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Update on Twitter Ban
Looks Like Censorship
Sorry to keep spamming you with these missives, but without Twitter this is my primary platform now.
I’d originally thought that my Twitter ban resulted from my tweets on guns, but now I actually am beginning to suspect that my posts criticizing Elon Musk and drawing attention to the far right lurch in his politics may have been the reason. I say this now because I’ve noticed Twitter is blocking searches for links to my Substack. As test, I tried searching for Damon Linker’s Substack and did not receive the same “no results” message.
Now, of course, I can’t really prove this. Twitter has so many technical problems that it’s easy to chalk this up to some problem with the system. There’s also been a general Twitter war on Substack content, too. I am not a terribly prominent writer, so it would be easy to dismiss my theory here as mere paranoia or grandiosity on my part. But I can’t help think it’s rather strange that first I am banned and then it becomes harder to find my content. At the very least, it is not keeping with their stated principle of free speech absolutism to arbitrarily and permanently ban a writer. Or, they’ve got the “absolutism” part down, they’ve got a petulant monarch up there now, but maybe not the “free speech” part so much. The fact that this was could have been by a some anonymous machine rather than an individual intent doesn’t really make it much better: the result is the same. Actually, the alibi of “the system” makes it worse in some sense. The bugs are features, as it were.
The other side loves to fantasize about Orwellian scenarios and the “soft totalitarianism” of the woke bureaucracy. Without exaggerating about my case too much, such things are a little bit how things happened in old authoritarian regimes. Suddenly, maybe your phone stops working. You are passed over for promotion. Or, you’re transferred to some lowlier job. Maybe people are a little less friendly. Officially, there’s a standard, bureaucratic explanation: “Oh, this is just the system, you know.” “Its just incompetence, you know these party hacks.” You are made to feel a little crazy that something might be going on. It all might be in your imagination. And it really might be. The eerie thing about this hyper-technologized world is that it’s very difficult to separate fantasies of persecution from its objectively shitty logic. The phones serve us ads that seem like we are being listened to. Are we? Maybe it’s just “the algorithm.” What’s “the algorithm” anyway? Who really knows. In any case, we can see now what “free speech” really means on Twitter.
I’ve written several pieces that are critical of Musk and attempt to analyze what his purchase of Twitter means from a political perspective. My first one, “The Emerging Tech-Lash,” proposed that Musk’s was buying twitter to use it as the tool for the reactionary tech oligarchy that was gaining self-consciousness and flexing their power:
What do all these things have in common? Being a little speculative, let me propose these are all examples of the Tech oligarchs attempting to flex political muscle. Twitter is a notoriously bad business and Musk’s project is explicitly political: he says he wants to restore “free speech” to the platform, through the loosening of content moderation policies. Tech oligarchs, like Musk, Thiel, and Marc Andreesen, resent the control of the content moderation on the social media platforms by what they see as overly “woke” members of the professional-managerial class in both the media and in the lower-ranking staffs of the tech companies themselves. Unimpeachable in principle, in practice “free speech” would likely mean a return to the platform of the kind of trolling that dominated the space in 2015-2016, during Trump’s election. There would probably be an increase in harassment of left-leaning journalists and activists and a general “flooding of the zone with shit.”
Back in October, I talked a little bit about Musk’s apparent toleration of Kanye West’s antisemitism:
West fancies himself a titanic genius thwarted only by hidden forces. This is the classic pattern of antisemites: Who is responsible for all these shortcomings and frustrations? The Jews, of course. He is not the first artist to indulge in the vulgarity of antisemitism and to turn to its unavoidable hint of murder when all other resources for riveting the public attention seem to have been exhausted. West’s megalomanic ego-ideal is the perfect cultural expression of the values of the class Musk represents in the economic sphere: constant conquest, expansion, and acquisition.
Like West, Musk’s reputation as a genius has become tarnished as he revealed his actual vulgarity and idiocy, and in response to his loss of god-like status, he spitefully turns to fantasies of shoring up his power, to reaction. West stands to Musk and his like in a class relation as well: the artist is always just the highest rung of the servant class; he is there to entertain and to provide ideological support. In the same way, the professional antisemite works as both public distraction for and ideologist of the ruling class. Antisemitism is the obscene music of the reactionary bourgeoisie: popular in its appeal, but with power as its true subject.
The re-appearance of antisemitism, the apparent curiosity and tolerance members of both the public and the elite have for it, must be understood as part of the total political situation. Neither the left nor the right has grasped its actual significance yet. The left either responds hysterically with its usually ineffective scolding and handwringing or downplays it as a secondary issue compared to more pressing social concerns. The right says it’s actually an issue of the Left or points to their own Zionism as an alibi.
This theory seemed to have been somewhat borne out by West’s recent round of flirtation with antisemitism, which I discussed last week.
Even if you find all these interpretations implausible or far fetched, what’s clear is that either by design or accident or some combination, Musk has engineered the gradual degradation of free public discourse on Twitter. I believe that serves him and his cronies well.