Some principles of the present propaganda and censorship

(Audio version of today’s post.)

Well, I was all set to write a nice post about Stargate Atlantis and Ivan Illich (yes, that’s what I said, I’m sure you also think of Ivan Illich while watching Stargate Atlantis), but the world goes crazy quickly and you feel the need to speak to it with some urgency… at least I’ll have time to read more Medical Nemesis before the Atlantis post, I guess.

Propaganda and censorship have always been with us but, like many other bad things in the United States today, they’ve grown at an astounding pace these last few years as statism works its two minute offense (as Douglas Wilson referred to it). By “propaganda” we usually refer to speech (verbal or otherwise) thrown at you, and by “censorship” we usually refer to speech prohibited or hidden from you, but the two are connected and reinforce each other. Working under the theory that once a problem is identified and named, it is easier to see next time it occurs, which weakens its manipulative power, I thought I’d list a few of the principles of propaganda and censorship I see active around us right now.

You are made to feel alone. (You’re not.)

There is an effort to make people who hold common beliefs, but beliefs disfavored by the present progressive elite, think they are just a tiny minority. I know many of you don’t use Twitter, but Twitter’s “reply deboosting” is just the perfect example of this tactic. In fact, although it turns on and off with some regularity based on the dictates of some secret algorithm some Twitter employee is going to leak someday, my own account is regularly “punished” by reply deboosting (the last test below is the reply deboosting test, you can click to see a larger version if you’d like).

(In fact, if you’re a regular Twitter user and haven’t been punished by their algorithm yet… stop being such a willing servant of the Regime, man. :) )

The way this works is, of course people write tweets, and then other people reply to those tweets, and you can go read the replies. And some of those replies are just there for anyone to read, but to get to the rest you have to start clicking things like “show additional replies, including those that may contain offensive content”.

Now I know we’re all familiar with the “ratchet” phenomenon today, so it will make sense when I tell you that when Twitter began reply deboosting, the only accounts it affected were people who actually went around Twitter being vicious jerks to everyone. The “offensive content” being hidden was actually offensive content. But today, reply deboosting is off the charts and scoops up a huge percentage of accounts for what can only be ideological reasons. It is common now for me to check the replies to a mainstream conservative tweeter (let’s just say David Limbaugh to give one example) and find that 95% of the replies are now hidden without additional clicking. And when you go read them, of course, you don’t find tweets from crazy people, often you find some of the best replies down there. Deboosting is so pervasive now that I’ve joked we should stop talking about deboosted accounts and instead refer to those accounts that have escaped deboosting as “Twitter favored” or something.

The intentionality of this tactic really hit me a few days ago when the governor of California wrote a tweet announcing the mandated vaccination of schoolchildren in California. Click the replies and what do you see at first? You see reply after reply talking about what a great governor he is. Well that’s discouraging, is that what everyone thinks? No, it isn’t, but Twitter has intentionally deboosted the replies of accounts apt to be critical so you won’t see them unless you go looking for them. The discouragement is the point. The attempt to create an appearance that you are all alone in your opposition is the goal. Don’t fall for it.

Gigantically overhyping real but small threats

Entirely fabricating a danger is difficult. The preferred tactic is to take something that is real, and then work to make it seem a good thousand times or so more concerning than it really is. I know this is probably so obvious that it needn’t even be mentioned, but I’m mentioning it anyway. This is, for example, why the Capitol was surrounded by troops and barbed wire for weeks following the events of January 6th, for an event that was so dangerous that:

All that security wasn’t needed because there was a large ongoing threat to the Capitol, it was needed to imply that there was a large ongoing threat to the Capitol, because that implication was useful to the powerful. (And you do feel bad for the troops the federal government was basically using as actors for a stage production.)

But we’re living through another example of this right now as we see created and propagated in real time the myth that there has been an explosion of threats against school board members and teachers from opponents of critical race theory and/or our only-in-the-US COVID-19 policies. What’s the goal? To get all those rightfully upset and 99.99% of the time peacefully protesting parents to go home and shut up and let the state teach their kids what the state finds useful. If you haven’t been following this story.

  1. Lots of parents across the nation discover somehow that they are actually many, not few, and start showing up at school board meetings to protest critical race theory and/or COVID-19 mitigation measures. This sleeping giant really woke up over the last two years.

  2. School board members, who are used to being mainly ignored except for by activists pushing agendas they like, really don’t like having to suddenly deal with informed parents who think they’re wrong about stuff.

  3. Height of absurdity, the National School Boards Association sends a letter to president Biden literally suggesting the Patriot Act might be invoked against these upset parents. Also, given what happened next, I think it is likely that the Biden administration actually first approached them and said “please send us this letter so we can then ‘respond’ to it”. That is another way the propaganda machine works behind the scenes.

  4. The Biden administration announces that the FBI (!!) is beginning a major (!!) new initiative against these “threats of violence” and “efforts to intimidate individuals based upon their views”. Ironically the real goal of the FBI effort is to intimidate individuals based upon their views.

Now to their credit, many people have figured this out, although I don’t think a critical mass of people have figured it out yet. The Justice Department’s announcement of this effort is filled with replies akin to “where is the threat”? Has someone gotten out of hand at a school board meeting here or there? Without a doubt, that’s human life. Has it ever been something beyond the capacity of local police to handle? I haven’t seen a single news story about the locals being unable to handle whatever little disturbance appeared. This is just a propaganda effort to silence people… let me make that its own small section.

They don’t want to take action, they want to intimidate you into silence

Quick point here that relates to both the above and the below, but the primary goal of much propaganda is to intimidate people into silence. Per the above, for example, they don’t want to actually send law enforcement after anyone. That requires effort, and then they’d actually have to make a legal case and, inasmuch as the US legal system is still, for the moment, public and mostly functional, they would quite likely fail if proceedings went that far. So they don’t want to end up actually taking action. But implying “you know, this could happen if you speak up” will get many people to shut up, and that will be mission accomplished for them.

They are also trying to imply that peacefully protesting parents are on the same team as violent threat people, another tactic to encourage silence, and that’s my next point.

Perfectly reasonable things are conflated with evil things

Came across this nice example of the above yesterday.

Among other things that might be said, the present administration is clearly committed to labeling its political opponents as “domestic terrorists” and violent extremists, thus to turn federal law enforcement against them, which is frightening even as we laugh at them for the obviousness of it all.

But what I wanted to point to here was “white supremacists”… wait a minute, what does white supremacy have to do with opposing COVID-19 restrictions? The game here is that, although they pretend half the country is racist, they know that’s actually not true, and that (with the gigantic exception of the acceptable racism of critical race theory), nearly everybody out there hates racism, hates white supremacy, and would be appalled at being personally labelled a racist. So the desired implication is “you know, if you take a public stand against these COVID-19 measures, that puts you on the same team as the white supremacists. You don’t want people to think you’re a racist, do you?”. So no, A has nothing to do with B, but by implying that it does they hope to silence many of the people in B.

Ironically, understanding the censors can help you discern the truth

I try to end with something a little positive, so here we go - understanding the bias and eagerness of the censors can actually help you discover the truth. That was one reaction I had to reading the following tweet.

That’s a sad story and you click through to read it if you want. But what matters for my purposes here is that you can still read about it on Twitter. Twitter hates and is quick to delete any popular post that calls into any question at all the goodness of vaccination for anyone. Apparently they did mark that tweet as “misleading” for a while and made it so you couldn’t retweet it, and then removed the “misleading” label. But more importantly, it’s still there. If the minions in Twitter HQ had evidence the story was false, they would have suspended the account and forced the account holder to delete the tweet immediately. The very fact that it is still up tells you that, far as they know anyway, the story is true. Ironically, precisely the fact that we know they are such eager censors, but “haven’t been able” to censor this tweet strongly suggests the story it tells is true. (For the record, I am wary about sharing such stories myself, because you never know online. You can look up the woman and find very vanilla looking LinkedIn and wedding pages for her, at least certifying that she is a real normal person.)


PS, for some additional reading on this topic specifically, though not exclusively, as it pertains to the pro-censorship “Facebook whistleblower”, which also now looks like a scam operation designed to grow state censorship, I do recommend Glenn Greenwald’s post from yesterday.