Cracking Down on Misfits’ Crime Sprees and Big Tech

I don’t know how many people today still read Eric Hoffer’s The True Believer, but if you are puzzled by the breakout this week of rioting and mayhem (at last count in 17 cities) you’d do well to make yourself familiar with this incredibly well-reasoned text on mass movements. Why are the streets  regularly filled with mostly pasty looking stoners pelting stones and bricks, destroying businesses in the poorest urban areas and of even attacking law enforcement on thinnest of pretexts? Partly, I suppose it’s because the shutdown kept them isolated for so long, bored and out of work, but Hoffer’s observation seems to me to  best fit:  “The permanent misfits can find salvation only in a complete separation from the self; and they usually find it by losing themselves in the compact collectivity of a mass movement.”  

Much of the looting -- as far as I could tell from the online videos shot in Minneapolis -- has been from neighborhood black thugs, but not all of it by any means: The riots that accompanied the looting there and elsewhere significantly involve white men and women with a decided stoner look about them. Reports are that many of these rioters are, in fact, being bussed in from elsewhere. The mayor of St.  Paul said every person arrested was from out of town. The President tweeted that 80% of all the rioters in Minnesota were outsiders and reminded readers that federal law made crossing state lines to engage in violence a federal offense that would be prosecuted and punished. The attorney general was clear that it would be.  

The greatness of our nation comes from our commitment to the rule of law.

The outrage of our national community about what happened to George Floyd in Minneapolis is real and legitimate.  Accountability for his death must be addressed, and is being addressed, through the regular process of our criminal justice system, both at the state and at the federal level.  That system is working and moving at exceptional speed.  Already initial charges have been filed.  That process continues to move forward.  Justice will be served.

Unfortunately, with the rioting that is occurring in many of our cities around the country, the voices of peaceful protest are being hijacked by violent radical elements.

Groups of outside radicals and agitators are exploiting the situation to pursue their own separate and violent agenda. 

In many places, it appears the violence is planned, organized, and driven by anarchistic and far left extremists, using Antifa-like tactics, many of whom travel from out of state to promote the violence. 

We must have law and order on our streets and in our communities, and it is the responsibility of the local and state leadership, in the first instance, to halt this violence.  The Department of Justice (including the FBI, Marshals, ATF, and DEA), and all of our 93 U.S. Attorneys across the country, will support these local efforts and take all action necessary to enforce federal law.

In that regard, it is a federal crime to cross state lines or to use interstate facilities to incite or participate in violent rioting.  We will enforce these laws.

The purported theme of this outburst is the death in custody of George Floyd. Videos can be deceiving. The impression of most who saw it was that officer Derek Chauvin's kneeing his neck had asphyxiated him. (The preliminary autopsy report, however, concluded this was not the case, and while further examination may tell us more about his pre-existing health conditions and possible intoxication which the examiner observed, at first glance Chauvin’s conduct seems excessive and negligent. He has been arrested and charged.) We have seen similar protests in the Brown and Garner cases. We did not see any protests, however, when another Minneapolis cop shot point blank and killed for no reason Justine Damond, a white woman. That murder elicited outrage, of course, but civilized people know that courtrooms are the place to provide outcomes, not looting, burning, and attacking other innocent fellow citizens.

Hoffer also said, “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.” 

And this unfortunately is the case with the civil rights movement, which began as a just claim to equal rights and has devolved into rent-seeking and demands for superior rights of favored groups, often by pampered white kids. Sure, black lives matter. So do all lives. Like so many once-valued institutions and causes, it has been corrupted and is now a part of the very obvious effort to sow misery and discord throughout the land in the belief that when people become impoverished and distraught enough ,the left will win.

Why now, just as Americans are leaving the dispiriting and costly lockdowns? These riots, per observers on the ground, seem to have been well planned in advance, the organizers waiting for any spark to whistleblow the misfits into action. Elijah Schaffer reports on twitter: 

BREAKING: tonight’s Dallas riot was pre-planned

Organizers were directing the crowd where to go

They had pallets of 100 bricks ready for rioters

They were yelling to the crowd “go left, there are 100 bricks on the corner over there”

This wasn’t random chaos

Andy Ngô

Masked militants ransacking the Justice Center in downtown Portland. Many came prepared with chemicals to start fires and weapons to break windows. #antifa #BlackLivesMatter 

The press, on the other hand, often shows us these gangs in dramatic poses, set to mimic the brave students in Tiananmen Square or partisans fighting Nazis, at times even reprising Battleship Potemkin, the famous Soviet propaganda film, the TV footage rolls on. They are not giving us a very accurate picture of who and what is behind all this. 

In some cases, it’s rather obvious that the journalists who cover these riots are cheerleading them on, reports Eoin Lenihan.

Antifa often receives media coverage that is neutral or even favorable, with its members’ violence either being ignored by reporters or vaguely explained away as a product of right-wing provocation. What’s more, anecdotal evidence has suggested that many of the mainstream reporters who are most active in covering Antifa also tend to enthusiastically amplify Antifa’s claims on social media.

In October 2018, my research partner and I decided to investigate the truth of this impression by using a mix of network mapping and linguistic analysis to see which prominent journalists who covered Antifa also were closely connected to leading Antifa figures on social media. We then inspected the Antifa-related stories these journalists had written. [snip]

That correlation turned out to be quite pronounced: Of all 15 verified national-level journalists in our subset, we couldn’t find a single article, by any of them, that was markedly critical of Antifa in any way. In all cases, their work in this area consisted primarily of downplaying Antifa violence while advancing Antifa talking points, and in some cases quoting Antifa extremists as if they were impartial experts. [snip]

Of course, all investigative journalists rely on tips from the general public. But collecting tips isn’t what Wilson and Mathias appear to be doing. Like other prominent writers whose names appear among the 15 journalists most closely engaged with Antifa, they seem to function not at professional arm’s length from their sources, but rather as cogs in an activist enterprise that churns out both pro-Antifa propaganda and doxing information about real or imagined ideological enemies. Their allies in this mission include trolls such as AntiFashGordon, the pseudonym of a Twitter user who declares that “I expose fascists, get them fired, de-homed, kicked out of school etc,” and brags that he passes “dossiers” of doxes to national-level journalists, whom he refers to as “our contacts.” His entire online mission is to ruin other people’s lives, and it is a mission being supported by “contacts” like Mathias and Wilson. In providing such support, they are discrediting their publications and misinforming their readers.

Sometimes the propagandizing is even less hidden. An MSNBC reporter intoned on camera, “I want to be clear on how I characterize this. This is mostly a protest. It is not generally speaking unruly.” In the background we could see a burning building, and elsewhere videos of a Target store stripped clean of everything but school supplies, and as one wag noted, Father’s Day cards.

Perhaps the FBI, now free from political spying and covering up their misdeeds, might investigate this nationwide network of professional rioters, their funders and enablers, and round them up. Lenihan started tracing the journalist-Antifa nexus on Twitter, and while we are on the subject, Twitter itself, not just some of those who post there, seems to have a partisan objective of promoting disunity, violence and -- not least of all -- interfering with free speech. Its conduct, long a subject of criticism, finally induced the President to sign an Executive Order designed to rein in the big social media platforms’ practice of censoring views and writers with which they disagree. 

First, Twitter targeted a presidential tweet on fraud in mail-in voting, and when that raised hackles, it targeted a perfectly presidential tweet on the criminal acts in Minneapolis as promoting violence.

Sara Carter explains

Trump signed the Executive Order Thursday aimed at those social media giants he says have been operating as biased publishers rather than platforms for free speech. Trump tweeted, “THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”

The National Guard was sent to assist local authorities in containing the rioting. Earlier the president criticized the city’s mayor, who ordered the evacuation of the precinct saying, “the very weak radical left mayor Jacob Frey” if he didn’t bring the city under control.

In response, Twitter flagged the President’s tweet and attached a notice saying “we have placed a public interest notice on this Tweet from @realDonaldTrump.” The tweet is actually hidden from public view but can be viewed if the reader so chooses to click on it.

“This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence,” said Twitter. “However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible.”

Do you see any incitement to violence in this? I don’t. Instead, the characterization appears to be just another manifestation of the views of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey (this week pictured in garb, including a black felt head covering, which made him look like something out of a Brueghel  painting of the blind leading the blind).

Twitter (not unlike some other online platforms) have stifled, not promoted free speech, targeting viewpoints with which they disagree and posters who do not share their left-wing views with tactics like flagging, deplatforming, banning, shadow banning (hiding the tweets without knowledge of the poster) and such. Indeed, as others have noted, Twitter regularly permits actual calls to violence on its site if the target is the president or conservatives. See just one example out of many:  

burn it down. fuck property. fuck cops.” 

Dan Scavino Jr.

Twitter is targeting the President of the United States 24/7, while turning their heads from protest organizers who are planning, plotting, and communicating their next moves daily on this very platform.

Indeed, Yoel Roth, Twitter’s (ludicrous) head of site integrity himself has tweeted that Trump was a “racist tangerine” and complained of “actual Nazis in the White House.” To my knowledge he’s still in that position and his tweets still are neither flagged nor removed. 

Any reasonable person would have expected Twitter to shift gears, but not Jack Dorsey: Don Surber found this pretense of fact-editing laughably lacking in self-awareness: 

Don Surber: 
ITEM 18: Sohrab Ahmari reported, "This week, for the first time, Twitter fact-checked one of President Trump’s opinions and redirected users to coverage from that paragon of fairness and objectivity, CNN (don’t laugh).

"Twitter announced the introduction of the new feature earlier this month. The goal, two workers wrote, is to 'make it easy to find credible information' and to stanch the flow of 'misleading content.'

"But I wonder: Will the platform also append fact-check labels and links to tweets from prominent liberals that also turned out to be misleading or outright false?

"Start with a 2017 tweet from CNN contributor Ana Navarro claiming that an 'Ivanka Fund got $100 million pledge from the Saudis and UAE.'

"The truth: The cash went to a World Bank initiative for female entrepreneurs. Navarro’s tweet garnered more than 43,000 retweets."

Twitter just opened a can of whoop-ass on itself.

Victoria Taft adds to Surber’s example tweets by liars like Avenatti and loonies like Jennifer Rubin which were demonstrably untrue but never removed or even flagged. 

In any event, it is unclear how much longer this glorification of the left, intolerance toward those who decry it, and support for the weak Democratic politicians who condone if not promote lawlessness, can continue. 

The President’s executive order is designed to ensure true diversity of opinion, and I urge you to read it, but here are some highlights behind the order which have not been well-publicized. It attacks selective censorship, refers to tens of thousands of complaints for things as “flagging content as inappropriate, even though it does not violate any stated terms of service; making unannounced and unexplained changes to company policies that have the effect of disfavoring certain viewpoints; and deleting content and entire accounts with no warning, no rationale, and no recourse.” Worse, the order notes “several online platforms are profiting from and promoting the aggression and disinformation spread by foreign governments like China.” Their agency for China also includes working with the Chinese Communist Party to blacklist Chinese searches from for “human rights,” hiding data unfavorable to the Party, and tracking users determined by the CCP to warrant surveillance. They’ve provided “direct benefits to the Chinese military” and run CCP ads enabling human rights abuse there. “They have also amplified China’s propaganda abroad, including, by allowing Chinese government officials to use their platforms to spread misinformation regarding the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to undermine pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.”

Lord Haw-haw and Tokyo Rose never had such wonderful tools as high-tech as these at their disposal. 

The brilliant Daniel Greenfield explains why we cannot continue to treat the big tech operations which control speech as platforms free from the same laws that publishers are -- things like libel law, for example:

Removing things that aren't true isn't the business of platforms. Zuckerberg is correct in that, even if he doesn't really live by it. Outsourcing the job of determining truth to partisan fact checkers just makes the behavior of Big Tech platforms more damning. There's really no way to have truly objective fact checking of political speech in our society. And no one has tried to make that happen. Nor is such an effort healthy anyway.

The public square is for debates about what's true. 

When Big Tech starts trying to determine that, there's no debate, no speech, and no public square. Just one point of view.

Platforms which start censoring political speech based on a partisan 'fact checking' agenda are acting as publishers. All the pearl clutching about protecting standards comes down to platforms acting as publishers. If Twitter or Facebook don't want to have "bad information" on their sites that they don't agree with, they're publishers and they should own that status.

Beyond the immediate need to break up Google, Facebook, Amazon, the Big Tech monopolies, all the debate over Section 230 makes it all the more obvious that we need to update our legal understanding of platforms to what the internet looks like today, not during the Clinton era. 

The effort to rein in these foreign and domestic propaganda outlets now protected as “platforms,” not “publishers,” is well warranted. The next step is to round up the thugs and their financial backers whom these platforms -- directly and through selective censoring -- too often encourage in their regular rampages.

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