Recession, the West’s once-unquestionable economic dominance became highly questionable, empowering the East. Now, all of the trends are working against the West and in favor of the East, with China leading the way.

In 2008, China invested heavily in the Quantum Internet. This is an instantaneous, un-hackable, truly disruptive communications system. It relies on string theory to manipulate particles at the subatomic level across vast distances. The Chinese use this as a means of transmitting large volumes of virtually un-hackable data at instantaneous speeds. From this discovery, also, the Chinese have created an entire ecosystem of quantum-based computer technologies, such as the quantum radar, which can detect any American stealth plane from afar (such as the hugely expensive F-35 Joint Strike Fighter). Most experts in the West argued that the quantum internet could not work. The Chinese poured billions into the project anyway.

Last month, China’s Micius Quantum Internet Satellite passed its first live test. It works. The experts were wrong—again. Western companies are lagging behind, too skittish to make the large upfront investments into the technology.

In today’s world, you innovate or die. It would seem many Western corporations have chosen death. After the successful proof of concept, China doubled its investment and plans to streamline the new technology and mass produce it.

Keep in mind that since the telecommunications revolution in the 1940s, the United States has enjoyed a silent lead over all other countries in the national security realm. The National Security Agency, which is America’s most technologically advanced spy agency, has had unprecedented levels of access to information since its inception in 1952. Signals intelligence has proven decisive over the years. In fact, we are so good at acquiring electronic intelligence that we often don’t have enough analysts to process all the data!

It’s a commonplace that the internet has revolutionized the world. But Americans may not appreciate the extent to which the United States was responsible for making that revolution happen. Thanks to this, American intelligence agencies had an historic strategic advantage over other states.

Imagine the implications behind China mastering and disseminating this “killer app” to a world grown weary of U.S. dominance. This yet another sign of America’s decline. Our military is overstretched and underprepared; our economy is plodding along at 2.6 percent growth rates; and our political system is completely broken.

Innovate or die is no longer just a slogan reserved for Silicon Valley—it applies to us all. Right now, America is choosing death.

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Administrative State • America • Congress • Conservatives • Donald Trump • Economy • Libertarians • Silicon Valley • taxes • Technology • The Resistance (Snicker)

Let’s Bust Some 21st Century Trusts

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During the Gilded Age, so-called “captains of industry” such as Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, and J.P. Morgan led an industrial revolution that transformed the nation with technological innovation, creating for Americans unparalleled improvements in the average standard of living and amassing great personal fortunes in the process. The spectacular success—and enormous power—of these newly minted tycoons earned them the sobriquet “Robber Baron,” even as their ruthless business tactics, such as Rockefeller’s cartelization of the oil industry through trusts, fostered new laws to regulate anti-competitive business practices, notably the 1890 Sherman Act. These measures are called “antitrust” laws, an often-forgotten tribute to the dynastic Standard Oil Trust, which at its peak controlled the refining of 90 to 95 percent of all oil produced in the United States.

The Progressive Era was devoted in significant part to curbing the predatory conduct exhibited by large corporations, especially those with monopoly power, such as railroads. Railroad mogul William H. Vanderbilt—at the time the richest man on earth—typified the arrogance of some industrialists when he reportedly exclaimed, in 1882, “The public be damned.” Historians sometimes depict the Robber Barons as villains, but this ignores the tremendous contributions these entrepreneurs made to the creation of the world we take for granted in the 20th century: urban living with nationwide transportation and communication, skyscrapers, electricity, mass-produced goods, recorded music, the automobile, and the consumer economy.

Notwithstanding the considerable benefits of “Big Business,” there were also abuses, including price-fixing, restraint of trade, and political corruption. Laissez-faire economic theorists and devotees of classical liberalism tend to minimize these and the likelihood that businesses, when left to their own devices, will abuse their economic power; reasoning that free market dynamics—price competition and market entry—will suffice to constrain predatory conduct.

One cannot fairly review the history of the late 19th century, however, without acknowledging the truth of Lord Acton’s dictum: “All power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Among free market absolutists, this aphorism is generally applied only to political power, but the principle—based as it is upon human nature, and not merely the workings of politics—applies to all human activity. Concentrations of economic power also qualify, and whether due to artificial or “natural” barriers to entry, monopolies can and do exist.

Antitrust analysis associated with the University of Chicago (the “Chicago School” developed by Aaron Director, Robert Bork, and Richard Posner, among others) tends to be unconcerned with companies’ unilateral action and is skeptical of the existence of barriers to entry, believing that market dominance is ultimately an indication of economic efficiency. If the benchmark for government intervention is maximizing consumer welfare, the Chicago School asserted, then the only conduct deserving antitrust scrutiny is inter-firm (or “horizontal”) collusion.

I don’t wish to challenge the premises of the Chicago School’s antitrust theory (although others have), but the categorical assumptions that informed its analysis may need to be re-examined in light of the markedly different conditions evident in certain industries dominated—not just domestically, but globally—by a single firm.

Consider Silicon Valley, the cradle of the so-called “gig economy.”

The New Robber Barons
In terms of stock market value, the top five companies worldwide are the technology giants Apple, Alphabet (Google’s corporate parent), Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon. In the technology industry, these firms—although hardly interchangeable—are the new Robber Barons.

Apple’s famously based its business model on a “closed platform,” compelling users to accede to its vertical integration of software, parts, apps, and iTunes inventory. Amazon, with sales exceeding its 12 largest online competitors combined, captures 46 percent of all online shopping.  Aggressive pricing—to the extent of consistently sacrificing profitability—and sharp competitive practices such as below-cost pricing of ebooks to promote its Kindle sales have enabled Amazon to swamp its competitors in an expanding array of product lines.

Regardless of profitability, investors value these firms primarily because of their sheer scale—market dominance within the relevant segments. Uber and Tesla, each with a market capitalization exceeding General Motors, have never earned even a single penny of profit, defying traditional models of valuation. Investors presumably anticipate that monopoly (or near-monopoly) status will eventually yield monopoly profits.

And how have the new Robber Barons been behaving with their sky-high market valuations, overwhelming market shares, and hoards of cash? In a word, poorly. If actions were words, they would be parroting Vanderbilt’s infamous declaration.

Amid great controversy, Google summarily fired an engineer, James Damore, for thoughtfully questioning the assumptions of the company’s diversity policies. More recently, Google appeared to direct the dismissal of a scholar from the New America Foundation, a progressive Washington think tank backed by Google, for praising fines levied against the company by European regulators for antitrust violations. These are the actions of an intolerant bully.

In our digital world, the Internet and websites have become the indispensable medium for both commerce and political expression, serving as the modern equivalent of the printing press, Yellow Pages, mail delivery, checking account, and public library—combined. Companies servicing the Internet—and especially search engines—are de facto public utilities, with an obligation to operate fairly, responsibly, and without viewpoint discrimination. Unfortunately, the new Robber Barons have fallen appallingly short of this ideal.

For example, social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have been accused of censoring users’ posts; Google (through its ad placement service) has bullied conservative websites to alter their content or face financial retribution; online payment facilitator PayPal and domain administrator GoDaddy have banished or withdrawn funding services for websites whose content they disapprove of; and Google has reportedly skewed search results to omit references objectionable to certain Islamic organizations.

Most ominously of all, as reported by Paula Bolyard in PJ Media, Google is working with a coalition of liberal groups—including the discredited Southern Poverty Law Center—to monitor conservative websites for “hate events.” In reality, they’re policing expression of views they find disagreeable, such as opposition to the LGBT agenda, criticism of radical Islam, or support for more stringent immigration controls. The goal is to blacklist “offensive” sites, smear them as “hate groups,” and ultimately to deny them access to digital advertisers, online donations, domain registrars, or similar tech support necessary for sites to function. In other words, Google is conspiring with Left-wing activists to suppress their political opponents.  

‘Regulate Them Into Submission’
With the unprecedented ability to control the content and operation of websites, a handful of tech companies wield greater power than governments do, with little transparency and no accountability. This astonishing concentration of power should concern all citizens, regardless of political persuasion. Yet, with a few exceptions, liberals have been strangely quiet. The reason is obvious: The Left has given the new Robber Barons a pass, because they share a Progressive political agenda, as reflected by Apple’s $1 million donation to the SPLC, and the hyper-partisan direction of the Washington Post since its purchase by Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos.

Should conservatives, blinded by their allegiance to the free market, condone this partisan perfidy? Increasingly, commentators on the Right recommend treating Silicon Valley behemoths as the monopolies they are and, in Kurt Schlichter’s words, either break them up or “regulate them into submission.” President Theodore Roosevelt earned the nickname “trustbuster” for breaking up James J. Hill’s and J. P. Morgan’s notorious railroad monopoly, the Northern Securities Company. In the same vein, Attorney General Jeff Sessions should investigate the nefarious conduct of the new Robber Barons.

Silicon Valley’s leftist business leaders have a peculiar notion of “creative destruction”; rather than rendering prior paradigms obsolete, they apparently seek to eliminate free speech instead.

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America • Conservatives • Cultural Marxism • First Amendment • Free Speech • political philosophy • Silicon Valley • Technology • The Culture • The Left • The Media • The Resistance (Snicker)

What the #GoogleMemo Reveals About the Left

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Much digital ink has been spilled over the recent #GoogleMemo incident: why former Google employee James Damore should have been fired, why he shouldn’t have been fired, what this says about political correctness, what this says about conservatives’ hypocrisy and fitness for the tech industry, etc.

But precious little has been said about what the incident reveals about the core nature of the Left, and why it’s so urgent for us to grapple with and come to an understanding of the political implications of that nature.

For this, we turn, perhaps, to an unlikely source: Pope Benedict XVI’s 2005 encyclical Deus caritas est, in which he discusses the pernicious “philosoph[ies] of progress.” (In his view, Marxism is the most radical of these.)

Such ideologies have as their central tenet the necessity of sacrificing people “to the moloch of the future—a future whose effective realization is at best doubtful.”

The former pope’s rejoinder? “One does not make the world more human by refusing to act humanely here and now.”

This, I think, captures a (perhaps the) fatal flaw of Progressivism: its utopianism—which by its nature is insatiable in its chosen ends and indiscriminate in its choice of means in pursuit of those lofty (and ultimately unattainable) ends.

Progressives, particularly those of the “social justice” variety, insist that we must take drastic actions today to overturn existing power dynamics. And such actions are often pursued—perhaps must be pursued—contra both established, effective procedures (like due process) and existing, longstanding concepts (like the rights to free speech and association and religious liberty).

James Damore’s fate is exactly of a piece with this view. Differences between the sexes—differences obvious to every normal person up until yesterday (still blindingly obvious, I think, but people are terrified to say so)—are denied, and those who publicly acknowledge them as non-trivial, as Damore did, are made into pariahs, sacrificed as necessary offerings on the Altar of Androgyny.

Damore’s right to free expression, something that Google encourages, must be denied so that the end goal—a workplace free of “bias” (capaciously defined, of course, and always superior as a good to older rights like free speech)—can be attained.

Some additional examples will be helpful in revealing the subversive and revolutionary aspirations of the Progressive Left’s “social justice” worldview:

  • The unborn must be sacrificed for the comfort of born people in general and the autonomous self-determination, self-actualization, and economic liberty of women in particular.
  • To prove a theory about racist policing, hundreds of innocent people in Chicago are annually sacrificed to rampant, anarchic gang violence.
  • People in the here and now see their job and college admission prospects diminished drastically or derailed altogether to satisfy the god of “diversity.”
  • Schoolchildren post-Brown v. Board (1954) were often bused more than an hour away from their homes—one way!—to satisfy a theory about racial parity in public schools.
  • Actual children are denied the right to be raised by their biological parents—who, by virtue of their differences as male and female, bring complementary and necessary gifts to child-rearing—to satisfy both a notion of “marriage” which sprang into the public’s consciousness only a couple decades ago and the destructive dictates of expressive individualism, backed by the inane constitutional theory of “substantive due process.”
  • Families are torn asunder by the lie of divorce, namely that children in a split home with less conflict will be better off than they would be in a home where there is conflict (and the parents, via social pressure, try to work out their problems to keep the family intact).
  • Society now teaches that there is nothing at all meaningful about our embodiedness and that we can easily change who and what we fundamentally are simply because we will it. (This is the self-creation fantasy at the heart of the transgender ideology and the source of so much pain.)
  • To maintain the anthropological façade that all religions and peoples are the same—that is, equally benign—the source and reason for most of the terrorism that the West suffers must be denied.
  • White men are castigated in precisely the same type of language with which they once castigated African Americans. (But it’s not at all racist to do this; in fact, it’s a great good because it’s done in the name of “equality.”)

And so on.

The Left’s modus operandi is always to strive for the perfect world, a world free of oppression and want—the liberated world—regardless of who must be crushed on the journey.

No number of slaughtered babies in the womb or racial minorities in cities; no number of shattered dreams or upended private lives; no number of isolated, confused people milling about society in a postmodern fog, unsure of their purpose and despairing as a result, is ever too many, so long as the goals are “inclusion,” “tolerance,” “equity,” “diversity”: Utopia.

This is why I am not a man of the Left. It is also why we should strenuously resist the Left’s ambitions: because real people, people we share a country and a world with, are discarded without even a second thought for a future that is hard pressed to justify itself in the abstract—and is even more pernicious as it sits perched atop the ruined existence of people in the here and now.

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America • Big Media • Cultural Marxism • feminists • First Amendment • Free Speech • Silicon Valley • Technology • The Culture • The Left • The Media • The Resistance (Snicker)

Of Memos and Pitchforks

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James Damore had to be fired. There was no way around it. He spoke out, eloquently, against orthodoxy and if history is any guide, he’ll be lucky to escape with merely a loss of employment. I’m less disconsolate about his ouster—as that was a foregone conclusion—as I am troubled by the cultural tempest surrounding it and what it portends for the future of substantive discussion of the important issues that affect all our lives.

From the moment the internal memo leaked it was obvious that the “anonymous Google employee” would be unmasked and fired. There was no way an internal Google memo could stay anonymous—we all knew that. The question became: for how long? Not quite two days later when Damore was fired with no possibility of appealing the decision, we got our answer. Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai fired him by noting that what Damore did was “Not OK.” Maybe Pichai could have thrown in a “double plus ungood” for good measure.

As people began taking sides on the question—which is to say, immediately—we all knew and accepted that precious few would actually read his full thoughts before passing judgment on whether or not he deserves to share oxygen with the rest of us. Yet we argued as if we all knew what was in the memo. Facebook groups formed, petitions were signed, Twitter campaigns launched and barbs were traded by people, mostly ignorant of anything but a biased Cliff’s Notes version, provided by CNN, of the memo’s content.

News media, always eager for a narrative, was all too happy to paint Damore as a frothing red-piller. Social media denizens eagerly seeking to exorcise demons whose names all end in -ism pounced. Defense of Damore by all but the most brave was, and will be, tepid at best; Always with the qualification “While I don’t agree with what he said . . . ” All the while, attacks will be vicious and won’t subside until his livelihood, online life, and real life are effectively destroyed. His friends will be pressured to disavow him and even his family’s livelihood and lives will be threatened. Especially if he persists.

This is the world our culture has wrought. A world where expressing an opinion that is debate-worthy can threaten to ruin a person’s life.

Zealots Feel Their Oats
The ultimate victims in this world are expression, dialogue, and, ultimately, everyone’s freedom—as people become increasingly guarded about revealing their most cherished and personal beliefs in fear that mere deviation from the
papier-mâché socio-political orthodoxies of the day will cause tremendous disruptions to their lives.

An idea purge has, no doubt, commenced at Google. A company-wide struggle session addressing the issue had to be cancelled for fear of leaks and alleged harassment. And here I thought democracy dies in darkness. It goes without saying that few Googlers will dare agree publicly with the memo. But there will also be a more insidious cultural purge, the kind most often seen after most revolutions. The company and zealots within it will place social pressure on everyone to vocally disagree with the memo—the louder the better—and those who disagree too meekly will immediately become suspect. Not wanting to betray their true thoughts and lose their livelihoods, anyone who actually agrees with the memo as well anyone who might not think its so bad will need to denounce it more loudly—a virtue signalling vilification. The effect of this will be a corporate tutti crescendo in opposition to anything and anyone associated with the memo.

This will most likely spill over to other Silicon Valley companies where interviewers will have an intellectual litmus test and ideological touchstone to use in their hiring practices. Before too long, what we’ve seen on college campuses—where a shrill minority has wrested control of all speech; where students and professors alike are fearful of any expression, agreements and disagreements alike, that might run afoul of the increasingly difficult to appease pedantic restrictions of prevailing social justice orthodoxy—will become fully ensconced in the technology world, and, if we’re not careful, society at large.

This trend also stifles the possibility for substantive debate, as counterbalance and divergent ideas are painted not just as offensive and worthy of contempt but beneath dialogue—a very salient point which, of course, Damore made in his missive. Babies fly out the window with the bathwater. Ideas that would genuinely challenge  established biases and dogma are, themselves, viewed as dangerous fruit warranting expulsion. Get thee behind me Satan, indeed.

Banish the Urge to Banish
It’s an instinct is as old as mankind. In its most egregious forms this primitive impulse is responsible for purges, executions, expulsions, struggle sessions, political scares and witch hunts. Ironically, it is precisely this desire; to remove what is seen as a metaphysical and philosophical contagion that might turn otherwise good people into irrational beings incapable of thought and reason that has, itself, driven otherwise good people to do horrible, often unspeakable, things.

James Damore’s expulsion and the controversy surrounding his memo were just the tip of this iceberg as similar controversies exist in all walks of our lives. The memo’s content was worthy of debate and made in good faith by someone with no history, at least not as of this writing, of any demonic -isms. The fact that it engendered such controversy brings to light serious issues regarding our ability, as a culture, to tackle difficult intellectual, scientific, and social issues honestly without resorting to a villagers-with-pitchforks hermeneutic.

The uncomfortable truth regarding the current state of our conversations about difficult social issues is that we’re all too willing to deify or demonize good-faith positions; making any compromises impossible—as those would be tantamount to full capitulation to sin. Banishment has replaced debate as we eagerly paint good faith disagreement with the brush of evil and malice. Sure, there are evil people in the world, but chances are, your friends and co-workers, even those that disagree with you the most on fundamental but dicey issues, aren’t them.

If we continue to split ourselves into echo chambers that broach no dissent and divide the world into children of light combatting the forces of darkness, we shouldn’t be too surprised when we all wake up one day in a world none of us wanted, but were all too instrumental in bringing about.

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America • American Conservatism • Big Media • Conservatives • Cultural Marxism • feminists • First Amendment • Free Speech • Identity Politics • Silicon Valley • Technology • The Culture • The Left • The Media • The Resistance (Snicker)

Google Memo Wasn’t ‘Anti-Diversity’—It Was for the Wrong Kind

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Let’s discuss the Google memo heard ’round the world. (Because Silicon Valley’s fetid, politically correct group think is slightly less depressing than the ratcheting tensions with North Korea.)

The 10-page “anti-diversity screed” (as tech site Gizmodo called it) was neither. Nor was it a “rant” or a “jeremiad.”

If you read it—and it’s clear from the coverage that even the journalists that covered the document’s existence viewed it through blood-red tinted lenses—you would find a fairly pedantic, sometimes poorly worded, but altogether respectful argument for a kind of intellectual diversity.

And we can’t have that.

Any conservative who read James Damore’s memo recognized at once that he holds fairly conventional liberal views of the world. But even conventional liberal viewpoints are no longer safe.

Read the rest at the Sacramento Bee.

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Cultural Marxism • Economy • Infrastructure • Silicon Valley • The Culture • The Left

#Googlegate: The Latest Social Justice Outrage in Tech

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A new martyr for free speech has been born, and his name is James Damore. Damore’s offense is that recently he authored an internal memo at his workplace—Google—that appears, more or less, to have triggered the entire staff. His argument, essentially, is there might be more to “gender gaps” than pure sexist oppression, and he thinks it might be worthwhile to treat differences of opinion as a form of diversity worth protecting.

The horror! The horror! Google officials initially weighed in to say, while they obviously are in favor of the expression of “alternate viewpoints,” such expression “needs to work alongside the principles of equal employment found in our Code of Conduct, policies, and anti-discrimination laws.

A few short days later, that bit of principle was flushed down the toilet, and Damore was fired, with no less an entity than Google’s CEO condemning his memo for “advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.”

This decision appears to have come after an outcry led by Google’s top SJWs: a freakout we can now observe thanks to leaked excerpts from internal discussions by Google employees critical of the memo, including figures such as Site Reliability Manager Paul Cowan, Software Engineer Sitaram Iyer, Systems Engineering Manager Colm Buckley, and even Engineering Director Dave O’Connor. And as far as the content of this backlash, perhaps the most representative quote comes from Buckley, who writes, “You know, there are certain ‘alternative views, including different political views’ which I do not want people to feel safe to share here. My tolerance ends at my friends’ terror.[…] Yes, this is ‘silencing.’ I intend to silence these views; they are violently offensive.” (emphasis Buckley’s) O’Connor concurs, writing, “These are s—ty opinions. I say this with all my hats on; ally, director, manager, human. They are the antithesis of what we’re trying to do at Google; they are intellectually lazy, biased, and unkind. They have no place here.”

And that’s just within the company. The response from Leftists on the outside has been even more extreme. Take, for example, this reaction from Yonatan Zunger, a former senior engineer at Google, who accused the author of the piece of “creating a hostile work environment,” and of holding views that “are fundamentally corrosive to any organization they show up in,” and which openly fantasizes at the end about being able to fire the (thus far) anonymous author. Or, consider the infuriated response by former Gawker satellite Gizmodo, which calls the document a “screed” which “argues that women are underrepresented in tech not because they face bias and discrimination in the workplace, but because of inherent psychological differences between men and women.” Or, look at any one of thousands of Tweets accusing the author of the piece of being the beneficiary of “white privilege,” or of being a “boy” rather than a man, or of writing “entry-level Reddit MRA board intellectually vapid bulls—t.”

Of these, the Gizmodo attack is probably the most hilarious for a very simple reason: right after smearing the document, it prints it in full. I suppose Gizmodo expects its readers to be too dumb to actually read the thing and check whether the descriptions flying about it are accurate.

Spoiler alert: they are not. For example, here’s what the document says about innate gender differences (emphasis mine).

The distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership.

Got that? “May explain.” In other words, the document simply calls for considering the possibility as a check against making faulty assumptions. In fact, later on, Damore says this is a major problem with gender roles:

Feminism has made great progress in freeing women from the female gender role, but men are still very much tied to the male gender role. If we, as a society, allow men to be more “feminine,” then the gender gap will shrink, although probably because men will leave tech and leadership for traditionally feminine roles.

And even later, this:

I’m also not saying that we should restrict people to certain gender roles; I’m advocating for quite the opposite: treat people as individuals, not as just another member of their group (tribalism).

So let’s review. Damore argued that while biology may play a role in why women don’t seek certain positions, it is also true that sexist gender assumptions exist and, moreover, go both ways, since men are disallowed from being overly “feminine.” Furthermore, he cautions against using any of this as a metric to judge individuals, because that might lead to tribalism and bias.

And apparently, in the eyes of Google employees, both former and current, this was a reactionary document that created an irrevocably hostile work environment and violated Google’s in-house policies simply by existing. This is a document that is supposed to cause “terror” to women and minorities, and which deserves to be suppressed for being “violently offensive.” And, of course, the document is a firing offense. The lesson is obvious: this kind of public shaming and intimidation is what Google does to employees of their own company not for being extreme conservatives (the document openly applauds the fact that scientists don’t lean Right), but for being centrist individualists. That is how far Left the corporate culture at Google is.

The fact is that every day, Google looks more and more determined to subjugate all of us under the same rules used by its HR department and backbiting social justice-obsessed corporate culture. 

This is not just about one company’s insanity. Every conservative, libertarian, centrist, or even moderately liberal consumer should read this with the implicit understanding that this kind of Maoist attitude will be brought to bear on them. If expressing these views is enough to get you treated as a pariah at Google, imagine what ideas further to the Right will be treated like by people designing Google’s search algorithms. Or by their increasingly censorship-happy YouTube team. Unfortunately, we don’t have to ask. The answer also arrived last week, in the form of Google’s brief ban of Christian psychologist Jordan Peterson not only from YouTube, but from his own gmail account.  Public outcry on behalf of Peterson’s many fans saved him, but imagine what will happen to less famous people who have the audacity to share similar opinions. The fact is that every day, Google looks more and more determined to subjugate all of us under the same rules used by its HR department and backbiting social justice-obsessed corporate culture. So much for the company that once fought Chinese censorship of the internet: apparently the only problem there was that Google wasn’t making the rules about what to censor.

So in a sense, Mr. O’Connor is correct: these opinions are “the antithesis of what we’re trying to do at Google.” And what people like Mr. O’Connor are trying to do, is the very thing consumers must stop.

Fortunately, there are mechanisms by which it can be stopped. A similar airing of dirty laundry led to #Gamergate, arguably the most successful consumer revolt in recent memory. Something similar is already beginning to come down the pike toward Google, and it will likely only grow stronger . Speaking for myself, I can suggest a name for this new movement: #Googlegate.

 

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Administrative State • America • Big Media • Conservatives • Cultural Marxism • Economy • First Amendment • Free Speech • Online Censorship • Silicon Valley • Technology • The Culture • The Media

Solving Google’s Censorship Problem Will Be a Trial

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Someone must have been telling lies about Jordan Peterson, he knew he had done nothing wrong but, one morning, he was locked out of his Google accounts. He’d had those accounts for 15 years, which included a popular YouTube channel where he posted hundreds of videos and attracted more than 367,000 subscribers. But now he couldn’t access anything.    

For hours, the University of Toronto psychologist tried in vain to have his accounts reinstated. “After review, your account is not eligible to be reinstated due to a violation of our terms of service,” an email from Google stated unhelpfully. He had violated some principle—but what? “Please tell me what principle I have violated,” Peterson entreated as he tried to sort out the situation. “I have not violated any terms that I am aware of and have not misused my account.”

Peterson’s request was met with a series of cryptic digital messages that essentially said the matter was being handled and there was nothing more that he could do. After some time—with no specific reasons given—his accounts were reinstated as abruptly and mysteriously as they had been revoked.

Many of Peterson’s supporters, myself included, instinctively cried “censorship!” While it remains possible that Hanlon’s Razor could be applied in this case and that we shouldn’t ascribe malice to a situation that could be explained away by either user error or incompetence, the timing makes the whole situation suspicious.

Just the day before, Google had announced with great fanfare that it would crack down on terrorist activity on its networks by implementing more algorithmic, user- and committee-based-matrices to flag objectionable videos. Google also threw in—as if it were related—that it would also take a harder stance on speech and content that violates none of its guidelines, but is, nonetheless, somehow flagged by users and special interest groups as incendiary:

We’ll soon be applying tougher treatment to videos that aren’t illegal but have been flagged by users as potential violations of our policies on hate speech and violent extremism. If we find that these videos don’t violate our policies but contain controversial religious or supremacist content, they will be placed in a limited state. The videos will remain on YouTube behind an interstitial, won’t be recommended, won’t be monetized, and won’t have key features including comments, suggested videos, and likes…” (Emphasis added.)

Of course, they’d been doing that for a while. Late last year, the Prager University YouTube channel—an extremely successful channel with more than 130 million views, founded by conservative radio talk show host Dennis Prager to provide informational videos about American values—had some of its videos placed behind an “age appropriate” wall, limiting their reach and requiring a click-thru. Videos that were initially flagged as inappropriate included such NC-17 material as “Israel’s Legal Founding,” “Did Bush Lie About Iraq?”, “What ISIS Wants,” and “Why Did America Fight the Korean War.” Prager University tried working quietly behind the scenes with Google before going public with its frustrations. “In response to an official complaint . . . Google specialists defended their restriction of our videos, and said, ‘We don’t censor anyone,’ although they do ‘take into consideration what the intent of the video is’ and ‘what the focus of the video is.’”

Google Drops the Façade
I applaud Google. Not for the policy, but for the company’s burgeoning honesty and move towards ideological transparency. Google, like Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit, has been policing content for a while in one form or another. Now it’s official stated policy. Gone is the “We Do not Censor” façade. Google is now openly in the editorial business and all too happy to advertise its censorship—except don’t you dare call it censorship. I believe the preferred euphemism is “information curation.”

Even if content doesn’t strictly violate the company’s policies, if an employee or special interest group doesn’t like certain content or a particular point of view, it may be sent to a “naughty corner” and made as inaccessible as possible. Further, coordinated mass flagging, where bots or groups of people simultaneously flag videos can cause content to be limited as well. Edit or change the content to comply with an accepted point of view and it’s accessible to everyone again. Why Google (or Facebook or Twitter) doesn’t simply drop the pretense and refuse to publish articles and videos the company finds objectionable is anyone’s guess. At this point, the content discrimination question is one of degree, not a matter of principle.

But it’s not “real” censorship unless the government does it—right? The First Amendment proclaims loudly and clearly that freedom of speech, press, and assembly cannot be taken away by the state. Our government is bound by the Bill of Rights; a private corporation such as Google is not. No one is stopping Peterson from speaking, or Prager from making videos. And for the moment, Milo Yiannopoulos doesn’t risk prison for his outrageous tweets.

Yet these cases call into question the idea that only the state may play censor.

We live at a time when the vast majority of people freely turn over their private information to—and get most of their news and information from—a handful of very large corporations. What happens when those politically connected companies start censoring speech?

The concern isn’t new, but the solutions are elusive. Oddly enough, former Breitbart News chairman Steve Bannon and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg both have argued that some digital services, such as search engines and social networks, should be treated and regulated as public utilities. If Google effectively has a monopoly on search traffic, and Facebook (and possibly Twitter) dominant the social network world, and they have extensive entanglements with political power and government at every level, then it’s fair to wonder whether corporate censorship has First Amendment implications.

Rethinking Regulation
Google may not be an arm of the government, but when a company becomes so intertwined with government and political entities, it could be seen as acting as a surrogate without any of the usual legal or constitutional checks. Google—and companies like it—project a correct and acceptable ideological alignment with the political powers-that-be. They can effectively engage in political censorship without the constraint of that pesky Bill of Rights.

Unlike Jordan Peterson, who has a large enough following that allows him to effectively publicize and help resolve his problem with Google, most of us are at the mercy of the search giant and its notoriously ideological and taciturn bureaucracy. Imagine the disruption in your digital life if you were locked out of all your email, documents, and YouTube accounts with no way to reinstate them. Add to this, the possibility that purely political content might trigger such a lock-out and the effects on speech become apparent.

The answers to these issues are all thorny. Let’s be honest, the simple market based solution to “choose another search engine, social media or online video provider” is not really an option at this point. Google and Facebook are the only real players. Sure, Bing, DuckDuckGo, Ello, Vimeo, and other outlets exist, but few people actually consider them as true rivals to the services offered by Google, Facebook and Twitter. This, of course, makes resisting the siren’s call for regulation all the more difficult.

Ultimately, however, a regulatory schema for search engines,YouTube ratings and monetization, and public social network speech would be heavy handed at best and oppressive at worst. A top-down, online “Fairness Doctrine” is also out a bad idea. When were the federal “fairness” metrics ever fair? Instead, we should turn our attention to requiring that corporate entities, especially if they become large enough to render goods and services that are considered essential and indispensable to modern life, adhere to some of the the same basic standards of fairness and equality of opportunity we expect of our government. They are, after all, essentially the governing bodies of the online world—providing the infrastructure that we use and policing our behavior while in that world.

If we are to eventually address the issue legally, we should first reexamine it socially. A good starting point would be to reconsider our notions of online spaces and move from viewing the largest,most trafficked ones as private products to public forums and demanding that the corporations providing those adhere to spirit of first amendment.

For better or worse, the online world and experiences in that world are becoming as important to people as the real one. We buy our goods online, meet our spouses online, share thoughts, break up and find meaning online. We live online. A recent study revealed that teens don’t distinguish between online experiences and real world ones when it comes to social interaction. As the technology becomes more prevalent this trend will continue even more. We should thus take very seriously the idea that people today have digital lives and rethink what protections are necessary to allow those digital lives to continue with freedom and the pursuit of happiness with minimal disruptions, especially from either government or corporate intrusion and censorship.

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