Fifteen years ago, I viewed the Internet as invaluable resource for reducing the power of the mainstream media (MSM) by facilitating many alternative news sources. And in some ways, those hopes were realized. Dozens of insightful new writers came to my attention who might never have found a place in the MSM.
But, of late, my early hopes have been pretty much dashed, as an unholy alliance between MSM and the Big Tech platforms has increasingly sought to limit, rather than expand, the amount of information to which the public has access. Matt Taibbi puts it well, "Once envisioned as a vast democraticizing tool, which would massively raise global knowledge levels by allowing instant cross-global communication between all people, [the Internet] has morphed instead into a giant unaccountable bureaucracy for suppressing dialogue, run by people with an authoritarian vision of information flow."
Geographer Joel Kotkin provides a compelling account of how this came about in "The Rise of the Corporate-State Tyranny," in the current issue of the Claremont Review. Kotkin begins by noting the growing convergence between the Chinese and American systems. In both wealth has become increasingly concentrated, with a few individuals accumulating once inconceivable wealth. There are currently almost 100 billionaires in China, almost as many as in the United States, and their ranks are growing far faster than that in the United States. And in both China and the United States almost all the holders of that vast wealth have close ties to government. During the progressive Obama administration the percentage of income going to workers actually declined, and there was no threat of anti-trust action against the major tech oligopolies that represent 40% of the value of the Standard and Poors stock index.
Silicon Valley, Wall Street, and the Ivy-League law firms that represent them are tightly bound to the Democratic Party. By an over 5:1 margin, these power centers supported Joe Biden over Donald Trump. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, for instance, funded the Democrats' elections day efforts in several battleground states, and suppressed important pre-election stories on Facebook.
The new oligarchs tend to view themselves as the deserving rich, a sort of Elect, responsible for remaking society. Once law students were taught that corporations are owned by the stockholders, and it is the duty of managers to maximize profits on behalf of the shareholders. But a new doctrine of corporations as representing all the stakeholders in society has taken hold. (In any event, the founders of the major tech companies tend to retain control.) If once capitalists engaged in conspicuous consumption, the new mega-wealthy engage in conspicuous woke politics, as the proof of their entitlement to be considered the Elect, shaping society.
Despite their progressive bona fides, the vision of the Elect bears little resemblance to that of the New Deal of dispersing power and wealth. The middle and working classes can anticipate little increase of wealth: "No-growth" is baked into the "Great Reset" needed to save the planet from self-immolating, according to the Elect. (Of course, there will still be billions to be made from government subsidies in new energy.) Sharply rising energy costs resulting from an eco-dictatorship will fall most heavily on the middle and working classes. The Jacques Delors Institute estimated that as many as thirty million Europeans would not be able to adequately heat their homes during the 2020-21 winter due to rising costs from environmental mandates.
"Getting the public to accept or at least acquiesce to diminishing living standards present a major hurdle for oligarchic degrowth strategies," Kotkin notes. That is where control over the flow of information to the masses, who may not be sufficiently attuned to their own best long-range interests, is so essential. Prominent liberal legal scholars have advanced theories to justify control of information. And Democratic legislators have urged hi-tech oligarchs testifying before their committees to be yet more rigorous in their "censorship" of false information (albeit only from a certain side of the political spectrum.) Former governor of California Jerry Brown openly favors "applying the coercive power of the state to achieve environmental goals" while promoting "brainwashing" of the uncomprehending masses, writes Kotkin. That comfort with a high level of coercion and information control is another point of convergence between the emerging American system and the Chinese.
For Matt Taibbi, the story of Hunter Biden's computer (discussed last week) demonstrates the power of tech firms to cut off discordant information. The MSM simply refused to pursue the story, on the flimsy ground that it was a product of Russian disinformation, despite the absence of any denial from the younger Biden. And Twitter and Facebook successfully de-platformed one of the nation's largest circulation newspapers, the New York Post, when it did break the story.
IN NO AREA have the failures of the MSM and the exacerbation of those failure by big tech censorship been more evident than with respect to scientific issues, particularly those pertaining to the Covid-19 pandemic and responses to it. The censorship has been based on a total misconception of science – one that assumes that there is some kind of definitive scientific consensus, which tech platforms can then enforce, at any given moment.
But scientific advance is almost always a process, involving vigorous debate over a long period of time. One of the explanations offered for the wildly disparate number of Nobel Prizes awarded in the sciences and medicine to Western researchers, as opposed to those based in the Orient, is the culture of debate in the West going back to the Greeks (or for that matter, the batei medrash of Babylonia). (See Nisbet, Robert, The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently – And Why, pp. 195-7.)
More than a year ago, Facebook began removing all material suggesting that Covid-19 is a man-made virus. Yet that is now considered more likely than not. True, the case against the major competing hypothesis – that the virus jumped from an animal species to man – has become stronger in the last year, as China has been unable to locate any evidence of the virus having infected any intermediate species. But even in April 2020, evolutionary biologist Bret Weinstein already rated the lab leak hypothesis at around 90% likelihood based on the evidence already available.
The science of Covid-19 is one that has been tainted by politics from the get-go. Michael Brendan Dougherty points out in the National Review that studies of hydroxychloroquine, a treatment touted by former President Donald Trump, are three times more likely to show positive results when conducted outside of North America than in North America.
Similarly, the MSM's efforts to elevate Dr. Anthony Fauci to the status of the Delphic oracle with respect to all matters connected to Covid-19 has led to the suppression and even censorship of opposing views, even when offered by no less esteemed scientists. On October 4, 2020 Professors Sunetra Gupta of Oxford, Martin Kulldorf of Harvard, and Jah Bhattacharya of Stanford, published the Great Barrington Declaration, in which they expressed their opposition, as epidemiologists, to the lockdowns then in effect, and urged a focus on protecting vulnerable populations instead. The existent policies, they urged, protected young, low-risk professionals working from home on the backs of children, the working class and the poor. One thousand other scientists and practitioners signed the GBD.
Censorship followed in the wake of their challenge to the conventional wisdom at the time in the United States, even as the limits and costs of the lockdown strategy became ever clearer. YouTube censored a roundtable in which the three eminent scientists stated that children do not need to wear masks; Facebook closed an account of theirs arguing for prioritization of older populations in receiving vaccines; Twitter censored a Kulldorff post in which he said children and the previously infected do not require vaccination, and later locked his account after he wrote of the death of an older couple, with whom he was friends, who had relied too greatly on their masks to protect themselves at the expense of other forms of social distancing.
Matt Taibbi in a three-part series of articles has lately taken up Big Tech's efforts to censor proponents of Ivermectin, a repurposed anti-parasitic drug whose creator was awarded a Nobel Prize in 2015. Over three billion doses have been administered world-wide since its introduction, without raising any significant safety concerns.
In poorer countries, which could not afford or execute a rapid vaccination program, some desperate governments searching for something to arrest the spread of the pandemic turned to Ivermectin, in part because of its minimal costs (the patents having expired) and after a number of smaller studies seemed to indicate positive results. In New Delhi, a city of 22 million, the government dispense Ivermectin to the entire population, and watched the rate of new cases fall 99% from 24,102 per day in late April to 231 cases on June 7. Similarly in the Indian province of Uttar Pradesh, cases dropped 98% from its peak in late April to early June.
Nevertheless, evolutionary biologist Bret Weinstein and his wife, fellow biologist Heather Heying, face permanent removal from Facebook for two podcasts that sought to expand the debate. In one, they interviewed Dr. Pierre Kory, a pulmonologist and an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin medical school, and one of the founders of FLCCC (Front Line Covid-19 Critical Car Alliance), together with Dr. Paul Marik, a leader in the field of critical care and author of 400 peer-reviewed articles.
Kory had testified before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security about Medical Responses to Covid-19, about the promising results he had seen in practice from the use of Ivermectin. YouTube originally posted the hearing from C-SPAN, but then removed it, it what appears to have been an unprecedented move. Weinstein's "sin" for which he received one of his three allotted strikes from Facebook was to interview Dr. Kory on his podcast. (His second strike was for interviewing Dr. Paul Malone, the inventor of mRNA vaccine technology, who raised some safety issues with the novel vaccines.)
For neither Weinstein nor Kory were these confrontations with the thought control police new. Weinstein first came to public attention in 2017, when as a professor at Evergreen State College, he refused to comply with an edict of black students that no whites were allowed on campus on a particular day. Not only did the president of Evergreen State not support Weinstein, he told campus police to stand down and not interfere with black students stopping cars in apparent search for Weinstein (who was, incidentally, a Bernie Sanders supporter).
Kory, Marik, and the other FLCCC doctors had developed a protocol for the use of corticosteroids with hospitalized Covid-19 patients, and Kory had testified before the Senate Committee that it was "life-saving when given to anyone beyond mild illness." At the time the World Health Organization recommended against use of corticosteroids.
Subsequently, researchers at Oxford released the results of a large scale randomized control study that found steroids were highly effective for patients with severe and critical Covid-19. WHO subsequently issued a "strong" recommendation for its use.
That's how science is supposed to work, but can't when censorship and suppression of divergent views reins.