Rod Dreher

Woke Capitalism & Soft Totalitarianism

I am slapping my forehead over how the stuff I talk about in my forthcoming book Live Not By Lies is coming true in a big and undeniable way right now. In a section on how Woke Capitalism works, I talk about the extraordinary power held by Amazon, Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media companies over speech in the public square. I write:

In recent years, the most obvious interventions have come from social media companies deplatforming users for violating terms of service. Twitter and Facebook routinely boot users who violate its standards, such as promoting violence, sharing pornography, and the like. YouTube, which has two billion active users, has demonetized users who made money from their channels but who crossed the line with content YouTube deemed offensive. To be fair to these platform managers, there really are vile people who want to use these networks to advocate for evil things.

But who decides what crosses the line? Facebook bans what it calls “expression that . . . has the potential to intimidate, exclude or silence others.” To call that a capacious definition is an understatement. Twitter boots users who “misgender” or “deadname” transgendered people. Calling Caitlyn Jenner “Bruce,” or using masculine pronouns when referring to the transgendered celebrity, is grounds for removal.

To be sure, being kicked off of social media isn’t like being sent to Siberia. But companies like PayPal have used the guidance of the far-left Southern Poverty Law Center to make it impossible for certain right-of-center individuals and organizations—including the mainstream religious-liberty law advocates Alliance Defending Freedom—to use its services. Though the bank issued a general denial when asked, JPMorgan Chase has been credibly accused of closing the accounts of an activist it associates with the alt-right. In 2018, Citigroup and Bank of America announced plans to stop doing some business with gun manufacturers.

Well, get this. Alex Berenson is a former New York Times reporter. He is a strong dissenter from the standard public health line on Covid-19. You don’t have to agree with him to believe that he deserves a hearing in a free society. He posted this yesterday. I apologize for the profanity, but I don’t know how to obscure it on his tweet:

If Amazon is censoring you, that’s pretty much the end of your book. That’s how much power they have. As Berenson points out:

This is a real outrage. People, look at what is happening!

The irony that I have to direct you to Amazon.com to pre-order Live Not By Lies has not been lost on me. This is the world in which we live.

UPDATE: Amazon has backed down; Berenson’s e-book is now available. Great news!

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