Silicon Valley couldn’t have designed a better way to further radicalize Trump voters
Start with the headline: Supporting the 2020 U.S. Election. YouTube in its company blog can’t even say, “Banning Election Conspiracy Theories.” They have to employ the Orwellian language of politicians — Healthy Forests, Clear Skies, “Supported” Elections — because Google and YouTube are now political actors, who can’t speak plainly any more than a drunk can walk in a straight line.
The company wrote Wednesday:
Yesterday was the safe-harbor deadline for the U.S. Presidential election and enough states have certified their election results to determine a President-elect. Given that, we will start removing any piece of content uploaded today (or anytime after) that misleads people by alleging that widespread fraud or errors changed the outcome of the 2020 U.S. Presidential election… For example, we will remove videos claiming that a Presidential candidate won the election due to widespread software glitches or counting errors.
This announcement came down at roughly the same time Hunter Biden was announcing that his “tax affairs” were under investigation by the U.S. Attorney in Delaware. Part of that investigation concerned whether or not he had violated tax and money laundering laws in, as CNN put it, “foreign countries, principally China.” Information suggestive of money-laundering and tax issues in China and other countries was in the cache of emails reported in the New York Post story blocked by Twitter and Facebook.
That news was denounced as Russian disinformation by virtually everyone in “reputable” media, who often dismissed the story with an aristocratic snort, a la Christiane Amanpour:
That tale was not Russian disinformation, however, and Biden’s announcement this week strongly suggests Twitter and Facebook suppressed a real story of legitimate public interest just before a presidential election.
How important was that Hunter Biden story? That’s debatable, but the fact that tech companies blocked it, and professional journalists gleefully lied about it, has a direct bearing on YouTube’s decision now to bar Trumpist freakouts over the election results.
If you want a population of people to stop thinking an election was stolen from them, it’s hard to think of a worse method than ordering a news blackout after it’s just been demonstrated that the last major blackout was a fraud. Close your eyes and imagine what would have happened if Facebook and Google had banned 9/11 Truth on the advice of intelligence officials in the Bush years, and it will start to make sense that Trump voters in Guy Fawkes masks are now roaming the continent like buffalo.
The YouTube decision also came on the same day that former CIA officer Evan McMullin tweeted this:
One of the most critical to-do items for the American democracy movement over the next four years will be to more effectively counter domestic anti-democracy disinformation. If possible, it should be done on both the supply and demand sides. We can’t ignore this issue any longer.
McMullin was the Never-Trump conservative who ran for president in 2016 and received glowing coverage from The Washington Post and other outlets as the man who “stands a fair chance of stealing the red state of Utah from GOP nominee Donald Trump.” The same outlet that blasted Jill Stein’s “fairy tale candidacy” had Josh Rogin write a slobbering blowjob profile of McMullin just before the 2016 election, hailing his “steady personality, honesty, and work ethic” and gushing at the possibility that he might become the first third-party candidate to win a state since 1968. “That,” Rogin noted without irony, “might be his most successful covert operation.”
Intelligence officers like McMullin have spent much of the last four years conditioning the public to accept the idea that aggressive steps need to be taken to stop “foreign disinformation” or “foreign interference,” in the media landscape most of all. A move to stop “domestic anti-democracy disinformation” on “both the supply and demand sides” (wtf!?) is a serious escalation of that idea.
Signs pointed to this moment coming. This past August, the office of the Director of National Intelligence released an assessment that foreign countries were seeking to spread “disinformation” in the run-up to the election. In October, Virginia Democrat (and former CIA official) Abigail Spanberger piggybacked on that report and introduced a bill designed to cut down on “foreign disinformation.”
The law among other things would require that political ads or content produced by foreign governments be marked by disclaimers, and that companies should remove any such content appearing without disclaimers. It would also expand language in the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) requiring that any content intended to influence U.S. citizens politically be reported to the Department of Justice.
Stipulate that this is all above board, that there’s nothing odd about the Department of Justice monitoring political ads, or registering content creators, or permanent bureaucrats in intelligence agencies publishing their takes on which presidential candidate is preferred by conniving foreign adversary nations. The United States has survived a long time without such procedures, but sure: an argument can be made that any country has an interest in alerting its citizens to foreign messaging.
Where it gets weird is when the effort to stamp out “foreign interference” is transferred to the domestic media landscape. Intelligence agencies, think tanks, and mainstream news agencies have been preparing us for this concept for years as well. This dates back to the infamous 2016 Washington Post story hyping PropOrNot, a shadowy organization that identified a long list of homegrown American news sites like Consortium, TruthDig, Naked Capitalism, and Antiwar.Com as vehicles for “Russian propaganda.”
Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal two years ago insisted the Russians in attempting to disrupt our lives “will use American voices. No longer the broken English, no longer the payment in rubles. They will become ever more astute in their attacks.” Think-tanks began hyping ideas about “domestic-origin disinformation” and foreign countries “co-opting authentic American voices.”
As time passed in the Trump years, we started reading on a regular basis that Russian propaganda efforts would be harder to detect, because they would be routed through people appearing on the outside, like Nexus 6 replicants, to be ordinary human Americans. In late February earlier this year, at the peak of the preposterous campaign to depict Bernie Sanders as a favorite of the Kremlin, David Sanger of the New York Times warned that Russians were purposefully sending messages through “everyday Americans” because “it is much harder to ban the words of real Americans.”
When The Bulwark, basically the reanimated corpse of Bill Kristol’s Weekly Standard, wrote some weeks back about Donald Trump holding a “maskless anti-democracy disinformation rally straight out of Vladimir Putin’s dreams,” that language wasn’t accidental. This was part of a P.R. campaign, years in the making, preparing us for the idea that domestic voices can be just as dangerous as foreign ones, and similarly need to be stamped out.
The YouTube announcement is the latest salvo in the fight against “domestic anti-democracy information,” and the first of many problems with it is its hypocrisy. Do I personally believe the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump? No. However, I also didn’t believe the election was stolen from Hillary Clinton in 2016, when the Internet was bursting at the seams with conspiracy theories nearly identical to the ones now being propagated by Trump fans:
Unrestrained speculation about the illegitimacy of the 2016 election had a major impact on the public. Surveys showed 50 percent of Clinton voters by December of 2016 believed the Russians actually hacked vote tallies in states, something no official agency ever alleged even at the peak of the Russiagate madness. Two years later, one in three Americans believed a foreign power would change vote tallies in the 2018 midterm elections.
These beliefs were turbo-charged by countless “reputable” news reports and statements by politicians that were either factually incorrect or misleading, from the notion that there was “more than circumstantial” evidence of collusion to false alarms about Russians hacking everything from Vermont’s energy grid to C-SPAN.
What makes the current situation particularly grotesque is that the DNI warning about this summer stated plainly that a major goal of foreign disruptors was to “undermine the public’s confidence in the Democratic process” by “calling into question the validity of the election results.”
Our own domestic intelligence agencies have been doing exactly that for years now. On nearly a daily basis in the leadup to this past Election Day, they were issuing warnings in the corporate press that you might have reason to mistrust the coming results: