Opinion

Avoiding the hashtag gulag

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Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

America’s largest social media companies are under intense pressure to put us all into a digital gulag.

This month, hundreds of advertisers are suspending their Facebook ad campaigns to participate in a boycott led by the woke #StopHateForProfit movement.

The group’s goals are to “empower permanent civil rights infrastructure” inside Facebook that would “evaluate products and policies for discrimination, bias, and hate.” Specifically, #StopHateForProfit wants to police disagreeable speech by creating “an internal mechanism to automatically flag hateful content in private groups for human review.”

#StopHateForProfit’s list of dangerous topics include “violent conspiracy theories,” “vaccine misinformation,” and “climate denialism.” It’s hard not to read the group’s website and see the rightful concerns over political radicalization as a Trojan Horse for silencing all opinions that differ from woke orthodoxy.

In other words, it’s acceptable for Facebook to be a place to organize civil unrest during a pandemic and spread beliefs that police are conspiring in the widespread slaughter of black Americans.

It’s unacceptable for you to question the legitimacy of the Russia investigation, protest the mandated closure of your business and wonder about the massive consequences of a Green New Deal.

The Hashtag Gulag playbook is simple.

Use the internet to organize a loose network of fellow believers around a simple, plausible promise (#StopHateForProfit, #BelieveAllWomen, #BlackLivesMatter) and a triggering event to drive intense pressure at business or individuals.

We commonly call this tactic #CancelCulture but in reality it is an emergent operation of a networked political organization that lacks a formal leader or structure. The objective is the forced alignment of organizations with the goal of the network. For example, the New York Times purge of all non-woke staff.

Maybe you aren’t on Facebook and you are wondering, “why should I care?”

The war to control Facebook is a proxy war to control the people who use Facebook.

The internet is the infrastructure of modern life and most of it is privately owned and controlled.  You have no government protections on these platforms, yet you rely on them for work, finances, travel, education and communication. If you are removed from the network, your ability to function in society is limited.

This woke model of social control mirrors the Chinese model of social control. In China, the government controls citizens by watching their online behavior and assigning each person a social credit score. Chinese citizens who defy the government are stymied by sophisticated AI controls that simply change or delete words or phrases in online conversations.

So, what can conservatives do?

First, conservatives should find networks, causes or independent media to financially support. The Woke movement’s attempts to disconnect non-conforming views make it difficult for non-aligned media outlets to operate solely on ad revenues.

When reach by conservative media is suppressed, site traffic slows and the number of ad impressions drop. You can help fill the gap with small-dollar subscriptions to your favorite news sites, podcasts or organizations.

Second, conservatives must win the moral battle. The success of the Woke movement is predicated on moral grounds of fairness and justice. In order to win support from the broader public, we must aide those who are wrongly cancelled, organize efforts to influence democratic processes and keep calling out the inherent moral contradictions of the Woke movement.

A movement where any woman who asserts herself is labeled a “Karen” is not a feminist movement. A movement where mobs on white twenty somethings threaten black Americans is not a racial justice movement. A movement where autonomous zones hold local businesses hostage is not a liberation movement.

The internet is a new frontier of human development; the left is building their settlements around the Chinese model of social credit, forced alignment and re-education. Soon, the oppressive nature of these digital regimes will send people seeking new digital homes.

The question for conservatives is rather we ensure the existence of liberty minded spaces in the digital world where those seeking freedom can one day flee.

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Joe Clements
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