Let A Thousand Flowers Wilt

It's not Twitter shutting up Trump that should worry us.

The running battle between President Trump on the right hand and the "fake news" media establishment combined with the social-media tech giants on the left, continues apace.  Evidence is piling up that conservative views are unwelcome on the most popular platforms, from hard evidence like the Twitter shadow bans to more anecdotal incidents like Google's top news story being... wait for it... a CNN article trumpeting “Trump slams Google search as ‘rigged’ — but it’s not.”

Still, the fact that we know about these issues is a strong argument that conservatives aren't being totally banned.  If they truly were, we wouldn't know they even existed, right?  It's the mirror image of the arguments regularly used by Scragged against leftists who scream the Trump is fascist: actual fascists like Hitler and Mussolini weren't known for letting people freely run around accusing them of crimes.  Any dissenters got whisked promptly off to concentration camps, never to be heard from again.

Even the fever swamps of the left have only accused the Trump administration of doing that to illegal alien activists, who have no First Amendment (or any other) Constitutional rights anyway.  Similarly, President Trump's tweets have only been blocked once, briefly, by an employee already on his way out the door who later claimed that it was an accident.

So it's no surprise that the New York Times calls Mr. Trump's attacks on Twitter "ludicrous."  And, if all that mattered were the pronouncements of Mr. Trump himself, or other maverick celebrities like Alex Jones of Infowars, they'd be right.

But claiming anti-conservative bias overall is far from ludicrous, and equally far from pointless, as we and they know perfectly well.

Don't Let A Thousand Flowers Bloom

In the bad old days of totalitarian dictators, absolutely no dissent was tolerated.  Stalin packed countless tens of millions off to the gulag for even accidental criticism; Hitler did the same on a smaller scale, as Chairman Mao did on a larger one.

And Stalin, like Mao, died peacefully in bed.  In the long run, though, totalitarian communism became discredited and hated by just about all of the people who were forced to live under it.

Today's left may not have learned, or don't care, that socialism fails everywhere it's tried, but they have definitely learned that ostentatious murderous evil tends to create persistent pockets of powerful resistance which lead to long-term failure.  Today's would-be leftist tyrant takes care to move softly and with only the bare minimum of violence.  We see the occasional conservative speech being stormed by rioting mobs of leftists while police stand idly by.  We don't see the police rounding up the attendees and hauling them off in cattle cars, nor will we anytime soon.

The problem is, the pronouncements of President Trump are immune to being shut up because he's in a uniquely-immune position.  Not just because he's now President; he is President today because he was in a unique position before he ran.

How so?  Unlike 99.9999% of Americans, he is so rich as to be effectively independent from anyone or anything, other than prosecution for a provable felony and maybe not even that.

There are many people that appear to be rich, but it's just an appearance: their apparent wealth comes from a large income, and if that income is stopped, their wealth vanishes quickly.  A few years ago, we'd have counted Harvey Weinstein among the plutocrats, but with his expulsion from Hollywood and the collapse of his Hollywood-related businesses, his net worth is plummeting rapidly.  He still controls more money than most of us will ever see, but a few years of celebrity defense lawyers could easily consume nearly all of it, as OJ Simpson discovered to his dismay.

Mr. Trump, though, is a billionaire who owns solid, saleable assets of firm value: namely, buildings in major world cities.  These can't just be stripped from him, and there will always be someone willing to buy them should he wish to sell.  He can't be threatened with poverty the way nearly everybody else can.  This gives him the freedom to say what otherwise can't be said, and which normal Americans have been waiting for many years to hear a leader dare to say.

There is also a lesser tier of conservatives who, while not independently wealthy in the way Mr. Trump is, command a sufficient following who will seek them out no matter what.  Rush Limbaugh is one of these; so is Mark Levin, and (if you consider him to be a conservative, which we don't) so is Alex Jones.  The powers of the left can try to silence them, but won't succeed.

Unlike Mr. Trump, though, the rest of famous conservatives weren't born wealthy.  There was a time when nobody had ever heard of them; they had to start somewhere, in an environment that allowed their message to be heard and their audience to grow.  Who is going to replace Rush Limbaugh when he dies or retires?  Presumably, somebody we've not heard of today.

The problem is, for every famous conservative who gets shadow-banned, yells and screams about it, then gets promptly unbanned with a lame "mistakes were made" non-apology from Twitter - there are a thousand conservative nobodies who are banned, can't do anything about it, and their voices vanish from the national conversation... forever.

The institutional Left, as represented by the social-media moguls, has learned that they don't need absolute 100% control of everything that is ever said or done everywhere at any time, the way Stalin tried to.  They've discovered that it's easier, safer, and in the long run more effective if they tolerate a few annoying loudmouths so long as they retain the power to prevent the small number of loudmouths from growing out of control.  Which they do.

At the same time, they don't have to impose their will on every tiny peon's squawk.  It's OK if conservative individuals express their conservative opinions, so long as hardly anybody else ever hears them - hence the shadowbanning technique.

Closer To Home

Consider this very magazine.  Scragged has been in operation since 2007, regularly reporting conservative opinion and analysis.  In all that time, no contributor has been paid, nor is there any anticipation that any ever will.  Financially, it's a hobby.

And, as we can see in the news every day, conservatism is a risky hobby.  None of the regular Scragged writers are independently wealthy on the Trumpian model; their personal livelihoods depend on other people paying them money in return for labor which is totally unrelated to anything found in Scragged.

Yet, as we've seen time after time, association with politically incorrect thought can lead to firing, blacklisting, and impoverishment.

That's why, from Day One, Scragged writers have mostly used pseudonyms.  If we were dealing with a Stalinist government, the KGB would have no trouble tracking down who we really are, but that's not a serious worry.  We're fairly well protected from frothing lefties banging away at Google in their mother's basement, which is the largest risk.

But in so doing, we've limited our reach.  How can you be invited on a radio or TV talk show when nobody knows who you are?

Perhaps our writing is not of national-syndicate quality.  We'll never know, because the large and evident risks of publicity outweigh the highly unlikely chance of great success.  Meanwhile, our families must eat.

The Left does not have this problem - you can be a confessed terrorist murderer and rest comfortably in a lavishly-paid taxpayer-funded high status job.  Young leftists can safely throw Molotov cocktails at conservatives: they probably won't get arrested, if they do they'll almost certainly be released, and if by some chance they aren't, they'll become a celebrity cause and parachute into a cushy job.

That is what President Trump and the American right are truly up against: not a monolith that completely prevents their views from ever being expressed by anyone at all, but one which makes it unacceptably costly for ordinary people to express them.  Because of this, fewer ordinary people adopt those views, and those that do think they're alone.

We recall the impact of the Tea Party, when millions of American conservatives suddenly realized that they weren't alone - there really were millions of other people who felt the same way about taxes and regulations as they did!

The Tea Party era has ended and our politics have moved on, but the lessons remain; the Left is doing all in their power to make sure that never happens again.  They'll do whatever is required to make sure that conservative flowers wilt, not bloom.

Best wishes to President Trump and the handful of conservatives who can blast away social-media shadow-bans like a battleship plowing through a screen of destroyers!  Without their leadership, the rest of us would be in the position of the proverbial tree falling in a forest where no one is there to hear, wondering if we even made a sound.

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other Scragged.com articles by Petrarch or other articles on Business.
Reader Comments

Thanks for the good read. I agree with the premise and overall message. It does make me wonder if in addition to stifling conservative thought, if there’s a fertilizing aspect simultaneously? Folks like Tucker Carlson, Ben Shapiro, Candace Owens and Dr. Jordan Peterson come to immediate mind. They’re fortunate in that they’ve been propelled by the media; how many more are waiting in the wings, encouraged by the successes of those I mentioned or the Behemoths like Limbaugh or Levin?

Middle America sees the wilting flowers and continues to seek alternatives to get their message out. I typically don’t participate in any form of social media. I’ve yet to create an account outside of my email address I’ve had for at least two decades. I’ve been on the hunt for websites where I can read thought provoking articles that focus on a conservative viewpoint. I landed here after reading the comments sections of a few American thinker articles. How many more of us are seeking that proverbial conservative lifeboat that sites like this and others provide?

I believe, however naively, that we conservatives yearn to be heard. Finding or creating alternatives is difficult and akin to navigating a minefield whilst blindfolded. I don’t have a solution, other than to persist with the message and intellectually stimulating articles.

September 5, 2018 12:41 AM

Yes. At Scragged, we write because we are compelled to - we have to let our thoughts and feelings out in some productive way! But we also do yearn to be heard, and the comments we glean go some ways to meeting that need.

September 5, 2018 7:27 AM

Thanks for another great article. What if Trump Inc. created a conservative Twitter/Facebook platform? Why can't Twitter/Facebook be held to the same standard as the phone companies?

September 5, 2018 11:41 AM

I started a blog, www.conservativeruckus.com, about 10 years ago. Initially, I would get 100 to 150 hits per blog entry. Then Google's algorithm changed. I got 15 to 20 hits an article. Recently, Google's algorithm changed again. Now I get 3 to 6 hits per article unless the article is carefully phrased to be technical. I got over 150 hits on "Alternatves to Network Neutrality," which discussed several alternative ways to achieve unfettered access by increasing competition in the last mile to the users' houses. The algorithm wasn't smart enough to detect that the alternatives were undoing the previous monopoly effects of local government regulation and federal broadcast spectrum control.

September 5, 2018 1:25 PM

It isn't just Twitter and friends. Linked In has been banning people too


LinkedIn has restored access to the profile page of a prominent Chinese human rights activist, a day after the career networking site told him his page in China had been censored in accordance with the company’s commitment to adhering to the “requirements of the Chinese government”.

LinkedIn informed New York-based activist Zhou Fengsuo on Wednesday evening that, because of “specific content” in his profile, his page could no longer be viewed by users in China, according to correspondence that Zhou posted to Twitter.

“While we strongly support freedom of expression, we recognized when we launched that we would need to adhere to the requirements of the Chinese government in order to operate in China,” LinkedIn’s message to Zhou said.

As part of its launch in China in early 2014, LinkedIn, which was bought by Microsoft in 2016, agreed to demands from Chinese authorities to block access to accounts deemed to be in violation of local laws regulating content.

The agreement was roundly criticised by the human rights community, and there have been notable spikes in censorship around the annual anniversaries of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown on protesters calling for democratic reform.

LinkedIn spokeswoman Nicole Leverich told the South China Morning Post on Thursday afternoon that an internal review had found that Zhou’s profile “was blocked in error”, and said the visibility of his profile in China had been restored. She declined to comment on how the “error” came about, or when exactly the action had been taken.

Responding to LinkedIn's claim that the block was the result of an error, Zhou said in an email that he believed media attention had “escalated the level of attention such that they couldn’t handle it any more”.

Zhou, a leader of those protests who was once No 5 on Beijing’s most-wanted list, suspects the censorship has nothing to do with the content of his LinkedIn profile. Instead, he attributes it to his activity on other online platforms such as Chinese messaging app WeChat, where he recently shared a video calling for the end of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s rule.

His attempts to contact LinkedIn and ask what “specific content” had caused the censorship had been unsuccessful, he said.

“I feel anger and outrage,” Zhou, who runs a human rights organisation that advocates for and supports political prisoners in China, said before LinkedIn changed course. “It’s just not something you would expect from Silicon Valley, where they always profess their love for liberties and, in particular, expression.”

When accessed from within China on Thursday, the web address for Zhou’s account returned a page asking users to verify their phone number before continuing. An SMS verification code was never received.

Other LinkedIn accounts could be viewed on Thursday without the need for phone verification.
Zhou, who said he posted content such as articles and photos on LinkedIn only “sporadically”, had most recently posted a message ahead of the New Year on behalf of his organisation, Humanitarian China
, that mentioned the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

“Next year is the 30th anniversary of June 4th,” he wrote in a post sent to his 975 followers. “The democratic movement of 1989 is the driving force of Humanitarian China.”

January 3, 2019 6:12 PM
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