Saturday, January 21, 2023

Cancel Me


Album cover by the Japanese-American ska punk band Kemuri.

This is kind of hilarious but also important, from a team at Washington Post: the January 6 committee found, in extensive interviews with social media employees, according to a memo prepared by committee staffers but not among the things the committee made public (the Post has posted it here), that, far from censoring rightwingers, the companies worked really hard at not doing it, violating their content moderation rules to avoid offending Trump and his supporters:

Congressional investigators found evidence that tech platforms — especially Twitter — failed to heed their own employees’ warnings about violent rhetoric on their platforms and bent their rules to avoid penalizing conservatives, particularly then-president Trump, out of fear of reprisals. The draft report details how most platforms did not take “dramatic” steps to rein in extremist content until after the attack on the Capitol, despite clear red flags across the internet.

“The sum of this is that alt-tech, fringe, and mainstream platforms were exploited in tandem by right-wing activists to bring American democracy to the brink of ruin,” the staffers wrote in their memo. “These platforms enabled the mobilization of extremists on smaller sites and whipped up conservative grievance on larger, more mainstream ones.”

In other words, the narrative whipped up by Noel Skum's confederates Weiss and Taibbi according to which the FBI is a rogue organization that illegally bullies the social media companies into censoring its users isn't merely not supported by the facts (we knew that), it's diametrically wrong. Big Tech is scared of somebody, but it's not the FBI; it's the rightwingers, and specifically the rightwingers who portray themselves as helpless victims of Cancel Culture, like Noel Skum and his confederates Weiss and Taibbi.

But none of this discovery seems to show up in the public presentations of the committee's work, in the TV series (more a documentary show than a normal congressional hearing, and I don't mean to say that was necessarily a bad thing, as you know; I've been pleading for more narrativium from the start, in 2017), or the Bleak House–sized Report, or in the committee's interview transcripts, which are limited to those interviews that were explicitly used in the big productions. The ostensible reason for this is, in fact, narratological: to downplay all the subplots that could distract viewers from the arc of the central thing, the Trump story.

But of course there's another reason, the one Eric Alterman is pointing at in this:

The new January 6th report is every bit as much a disappointment as the committee’s hearings were a triumph. As Jill Lepore noted in The New Yorker, "In the January 6th Report, Donald Trump acted alone and came out of nowhere. He has no past. Neither does the nation. The rest of the country doesn’t even exist."
Thanks to a decision made, apparently, by Nancy Pelosi, the committee deferred in every instance to Liz Cheney’s desire to turn the report into a Never Trump–dominated document and thereby give a pass to the MAGA-dominated Republican Party and conservative media structure that supported and enabled his (so far) unsuccessful attempt to destroy American democracy and install a lawless, fascistic regime in its place.

Alterman is on about the committee's failure to dig in to the intelligence and law enforcement failures on January 6, or to the financing of the riot,  not to mention the ragtag paramilitary organizations (who I remember getting covered well, if briefly, in the television presentation, but get less than 40 pages in the book); but it applies to this aspect as well. Pulling the material on "Big Tech" deference to Republicans to the side reinforces the Republicans' presentation of themselves as victims.

That's the funny part: how their self-worth is so bound up with the idea of being canceled or censored—from the brag at the highest level where you claim that you lost 20 thousand followers overnight and it must have been dark liberal forces that took them away, to the plea for engagement at the lower levels when you say, "I've been shadowbanned! Can you see this?" It hurts their feelings if you tell them they're not shadowbanned, especially when you're obviously right. Getting canceled is the measure of how much they've owned the enemy. It's the code of the troll, or troll's honor

Not so funny is how they'll continue to use this imposture as a tool of dominance, whining in every forum about the suppression of their speech to bully the legacy media, as well as the platforms like Twitter, into giving them absolutely free rein.

No comments:

Post a Comment