The Church of Social Media

The problem I have written about on this blog continues. A network of social media platforms censors and deplatforms not just on the basis content, but on the basis of real or perceived political identity. This it the latest example:

There are exceptions, but as a general orientation, and it will pain my leftwing friends to hear me say this, the censorship and deplatforming is aimed at extending and deepening the left-identitarian political sensibility (identity politics, multiculturalism) by pandering to marginalized groups (while reducing individuals to them), simultaneously narrowing the diversity of ideas, in order to expand the market and thus increase profits.

This neoliberal corporate strategy focuses mass attention on questions of gender, race, gender identity, etc., at the expense of and dissimulating the overarching structure of social class and heightening the antagonisms between proletarians segmented by identity. The vast range of ideas become coded as left and right by cultural managers and conditioned and reinforced ideological reaction shuts down consideration not only of the full range but recodes things to stand on the other side of the line – in other words, the culture industry redefines what left and right – and right and wrong – are.

To enforce this religious understanding of political thought, the culture industry creates a set of blasphemy rules that can get you expelled from the church of social media based on your utterances and associations. And to take full advantage of its religious-like character, it claims a wall of separation from the state and therefore manufactures its own justifications for excommunication, actions that operate beyond the scope of the Bill of Rights which are conveniently defined (and this is true with religion, as well) to work in one direction and not the other.

I was just alerted to Brad DeLong’s superficial account of the libertarian role in opposing public accommodations (no time for his hackery here), but with social media we can see clearly the neoliberal tack of maintaining a smooth “non-offensive” culture that makes it easy to discriminate against people based on political identity (speech and association) in violation of the spirit of the First Amendment and basic human rights.

Markets under neoliberalism are not neutral facilitators of exchange, but are ideologically-controlled systems of thought control. Corporations cannot (yet) throw you in jail, but they effectively disappear you in a world where everybody is kettled and channeled. Being excommunicated is a terrible thing. Ask Rosanne Barr. She broke the blasphemy rules of the culture industry and paid the price. She’s just one of a long list of causalities of the prevailing PC culture. 

This speaks volumes about Elizabeth Anderson’s point about the oppressions of private government (The Philosopher Redefining Equality). She highlights the unfreedom of being an employee. Here we’re talking about the unfreedom of being a creator of content and a consumer of content. For being allowed to say and here things doesn’t make you free.

Feel good about capitalists telling you what you can hear? Of course, eventually, how would you even know about what you’re not allowed to know about. Yes, that is the idea. When somebody else is deciding for you what you can see, hear, say, and think, you become a child. Tragically, too many people are infantilizing themselves. Part of the jive talk you get about this is that free speech is a ruse the rightwing uses to oppress people. Speech is violence. Etcetera.

It’s like the Devil. He’s trying to beguile and seduce you with his tempting ideas. And because you are weak and fallen, you are susceptible to his charms. So all the better to not listen at all. After all, doubt is the unpardonable sin. You can’t be trusted with your own brain. Leave that to the cultural and political managers.

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Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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