Reflections on recent events, plus the occasional fact
free rant unfiltered by rational argument.
Your credit card company may be monitoring what you buy and pay for to decide if it agrees with your politics. In recent weeks we’ve heard much about China’s social credit system. The human-rights pundits in the West jumped up and down about the so-called ‘repression’.
Then in the next breath, these same self-appointed guardians of free speech pressured banks and credit card companies to shut-down people they disagree with. Their hypocrisy is breathtaking and deeply sinister.
Here’s what happened. Bloggers and other content providers can earn money for their stuff through services such as Patreon. In essence, the public can opt to pay or sponsor a website. Most of this is innocuous material, and some folks made a decent living as content providers.
A few controversial online personalities, who comment on politics, found themselves cut off. Those who disagreed with their views could have opted to present an alternative opinion. Instead, they went another route. They applied pressure to credit card companies and PayPal seeking to cut these people off. In turn, this means Patreon can’t pay them.
Orwellian stuff indeed. Corporations are working with radical pressure groups seeking to take control of who can have a platform on the Internet. In effect, they are de-platforming people by closing accounts using access to banking as the weapon of choice.
If you think I’m over-reacting take the time to visit this website. ‘Change the Terms’ started as an anti-Nazi movement. It’s now drifted into silencing others who don’t meet with its approval. These self-appointed arbiters of our words are keen to stress that freedom of speech remains unchallenged. These are somewhat empty promises.
Their published doctrine comes loaded with contradictions, loose definitions and is creating a weapon for censorship driven by hatred of contrary opinions. While it’s dressed up as an anti-racist and anti-Nazi - that’s only the foot in the door. They are also going after the pro-gun lobby. Next, it will be pro-abortion before it circles back against gays, transgenders and others. I predict the weapon they’ve created will turn against them.
'Change the Terms' stress that people should have the right of appeal. Here is their statement on that.
RIGHT OF APPEAL. The company will provide notice and a fair right of appeal to someone if their content is taken down. This is particularly important for creators of color.
You can see where this is going in that last sentence. Fairness and being objective goes to 'creators of color'. It’s an agenda driven initiative aimed at harnessing private companies as a tool of suppression. Take this to its logical conclusion, and they will shut off your power supply, heating and ability to shop. Hold the wrong opinions and become a non-person.
Plus, the big question is who decides what’s hate speech. The kind folks at ‘Change the Terms’ believe it is unrealistic to expect human reviewers to monitor and decide. They’ve suggested that algorithms do the job. Hey, we all know how well that’s going to work; the legitimate right to speak decided by a computer programmed by some kid with human prejudices and foibles. You can predict millions of false-positives, as content providers are left scrambling to appeal.
And we all know how easy it is to appeal. Our experience dealing with banks and credit card companies over simple transaction issues gives a sign. They won’t invest in large teams to deal with this because it's not a money earner.
Setting aside problematic processes - the fundamental issue remains. These companies have no right deciding who can and cannot speak. That’s for the law and a fair judicial process.
We hear much criticism of China’s social credit system. At least the Chinese are open about it. In the West, the same is creeping in by stealth. A process hidden behind doors, operated by people using their business clout to control speech; while the gate-keepers are self-appointed nor with any independent oversight.
This whole de-platforming phenomenon has spread out from the university campuses. It's championed by the Marxist grievance studies professors and their SJW students. Anyone who dares speak against their postmodern manifesto faces a ban. Book-burning was the old way, these days the equal is closing you off from the Internet.
There is some good news. In response to these draconian actions, the genuine advocates of free speech are seeking to develop their platforms. Jordan Peterson, Dave Rubin and others are putting their considerable resources into an alternative channel. The process is advancing well as Peterson is seeking a name for the new venture.
Meanwhile, there are reports that Patreon is haemorrhaging business, both users and patrons. This sting may put the brakes on others who seek to use their commercial power to control free speech.
So are you comfortable that Visa, MasterCard and AMEX could decide whether you get a platform or face exclusion? In the meantime, we need to watch the banks and credit card companies like a hawk.
Walter De Havilland is one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Hong Kong Police.