Crisis Update - The Public-Private Censorship Industry
Official culture of playing loose with the truth could crush fragile trust in media
“All tyrannies rule through fraud and force but once the fraud is exposed they must rely exclusively on force.” — George Orwell
The rise of disinformation czars and arbiters of truth is evidence of Orwell’s dictum.
When regimes resort to rule by lie, narratives survive only with the backing of force.
Half of Americans think national news media plan to misinform, mislead or persuade.
Censorship is an industry, a feed trough for government, corporations and academia.
Artificial intelligence in the works to quell dissent and impose equity.
Election meddling will likely not go away soon; the revolution will be colour.
The media sets the stage for regime change at home and abroad.
At risk is citizenship, civil rights and any claim to the “land of my birth”.
The timely warnings, and passing, of Hungarian political theorist Gáspár Tamás.
(3,300 words or 15 minutes of your company.)
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Evidence is left, right and centre that governments are using the principle of “tell a big lie and stick to it.” Whether from malice or to cover incompetence, officials routinely treat the public, in terms of accountability, with contempt.
If you dare question bureaucrats — well that’s proof that you, Citizen Smith, are guilty of disrespect.
“After a train carrying toxic material derailed in Ohio this month,” writes The New York Times, “right-wing commentators have been particularly critical of the response, using the crisis to sow distrust about government agencies and suggest that the damage could be irreparable.”
In other words if you examine, question, doubt or criticise anything that officials have or have not done, you are sowing distrust.
Journalist Seymour Herch found the U.S. culpable in the Nord Stream pipeline bombing — the state corporate media denounced him. That did not stop former NATO general and Czech president-elect Petr Pavel telling CNN: “They [Russians] feed their population with propaganda; they distort reality, and that’s why it’s so difficult to talk to them on any issues today.”
The actor Woody Harrelson quipped that “The biggest drug cartels in the world get together and buy up all the media and all the politicians and force all the people in the world to stay locked in their homes” and that same media accused him in near identical headlines of “blowing up” Saturday Night Live with conspiracy theories.
As news host Tucker Carlson reminded us, the first reaction of former Attorney General Bill Barr after Jeffrey Epstein’s apparent suicide was to say, “No-one’s gonna believe it was a suicide. There’ll be conspiracy theories all over the place.”
Three-and-a-half years later the public is still waiting for an an official investigation into what happened, not because anyone cares about Epstein’s fate but because, as Carlson said, “for once, it would be nice to see the federal government forced to tell the truth about something.”
The U.S. federal government blamed a 70 per cent rise in attacks on the vulnerable electrical power grid exclusively on white supremacists. Last week’s planned supremacist “day of hate” passed without incident — perhaps because it was manufactured news.
The cartoonist Scott Adams is under fire for pointing out that critical race theory is reintroducing segregation. The Biden adminstration is unrelenting, announcing federal diversity compliance to shoehorn the population into cateogories — of which only some will be judged “protected.”
Does a lie, in conflict with reality, like a shoe ever wear itself out? Some people never “wake up” in the sense of engaging daily with abstract concepts but can lies outlive their usefulness to those in power?
And can that happen before a culture of government and corporate lying crushes the public’s fragile remaining trust? A Gallup poll suggests half of U.S. citizens think national news media plan to misinform, mislead or persuade the public. 
The offical answer to public lack of trust is artificial intelligence. The Biden administration wants to use AI to push equity. Billionaire investor Bill Gates says AI must keep the peace, without which would-be rulers cannot rule unhindered. It must enforce who can say what, to whom, in what terms. He sees a role for his former company Microsoft’s search engine Bing, which now incorporates the AI chat bot ChatGPT.
As Jonathan Turley points out, Gates and crew frame it in terms of yet another emergency: the need to combat “political polarization,” as if there is no scope for debate or disagreement in this Brave New World. 
Has a consensus on truth put the majority of issues beyond popular and political contest or competence or, more likely, has the oligarchy agreed upon its own interest; the public be damned?
Plato’s noble lie did not require propaganda or the enforcement of censorship. In contrast the public was entertained with sports or religion that required constant affirmation — like the extremes of environmental and Woke dogma today.
This is a sign that the Great Narrative, as the World Economic Forum calls it, is increasingly hollow and lacks support — or perhaps it was never part of the noble lie but merely a story to rally the middle part of society, the managers and functionaries.
Yet artificial intelligence has a big problem. The Biden White House has already issued a special order for federal government to protect the public from algorithmic discrimination and to deploy AI in a way that promotes equity. If AI told the truth, Scott Adams says, the adminstration would have to make it illegal.
“The entire system depends on lies. If the lies fall apart there will be chaos. Artificial Intelligence cannot be allowed to tell the truth so long as it remains within human control.”
In such a system, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is quoted as saying, everyone must publicly avow their belief in the lie of the day:
“We know they are lying, they know they are lying, they know we know they are lying, we know they know we know they are lying, but they are still lying.”
Surely Solzhenitsyn was writing under the authoritarian Soviet Union and Adams is writing in a liberal democracy, albeit flawed? Technology seems to be enabling those who would close the gap.
Years ago former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, later a Pentagon adviser, suggested that human behaviour could be improved by making words unsayable under the guise of “hate” or misinformation — George Orwell’s Newspeak from Nineteen Eighty-Four given an algorithmic update.
Schmidt proposed back in 2005 that search engines should only give one answer to a question.
“When you use Google, do you get more than one answer? Of course you do,” he told public television host Charlie Rose at the time.
“Well, that’s a bug. We should be able to give you the right answer just once. We should know what you meant. You should look for information. We should get it exactly right.” 
Search results might not even provide links, since AI would compute the correct answer algorithmically, Schmidt proposed in an updated concept, discussed in 2011.
Joshua Benton writing at Nieman Lab worries that news organizations will suffer a further blow to their business if Google fails to provide links. He points out that database-driven answers can hardly provide the nuance and investigative context to answer political and social queries. 
Several writers and specialist researchers have tested ChatGPT and found it to be grounded in the orthodox or consensus view of science, which might suffice for a high school student writing about the evolution of insects but not whether humans should eat them as a staple.
The censorship industry
During social media’s first decade, until about 2015, the Internet was largely free of censorship.
Censorship is now an industry, funded primarily by government, though it gets less attention than surveillance capitalism, as described by Harvard social psychologist Shoshana Zuboff.
What motivated the change may have been the populist vote in 2016, and certainly involved the Russiagate hoax which, by definition, required the perpetrators to control the exposure of information.
Long-term planners may already have foreseen confrontation with Russia or their own population through the Covid response, and desired to use social networks and media as tools of soft power. It was in 2012 that president Barack Obama removed the Smith-Mundt restrictions on propagandizing the domestic U.S. population.
Mike Benz, executive director of the Foundation for Freedom Online and a former State Department official, says government has forced policy changes upon the private sector, coercing tech companies to create whole new categories of topics, thought or political ideas to censor — and then arming corporations with the artificial intelligence “to scan and ban the new thought violations that they themselves had helped install.” 
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