Sunday, December 13, 2020

Deplorables Official Status Reduced To Expendables...,

taibbi |  In sum, it’s okay to stoke public paranoia, encourage voters to protest legal election results, spread conspiracy theories about stolen elections, refuse to endorse legal election tallies, and even to file lawsuits challenging the validity of presidential results, so long as all of this activity is sanctified by officials in the right party, or by intelligence vets, or by friendlies at CNN, NBC, the New York Times, etc.

If, however, the theories are coming from Donald Trump or some other disreputable species of un-credentialed American, then it’s time for companies like YouTube to move in and wipe out 8000+ videos and nudge people to channels like CBS and NBC, as well as to the home page of the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. This is a process YouTube calls “connecting people to authoritative information.”

Cutting down the public’s ability to flip out removes one of the only real checks on the most dangerous kind of fake news, the official lie. Imagine if these mechanisms had been in place in the past. Would we disallow published claims that the Missile Gap was a fake? That the Gulf of Tonkin incident was staged? How about Watergate, a wild theory about cheating in a presidential election that was universally disbelieved by “reputable” news agencies, until it wasn’t? It’s not hard to imagine a future where authorities would ask tech platforms to quell “conspiracy theories” about everything from poisoned water systems to war crimes.

There’s no such thing as a technocratic approach to truth. There are official truths, but those are political rather than scientific determinations, and therefore almost always wrong on some level. The people who created the American free press understood this, even knowing the tendency of newspapers to be idiotic and full of lies. They weighed that against the larger potential evil of a despotic government that relies upon what Thomas Jefferson called a “standing army of newswriters” ready to print whatever ministers want, “without any regard for truth.”

We allow freedom of religion not because we want people believing in silly religions, but because it’s the only defense against someone establishing one officially mandated silly religion. With the press, we put up with gossip and errors and lies not because we think those things are socially beneficial, but because we don’t want an aristocratic political establishment having a monopoly on those abuses. By allowing some conspiracy theories but not others, that’s exactly the system we’re building.

Most of blue-state America is looking aghast at news stories about 17 states joining in a lawsuit to challenge the election results. Conventional wisdom says that half the country has been taken over by a dangerous conspiracist movement that must be tamed by any means necessary. Acts like the YouTube ban not only don’t accomplish this, they’ll almost certainly further radicalize this population. This is especially true in light of the ongoing implication that Trump’s followers are either actual or unwitting confederates of foreign enemies.

That insult is bad enough when it’s leveled in words only, but when it’s backed up by concrete actions to change a group’s status, like reducing an ability to air grievances, now you’re removing some of the last incentives to behave like citizens. Do you want 70 million Trump voters in the streets with guns and go-bags? Tell them you consider them the same as foreign enemies, and start treating them accordingly. This is a stupid, dangerous, wrong policy, guaranteed to make things worse.