Authored by Miki Pannell
Thousands must have squirmed with glee to see arch-numbskull Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon AKA Tommy Robinson given a lifetime ban from Twitter for hate speech. Not all though. The reason that we all started using social media in the first place was because it offered an alternative to the dull, highly-filtered, PC nonsense we were being spoon-fed. Most smart people had twigged long ago that virtually all MSM was little more than a thinly-disguised PR machine for a handful of self-elected führers who help supersede democracies and dictate world policy. MSM stank, and worse, it was one that Joe Sixpack couldn’t actively participate in, unless you were one of the chosen handful, privileged enough to actually get a letter printed in a newspaper, or a microphone shoved in your face in the street. But most of us never did, just like most of us never got a Blue Peter badge, a ‘Jim’ll Fix It’ medal or a Willy Wonka Golden Ticket. Back in the day we all belonged to the caste of lowlife media untouchables.
The advent of social media platforms, however, gave a free voice to every good-for-nothing dirt-bag, dissident, maverick and contrarian voice. For good or bad. If the local Youth Club wouldn’t let you in, not to mention the Groucho Club, now you had an audience. If you didn’t like someone’s political posture, religious beliefs or trousers, you could now personally harangue the hell out of them… and troll their supporters too… and then even make your own TV channel about it on Youtube. It was glorious.
But alas no more. Social media must now, tow the neoliberal line. No, don’t even think about trying to blame social media’s woes on leftists, feminists or social justice campaigners; because earlier this week we saw Mark Zuckerberg himself having to testify before Congress, not before a bunch of left-winger. And what a sorry sight that was. Zuckerberg, hardly the world’s greatest orator – he’s a geek after all – was forced to grovel and snivel his way through the hearing in front of a self-righteous panel of conservative do-gooders… and dozens of cameras. At times he looked like a wayward schoolboy in front of the board of governors. Dressed up in what Jake and Elwood might have described as a ‘candy-assed monkey suit’, the Facebook founder had left the hoodie at home which he had worn to previous shirt-and-tie-only events. He looked a fake and was clearly there to play the game. I had hoped for something resembling George Galloway’s blistering attack on the U.S. Senate or Hermann Goerring’s counter accusations at the Nuremberg Trials where the accused takes the opportunity to expose the hypocrisies of the accuser. Zucko owed an apology, yeah, but did they really have to craft it so it looked like he was apologizing, not to Facebook users, but to congress’ moral high-grounders instead?
It looks like the golden-age of free speech is coming to an end. The ever-increasing legion of moderators have now closed down the Tweeter accounts of fairly high-profile users and scumbags alike. Milo trolled his way to a ban, leaving muscle-headed college jocks wondering how they’ll be able to compose a full 280-character racist tweet all by themselves. Let the rednecks have a voice! ‘Missing you already’ is hardly the phrase which springs to mind when thinking about the closed accounts of the humourless, charisma-free Islamic State. According to U.S. they are represented by 46,000 accounts. Given that nearly 40,000 of them are in Arabic, which most of us, like the freshly-recruited mainly English-speaking Twitter police, fail to understand; then the entire exercise begins to look farcical. But every single one of those closed accounts is an erosion of free speech.
But wasn’t that half the fun of Twitter? The fact that you never knew if you were in conversation with an artificial intelligence computer bot, a Nobel prize-winning neocon, the real Che Guevara or an alt-right halfwit moron in a trailer park in Alabama. Surely it would have been better to weed out the non-human riff-raff first? The far right are increasingly intelligible, organized, and, dare I say it, hip. Not only that, but they are increasing the recipients of funding from the wealthy overlords in their continued pursuit of crafting policy outcomes. Behind many of the bogus variety of libertarians peddling views sympathetic to the right, you can find special interest groups heavily-funded by a far harder right wing. Likewise, social media is full of academics on the neoliberal pay-roll, promoting phony studies, plus there are PR gurus making sure TV and radio promote narratives in line with the hard right agenda that they support. If you thought it was hard trying to spot a Twitter bot, you’ll find it harder still to figure out who’s on the Koch brothers’ payroll. But unfortunately none of these stealth right-wingers, guilty of the real hate crimes are being banned. Tommy Robinson was a hater, but at least we knew what he stood for and who we were arguing with. How many people retweet Katie Andrews or Christina Hoff-Sommers blissfully unaware that they are accomplices and confidence tricksters backed by hugely funded lobbyists and influence peddlers?
But the one redeeming quality of social media was that it was a level playing field where everyone, no matter how explicit or covert their agenda, got an equal voice. That made a thriving domain for intellectual sparring where we revelled in having to defend any view against the contrarians lest we get ‘owned’ or ‘rekt’, as the swingers call it.
The future looks grim. The club is becoming PC only. Self-censorship sucks nearly as much as moderator’s censorship. Only Tommy Robinson’s Twitter account gave us the chance to directly address the pathetic, dribbling excuse of a man himself… in anyway we wanted. Only Twitter gave us the chance to have a battle of wits, with the heavy guns and the unarmed. I personally prefer not to hear Katie Hopkins rants about ‘immigrant cockroaches’, but hell, the way to do it is not to ban the self-righteous old bat from the platform completely. There’s a far more simple solution: it’s called the UNFOLLOW button.