January 8, 2021

Four years ago, after the unthinkable happened and the wrong guy won the US election of 2016. I wrote an article about how I had feared a type of “cultural purge” from within the corporate media, Big Tech and cancel culture spheres. Like everybody else, I didn’t expect Trump to win (like most other Libertarians, I was holding my nose and pulling for Gary Johnson, whose running mate, Bill Weld, endorsed Hillary Clinton during the election campaign).

What I expected then, after Trump would have unceremoniously lost the 2016 election,  was a type of cultural purge against anybody and everybody who enabled his run or supported him. What surprised me was that after he won the cultural purge proceeded anyway. In retrospect it seems obvious, at the time it blindsided me.

For the next four years we watched any (remaining) semblance of objectivity and impartiality wither away from the mainstream media. Even more troubling, was that it was also happening within Big Tech. Everything polarized and all judgement calls became characteristically asymmetrical. As I noted on occasion, that compared to the post 9/11 era when the Neocons controlled the narrative and the word “liberal” was a slur, everything flipped. Now it was the word “conservative” that was unusable and being a single micron to the right of centre was equated with being “literally Hitler”.

I could list the countless examples of deplatformings, cancellations, character assassinations and careers destroyed in the intervening time. It became so ridiculous, so devoid of any attempt at a claim to due process or fairness that an entire counter-culture has formed around criticizing or ridiculing it. I wrote a book about defending from deplatform attacks, which I started giving away for free in April when Big Tech started deplatforming deviant reporting on the COVID-19 crisis. Babylon Bee sprang into existence and quickly rivalled The Onion, riffing on cancel culture and hitting headwinds on multiple occasions when their scathing satire was indistinguishable from the reality they were lampooning.

TL,DR: Cancel culture is a right-wing conspiracy promulgated by Qanon Incels

More than once I thought “This is it, this has to be Peak Outrage”, and then somebody else’s career or business would be destroyed, sometimes for imagined transgressions that may or may not have taken place years ago or even before the target even started a position they’d just been canceled from having (David Collum’s section on cancel culture, featuring his own cancelation, lays many of these out in his famous Year In Review series, the 2020 issue).

Once the 2020 election was finally in the rear-view mirror and it appeared likely the administration had changed I thought, once again, that the worst was over. The world was mired in lockdown fatigue, we’re not even dealing with the economic fallout of COVID yet, and “ding dong the witch is dead”. Surely cancel culture and social justice extremism would taper off, if only out of exhaustion.

Boy am I wrong, again.

The ignominy with which TheDonald has chosen to close out his term, the lack of humility, of which is he likely congenitally incapable of, will instead reignite the flames of the culture wars and propel them to new heights. As investing legend (and Fed critic) Bill Fleckinstein observed in his subscriber note yesterday, there is a right way and a wrong way to go out, even if you feel like you got shafted:

On the subject of yesterday’s violence, although it is unlikely to have long-lasting economic impacts and thus is largely in the realm of politics, which I tend to avoid, I think there is a worthwhile lesson to point out. Obviously, Trump’s worst qualities, which stem from his being a petulant egomaniac, have been on display since he lost the election and I’m reminded of a very valuable lesson I learned from my investment business mentor, who told me that when you get fired by a client (yes, that happens), rather than be upset and act petulantly what you should say is, “How can I make the transition easier for you?”

In other words, you turn a loss into a bit of a victory by being a class act. I can’t tell you how many times over my investment career when that lesson and corollaries to it have been quite useful, and no matter what, trying to comport yourself in such a manner pays big dividends over time in my opinion.

Like Fleck, I don’t even want to get into the gory details of the events of Jan 6, the storming of the capital, the riots, other than to say that when we talk about the twilight of the nation state and the rise of the Network State in our #AxisOfEasy podcasts, these are the sort of disorderly episodes we fear punctuating or worse, defining, this oncoming societal shift.

We certainly seem to be into The Fourth Turning now, a book I have been rereading and was just finishing up listening to the day of the DC riots. Their prescience is creepy, especially as they outlined the “climax” phase of the Crisis period, which, by their reckoning started around… 2020 and would last another 6 to 10 years:

One or both of today’s dominant parties could go the way of the Whigs…History warns that when a crisis catalyzes, a previously dominant political party or regime can find itself perceived or blamed for direct mistakes that led to the national emergency.

Whoever holds power when the Fourth Turning arrives could find themselves joining the ranks of the 14th century Lancastrians, circa 15th century Catholics, circa 1680 Stewarts, circa 1770 Tories, circa 1860 Democrats, and circa 1929 Republicans. That party could find itself out of power for a generation.

Key persons associated with it could find themselves defamed, stigmatized, harassed, economically ruined, or even personally punished”

Since that day, Big Tech and corporate media moved at a new speed that I found dizzying. Twitter pile-ons are ugly enough spectacles and that’s just watching end-users gang up on the sacrificial deviant of the day. But watching Shopify of all companies, pile on to Facebook and Twitter’s deplatforming of a sitting president (which at this moment he is, like it or not), Simon and Schuster canceling their contract to publish Sen Josh Hawley’s book on Big Tech censorship (which I wanted to read) and I’m sure the list will go on after I’m done writing, this is just fucking crazy.

(I paused writing this to take a meeting, an hour later I come back to finishing it off and a friend, who fled Chicago this past summer because of the complete breakdown of civil order there, among other US cities at that time, sent me this story. It outlines numerous other firings and cancelations of Chicagoans who attended the DC rally (but not necessarily involved in the violence), and businesses who even commented in social media about it.

Translation: a social media mob demanded we cancel one of our employees with zero due process or time to consider, so we did. Who do you want us to fire next?

Think it through people.

Do you want to live in a society where Facebook and Twitter decide not only what is permissible to say but even which narratives can be explored and which ones can’t?

Yes I know, “private companies, their own AUP, blah blah blah” – I’m a libertarian and a tech company CEO, so I know all this. I’ll preempt these objections with what I said in my book, which is that when tech companies base platform/deplatform decisions on something that is happening outside of their platforms, they are in effect, exercising jurisprudence and adjudicating international law. All any company can competently assess is what is happening on within their respective platforms, how their employees are fulfilling their roles and serving the businesses customers and nothing else.

Would you be ok with your employer firing you if enough strangers who don’t know you, don’t do business with your company and have no first hand knowledge of events or what your circumstances are scream at your boss to cut you loose?

Do you want contracts to be subject to negation by  public sentiment of events 2 or 3 or more degrees separated from the contracted parties?

Do you want to have every aspect of your life scrutinized by somebody else’s measure of moral and ideological purity before you can say anything online? How about before you can book a hotel room? Fill up your car with gas? Go shopping? Get on a plane?

After all, we have big data and AI now, so this is all doable. 

Do you really want to live within the constraints of a type of societal social credit system where your every action, your very thoughts are bounded by external and ever shifting, subjective and revisionist social mores? Many of them defined by the most oversensitive, self-absorbed hysterics on social media?

Be very careful if you think this is a good thing, because sooner or later, you’re going to be on the wrong side of it. By then it’ll be too late.

 

 

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About the author 

Mark E. Jeftovic

Mark E. Jeftovic is the founder of Bombthrower and CEO of easyDNS.com, a company he co-founded in 1998 which has been operating along the lines described within these pages.

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  1. It’s all very well for you to argue for free expression when there are few consequences. There is, however, a trajectory for the ongoing radicalization of conservative views, and this trajectory leads to, for example, five deaths because some entitled white people invade the American Capital. Today I would suggest it runs like this: small c-conservative – Trumpian conservative – alt-right – Proud Boys and riots. It’s pretty obvious and although you don’t care for them, studies confirm that radicalization is real thing in North America (especially for white guys, what a surprise).

    While you declare your outrage about cancel culture, I feel correspondingly irritated, outraged, and occasionally frightened by the un-challenged radicalized conservatives in my society. So excuse me and my pals if we challenge the first steps of radicalization when we find them, along with the destructive heirs of centuries of white male privilege.

    1. So I want to see you demonstrate that you are not a ideological Hypocrite:

      CONDEMN THE BLM/ANTIFA violence that ACTUALLY happened for MONTHS (“mainly peaceful”) where cities burned, buildings destroyed, people Killed—

      CONDEMN what has been REAL—
      And then we might take your “outrage” about a demonstration which was usurped by a small few as something worth listening….

      “White male privilege” is what has allowed you to be so irrational in safety in a free country sweetheart…

    2. Please state the truth.
      It was the CULTURAL MARXISTS who started this
      Patriots of Western Civilization simply stood up and fought back.
      So far a great silent majority is asleep
      Wait till they AWAKE

      1. It’s not just cultural marxism, it is marxism. This happened in Russia with Lenin. It happened in Germany with Hitler. It happened in China. And Cuba and Venezuela. It will get worse until it is either stopped which is difficult to do, or it ultimately implodes on itself. Yes I am saying that the fascist are the very people who have been running around calling political opponents fascists.

    3. Yeah, I hear that a lot. I call them sheeple people. As an old fart who voted Carter in 76, your very poorly informed. For four years in my long life we didnt bomb anyone, I listened to many blacks who liked trump, he made nice with Putin and kim jong un. And the conspiratorial media chewed him up, spit him out. You for open borders? How bout we find a place for the homeless we got first.
      You probably wont give him credit for making hospital costs transparent, therefore more competitive. And the news prescription program? Yup, he fukd up a lot, but wadda I know? I could go on but why? Your already deluded by constant propaganda, u cant wake up.
      Wanna take bets on who Biden fks w first? Lol.

    4. Conservatives by definition cannot be radicalized. Conservatives are merely trying to preserve a United States that was, for most of its history, a prosperous place with a credible government.
      It is pure idiocy to suggest that preservation of a working system with honest elections is somehow “radical.”.

  2. Cancel Culture, Facebook, Twitter….
    Remember:
    ———————
    First they came for the Communists
    And I did not speak out
    Because I was not a Communist

    Then they came for the Socialists
    And I did not speak out
    Because I was not a Socialist

    Then they came for the trade unionists
    And I did not speak out
    Because I was not a trade unionist

    Then they came for the Jews
    And I did not speak out
    Because I was not a Jew

    Then they came for me
    And there was no one left
    To speak out for me
    ——————————
    All of you who did NOT support Trump — are now culpable for what’s about to happen
    (if the Insurrection Act is not executed….which I pray it is)
    The Media Gaslighting the populous….

    I fully expect all dissident voice to be silenced….
    I wish you had Thought more….
    Our Children and Grand Children will curse us that we allowed this to happen…

  3. I visualize it as two super huge fat guys playing tug-o’-war at the picnic. One lets go of the rope.

    I think the MAGA folks are done with the RINOs and the next thing I hear will be echos of HAL 9000 taking over.

    Joe Biden: BLM could you please open the pod bay doors?
    BLM: I’m afraid I can’t do that, Joe.

  4. Linnea, I find it supremely hypocritical that you are pointing out radicalization on the right of the political spectrum without acknowledging the radicalization of the left. In my mind, the radical left is the primary force driving cancel culture and pushing forward an agenda based on major societal change that many of us do not align with. More worrisome even is that what in my mind I view as radical leftism is becoming normalized in our society and main stream media (while conservatism is being vilified). Let’s at least agree that there are radicles on both sides and balanced voices calling for pragmatic, slow and cautious approaches to change are few and far between.

  5. Well said. All of the bad parts of religious zealotry are on display; in the service of a God with no name and a dogma written in mist. The only guiding principles seem to be deception and greed.

  6. “I’ve kept a lower profile lately because I’m conflicted over how much I should be yelling and screaming about how messed up everything is, versus embracing radical Stoicism and focusing on what I can control.”

    I get it. I’m the same. After the 1st of Feb, I’m thinking I’m going to be withdrawing even more. We are in the end stages of ….. something.

  7. The ballot box has failed.
    The Constitutional Republic is dead.
    1775 is over.
    Welcome to Venezuerica, a 3rd world pigsty.
    The lefto clowns are laughing hysterically at their “achievement”
    The ammo box is all we have left.
    Just like in 1775.
    This is what the 2nd Amendment is about.
    Do we have what it takes?

  8. Corporations that are monopolies are not private companies. Especially when they have huge control over 98% of what you read, see and can have access to. They are authoritarian.

  9. Pardon me, as European, to comment on the things posted and answered here. I know, that I’m not directly concerned – although you could even argue this in a globalized world!

    I’ve been watching what happened in DC on the 6th of January 2021 and found this to be a culmination point of radicalization which went on for decades now. It is always hard to point to the exact beginning, but I would consider Newt Gingrich had played his part on the Republican side. It went two or three steps farther with the Tea Party movement and now found the – so far – most extreme positions under Trump.

    The problem with radicalization is not one sided on the other hand. If the right gets more and more extreme so does the left to counterweight the movement. If this happens in a multi-party system, like we have numerous in Europe, there is always an alternative for the electoral crowds. But in the American bi-polar system with the Democrats and the Republicans as your only choice, you get lost if you are looking for pragmatic centre-thought options.
    This has a big destabilizing effect on the whole of society if you run out of options and are left out cold in a system without social welfare or even fair work conditions.

    So, cancel culture – whether coming from the right or the left – is a real threat to people, if you are cancelled and have no social net to slow or even cover your fall!

    It may not be the biggest problem of the American society, but it poses a threat to people who have not known such issues since they had a good education and a relatively secure career-outlook. So, I fully understand, that those people are very irritated by such a threat coming out of nowhere and finding them unprepared. A few years back, such problems where only experienced by the working poor with bad education and limited rights and possibilities.

    As long as the radicalization of the society continues, you will see ever more of this cancel culture in a sense of direct influence on the people from the other side of the societal divide. The only way to get this back on normal grounds would be a society which tries to find common grounds again to rely on social norms and rules, which are shared by the majority.
    We will see if the coming or even the next president thereafter is capable of bridging the gap in society to re-establish such common grounds.

    I don’t know whether my external view on things from Europe helps, but maybe it provokes one or another thought.

    All the best to those who have to live under such conditions…

  10. I am fed up with mainstream news mind-washing. I’ve witnessed the years
    of character assassinations of the POTUS by Left-leaning mainstream ‘news’ agencies.I used to believe it all. Not anymore! I mean, over the last few years I never saw any continuous insults or attacks on Biden or Harris, did
    you? Anyone watching must get tired of the bias and crafty sarcastic put-downs of the POTUS that have an obvious political intent. I mean, nary a word while the compromised BLM leaders and the Antifa burnt, shot, fought, and looted
    their lovely Democrat cities all summer long.
    Meanwhile, this demonstration at the White House by 250 thousand to protest the disgusting election fraud that has gone on without any true reporting or serious investigation by the courts, is now suddenly being used to further vilify the POTUS. If my only source of information is Left-leaning bias and censorship masquerading as ‘truth’ then I would be completely mind-washed and indoctrinated. There is a kind of ‘cognitive dissonance’ which seems to go on after viewing mainstream news reporting every day….without questioning its credibility….without looking across the net for alternate thought and investigation.

  11. Given the histrionics of the left regarding the Capitol incident, one wonders how the Left would have characterized and commented on that little incident involving Colonists dressing up as Indians and dumping boxes of tea into Boston Harbor. Tories would describe the event in the same hysterical manner of this week’s pundits. Much of the Democrat outrage is feigned and barely hidden glee.

    That said, it was certainly inappropriate and disappointing. But it was not on the scale of a national tragedy.

    The problem has been percolating for some time and it is the result of a process we know in the aviation safety field as a “normalization of deviancy”. When one deviates from established procedures and nothing bad happens, they are likely to repeat the deviations until there is an injurious or deadly outcome. When the Clintons were allowed to deviate from lawful and moral standards without consequence, others assumed they could as well. Obama began his political career by cheating his opponent through leaking sealed documents from his opponent’s divorce proceedings. As POTUS, Obama continued to deviate from lawful and moral governance culminating in the promulgation of false accusations against an incoming President. All without consequences. Now Biden has benefited from what appears to be wide scale election fraud, another deviation from honesty and integrity.

    But this time, the normalization of deviancy has generated opposition protests, anger, distrust of the courts, and loss of faith in the electoral process. Why would anyone be surprised that a small sampling of 74 million Trump voters would decide to act out. The real surprise should be why it hasn’t happened all over the country.

  12. @Mark E. Jeftovic

    “Do you want to have every aspect of your life scrutinized by somebody else’s measure of moral and ideological purity before you can say anything online? How about before you can book a hotel room? Fill up your car with gas? Go shopping? Get on a plane?

    After all, we have big data and AI now, so this is all doable. ”

    Well, in fact, that is EXACTLY what some have published and are seriously considering, profiling customers using your online activities to determine your level of access to services, etc… this may be here sooner than you think.

    (My wife just say an article to that very effect… I’ll try to track it down.)

  13. So glad to read your essay Mark, that there are other truth tellers out there with courage….we will need every person of truth to keep speaking out or we will go so deep into the darkness that there will never be a way out.

  14. Careful Mark
    Things will get worse before they get better, this is our WWIII, a war not made of physical bombs but made of mental bombs.
    Back then you would burn down the business of those not registered to the righteous nazi socialist party (or in Stalin’s Russia was the gulag), today they just say not to travel, not to go to restaurants, then the physical infrastructure is there but the places are empty, as if they had been burned down or bombed back then.

    The opponent army is not made of soldiers in uniforms, it is made of people, your own friends or family, discussing and arguying on social platforms all the time and wearing each other down, isolating eachother apart.

    Lay low, don’t paint yourself into a target (guess itz too late for you now 😉 and most of all… “stay safe”.
    Cheers

  15. I am surprised no one has commented on the danger of Agents Provocateurs. Indeed there are many indications that the “storming” was started by Agents Provocateurs.

    I would also note that, given the high emotions around the notion of a stolen election, it was quite impressive how little the unrest spread. There were hundreds of thousands at Trump’s rally, but the unrest was confined and short-lived. Honest commentators would commend the good sense of the vast majority.

    I would also note that the timing was weird. Here was the first occasion when MSM could not ignore the presentation of a case to answer re poor election integrity. But the “storming” both cut the presentation short and distracted from it. There was absolutely nothing to trigger the event. Why at that moment, except that it suted parties other than Trump partisans.

    The narrative might be more credible if the “storming” had happened AFTER the challeges had run their course and the election of Biden had been certified. But while the debates were still ongoing, and hope for a miracle remained?

    I would go so far as to say that if you are easily persuaded that it was a spontaneous act by Trump partisan hotheads, perhaps I could interest you in some prime oceanfront property in Arizona. I’ll give you at bargain price! My bitcoin account is ….

  16. Where is the intersection of private property and free speech?

    Personally, I don’t use Facebook or Twitter. I don’t care what they do on their private platforms.

  17. I think and hope that in 20 years when people look back at what happened the last four years and what happened on the 6th, they will think of it as a time when it became clear that the greatest political whitewash and trick ever done was pulled off by extreme leftists who successfully started, curated and mainstreamed a cultural revolution while framing it as being started by the other side.

    Trump got in his own way and lacked the awareness to see coming what some of us knew was in the rafters waiting. They understood his ego was an exploitable weakness

    All of the people that got caught up in the actions of violence were predicable pieces on a chessboard, I’m more interested in the player(s)

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