Free Speech and Other Stuff

I was one of the early users of Gab, the open alternative to Twitter, started by a renegade programmer named Andrew Torba. Whether or not Torba is alt-right or simply a normal male sick of the ritualized nonsense that dominates social media is debatable. He’s a Trump supporter, but that does not make him alt-right. He was part of Y Combinator, a Silicon Valley “seed accelerator” that helps young startup professionals. He was evicted from the club for being an unabashed Trump supporter and not playing nice with others.

That last bit was his mortal sin. In the managerial class, “being nice” has been weaponized, so that anything that contradicts the tenets of the faith is classified as threatening and harassment.  This allows the most sensitive, almost always women, to function as a canaries in the coal mine. When they begin to cry, it means someone is saying unapproved things and it is all hands on deck to root out the heretic. It’s not an accident that most of the speech enforcers on social media are women.

Anyway, Torba started Gab as a “free speech” alternative to Twitter. I put that in quotes because there is no such thing as free speech. There are always some rules. It’s like censorship. The state will always suppress subversive or revolutionary speech. The public will demand limits on speech that violates taboos. Similarly, Gab bans certain speech like child porn and criminal conspiracies. Otherwise, the goal of the enterprise is to provide an open platform for users to speak freely about their stuff.

Gab is an important experiment for a couple of reasons. One is that it is subtly demonstrating a truth about so-called free speech. That is, you cannot have free speech without freedom of association. Twitter, as the only short chat platform, could justify their crackdowns on users by claiming that other users were upset. In other words, the good of the many outweighs the good of the few, so they started policing what people posted on their platform. Coincidentally, the crackdown broke along predictable ideological lines.

The mere existence of an alternative means that users now have a choice. They can pick the ideological conformity of Twitter and its legion of SJW hall monitors or they can go out to the wild west of Gab. It’s easy to see where this is going. The sort of people who write blogs like this one are on Gab, while the people who fear being ostracized by the good thinkers will stay on Twitter and obey the rules. The result is a perfect example of how free association solves the problem of free speech and removes the need to police it.

The other important thing to watch is how the great blob that is the mass media responds to what it can only view as a threat. The evolution of social media was pitched as an organic, ground up communication medium free from corporate control. That was also the promise of the internet in the early days. Whether it was by design or by serendipity, Facebook and Twitter came to dominate the internet and become megaphones for the managerial state. Now they are trying to be enforcers for the managerial state.

It is not an accident that Facebook is heavy into being the comment platform for establishment media companies. Disqus, which is more open, resulted in a lot of negative commentary, so the big media companies partnered with Facebook to clamp down on dissent. It’s also not an accident that Facebook roots around in your e-mail and browser cache to spy on you. Facebook imagines a day when it is your permanent record, like the one school principles used to swear they had in their desks for each student.

Obviously, the great plans of the social media giants and their managerial class partners are not going to work very well if there are a bunch of alternatives sprouting up. Gab is off to a surprisingly strong start so far, but they are a long way from challenging Twitter, at least in terms of users and social impact. Taking on a Facebook or YouTube is orders of magnitude more difficult. Still, avalanches start with one snowflake so the early success of Gab has to be worrisome to the big social media companies.

Taken together, it could mean the managerial state is vulnerable to its own success. By that I mean the system that makes for rapid technological progress in the business of controlling and disseminating information, may make it very easy for rivals to spring up from within its ranks. The technology at the root of Facebook and Twitter is not exactly ground breaking. In fact, it is fairly crude. The edge for both companies is that they had the resources to scale up. If scale gets cheap, then anyone can scale up too.

Alternatively, what we could be seeing is the evolution of a way to resolve the conflict between the rise of tribalism and the spread of the supra-national custodial state. Big social media platforms will be the safe space that most people crave, while the tribalists will have their smaller silos out on the fringe. The folks who like their news and information with a healthy dose of instruction will get what they need, while the people convinced they are taking the red pill will have alternatives to indulge their needs.

It’s impossible to know how this unfolds. Gab could be a flash in the pan and not last more than a year. Or, it could be the butterfly flapping its wings that sets off a chain of events resulting in a great social hurricane. At the minimum, it is an excellent proof of the basic concept that has eluded us since the 1960’s. That is, free association is the key to maintaining civil liberties like free speech and maintaining social harmony. Once free association is removed, you have a prison and there are no peaceful harmonious prisons.

38 thoughts on “Free Speech and Other Stuff

  1. Coincidentally, the crackdown broke along predictable ideological lines.””

    No coincidence. There is no coincidence with leftards

  2. I am in New Zealand and the mindless facebook has total dominance here. In New Zealand it is a dumbed down sloganeer’s platform, thick with adverts. I wish for the day it collapses into itself. My main reading is on sites like this.

  3. Pingback: Outliers (#55) « Amerika

  4. The thing is, though, like the poet wrote, “Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.”

    I think that’s why Facebook has stuck around. As much as people complain about censorship and such, really, there is basically none of that on Facebook for the average person. Yeah, at the margins, maybe, but your average mom or dad posting a picture of their kid fishing on Sunday? Not so much. In fact, I would credit Facebook more than Twitter for Trump’s win last year. The media likes to call it “fake news”, but the rest of us like to call it, “Hillary REALLY IS a felon, and we have proof.”

    That kind of stuff carried the day for Trump last year. People could live stream his rallies and hear him and see the crowds for themselves. His “tweets” always wound up on people’s feeds. Every nutbag fever swap Lib Commie rant about Trump wanting to put Muslims in concentration camps and black people back in the cotton fields was met with derision and facts and it allowed people who might ordinarily feel isolated feel like they had friends who were voting for Trump too.

    Do I like that the people who run these companies are Leftist whack jobs? No, not really. Does it have much, if any, bearing on my life? Also no, not really. The day it does is the day people drop it like a hot rock, and these guys all know it.

    That, in and of itself, is the limiting factor of technology.

  5. OT: just realized Trump is a global ‘atrractor’. His army is forming in *every* country. He has returned…

  6. I signed up with Gab early on and while it is good it suffers from a boring presentation and I don’t like having to sign in. I am not into searching for articles to comment on, most of what I want I find on other websites. The look of the page is boring, blocky, uninteresting and I won’t spend much time on it. Maybe something better will replace it.

  7. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 punctured the rights of freedom of association. After all, if you could not choose to associate on the basis of skin color, then why could you choose to associate on the basis of gender or sex preferences? The obvious answer according to liberal whites was, “you can’t.” LBJ’s mischief continues to gather strength. Its radical extremes know no bounds and we have no idea where this will end.

  8. The problem with the modern progressives is that it’s not enough to drive people out of popular spaces: they want to ensure they can’t set up elsewhere either. These people want 100% conformity and compliance, not merely pushing people to the fringes.

    • Well yeah. If they left fraternities, all male combat units, and other male organizations alone – who knows what kind of fun they might have?

  9. I also joined Gab early(ish). I have hope, but not confidence, that it will develop legs. Right now, it is still very much a tadpole.

  10. Does Torba understand the irony of an (ostensibly) free speech platform that requires an account login before a user can even browse the platform? In this critical respect, Gab is less “free” than Twitter.

    I don’t have a Twitter account, nor do I want one. But I regularly click on your Twitter feed and then browse around the feeds you follow. No login required.

    When I click on your Gab feed I can see one screen of your posts with numbers on the side. I can click through your links, but if I try to browse anywhere else on the site I am presented with a pop-up which requires me to create an account and login. It’s no less obnoxious than an unwanted advertisement. This is when I close the page.

    Unless Gab allows free and open browsing without a login it is destined to become an alt-right ghetto on the Internet.

    • That login requirement to even see stuff also cost them my interest in Gab. I don’t want to sign up for anything but would gladly browse if possible.

    • This has nothing to do with speech. Maybe it is bad marketing, but it is entirely unrelated to the speech. You having to buy a ticket to see the movie is not a restriction on the movie maker.

      I happen to think it is a good idea to require registration to view posts. It rules out the paranoids and the Progressive trouble makers. It’s a good way to limit the Left’s habit of turning virtues into vices.

      • With all respect, I disagree. In a constitutional sense, the right to free speech includes the right to consume content as well as the right to publish content. Ergo, the government can’t restrict your right to read/watch/listen to content it finds objectionable.

        I understand fully that Gab is a private entity and not subject to constitutional restrictions, but IMO there’s an inherent contradiction between a site that bills itself as “open” and “free speech” but requires an account to access. It’s akin to keeping the content behind a paywall, but the cost is your registration information.

        Per my experience and Drake’s experience, the login requirement also rules out a lot of lurkers–those who might enjoy reading the content but have no interest in creating content. It is piss poor marketing, which is why I maintain that Gab will become a ghetto for the alt-right.

        I loathe the SJWs at Twitter and wish Gab all the best, but they need to revise their business model if they want to command any presence.

        • I’m not getting why supplying a fake name and fake e-mail address is an onerous demand.

          • Even a fake address ties you to the email service provider which, in turn, ties you to any other activity conducted on the Internet using that email account. This is how /pol identified the UC Berkeley employee from the first Berkeley riot.


            The fake email address also ties you to an ISP and an IP address, which in turn can be linked to any other aliases used on the internet. This is how people get doxxed for wrongthink.

            Further, depending upon your ISP’s archive policy this may provide a link to your complete browsing history. BTW, ISPs can now sell your browsing data.

            It won’t be long before an “Internet Activity Safety Check” becomes an integral part of a background check for employment, military service, volunteer service, financing, etc. Do you doubt that SJWs will pressure corporate America to adopt “inclusive” safety standards and refuse to hire or do business with persons who exhibit wrongthink by visiting websites that are deemed to be unacceptable by SJWs? Do you doubt that Corporate America will comply? Ready to be denied a job or a mortgage because you browsed SBPDL or The Z Blog in 2017?

            I understand that all this information can be patched together without an email address, but it’s much more difficult. Having the email address makes it easy and straightforward. All in all it’s just another brick in the wall of Internet surveillance that is intended to suppress free speech. The question is Why is Gab adding that brick to the wall?

          • You not signing up to read content will have no impact on this. In fact, you are making it easier to track you on-line. Instead, you should have a few dozen e-mail accounts, multiple LinkedIn pages, a decent VPN service and make sure to reboot your home modem every day. The more chaff, the harder it is to tie you to anything.

      • Respectfully disagree, ZMan. By signing-up for a Gab account, you surrendered some of your freedom. Can’t rationalize-away that fact. You became a product.

  11. Reading an old book published in 1913 by Home University written by J. B. Bury the famous historian of ancient Greece titled The History of Freedom of Thought. Bury turns out to have been a Fabian socialist whose idea of freedom of thought involved socialism good, free economic association and private property bad, progress is a religious linearity toward secularism powered by rationalistic humanism. Reading it you can see in embryo the intolerant attitude toward actual freedom of thought exhibited by his ideological (note I didn’t say intellectual) heirs.
    The point is there is nothing new about this. Modern communications have simply accelerated a process that was already in place. I think that the more aware folks on the left know this deep down, and know what the end game is. They can’t win if regular folks know what is up. They think they still have a shot at 1984/BNW and they think if they can outsprint us to the finish line they will win. Their problem is that they don’t seem to understand what a tiny fraction of mankind they represent. Their numbers are there in the big cities and they control a lot of the commanding heights in every field, but they are in total denial of the fact that they are who and what they claim to hate, while billions look on and wait for their own chance.

    • I am a fan of Evgeny Zamyatin’s distopia “We”, the predecessor of both 1984 and BNW. The One State exists as a perfect society behind its Green Wall and ordered by the principles of Taylorism and the Table of Numbers. Every citizen, or Number, has a right to sexual access to any other Number, and everyone is perfectly interchangeable. The Great Operation will shortly eliminate the last shreds of individuality. And yet something happens.In my opinion it is an even better fir for today.
      And yes, 33 years ago a thesis on this book would have ended an academic career, but for a stiff spine and a skull of granite.

  12. Facebook and Twitter (and most forms of social media) are far more destructive than just overt censorship. They are the vehicle by which young people are being programmed to think and behave according to hive diktat. And when the hive reaches critical mass, all hell will break loose.

    • The Google and Yahoo home pages are relentless washers of brains. For three months after the election all three “Trending Stories” on the Google page were Adolf Trump and how he would affect you. Even I was astonished.

      I asked a graduate chemistry student that I work with where her common social media outlets and users were coming down on Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Accord, and she told me it was virtually unanimous. She is no longer homo-unanimous but on the other hand she does tend to look at me, her sole source of alternate information, as if I might be borderline radioactive. It must be difficult–when everything you assume to be true and righteous is wrong–to change your mind about a single thing without risking everything. At some level they know banishment waits over that horizon.

  13. I can’t speak for Gab, but what people don’t understand about “free” services like Facebook is that they aren’t providing a product for free. They are making you think you are getting a product (their platform) but you are the product, who is being sold (or at least having your information sold) to firms who want to know more about you: whether they want to know more about you to sell you crap or to blackmail you (with a “permanent record” as you alluded to) is irrelevant, because the people who want to sell you stuff and the people who want to tell you what to believe are the same people at this point.

    It really is disgusting and the Zuckerborg is a true sociopath. I remember reading in Larry Rosen’s “I-Disorder” about how Zuckerberg created a forum for people with terminal diseases to talk about their emotional journey with each other. The page was trolled for info related to people’s preference to / reaction to certain medications, which was then sold off to various firms. Mark better hope Dawkins and his fellow douches are right, because otherwise the devil is keeping that seventh circle of Dante’s inferno stoked with coals for the day Zuckerberg arrives.

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