The Sargon of Akkad Ban
When the CEO of the world’s largest tech company declares that thought-sinners “are no longer allowed on their platforms”, that announcement can probably be seen as a prelude to a broader effort to double down on what has been underway since the various YouTube, Twitter and Patreon bannings. Many questions have been raised as to how independent these tech giants really are, given how frequently their moves to censor prominent right-wing figures happen at the same time.
The latest and probably least offensive figure to be taken out by this Silicon Valley-led movement is YouTuber Sargon of Akkad, whose Patreon was wiped without warning or notice. He’s someone who identifies as a center-left “classical liberal”, but came to prominence for his takedowns of feminism and other strains of identity politics. Those points of view supposedly weren’t what took him out, but rather his having called Alt-Righters the n word in an obscure livestream. Watching Tim Cook outline the kind of “basic morality” he expects Big Tech to adopt gives us some insight as to what would motivate such a harsh and swift action. He exasperatedly scolds that if we can’t accept this morality “we have big problems.” It is a morality that he apparently believes is totally unambiguous. If Patreon is using the Tim Cook standard of morality, there is totally no moral gray-area behind calling the Alt-Right n words. The context and intention in how a word is used is a basically recognized factor in any moral analysis. Any good-faith “Trust and Verify” censorship-enforcer would have seen as much. The “basic morality” unelected platform cop Tim Cook describes patently isn’t so basic, as it turns out - since calling racists the racist terms they use is meant to be a moral crime.
Sargon’s response video pointed out at length how this banning flatly contradicts Patreon’s terms of service, as well as CEO Jack Conte’s own words. None of that matters, of course, because a larger problem persists: regardless of whether or not Jack Conte is a social justice hate-speech true-believer, he and his fellow Tech CEOs are mostly powerless to resist what their much more zealous subordinates choose to do. Anyone who uses social media for any length of time doesn’t need to be reminded of how this double standard works--one for conservatives or at least the intellectually adventurous, another for those who constantly brandish leftish morality.
It’s a possibility that Patreon’s Jack Conte and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey aren’t social justice ideologues, but it’s irrelevant. Their own intentions will never stop those beneath them from abusing the censorship tools that they’ve created. The incentives simply aren’t there for even the best-of-faith tech executives to risk professional sanction and internal revolt because they defended a right-wing YouTuber. They’ve already allowed the ideologically-dominated concept of “hate speech” to seep into their ranks, which means that they would be defending someone who used the N word--full stop. That’s no doubt what the viral tweets from lefty-Twitter would establish to anyone who’s unwilling to spend more than 5 minutes seeking out the nuance of the matter. Just imagine the headlines: Jack Conte defends YouTuber who used racial slur.
It’s worth pointing out the disconnect between Jack Conte’s claim that Patreon doesn’t make decisions based on ideology or politics, even while their Terms of Service explicitly cites the ideological term “hate speech” as a criteria. Of course, those who accept that some speech is intrinsically hateful don’t consider that point of view ideological any more than they do any other “obvious” moral offense. But this ignores the reality that it obviously is, and that something that sounds hateful to them may not be to others. Not just fringe, hateful others, either, but normal, sensible people--the kind of people who understood what Sargon was getting at in that very livestream.
Understanding how rotten to the core these institutions are and how much power they have centralized, the question of to what extent they are independent entities isn’t a clear one. Conte’s interview with Rubin gives us a glimpse with his acknowledgement that, unlike the music industry, tech execs are constantly communicating. That sort of thing isn’t unethical on its own, obviously, but it gives advocates of viewpoint diversity no assurance that conspiracies aren’t motivating them to ban people like Alex Jones across platforms the same day, or that Gavin McInnes being unpersoned across every social media platform wasn’t coordinated.
Patreon’s banning of Milo, Lauren Southern, and now Sargon seems to be apart of a slow-rolling process of weeding out creators who don’t comply with their political ideology one at a time. Though the response to each of them has been fierce, it seems apparent that the lack of longstanding consequences to their censorship has pretty much flickered out. It’s probably their hope that if they space them out just enough they can do so without consequence, and finally erase from existence the entire right of the spectrum. For this reason, they have to destabilize the process of supporters voluntarily giving creators money to share their point of view. All for the simple reason that it’s a point of view that’s far too popular to counter through debate and conversation.
We are now operating in a world where corporate entities filled to the brim with empathy-glazed children are the gatekeepers of moral decency. For all the talk of President Trump’s tweets being a full-fledged assault on the Fourth Estate, where actually innovative opinions are being drowned out is by non-Government, ideological actors empowered with the ability to censor people on a whim--even when they comply with their terms of service. The long-term consequences of this path are so patently Orwellian that it’s baffling that we’ve allowed ourselves to get to this point.
With the ground destabilizing across our communication platforms, it’s of utmost importance for both viewers and creators to put their eggs in as many baskets as they can. As far as 1791 is concerned, we’ve now set up alternative modes of support through our website, GumRoad, and SubscribeStar. The same goes for communication channels. With figures like Gavin Mcinnes being silently removed even from conservative platforms like CRTV, it’s more important than ever to support creators who won’t be housed by traditionally minded platforms. Communication is the only thing that binds us together, so we must ensure that no single platform or outlet can unilaterally clamp down on our voices and thoughts.