News Commentary: The Rise and Rise of State Control

May 9, 2019

 

How many people in the UK have heard of Alex Jones? Most I suspect, will say, ‘Who? Er…is he a singer or something?’ It is understandable since Jones is in fact, an American journalist and one who has, over the years been a little controversial.

   Alex Jones is also a filmmaker, producing on average two films per year since his first documentary, America: Destroyed By Design, was released in 1997. His films primarily document the emergence of what he describes as a New World Order; world totalitarian government, the steady erosion of the US Constitution and national sovereignty in the United States, government corruption, corporate fascism, eugenics, martial law and the encroaching police state.

 

image - oxman, wikimedia commons)

 

He has hit the (headlines in the US on numerous occasions for his outspoken advocacy for freedom, notably in January 2013 when he took part in a televised debate with CNN's Piers Morgan on gun control which resulted in attention around the world (Morgan of course is a Brit-in-America and former editor of the Daily Mirror).

   In 2011 a Rolling Stone magazine article described Alex Jones as ‘a giant in America's conspiracy subculture,’ and according to UT Professor Randolph Lewis, Jones is ‘one of the most important political media figures in the country’ and ‘his circle of Texas libertarians is maybe the most important zone of resistance to surveillance culture right now.’

   ‘Alex Jones is a model for people to create their own media,’ Michael Harrison (editor of the industry trade magazine Talkers) told Rolling Stone writer Alexander Zaitchik. ‘When the history is written of talk broadcasting's transition from the corporate model of the 20th century to the digital, independent model of the 21st century, he will be considered an early trailblazer.’

   Jones today is the frontman of internet broadcasting site Infowars, meaning a war on information and the site has come to be one of America’s leading independent broadcasters. Jones passionately argues against foreign entanglements and wars, avoids the political labels of ‘left and right’ and instead focuses on what really matters — what's right and wrong. As a tenacious journalist, Jones has broken hundreds of national stories over the span of his career, a feat that led to one Matt Drudge (also somewhat unknown on this side of the Atlantic) giving Infowars a much coveted spot on the permanent links section of his hugely influential and highly trafficked website, DrudgeReport.com. 

 (image - infowars/Alex Jones)

 

So what does this have to do with the UK? Why is an often controversial independent US broadcast journalist of interest to the average Brit (Piers Morgan excepted)? What does this have to do with the UK?

   More than you might think. Do read on…

   Social Media has been heavily criticised by some within the UK, most notably some British newspapers who have seized upon any tragedy that has a link to social media use. Blazing headlines covering an assault on the young make people buy the paper – which is after all, the point of a headline. All newspapers, both in the UK and the USA (and for that matter elsewhere) stay in business by the numbers who read them, and the rise of the internet poses a significant threat to the viability of the printed word.

   There is no doubt that hard-copy anything has declined, including more humble examples like the Post Office, now a shadow of what it once was in terms of the numbers of letters sent. How many today still actually write a letter when it is far quicker, far cheaper and far more convenient to send an email? The same principle applies to an increasing number of other areas of everyday life, which is why banks (among others) are now leaning heavily towards the internet rather than the face-to-face contact in a high street branch. The inexorable increase of the automated check-out and check-in at supermarkets and at airports continues to de-humanise shopping and travelling, all done by a machine, not a real person. The internet is, or perhaps already has become, the dominant factor of everyday life and everybody needs to use it. And in a free society, everybody can - unless it is controlled by somebody.

   The question is, who does the controlling? Returning to those newspaper headlines, we all know that most British politicians are weak, devoid of any real sense of the everyday lives of those they seek to lead, and would rather pursue a good headline instead of doing something actually beneficial. This is why the present government, led by Prime Minister Theresa May and enthusiastically propagated by her Home Secretary Sajid Javid, is so keen on restricting the up to now unfettered use of the internet. People often forget that Prime Minister May was also a very long-serving Home Secretary and it was she who was also full of the same enthusiasm for putting everybody under some kind of surveillance. It was one of her predecessors in that post, Labour’s Alan Johnson, who denied that the UK had become a surveillance society between 1997 and 2010. Yet it was indeed Labour who were responsible for the huge increase in the state watching our every move, something the Conservatives, first under David Cameron and now Theresa May, have not only done nothing about but have actually increased. 

 

             (image - Gammew wikimedia commons)

 

Why? What’s in it for them? The answer is to keep their hold on power. But if a right-wing government is doing this, what would a left-wing one do? The answer to that lies in the history books. Left-wing governments have been shown time and time again to restrict and ultimately eliminate a free press and free speech along with it. Left-wing governments might well start life by being elected but soon enable themselves to become a one-party state, and a state that controls everything. Including, now, today, the internet (try using it in certain countries around the world and see how far you get. Go on, try it…then write to us – if they will let you – from your prison cell).

   The ability of government to switch off access to the internet is one of the things that Alex Jones rails against. Yet so much of our lives now is, as we have seen, reliant on internet access. So how can any Western government switch it off? Well, they could…but it would, for obviously practical reasons, be a little unwise. What they can do however, is control those companies that provide the services. Companies like Facebook.

   Facebook is one of the most heavily criticised internet service providers in existence, yet it also does a lot of good, providing a means of instant communication for family and friends no matter where in the world they are - provided a government allows it to. On a personal level, I am an unashamed supporter of Facebook and it is a very successful enterprise but it will only remain so if it is allowed to by government. In a free and democratic society however, government cannot be seen to be exercising direct control over it and Facebook is now so big that, short of a direct state takeover, it remains strong enough to resist undue interference. But it can be influenced.

   Given the level of criticism aimed at it by governments – including that of the UK – Facebook needs to maintain its income and if it as a company is not seen to be doing ‘something’ to prevent it being used by genuinely undesirable elements (like terrorists, the most oft-quoted example) then that income will be under threat. It must therefore, protect itself. So Facebook, and Instagram, which it owns, is now placing bans on certain users. Including Alex Jones.

   Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News, another American independent internet-based news site and he recently reported:

 

‘The banning of multiple political commentators from Facebook and Instagram, including conservative Paul Joseph Watson, is an outrage against the ideals of an open Internet on its own. But beyond the bans on individuals, Facebook has deployed an even more terrifying tool of censorship — link-banning.

   Mainstream media were, of course, tipped off about the bans in advance, [and] not only has Alex Jones’ personal account now been banned from Facebook, in addition to PrisonPlanet editor-in-chief and YouTube star Paul Joseph Watson, but all links to Infowars sites are now banned across the platform. Share Infowars too often, and you’ll be banned too.

According to a company spokesperson, ‘Infowars is subject to the strictest ban. Facebook and Instagram will remove any content containing Infowars videos, radio segments, or articles (unless the post is explicitly condemning the content), and Facebook will also remove any groups set up to share Infowars content and events promoting any of the banned extremist figures.’

 

(Twitter, YouTube, and Apple have also banned Jones and Infowars.)

This takes censorship on social media to altogether new levels. If you post Infowars content on Facebook or Facebook-owned Instagram, your post will be removed. If you post it repeatedly, you will be banned.

Note the wording, too — you’ll be banned unless you’re condemning Infowars. Facebook is now brazenly using its power to reward certain political positions and punish others. This isn’t censorship of an individual or a group over a violation of terms of service. It’s the wholesale ban of an independent media site, which for all the criticism levied against it, has had a major impact on the politics of the United States.

   And Facebook has made no pretence, as it has in other cases where the pages of news sites have been banned, that the ban occurred because of alleged “inauthentic behaviour,” by which it means the use of multiple pages or automated accounts to promote a site’s content.     That Facebook is dispensing with its previous excuses shows that the social network has become emboldened to regulate the flow of news on its platform, knowing that no consequences are headed its way from Republicans on Capitol Hill or in the White House.   

   Through algorithm changes and the prioritization of so-called “authoritative sources,” Facebook has spent the last two years positioning itself to control the news you see on your feed. Now it’s taken control of the news you share with your friends too. Post a link to a disapproved website? It’ll be deleted. Post it again? You’ll likely be banned.

   This is a formula not just for banning websites, commentators, and political figures, but for banning all their supporters as well.’

 

   Bokhari goes on to write that the primary target of this action is America’s political right, personified by current US President Donald Trump, saying: ‘…because their bans nearly exclusively target the right, potentially thousands of Republicans and Trump supporters won’t be able to use Facebook to encourage their friends to vote on election day 2020 — a massive advantage for the Democrats on one of the internet’s most politically influential platforms’ (President Trump by the way, also appeared on Alex Jones’s show).

   He concludes his article for Breitbart News with the following:

 

‘But this isn’t just an attack on particular individuals or sources. Whatever your criticisms of Infowars — and there are many — this is an attack on the independent media as a whole. It’s an unprecedented tilting of the scales in favour of Democrat-approved media, and it will have an enormous impact on the 2020 election.

   That’s the point of course. Since Trump won in 2016, Silicon Valley has been animated by a single mission — ensure it never happens again.’

 

Assuming you have stayed the course and read this far, you are probably still wondering why all this, across the pond in the USA, has anything to do with the UK.

   The answer is that, whether we like it or not, whether it is right or wrong, what happens in the USA inevitably ends up happening here in Britain. And the signs are already there. Substitute President Trump and his party for the UK’s Conservatives, change the US Democrats for Labour in Britain and suddenly the perception changes.

   Add in the domino effect of one big high-tech company like Facebook doing something and the others tend to follow suit. As Allum Bokhari also reports for Breitbart News, ‘…remember that these companies are beset by constant pressure from left-wing advocacy organisations, from the mainstream media, and from their own far-left employees to censor and blacklist the right. When one company buckles, those forces have the ammunition they need to force other companies to buckle too.’

   That same pressure, and from the same sources, already exists here in the UK.

   Mainstream media in the UK are right to criticise social media companies for not doing enough to remove genuinely harmful content and yes, even governments have their part to play but there is a very fine line between doing that and outright censorship.

   The term ‘sleepwalking into…(insert your word of choice)’ has been used rather widely over recent years but there is no doubt at all that the UK is indeed, doing just that into a very oppressive future.

   Unless of course, every free citizen wants to remain so and is prepared to use their voice, via the ballot box, the letters pages in newspapers, letters to internet sites (including KJM Today) and the internet in general, to demand that they stay free.

 

© Kevan James

 

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