Category Archives: Liberal Press

Big Tech is fixing the election

Big Tech is fixing the election

Twitter, Facebook and similar social platforms are operating almost with impunity influencing the national conversation to their liking.  This is much more dangerous than anything Donald Trump or conservatives have even thought about.  mrossol 

Unherd  10/16/2020  By Douglas Murray

For years there has been a growing concern about the influence of Big Tech. Increasingly, the giant platforms have been muting, shadow-banning and occasionally chucking people off the sites entirely. But few saw the emerging problem because the users being targetted were either not desirable enough or not big enough for the world to bother itself over.

But developments this week may have changed that, with the tech giants daring to make their biggest encroachments so far in deciding what the public could and could not know.

On Wednesday, the New York Post published a major exposé on the activities of Hunter Biden, son of the Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. The investigation, based on leaked emails, revealed the manner in which Biden Jnr had used his father’s connections to pitch for lucrative contracts with Ukrainian businessmen. Since then, more news has emerged of the younger Biden seeking remuneration from Chinese firms, among others. In an election season this is, of course, explosive stuff — but it is also information that the American public have a right to know.

Since Joe Biden presents himself as the honest candidate in this election, the fact that his family members may have been enriching themselves through their connections is relevant to the decision the voters are about to make.

But Big Tech decided that they couldn’t know it. On Wednesday, after the New York Post story emerged, both Twitter and Facebook made an unprecedented move into overt censorship, with the world’s largest social media companies deciding to prevent the dissemination of the story. They did everything they could to stop it from getting out, with Twitter in particular blocking users from posting links to the Post’s article, initially claiming that sharing of the piece violated the platform’s rules on the use of hacked materials.

The idea that the Hunter Biden emails are the result of a hack is disputed. But even if the claim were accurate, it is not the case that these platforms usually take a strong line against stories based on hacked material. Over recent years, there have been numerous stories, from celebrity gossip to major political stories like the DNC nomination scandal at the 2016 election, which have come about solely because of the use of hacked information. Yet Twitter did not prevent people from sharing them, so the claim that “hacking” is the justification on this occasion is in fact nothing other than a retro-fit.

 

Yet on this spurious basis Twitter took a range of extraordinary actions, which included locking the accounts of the official Trump campaign and of the White House Press Secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, because they had dared to share the story. Such is the extraordinary power that the tech companies now have and the extraordinarily brazen behaviour they feel that they can get away with.

It is conceivable that Twitter might rightfully act if there were knowingly false information being disseminated ahead of an election by obscure or unknown actors seeking to affect an election. But it is quite another thing for the social media giant to decide that the reposting of a story in the New York Post — one of America’s oldest and most venerable papers, founded by Alexander Hamilton — should be cause to suppress the speech of the White House Press Secretary. This is not an attempt to prevent interference in an election — it is itself interference in an election. Interference carried out by Facebook and Twitter, tech giants and monopolies in possession of unprecedented amounts of power.

Perhaps people should have woken up to such actions by Big Tech earlier — but too often the platform’s targets seemed to be too obscure or unpleasant to find defenders. So they slowly — and occasionally in sudden purges — chucked out people who they decided to be “hateful”, so people such as Katie Hopkins or Milo Yiannopoulos.

Yet on top of this, Twitter went for a less overt form of control by using its power to quietly muffle accounts (“shadow-banning”) without anybody noticing. In the last year, this has been formalised by the site, which has made its users sign a new agreement conceding that the platform has the right to filter and manipulate which voices its users do or do not hear. But, most people decided, things go on as before and shadow-banning was just for other people.

So while the platform picked off or muted obscure or unpleasant figures, they — and the rest of us — clearly lost sight of exactly where a line could be drawn. And inevitably the bloated, over-rich, overpowerful and under-informed tech entities thought that they should decide where that line was.

So here we are, in the weeks before the election, with the platforms suppressing a story that affects one candidate, trying to pretend that one of America’s great papers is an unreliable source (and if they want to play that game, then wait until they discover the New York Times), and blocking the social media account of the White House Press Secretary.

 

One other turn in this story deserves to be noticed. On Wednesday Twitter had as its top story a minor exchange in the confirmation hearings of Amy Coney Barrett for a position on the Supreme Court, during which Senator Mazie Hirono claimed that the use of the term “sexual preference” was an anti-gay slur. Hirono said that the phrase — which Amy Coney Barrett had only used earlier in passing — is “an offensive and outdated term”.

The claim itself is of course a crock. “Sexual preference” has been used for years and has no pejorative connotations. Indeed it has been used multiple times recently by no less a figure than Joe Biden; and just last month The Advocate (America’s main remaining legacy gay publication) used the term in a Tweet. So the story about Senator Hirono “calling out” Amy Coney Barrett was nothing other than a piece of political posturing.

If Barrett had been a man, the Democrats would have accused her of misogyny by now. If she had not adopted two black children and loved them, cared for them and brought them up as her own, then doubtless they would have attempted to accuse her of racism. But neither of these charges being available they instead made an attempt to accuse Barrett of homophobia, based on nothing more than the use of a term which everybody used until yesterday. Meanwhile Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary chose to update their entry on the term “sexual preference”, in order to pretend that the new “offensive” spin on the term was widely, indeed authoritatively recognised.

 

That this story — the most minor imaginable exchange which relied not just on a misrepresentation but a nasty little untruth — should have been the top chosen story on Twitter on Wednesday tells us something. This was not the story which users had put at the top of the site — it was the story that Twitter chose. And it did so on the very same day that an actual story from the New York Post could not be shared on the platform.

There have been many eye-opening moments with Big Tech in recent years. The companies have been repeatedly caught out lying, cheating and attempting to exert political influence under the guise of fact-checking. But Wednesday should be seen as a watershed moment — the moment when the last remaining pretences of the platforms were finally shed.

People may still use Twitter and Facebook. They may continue to find some value in them. But after this week there is no way of avoiding the fact that in doing so they are helping companies which have chosen to make overt interventions into the political process — and to do so in order that their chosen candidate wins.

We hear a lot about purported, exaggerated “foreign interference” in elections, but here is the real interference. It is done by an organisation more powerful than any government, more unaccountable than any politician and more sinister than anyone but the most crazed conspiracists could ever have guessed.

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The Antifa thugs shame America

And the left, the MSM, cannot, for the life of them, figure out why conservatives (that’s Trump supporting thugs…) have lost faith in a level, fair playing field. This is not complicated. Thank you, Douglas Murray. mrossol

The Antifa thugs shame America

If Rule 101 of writing a book is “Turn your phone off”, then rule 101 of publicising a book is “get it banned”. The rule was once again proven this week as Andy Ngo’s forthcoming work Unmasked: Inside Antifa’s radical plan to destroy America became the Number 1 bestselling book on Amazon US. That is, the number 1 bestselling book in the English-speaking book market. How did it happen?  Because as well as being contemptuous of the laws of American society, Antifa turn out to be ignorant of the rules of the publishing industry.

For anyone unaware of him, Andy Ngo is a young American journalist who has spent recent years reporting on Antifa’s activities in Portland, Oregon, among other places. For years he has attended Antifa events (first openly, subsequently undercover) and through video, photography and written reports has testified to a reality which most American journalists either ignored or treated as an unimportant sideshow. As well as appearing in mainstream publications such as the New York Post Ngo’s journalism has caused waves online where he has attracted a huge social media following.

In the summer of 2019, while reporting on an Antifa rally, Ngo was attacked by a mob, who recognising the young journalist, attempted to stop him reporting and seriously assaulted him. The resulting injuries saw Ngo hospitalised with a brain haemorrhage. It was the moment when many people first saw the reality not just of Antifa violence, but of Antifa’s delight in violence.

Ngo is everything the progressive Left should be in favour of. The son of Vietnamese immigrants to America, he was raised in Portland and, while doing a Master’s degree at the local university, began his career at the student newspaper.

It was there that I first noticed him. He showed himself to be one of the insightful people of his age who had seen through the identity politics that were roiling their generation. Ngo had pointed out that as a person of colour, of immigrant heritage who happened to be gay, his politics and outlook on the world should have been ordained for him. The radical left clearly thought they should be able to speak for him, and yet they clearly did not. Ngo asserted the right — whatever his characteristics — to be allowed to think for himself and not to be told that he had to fall in line with some specific political project because of his background.

In subsequent years, as he progressed with his journalistic career, Ngo was consistently not just treated differently but singled out for specific attack. As his reporting from his home town began to get noticed the radical Left tried exceptionally hard to take him out. Online campaigns increasingly influenced mainstream publications to claim that Ngo was in some ways a partisan, political actor, motivated by malice and bigotry. Since it is hard to portray a quiet gay member of an ethnic minority as some kind of alt-right, white nationalist they made the most extreme claims possible about him, following the tactic that if you make the most outlandish and damaging allegations about a person then some of it will stick.

They partly proved the utility of that tactic. Antifa and their fellow travellers spent years claiming that Ngo was in league with the far-Right and that his presence reporting from demonstrations by “the Proud Boys” and other Right-wing groups was in fact proof that he was a member or supporter. Having got away with such claims they pushed further, pretending that the person they were targeting was in fact targeting them.

They claimed that by identifying individuals who had been at protests, or who had been arrested, Ngo was “doxing” (releasing the home address or other personal details) of rioters. In fact, as so often, they were simply accusing an opponent of doing something that they were doing themselves. A campaign of harassment by Antifa activists picked up pace. Forced to get security cameras at his parent’s home, Ngo filmed Antifa activists turning up there. On one occasion they did a pseudo-intelligence service sweep to “affirm” that the address was one Ngo lived at. On another they turned up in masks with Ngo’s own face on them. It was a campaign of harassment that the Portland authorities took no interest in.

Even when Ngo was seriously attacked the same authorities could not rally themselves. When a journalist was assaulted and hospitalised in broad daylight — on camera — the Portland city politicians and police spent no time trying to identify what had happened or who might be culpable. To date, nobody has been charged for the attack. If things continue to go badly wrong in the US one reason will be that so many people were able to see — spelt out in actions as well as words — that elected officials and law enforcement took so little interest in the activities of far-Left militia groups that they allowed them to pick journalists off with impunity.

So it has gone on. Last October, while in Portland ahead of the US election I went on a tour of the Downtown area of the city with Ngo and was disgusted to see graffiti everywhere calling for his murder. “Kill Andy Ngo” was written in huge blood-red letters on the boarding of one of the endless number of buildings boarded up because of riots. The one remaining statue in the centre of town (a World War II memorial) was also plastered in graffiti attacking him. In most of the developed world, having your city daubed in graffiti calling for the murder of a journalist would be regarded as a matter of shame. In Portland the authorities clearly did not care, and none thought it worth acting on.

Last November the ineffectual Mayor of the city, Ted Wheeler, was re-elected over an Antifa-backed candidate. To say that he has lost control of his city is an understatement; the city authorities have allowed rioting for months, even resisting federal requests to assist law enforcement. Wheeler was chased out of his own apartment block and earlier this month was assaulted in a restaurant. None of the placation seems to have worked.

But this week the activists of Antifa returned to one of their favourite targets: the journalist whose factual reporting seems to get under their skin so much. Learning of the imminent publication of Ngo’s book they began a campaign to try to force bookstores in America not to stock Ngo’s book.

Their targets included Powell’s bookstore in Portland, where a group of Antifa protested this week, screaming at management and causing the bookstore to close as a safety precaution. The shop pleaded for mercy, insisting in a published statement that “This book will not be placed on our shelves… We will not promote it. That said, it will remain in our online catalog. We carry a lot of books we find abhorrent, as well as those that we treasure.”

America’s fearless and impartial media covered this as well as can be expected.  In a report on the Portland bookstore protest ABC news wrote that “Author Andy Ngo is known for aggressively covering and video-recording demonstrators.” What is this “aggressive” coverage? How does it differ from ABC’s own brand of journalism?  Does ABC favour “mild” reporting or “milquetoast” video-recording of rioters? Apparently so.

The “news organisation” continued: “In 2019, Ngo said he was targeted and suffered brain injuries when he was assaulted while covering protests in Portland.” What is this “said he was”? Either Ngo was assaulted and hospitalised or he wasn’t. It should not be hard for ABC to find this out for themselves. But in this and other ways, the effectiveness of Antifa’s tactics over recent years can be seen. Spread enough ordure around a figure, find people in the mainstream media sympathetic to some of your aims and intentions and you can subtly or not so subtly rewrite and reframe actual events and cast a victim as some type of sinister perpetrator.

For now Antifa’s tactics have worked not just in influencing some of the mainstream media but in — among other things — chasing Ngo from his home, and indeed out of his country of birth. Like his parents before him, Ngo has ended up leaving a country in which his life is in danger. That this country is the United States is shaming.

But there is one upside. Attempts to ban books do not go down well in all quarters outside of Oregon, and ahead of its release next month UnMasked shot up the online bestseller lists. And if bookstores do not stock the work then they will simply lose even more business to their online competitors. Amazon will still sell it, and this week UnMasked was selling in droves. Andy Ngo is not a victim, but thanks to Antifa he is now a Number 1 bestselling author. Which is the best reply imaginable.

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The Media’s Misuse of Language

The Epoch Times. 12/26/20

Recently in this space I wrote about the common misuse of the word “scandal” (see “Look to the Media for Greatest Scandal of Our Lifetime”). Too often people use the word to mean not something that is a scandal but something they think ought to be a scandal.

The whole point about the “scandals” of Hunter Biden before the election or Eric Swalwell after it is that they weren’t scandals—though they should have been. As oxygen is necessary for fire, so is publicity necessary for scandal, and both these scandals have been practically snuffed out, as scandals, by the media’s denying them the oxygen of publicity.

But this use, or misuse, of words is a much more general phenomenon than most people realize. In the media it is virtually epidemic. Routinely, things are stated as facts—for instance, that President Trump “lies” about election fraud—that cannot possibly be known as facts. They are only things the speaker or writer believes or wishes to be facts.

That example is easy to see, at least for anyone living outside the media’s wish-fulfilment bubble. It’s a bit harder to spot a bit of rhetorical trickery that seems to have been pioneered by the “Black Lives Matter” movement.

That slogan, when you think about it, consists of a relative term masquerading as an absolute one. To say that something—anything—“matters” is to imply an indirect object: to whom does it matter? Black lives may matter to me or to you, though I doubt even that if the slogan means, as it appears to do, that it is only the blackness of the black lives that matters.

Does the life of Clarence Thomas matter to the sloganeers equally with that of George Floyd or Michael Brown? How about that of David Dorn, the retired black police chief murdered by BLM rioters in St. Louis last June? His life didn’t matter to them.

In any case, it is utterly meaningless to say that black lives matter absolutely unless you mean that they matter to God. And that’s meaningless too, since all lives must matter to God, ex hypothesi. “There is a special Providence in the fall of a sparrow,” says Hamlet, paraphrasing the words of Jesus in Matthew 10:29. The sparrow’s color is not mentioned, either by Our Savior or by the Prince of Denmark.

But the usefulness of the Black Lives Matter slogan for raising money from virtue-signaling rich people or for turning out demonstrators to intimidate police or politicians from the disfavored political party is apparently unaffected by the fact that it is, literally, nonsense.

Of course, I might well want to conclude that it’s not nonsense if I know I can be beaten up for saying it is.

Lately we have seen the word “offensive” used in the same way, as in this headline from the Dec. 21 New York Times: “It’s 2020. Indigenous Team Names in Sports Have to Go: The Chiefs, Braves, Blackhawks and Seminoles need to follow the Cleveland baseball team in dropping their offensive names.”

As with “Black Lives Matter,” the word “offensive” here is used absolutely, as if the names were somehow offensive to the cosmos rather than to anybody in particular.

Once again we must ask, “offensive to whom”?

When it began, this agitation about “indigenous team names”—also a nonsensical shortcut for “names supposedly taken from indigenous peoples”—assumed that they were offensive to the indigenous people, better known as Indians or native Americans. But numerous polls have found that only tiny fractions of such people, far short of a majority, are actually offended by the names.

So now we are invited to assume that they are just intrinsically offensive—because the writer, (Kurt Streeter in this case), taking it on himself to speak for the absolute, thinks they are.

In the wake of the election, an even more sinister usage of this kind seems to have taken hold at the Times editorial board. “Accountability After Trump” read the Dec. 20 editorial headline. “How can America rebuild democracy’s guardrails and hold the past administration to account for its lawlessness?”

It should not be necessary to explain to people who advertise themselves as “a group of opinion journalists whose views are informed by expertise, research, debate and certain longstanding values” that in that “democracy” whose “guardrails” they seek to rebuild, politicians are accountable to the voters, not to the New York Times editorial board, nor yet to their political enemies making partisan claims of “lawlessness” against them.

Particularly when it was precisely such people as these whom Mr. Trump was running against when he was elected in 2016.

But over the last four years, the Times has grown so used to making absolute statements of this kind, statements made as if ex cathedra from their self-appointed secular papacy and therefore infallibly, that they presumably don’t even know they’re doing it anymore.

Taking on themselves the role of ultimate and absolute judges of the political proprieties is by now second nature to them. “Accountable to them” means “accountable,” period.

It’s really the Trump voters, then, who are being held accountable to the Times—which could explain why the paper’s writers and editors have spent the last four years expressing their disappointment in the wrong choice, as they suppose, made by those voters in 2016. It could also explain why they keep insisting that those voters could not possibly have made the same choice in 2020.

“Democracy,” therefore, as in “democracy’s guardrails,” is another word routinely misused by the Times. For voters can have no free choice if they can be held accountable to the New York Times or anybody else for choosing wrong.

So far as the Times is concerned, either voters must accept the advice and guidance afforded them by the “expertise, research, debate and certain longstanding values” of the tiny oligarchy headquartered at 620 Eighth Avenue in New York—or they must be corrected.

James Bowman is a resident scholar at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. The author of “Honor: A History,” he is a movie critic for The American Spectator and the media critic for the New Criterion.

Source: The Media’s Misuse of Language Always Has a Political Purpose

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