Freedom of speech is in a sad state these days. You can only exercise your First Amendment rights in certain restricted areas, and, if you hold conservative viewpoints, those areas are growing even smaller.
By Phillip Giraldi
Recent debates about “safe spaces” at universities and declarations of states of emergency to prevent alleged white supremacists from speaking are part of a much broader movement to manage the information that the American public should be allowed to access. In its most recent manifestations, an anonymous group produced a phony list of 200 websites that were guilty of serving up Russian propaganda, a George Soros-funded think tank identified thousands of individuals who are alleged to be “useful idiots” for Moscow, and Twitter announced that it is no longer taking ads paid for by two Russian media outlets, RT International and Sputnik.
Apparently, the exposure of dissident sites, the outing of dissident individuals, including myself, and the banning of a small number of ads will preserve American democracy and allow the truth tellers at The New York Times and MSNBC to inform us regarding what we need to know and not one iota more lest we draw some false conclusions.
If the road to hell really is paved with good intentions, it just might be that the wave of censorship that is currently engulfing the Internet really is intended to make people feel good about themselves so they will behave decently when they interact with other users. But if one is interested in the free flow of information and viewpoints that comes with the alternative media, it certainly does not look that way. U.S. investigative journalist Robert Parry describes it as a deliberate process of “demonizing and silencing dissent that questions mainstream narratives.”
One of the organizations most interested in limiting conversations about what is going on in the world is the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). The ADL claims that it is “the world’s leading organization combating anti-Semitism and hate of all kinds,” though it clearly excludes incitement or even physical harm directed against Palestinian Arabs resentful of the Israeli occupation of their country. Its definition of “hatred” is really quite selective and is focused on anyone criticizing Israel or Jewish-related issues. Its goal is to have any such speech or writing categorized as anti-Semitism and, eventually, to have “hate crime” legislation that criminalizes such expressions. As most criticism of Israel or of Jews is currently limited to the alternative media, and that media lives on the Internet, the ADL and those who are like-minded now are focusing on “cyberhate” as the problem and are working with major Internet providers to voluntarily censor their product.
The ADL is quite adept at telling other people how to think. Back in 1999, the complaints of one Jewish officer who did not like how he was treated at CIA led to mandatory “Jewish sensitivity” training courses produced and presented by the ADL. Then Agency Director George Tenet, who mandated the training, explained, “With the help of ADL trainers we educated an entire bureaucracy and taught people about how their words could be misinterpreted in a manner that was detrimental to the interests of the country.” I was fortunately already out the door at that time and was not subjected to such nonsense, which would have led me to resign.
On Oct. 10, the ADL issued a press release out of its New York City offices to explain just how far that process has gone. The organization boasts of the fact that it is now working with Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter “to engineer new solutions to stop cyberhate.” Apple is not identified by name in the press release but one should presume that it is also involved, as well as YouTube, which is owned by Google. When you consider that the associates in this venture with the ADL are vast corporations that control huge slices of the communications industry, the consequences of some kind of corporate decision on what constitutes “hate” become clear. Combatting “cyberhate” will become across-the-board censorship for viewpoints that are considered to be unacceptable.
The ADL will be the “convener” for the group, providing “insight on how hate and extremist content manifests—and constantly evolves—online.”
This means it will define the problem, which it calls the “spew[ing] of hateful ideologies,” so the corporate world can take steps to block such material.
And “the initiative will be managed by the ADL’s Center for Technology and Society in Silicon Valley.”
The ADL boasts of a “long track record of fighting bigotry and defending free expression,” apparently failing to understand the contradiction, as free speech includes the right of individuals and groups to be bigoted. The ADL has, for example, opposed activities by Palestinian groups on campus because some Jewish students find them “offensive.”
And the ADL also chooses to avoid addressing the issue of Israel, which already has considerable internal censorship and is behind recent moves to manage the Internet globally. In January 2016, the Israeli government proposed across the board censorship of the most prominent social media platforms on a global scale by creating an “international coalition that would make limiting criticism of Israel its primary objective.”
A “loose coalition . . . would keep an eye on content and where it is being posted, and members of the coalition would work to demand that the platforms remove the content . . . in any of their countries at the request of members.” Collusion to operate collectively across borders would effectively limit the global nature of Internet platforms, but it also relies on the full cooperation of the corporate communications industry, which is what the ADL is attempting to obtain.
Facebook already employs thousands of censors and there is literally no limit to how far those who want to restrict material that they consider offensive will go. To be sure, most groups who want to limit the flow of information do not have the clout or resources of the ADL with its $64 million annual operating budget so its “cyberhate” campaign will no doubt serve as a model that others will then follow. For the ADL, reducing criticism of Israel is a much-sought-after goal. For the rest of us, it is a trip into darkness.
Philip Giraldi is a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer and a columnist and television commentator. He is also the executive director of the Council for the National Interest.