Facebook has become The Great Censor, ready to pull the pages of dissenters that seek to “stir up political debate” in ways that threaten the legitimacy of corporate rule.
“Facebook is indispensable to maintaining the global corporate monopoly on truth -- as is Google.”
Facebook has declared war on political dissent. In a rash of purges last week, the behemoth corporation banned 30 pages, with a total of 22 million fans, on the grounds that the accounts were “created to stir up political debate in the US, the Middle East, Russia and the UK.” At the top of the list were the anti-police lawlessness pages Cop Block, Filming Cops, The Free Thought Projectand Police the Police, with a combined audience of 8.1 million. The other banned pages range across the non-establishment spectrum, from the reactionary Right Wing News, to Punk Rock Libertarians and the pro-marijuana page, Hemp.
These pages are “inauthentic,” Facebook claims, because they “use sensational political content” to “drive traffic to their websites.” Of course, the New York Times, the Washington Post and virtually every other organ of corporate media also maintain Facebook pages that are designed to “drive traffic to their websites.” The daily content of these imperial propagandists is filled with “sensational” stories that are designed to inflame the public, laying the groundwork for endless wars -- most often on evidence that turns out to be fictitious. Yet Facebook has enlisted as “fact-checkers” the same corporate media that vouched for the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, spread lies about Viagra-fueled mass rape by Muammar Gaddafi’s soldiers in Libya, and continue to mask the U.S. alliance with al Qaida fighters in Syria. These same corporate “news” organs have treated allegations of Russian collusion with Trump during the 2016 elections as fact -- without a shred of evidence -- in order to whip up a new Cold War.
“At the top of the list were the anti-police lawlessness pages Cop Block, Filming Cops, The Free Thought Project and Police the Police.”
Polls have long showed that the U.S. public -- of all racial and political shades -- no longer believes the corporate media version of reality, which almost routinely turns out to be false, and which Black people have always known to be false. This crisis of legitimacy for the ruling class and its media organs became acute in 2016, when the wildly unpredictable Donald Trump seemed to threaten the gentlemen’s agreement between the two corporate parties on regime change warfare and so-called free trade. Barely a week after Trump’s surprise victory at the polls, outgoing President Barack Obama, on a visit with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, called for the imposition of a standardized version of truth.
“Because in an age where there’s so much active misinformation and its packaged very well and it looks the same when you see it on a Facebook page or you turn on your television,” said Obama. “If everything seems to be the same and no distinctions are made, then we won’t know what to protect.” Or, as he put it later in an interview with David Letterman: "One of the biggest challenges that we have to our democracy is the degree to which we do not share a common baseline of facts."
Obama was calling for censorship of the Internet, and for corporate media to reassert its ideological supremacy in defense of the ruling order. The “danger” was not to democracy, but to the legitimacy of the corporate rule.
“Barack Obama, on a visit with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, called for the imposition of a standardized version of truth.
A week after Obama’s remarks in Germany, the Washington Post published the first salvo in the censorship offensive, with an article titled, “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say.” The “experts” were anonymous members of a shadowy organization called Prop-or-Not, whose identities the Post insisted on concealing. The Prop-or-Not list slandered 200 web sites, including many of the best left-wing addresses on the web, as “witting or unwitting” dupes of Russia. Black Agenda Report had the distinction of being the only Black-owned site on the list.
Facebook was dragooned into the censorship frenzy under relentless pressure from Democrats in Congress, who dutifully embraced the role of chief warmongers when Trump started making noises about improving relations with the Russians. Fully two-thirds of Americans are active monthly Facebook users who assumed that the service’s constant invitations to share what’s on their minds included political thought. Not any more. Mark Zuckerberg’s behemoth, that began as a student social networking service at Harvard 14 years ago, is now valued conservatively at $140 billion and claims to reach 2.23 billion monthly active worldwide users, 214 million in the United States. Facebook is indispensable to maintaining the global corporate monopoly on truth -- as is Google, another mega-monopoly of the Internet. Both have joined the censorship project in defense of empire in decline.
“Google has rigged its algorithms to hide blacklisted sites during web searches, resulting in decreased visitation of up to 75 percent.”
An internal Google documentassessed that: “In response to public outcries about the accessibility of unsavory and harmful content, tech firms have been adjusting their software to make it harder to stumble upon it.” The firm was talking about itself, and the “public” it is responding to is actually the capitalist ruling class, seeking to regain legitimacy through censorship. Google has rigged its algorithms to hide blacklisted sites during web searches, resulting in decreased visitation of up to 75 percent. They are strangling the Left, including Black Agenda Report.
Facebook has signed on to the new Cold War, under the ruse of protecting U.S. elections from Russian interference. “We’re excited to launch a new partnership with the Atlantic Council, which has a stellar reputation looking at innovative solutions to hard problems.” In the real world, the Council is the global public relations and think tank resource for NATO, the U.S.-led military alliance, funded by the whole constellation of war industries. Facebook has outsourced its censorship project to the Deep State.
Clearly, the Revolution will not be Friended by such people. Some Black folks may celebrate Facebook’s purges, glad that white supremacist Trump boosters and other overt racists are among the targets. But majorities of white people in the U.S. supported Trump, and there is no possibility that Facebook or any other corporation could effectively police -- or even recognize -- the racism of most of their users. But they do silence the cop-watchers. What Facebook is attempting to enforce is the absolute authority of the corporate media as the arbiter of Truth -- a dictatorship of the white moneyed classes. And that can never be in Black folks’ interest.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected]