Online censorship efforts in the 21st century echo book burning episodes of centuries past
OKLAHOMA CITY – It was back in 1956, a very repressed period in American history, when American government officials felt it necessary to actually burn books. Yes, you read that right; they actually burned books that were considered too subversive to be read by the American public.
The book-burning drama swirled around a decidedly controversial figure – even to this day – Dr. Wilhelm Reich.
It was Reich’s discovery of the “orgone” energy that labeled him a subversive in the uber-paranoid McCarthy era. Orgone energy, Reich (a star pupil of psychoanalyst Dr. Sigmund Freud) claimed, was “the joy-filled force of life itself” that is said to be all around us.
Needless to say, Reich’s theories about orgone and cosmic energy were way too much for the button-downed Fifties and Reich was on the receiving end of likely the most extreme instance of scientific persecution in American history.
When Reich, a worldly and scientific man who fled the Nazis and lived and worked studying orgone in Maine, refused to delete references to “orgone” in his numerous books and pamphlets, they were burned and his orgone-accumulating equipment was destroyed by sex-obsessed agents of the Food and Drug Administration.
Even though they never tested Reich’s theories, the mere discussion of “orgone” was enough to drive government agents around the bend, resulting in Reich’s imprisonment and, ultimately, his death behind bars in 1957.
A sad end to a world-class man and whip-smart mind. And still, the “emotional plague” that Reich warned about in his writings seems to still cling to humanity.
FAST-FORWARD TO 2021
So, this past week, we learned that author Andy Ngo’s new book on the Antifa/Black Bloc has been attacked at Powell’s in Portland, Oregon, one of the biggest bookstores in the Pacific Northwest and the self-proclaimed “largest independent bookstore in the world.”
When Portland-area activists learned that Powell’s was planning to carry Portland author Andy Ngo’s upcoming book Unmasked: Inside Antifa’s Radical Plan to Destroy Democracy, these anarchist blacklisters demanded Ngo’s book not be made available to readers, calling the writer a dangerous racist/fascist who was putting their lives in danger by highlighting their very dangerous activities.
I have yet to read Ngo’s book, which sounds interesting. It is reportedly being published and released to the public in February. We may follow up with a review at a future date.
Sad to think a book exposing radical leftists is too radical for the world’s largest independent bookstore. But this is 2021. Like on Stranger Things, we seem to now exist in the frightening, gray hellscape of the “Upside Down.”
Yes, it is legal for a private business to censor or ban voices they deem offensive or not in line with their philosophy or beliefs. As attorney Bob Nelon said in a recent KFOR.com article, “It may be frustrating to the user that wants to use that platform, but it doesn’t violate the law,” Nelon said of Twitter’s banning of Trump.
But the rampant spread of such censorship into the public domain is a slippery slope and engenders distrust of social media gatekeepers who get to decide what “truth” is allowed to be shared in the public sphere, taking away the public’s ability to make up its own mind about the information shared.
As University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in Chickasha history professor Dr. James Finck told Southwest Ledger this past week, “What I wish we could all understand is that sites like Twitter and Facebook are entertainment sites. There is good information out there, but what has made social media what it is, is that everyone can share their opinion.”
Last fall, here in Southwest Ledger, I wrote about conservative, Denver-based energy industry consultant and social media influencer David Ramsden-Wood having his LinkedIn page shut down for allegedly upsetting persons unknown.
At the time of our interview, in October 2020, Ramsden-Wood said he was flabbergasted by this and how LinkedIn failed to offer a way to remedy the situation and return to his account, which had garnered thousands of followers since he launched it several years ago.
“No email. No explanation. No anything,” he said in a phone interview.
The only thing LinkedIn would tell Ramsden-Wood is that he was spreading “false information” in relation to news involving the coronavirus. It would soon become clear that this independent thinker was being forced into an “algorithm ghetto” because he examined all manner of subjects not deemed politically correct for the O’Briens of the Internet.
The case of David Ramsden-Wood is but one of many examples of digital muzzling I have heard about in these early days of the Great Reset.
Since October, the Big Tech censorship has only grown and spread in scope, particularly after the riots that broke out in the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, and have been blamed on Trump, primarily due to comments he made prior to the march – a chaotic march and subsequent melee that resulted in five people dead, Trump impeached for a second time and a city and nation on edge. And yet, while the details are still be sorted out, voices of all sorts are being stomped out.
This digital dragnet has reached fever-pitch and resulted in many law-abiding folks with potentially “un-Woke” views to be banished from the online square, with no way make amends, defend their position or to plead their case. This is a bad development for advocates of free speech and the First Amendment. We should all be having a national conversation about this important topic.
With Big Tech coming after many right-leaning voices in the past few weeks, using the events that took place in the U.S. Capitol as cover, Twitter, Facebook and others are, to quote Chicago journalist and Jewish historian Edwin Black, creating a “digital ghetto” where certain voices are locked away. Sure, they say, say what you want – but few outside your group will hear you.
In a lecture covered by East Village Magazine in 2018, Black warned the rapt audience that the Silicon Valley overlords are creating “unelected governance” determining what we see, hear and think we know.
“It’s a world that Orwell couldn’t have imagined,” Black said at the time. And it is has only gotten worse in the nearly three years since that article was published.
And now, with President Trump and many supporters banned from Facebook and Twitter, and Google, Apple and Amazon blocking free-speech advocates over alleged instances of “incitement to violence” and “hate speech,” it would seem that Silicon Valley is utilizing political motives to couch their selective enforcement, while turning the other way as dictators and violent radicals of varying stripes tweet and post on social media, largely unencumbered.
And as reported this week on Breitbart, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican ally of President Trump had a speaking engagement at the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Policy Orientation event in Austin and said that the censorship of conservatives was “probably the most important legislative issue that we’re going to have to get right this year and next year.”
“Americans,” added DeSantis, “must really think deeply about if we are a disfavored class based on our principles, based on having conservative views, based on being a Christian, based on whatever you can say that is not favored in Silicon Valley.”
In fact, outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said this week that Twitter’s Trump ban is “un-American” and mirrors similar censorship efforts put for by the
Chinese Communist Party. It does seem that the CCP is often lurking in the background when these developments arise. Could Uighur-styled re-education camps be in our future, ladies and gentlemen? Will religious beliefs that don’t fall in line with the Great Reset be obliterated, just as the CCP is doing to adherents of the spiritual group Falun Gong? It’s chilling to think about.
And just to add, this writer reached out several times to the ACLU of Oklahoma but did not receive a reply from that civil rights organization as of press time.
What are Constitutionalists and fervent supporters of the First Amendment to do as we seemingly slide back into the era of Wilhelm Reich where someone standing up and sharing untraditional views has no voice? An era of fear, hate, disunity and suspicion.
Well, we must take note of Republican State Sen. Rob Standridge. A stand-up guy and Constitutionalist, this Norman-based legislator became increasingly alarmed by the number of constituents coming forward who said they had been silenced, censored and banned from certain social media platforms and websites, many of them noted earlier in this story.
So, Standridge filed a bill – Senate Bill 383 - which will punish websites that “deletes or censors a social media website user’s political speech or religious speech” is subject to a fine of a “minimum of $75,000 per intentional deletion or censoring of the social media web- site user’s speech” as well as “actual damages,” “punitive damages if aggravating factors are present” and “other applicable forms of equitable relief.”
Standridge said “selective censorship” has been growing and that he hopes his bill – hopefully becoming a law in the near future – will put Big Tech on notice that leftist groupthink and Orwellian Newspeak is not welcome in America or online, where freedom of the press and freedom of speech is protected in our beloved Constitution. One can only hope that Standridge’s bill receives bipartisan support, as this is a rapidly growing issue that affects Americans of all political persuasions.