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“Let it be known in the business world: Hire any of the storytellers who worked for Trump, and Forbes will assume that everything your company says is a lie. We will examine, verify, investigate with the same suspicion that we address every Trump tweet. Do you want to ensure that the biggest names in the communications industry see you as a potential misinformation channel? Just hire them ”.
So says a recent editorial in “Forbes” magazine, an influential business outlet. It’s a good X-ray of the climate surrounding this transition. The targeting is not toward a government — which as an entity is always a legitimate target of criticism and denunciation — but to stigmatize individuals. Unaware of the notion of presumption of innocence, and that guilt by association is ambiguous at best, Forbes decides to sentence them to unemployment.
In the world of the arts and academia, requests for similar content are circulating, calling on institutions to subject any member of the Trump administration they may consider hiring to strict scrutiny. It would not be about examining your professional skills so much as your commitment to the values of freedom, justice and democracy.
Which is redundant, inasmuch as those are the indispensable conditions for any position that is based on the exercise of creative and academic freedom. That is the input and goal of the arts, sciences and letters; long before Trump and after Trump, and beyond any political and ideological dispute, ultimately circumstantial and generally petty.
Redundancy is a good indicator of what is scarce, precisely, it underlines that we are on a slippery slope. Identifying “liars” individuals goes directly to blacklists, like those of anti-communism or with whatever ideological justification. It may well lead to a McCarthyist campaign or a classic Stalinist purge. Shaming (and condemning unemployment) to function “for lying” means first determining “the truth.” Unprecedented, in addition, this task today is in the hands of the private sector, conflicts of interest to the jan.
Lying is not a crime, perjury is. Penalizing those who in government functions have lied, which is ethically reprehensible, but nevertheless suggests a certain totalitarian fiction. So what would they do with those who lied about Iran-Contragate in the Reagan years? What a shame for those who covered up Clinton and her lies under oath? And about Bush’s weapons of mass destruction, did they not know or did they lie? What would they do with the officials who concealed the more than 500 secret drone strikes in the Middle East ordered by Obama, a possible war crime?
Now perhaps they will discover the grays of politics, if not lukewarm water. Perhaps it is true that Trump has lied more than all; his lies have been told by day, by speech and by tweet. But have those of other presidents been counted? And how many lies are acceptable, given that they don’t seem so uncommon? Determining the truth matters to justice, if it is material for a legal process. Revealing the truth in any case belongs to religious texts, which matters to the believer.
A fundamentalist search for the truth, motivated by a political and ideological position contrary to that of the alleged offenders, can also end up being an alternative way to get to the post-truth. Dogma is the most used ingredient in the kitchen of “fake news”.
It has been said that this occurs in response to the heinous events of January 6 on Capitol Hill, but that is a half-truth, to keep it going. The “culture of cancellation” started with escraches long ago. On November 6, one of its inspirers, Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez, called for the archiving of tweets from members of the Trump Administration “for when they try to minimize or deny their complicity in the future.”
Republican Senator Tom Cotton’s June column in the “New York Times,” “Send in the Troops,” saw the Opinion Editor himself fired for not censoring it. Twitter and Facebook censored the “New York Post” in October for the story about Biden’s son’s business in Ukraine. And, this week, both platforms have terminated the accounts of Donald Trump and many others of officials and followers.
After that, Google and Apple excluded Parler, Twitter’s direct competition, from their lists of available applications, and Amazon closed its cloud, its gigantic data storage service essential for the operation of network platforms. Users with closed accounts on Twitter and Facebook had migrated to Parler.
We are in the presence of a collusion, a technological-journalistic cartel that, based on its political positions, establishes the terms of the industry; prices, entry barriers and de facto licenses, among others, thus choosing agents on the demand side as well as on the supply side. An oligopoly that thus selects information, that is, a censor, Orwell’s ministry of truth but in private hands.
Perhaps it is time that justice reminds them of the First Constitutional Amendment, on freedom of expression; anti-trust legislation, whose origins date back to 1890; and Section 230 of the Communication Act of 1996 that establishes the neutrality of technology platforms and exempts them from responsibility for what is published there. This has made them immune to any lawsuit, thus multiplying the traffic and their profits, the problem now is that they themselves have broken that neutrality. It would be appropriate then, in defense of competition and freedom of expression, to cease some sections of said law.
All of this only serves to exacerbate polarization, deepening the political, social and cultural divide. It does not seem likely that the conservative base could be silenced by technology censorship, even if Trump left the political scene. The attempt to make them invisible will only intensify their intolerance and radicalism. Making a list of political enemies and threatening them with reprisals for having worked for the rival party is extracted from the manual of fascism, whatever they are called.
The United States is experiencing a conflict of two “nations”: urban and rural, secular and religious, modern and traditional; in short, the Union and the Confederation. It is not so singular, similar versions of the liberal-conservative cleavage have occurred in almost all the nations of America, an inevitable consequence of the secular modernization process and its conflicts.
Resolving these conflicts is a necessary condition for a nation to be viable, that is, to prosper and reproduce a legitimate political order for society, which in turn has repercussions on growth. Conflicting society, unstable politics, and ungovernable democracy are a good recipe for increased risk and uncertainty in business. In the long term this always affects investment, economic power should never be taken for granted.
Hence, the political elite should exercise greater caution. The same goes for the media-business elite, focused on short-term profit even at the cost of the stability of the system. But that’s the way the bourgeoisie is in monopoly capitalism, says much of the neo-Marxist literature.
It turns out that Trump is not a bad deal for his staunch adversaries. In fact, the lies they censored have been translated into extraordinary corporate profits, measured by traffic on social networks and the subscriptions of the most critical newspapers. Hence, the privatized truth ministry wants him out of power, but not necessarily off the scene.
It is that, after all, they are not so different. The unfettered capitalism that Trump practices and preaches is exactly the same that his enemies of the media-tech cartel condemn but also practice.
Ben Oakley is the guy you can really trust when it comes to Mainstream News. Whether it is something happening at the Wall Street of New York City or inside the White House in Washington, D.C., no one can cover mainstream news like Ben. Get a daily dose of Trustworthy News by Ben Oakley, only at Globe Live Media.