‘Weeping’ over ‘brave corporations’ like Amazon, Google & Apple? You might have Stockholm Syndrome… or just work for Buzzfeed
Not all heroes wear capes – some wear brand names. So says Buzzfeed writer Katie Notopoulos, who was reduced to weeping with joy when Big Tech cracked down on Trump-supporting social media.
In what appears to be a sincere paean to corporate censorship, Notopoulos took to Buzzfeed on Monday to gush over the three tech companies who banded together to deplatform Twitter competitor Parler earlier this month. Google and Apple kicked it off their respective app stores, while Amazon withdrew its hosting service, pulling the rug out from hundreds of thousands of users who’d flocked to the pro-free-speech platform after being banned from Twitter and Facebook.
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All three companies justified their unprecedented actions by blaming Parler for Trump supporters’ January 6 raid on the Capitol. Apple – seemingly concerned with the message it was sending by booting Parler in the absence of any real rule violation not also committed by Twitter and Facebook – made a big show of giving the company 24 hours to devise a policy for controlling “objectionable content,” while Amazon dug up “extensive violent threats” it felt Parler should have removed. But Facebook and Twitter are already on the defensive, as hate-speech-hunters point out they’re guilty of Parler’s “crimes,” and the platform is seeking legal recourse against Amazon.
That’s not how it happened in Notopoulos’ epic re-telling of the Parler saga, which she handily stripped of its shades of gray. She likened Amazon, Apple and Google wielding their “seldom-used banhammers” against the evils of free expression to the murder-mystery cliche in which the “ace FBI agent” arrives at the scene, dismissing the bumbling local cops with a smooth “we’ll take it from here.”
In this version, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are the bumblers, incapable of removing “hate groups, disinformation, and the QAnon mass delusion” from their platforms, allowing these great evils to “fester and metastasize into our politics and culture.” Social media fiddle – endlessly rewriting rules, partnering with fact-checkers and malignant think tanks, beefing up censorship algorithms – while Rome burns. Never mind that Google, one of her heroes, owns YouTube, one of her villains. This is fan-fiction, not real life, and requires decisive action from the platforms:
They have worked their heads so far up their asses that they’ve forgotten they can just smash that ‘ban’ button.
The real hero here, according to Notopoulos, is capitalism. It’s the caped crusader of “capitalism” that smashed that proverbial button and “drained the fever swamp” of Parler, which she, too, blames for the Capitol raid (after acknowledging that the raiders had been radicalized by “disinformation smoothies gavage-fed to them via ‘up next’ sidebars” on Facebook and Twitter). Capitalism withdrew all sources of funding for the Trump campaign, in the form of Stripe, PayPal and Shopify kicking the then-president and some of his supporters off their services. Capitalism inspired brands from Coca-Cola to Nike to withdraw their contributions to Republican politicians who voted against certifying Biden’s November victory.
Except that neoliberal bedtime story makes no sense. Praising “capitalism” for these companies making business decisions that lost them money is absurd, since it is precisely the pursuit of profit – for better or worse, the driving force at the heart of capitalism – that led Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to keep these supposedly undesirable users online for as long as possible, stringing them along (as Notopoulos admits!) with those alluring ‘up next’ sidebars and yummy disinfo smoothies. Capitalism is the only reason Trump and his supporters were using Stripe and Shopify to move merch. Capitalism created a society where even self-styled populist politicians have to cozy up to big corporations like Coca-Cola to get elected.
If anything, Trump himself is the human embodiment of capitalism, selling everything up to and including his name under the Trump “brand.” For all the former president’s faults (and there are many), he is a marketing genius, having amassed a huge and devoted following by presenting himself as a populist underdog beset from all sides by rabid establishment hacks (many of whom he hired himself). By all logic, Notopoulos should hate capitalism.
Until very recently, liberals could at least be counted on to oppose big money’s influence in politics. Even some establishment Democrats at least paid lip service to repealing Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision that opened the floodgates for corporate billions into political campaigns. But with corporations pouring massive contributions into groups like Black Lives Matter, gleefully feeding the identity politics beast (the better to divide and conquer the working class with, my pretty!), complaints about corporate control are few and far between. Except for far-left progressives, who have (coincidentally!) seen their presence on social media slashed to bits during this month’s Great Deplatforming alongside the Trumpers.
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Notopoulos admits that corporations swinging around their “banhammers” on a whim isn’t “necessarily” a good thing, and even seems to understand that it would quickly lead to the collapse of the internet as we know it – specifically the Section 230 liability protection that requires platforms to apply their moderation rules evenly. She also seems to grasp that having payment processors like Visa and MasterCard calling the shots on what content can be uploaded to PornHub started the country down a slippery slope (pornography, apparently, is less offensive than right-wing political speech).
But she literally doesn’t give a s**t, likening the gradual erosion of Americans’ First Amendment to plumbing issues in her conclusion (in which she also seems to admit she defecates in the shower): “Drano works to unclog my shower, but my landlord tells me it ruins the whole pipe system. I don’t expect the plumbing system of the internet to improve; there will always be more monster turds clogging it up. Happy flushing!”
Translated: “Deplatforming everyone I disagree with might ruin the internet, but the internet was going to be ruined anyway, so let’s keep doing it!”
It’s easy to understand why the Buzzfeed writer is so enamored of blanket censorship, though. While one might expect her fascist fanfic to be promptly shredded on social media, the response after it went up on Monday was mostly limited to literal “awe” from her fellow blue-checks, with a few “amens” and other approval.
— Charlie Warzel (@cwarzel) January 25, 2021
Ms. Notopoulos, your echo chamber is ready.
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