If we are not yet at peak insanity in America, we are certainly very near it.
As it stands on this Monday, January the 11th in the year 2021, the sitting President of the United States has been banned or restricted from every major social media platform in existence. While this sentence likely would not have made any sense in 1984 — the actual year or the fictional work by George Orwell — the reaction to his banning in these first few days of 2021 are as polarizing as our entire American culture.
On one hand, there is celebration. Never in American history has a President been as maligned as Donald Trump. Whether you hate him or love him (the middle ground is far less exciting, but probably more common than you think) it is hard to argue against the claim that much of the hate aimed toward President Trump has been boiling over due to the mainstream media outlets and Big Tech entities putting America and the world on a burner constantly turned up to the highest heat setting. Those familiar with the pop culture reference stemming from This is Spinal Tap may say that things have been turned up to 11 ever since the 2016 election cycle. For those who despise Donald Trump, who believe his very existence is a constant threat to democracy, his censorship (and let’s not mince words here…censorship is what this is) is not only welcomed, it is viewed as coming much too late. The events of January 6th in Washington D.C. serve as their evidence that Twitter, Facebook, Google et. al waited too long in restricting the speech of the President. Again, a sentence that would barely make any sense even fifteen years ago.
On the other side, supporters of Trump and free speech advocates view this to be an atrocity, an unchecked power grab by a select few Big Tech CEOs urged on by our own government to use editorial decision making to censor the sitting President of the United States. Let us not forget that not only is he still the President, he received the second most amount of votes in an American Presidential election in our country’s history. Only Joe Biden received more, and the numbers for both candidates are highly debated, regardless of what the media conglomerates would have you think. In fact, reading between the lines yields a realization that Trump’s claims of election interference led to the events on the Capitol on January the 6th. From there, Trump’s social media response to the events were used as fodder for the outright banning of his account. In a sense, the interpretation of Donald Trump’s social media posts was enough reason to ban Trump based on the Terms of Services of Twitter, Facebook, and a large swath of deplatformers including Shopify, Snapchat, YouTube, and Instagram.
Not only was Donald Trump banned, but other major figures attached to his movement including General Michael Flynn and lawyer Sidney Powell and millions of other pro-Trump accounts (the actual number of banned accounts has not been made public) were purged in the biggest wave of Twitter suspensions in history. As many of those accounts fled to Parler, an alternative social media platform, Amazon Web Services, which hosted the app, decided to pull the plug in the wake of Apple and Google threatening to remove them from their web store if they did not comply to certain speech regulations. Negative publicity toward the app has caused it to become a pariah unable to reel in servers willing to host them.
As someone who has strongly voted against Donald Trump, and strongly voted for him, all in the period of four years, even my own convictions are a testament to some of, if not the most turbulent times in American and world history. Even admitting on a social platform that I was one of millions to vote for Trump in either 2016 or 2020 (I’ll leave the answer to that up to your imagination) seems to be a kind of risk in our current society.
While social media companies are (for now) private companies which can ban users at will for Terms of Service violation, it is becoming increasingly clear that violations are based completely on interpretation. Don’t agree? Read Twitter’s explanations for banning Trump for yourself, and then consider that Ayatollah Ali Hosseini Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, who has on multiple occasions called for the annihilation and eradication of Israel on Twitter, is allowed to maintain a presence on their platform.
With emotions at an all time high, we are simultaneously enraged and glazed-over as we march ourselves toward a complete Orwellian future. The rules, as they seem to me, are simple: say what the government, media, and big tech companies want you to say, and if you do, you’re fine! Encourage rioting, looting, and general lawbreaking and violence, but only if it is for the causes we say you can riot and loot about!
And if you don’t do as you’re told, we only need interpretations of our own unregulated Terms of Service to ban the President of the United States, so what’s to stop us from banning you?
While this may seem trivial, social media has woven itself into our lives in such intricate ways, careers and livelihoods can easily be destroyed with the click of a button, and for now, there is largely nothing we can do about it.
Fear not, citizens of America and the world, the entities that know where you are at all times, know what you’ve said and done, what you like, where you might be, what makes you happy, what makes you sad, and generally what makes you tick as a human being…they now have established power that transcends government.
COVID may have us for the most part locked up in our homes, but make no mistake, the ban on guests does not include Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey, Sundar Pichai, and Jeff Bezos keeping tabs on you at all times. But no worries, as long as you do as you’re told, please feel free to enjoy GMail, Alexa, and Despicable Me memes. Everything is totally normal!
Remember when I mentioned 1984 as fiction? Desensitized, we continue forward while a competition for who can be the Biggest Brother plays on in the background.
If you’ve read this far, try not to delve too deep into what I’m saying. If you want to make sure you know how you should feel about this, just turn on the news. They’d never lead you astray.