Free Speech and Power in the Time of Ukraine

 

Russians are being cut off just as Canadians were cut off, and just as Americans were cut off.  This is not to equate the three causes — the cut-off Americans were pro-Trump, the Canadians were anti-mandate, and the Russian government is currently killing its way through Ukraine.  Different cases, right?  Yet the same tools are being used to silence individuals who have opinions contrary to the “dominant paradigm”.  That similarity is the real danger.  In the middle to long term, this is worse even than the horrors currently inflicted on Ukraine – globally homogenized censorship is a recipe for unending invasion and suppression.  It is the boot poised above the human face.

Conventional wisdom has nothing to do with it.  A paradigm is not wisdom, and convention has folded before dominance.  I recall a bumper sticker artfully pinned to the door of some facultron in the English Department at my university, “Subvert the Dominant Paradigm”.  This was an explicit, if cheeky admission of Brando’s defiant answer “Whaddya got?” when asked in The Wild Ones, “Hey Johnny, what are you rebelling against?”.  But now we simply Meet the New Boss.  They rebel against nothing; they carry out their instructions, and curry favor with The System.  They decide and the shotgun sings the song.  The radicals are now the establishment, and they have mortgages.

Trump was thrown off of Twitter while he was still President.  Remember that the US Supreme Court ruled he could not block people on that platform.  Neat trick — the platform is such a public utility that Trump cannot block people, but such a private entity that they de-platformed the US President.  And so on.  Now we see the Russians with their accounts closed, their finances monitored and restricted, their assets seized or rendered valueless, and so forth.  Just like the Canadians before them.  I won’t shed a tear for a Russian oligarch but neither the target nor the justification matter much compared to the power and the method.  After all, once the power and the method are accepted, targets and justifications come easily.  Once the machine is running, they need only turn the dial.

I’ve written before about our “digital rendition” as a parallel to the “extraordinary rendition” of terror suspects (battlefield capture etc) for interrogation in other jurisdictions.  The US Government uses private companies onshore and presumably offshore to do its bidding.  Those companies surveil us for their own private purposes, remember?  But when the government demands to see something, the companies provide.  And soon the whole thing is an explicit federalization of the entire online business sector.  And devices.  And software.  And finance.  Big Tech is now another branch of government, and unlike the rest, it zealously protects and advances its interests.

De-list the President?  Sure.  Bankrupt some truckers?  No problem.  Ruin some doctors, researchers, dissidents, activists for not bowing to and serving the Dominant Paradigm (note fear caps)?  You got it.  By the way — we do not expect to be regulated, restricted, required, remediated, remonstrated, or anything which apparently starts with re-.  You feel me, government?  Yes Sir, Big Tech — we feel you.

God Damn the Russians.  I studied Russian in college.  I enjoy some Russian literature.  I like stories from and about Russia.  I’ve visited Russia.  So spare me the horrors of “Russia hatred”.  Right now Russia is worthy of our hatred, and we are not individually responsible in this us-vs-them scenario for honoring the distinction between them and the leaders of them.

The problem come in when our own institutions — government, tech, banking, publishing, and so forth — decide that they will abandon their own professional requirements.  You and I are not professionals in the public square, but our institutions are.  Meanwhile, our woke disaster means that increasingly, you and I must play the professional even in personal life, while faceless incorporated entities (includes government!) are allowed to play the person even while wielding enormous professional power.  California authorized selective disconnect of paying “customers” of government services based on COVID compliance.  Perhaps all bets are off.

There is nowhere to go when the globohomo powers-that-be decide that your money in their custody is their money, that your speech must be their speech, and that your candidate must be theirs.

Everybody supports Free Speech, capital letters and all, when nothing unpopular is being said.  Virtue is easy when vice is obvious.  Despite my hissing disdain for Russia’s apologists both foreign and domestic, and my utter sanguinity with a sanguinary end for Putin, I do not want our institutions corrupted further with a blank check to express hatred and to exert power, on our behalf, against those with whom I disagree.

Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion was confronted with an ally in a war, Britain, who was also an enemy in serious, existential diplomacy over a “White Paper”.  How to reconcile these?  Don’t:

“We will fight the war as if there were no White Paper, and we will fight the White Paper as if there were no war.”

There may be two problems, Russia and censorship, and they may be connected, but if we allow the connection to paralyze us, then we are doomed.  There is a logical consistency which is largely beyond the reach of most human affairs.  Conservatives know that not all things may be reconciled with the knowledge at hand, yet two things which may not be congruent to our current understanding may still both be wrong.  Much of conservatism, secular and religious, is the recognition that were imperfect, and imperfectible.

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is wrong.  Tech’s silencing of dissent is wrong.  Finance’s abruptly and selectively closing channels is wrong.  Some of these wrongs seem not to be entirely wrong given other wrongs.

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall.”

Yes, you are allowed to hate Russia.  Yes, you are allowed to oppose military intervention.  Yes, you are allowed to agitate for freedom of speech, even for Russians and their stooges, uh, supporters.  Yes, you are allowed to say all of that and tell the logic cucks to shove off.  These are separate problems to be addressed separately.

What happens when the next ridiculous obsessive crisis puts this site in the crosshairs, when payments processors and hosting companies will no longer do business with places like this because of the views expressed here?

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There are 16 comments.

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  1. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    I should edit this.  Suggestrons welcome.

    EDIT:  Edited.  Heavily.

    • #1
  2. Hugh Member
    Hugh
    @Hugh

    “They reproduce by brainwashing our young.” – Great way of putting it.  I totally agree.

    • #2
  3. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Hugh (View Comment):

    “They reproduce by brainwashing our young.” – Great way of putting it. I totally agree.

    Long ago, I remember reading something by Bertrand Russell about a religious group who condemned any sexual act even for reproduction, and instead (more or less) “relied upon the common sinfulness of humans to provide them with a continuing crop of fresh disciples.”

    • #3
  4. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    This is a recording.

    We are currently closed.  My mind’s office hours are 3:00 AM to Happy Hour.

    We will process your serious, rational, subtle implicit request for a rational response within 24 hours, unless it disappears into the fog of intervening  posts.

    Note: If Richochet happens to introduce a way of marking a post as “unread” this evening, it will be so marked, and then it won’t be a crap shoot whether

    • I ever answer it, or

    • it will be instead for both of us another pointless death of a Ricochet conversation

    • #4
  5. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    Mark, feel free to participate.  I do ask that the first many many comments be on-topic.  And just so you can rest easy, I assure you that the conversation will roll regardless of your ultimate decision.  See you when you return!

    • #5
  6. genferei Member
    genferei
    @genferei

    I realize this horse has bolted, but I do wish people reserved the word ‘Marxist’ for ideas that had something to do with Marx. 

    • #6
  7. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    BDB (View Comment):

    Mark, feel free to participate. I do ask that the first many many comments be on-topic. And just so you can rest easy, I assure you that the conversation will roll regardless of your ultimate decision. See you when you return!

    Your post is very serious, so any comment from me will be on-topic. 

    The more serious the post, the less likely I am to

    • try to be funny, or
    • risk hijacking the conversation with a peripheral comment

    with an off-topic comment.

    • #7
  8. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    genferei (View Comment):

    I realize this horse has bolted, but I do wish people reserved the word ‘Marxist’ for ideas that had something to do with Marx.

    The useful idiots of communism are doing the bidding of long-dead Marxists.  There is of course no actual Marxist “Theory of Value” (because it doesn’t work, which was obvious even to Marx), so it’s tough to nail that down.  “Levellers” would be an appropriate description of this constellation of motives, beliefs, and targets, but “Marxists” properly reflects both the vector bringing us the disease and the methods by which it attacks.

    If you wish to address only a subset of what is meant by Marxism, I look forward to a post illustrating your point.  Marxists cannot agree what it means — I take my interpretation from Sowell and Alinsky and through the lens of its current effects.

    “There is only the fight.”

    • #8
  9. lowtech redneck Coolidge
    lowtech redneck
    @lowtech redneck

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Hugh (View Comment):

    “They reproduce by brainwashing our young.” – Great way of putting it. I totally agree.

    Long ago, I remember reading something by Bertrand Russell about a religious group who condemned any sexual act even for reproduction, and instead (more or less) “relied upon the common sinfulness of humans to provide them with a continuing crop of fresh disciples.”

    Probably the Shakers, they lasted for quite a long time.

    • #9
  10. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    lowtech redneck (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Hugh (View Comment):

    “They reproduce by brainwashing our young.” – Great way of putting it. I totally agree.

    Long ago, I remember reading something by Bertrand Russell about a religious group who condemned any sexual act even for reproduction, and instead (more or less) “relied upon the common sinfulness of humans to provide them with a continuing crop of fresh disciples.”

    Probably the Shakers, they lasted for quite a long time.

    It was actually the Manicheans, I found the quote from “An Outline Of Intellectual Rubbish.”

    Some eminent men think even the doctrine of the Catholic Church deplorably lax
    where sex is concerned. Tolstoy and Mahatma Gandhi, in their old age,
    laid it down that all sexual intercourse is wicked, even in marriage and with a
    view to offspring. The Manicheans thought likewise, relying upon men’s
    native sinfulness to supply them with a continually fresh crop of disciples. This
    doctrine, however, is heretical, though it is equally heretical to maintain that
    marriage is as praiseworthy as celibacy. Tolstoy thinks tobacco almost as bad as
    sex; in one of his novels, a man who is contemplating murder smokes a
    cigarette first in order to generate the necessary homicidal fury. Tobacco,
    however, is not prohibited in the Scriptures, though, as Samuel Butler points
    out, St Paul would no doubt have denounced it if he had known of it.

    • #10
  11. Unsk Member
    Unsk
    @Unsk

    Great Post BDB, despite the snarky unserious comments, which  I think shows how frightened they are. 

    • #11
  12. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    I am glad you reticulated all those things. 

    • #12
  13. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    /abstraction on/

    Few (if any) actions one human can take against another are inherently just or unjust. But all actions must be supported by a just system. Just systems are not perfect but are capable of self-reform without having to kill someone(s). If you have a system that cannot be reformed without killing someone, you know it is not a just system.

    /abstraction off/

    • #13
  14. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    Unsk (View Comment):

    Great Post BDB, despite the snarky unserious comments, which I think shows how frightened they are.

    Thanks — heavy revision inbound, by the way.  Almost there…

    NOTE:  The article has been edited nearly down to half its original length.  If any comments above do not comport with what you see in the OP, assume that the fault is mine.

    • #14
  15. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    On the bright side, I’ve been able to find a number of sources countering the dominant paradigm or narrative about the Russo-Ukrainian war.  One might agree or disagree with any particular source, but they are out there.  A few examples:

    Tucker Carlson, Glenn Greenwald, Lee Smith, Tulsi Gabbard, Col. Douglas Macgregor, the guys at The Duran, Samo Burja (who was interviewed by the guys at Rebel Wisdom and UnHerd).

    There have been efforts to silence them, so far with rhetoric and not deplatforming.  Some of the rhetoric has been excessive, with things like claims of “treason” or “Putin stooges” and the like.  But contrarian information remains available, and I think that this is a good thing.

    • #15
  16. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    I am glad you reticulated all those things.

    That’s reticulous.

    • #16
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