A Balkanized Internet: Victory & Defeat

Author: V

Watching the social media purges of prominent right-wing accounts over the last year or so has been telling, not just of big tech’s tactics but also regarding a prognosis for the Internet altogether.  Whether it is the intention of companies like Facebook and Twitter to weaken the influence they have over dissident types – and there is a genuine argument for this worth exploring later – or it is simply the result of ignorance is difficult to say.  Regardless, if one were making the correct observations of “right-wing populism” over the last five or so years, one could also correctly note that the current trajectory for the web’s most popular social media platforms are congruent with that of the web itself.  The Internet is breaking up, and it should.

It’s been discussed in a previous piece that the Internet moves at a pace that puts the physical world of politics to shame.  It might even be apt to discuss the Internet in a context that suggests most meaningful politics no longer occur outside of it.  It’s become increasingly easy to see that the consequences of political exorcism are actually the first swells in a grand symphony.  The contentions worth exploring here are manifold, but the best starting point relies on establishing the imperative of motive. Why is it so critical for big tech to quash dissent?  The answer is contingent on understanding the moral instinct of progressive institutions and the religious faith implicit in them.  Capital-D Democracy is not a method of governance, but has instead proven itself in the Western world to be a cult concerned with the unfettered pursuit of “progress”.  If democracy justifies itself as a moral system on the basis of egalitarian ethics, universal suffrage and so on, then it must likewise have consensus.  Lacking this, it lacks the moral authority to act in its interest. If there were any bewilderment as to why the voices of cis/white/male/Christian voices need to be silenced, it’s likely because they are the most willing to dissent to progressive post-politics.  

The tactic is a simple one: subvert this demographic for the benefit of the progressive narrative and excise the malcontents.  It is almost so banal that one can actually imagine Jason Bateman’s dimwitted DodgeBall character giving it his go, “It’s a bold strategy, Cotton.  The entire success or failure of the plan relies on tricking a group into fighting itself, and then turning what would otherwise be seen as a set of utterly mundane implicit characteristics like skin color, gender identity, and sexual orientation into actual values.  People fight for their values.  Let’s see how it works out for them.”  Cotton could only ponder the sheer magnitude of potential miscalculation the Left has committed in turning white heteronormativity into an actual value system followed only after years of ceaseless antagonism of the same group.  It will be interesting to see how this one plays out. On one hand, the most ardent supporters of the progressive narrative are indeed white people. Conversely, it’s a “radical” contingent of white people responding with the greatest recoil impulse.  The expulsion of dissenting voices is essential to the legitimacy of democracy precisely because it must maintain the illusion of consensus politics, as consensus is the cornerstone of the faith. The gamble is hoping the whole plan pays off before it boils over, something the Internet does much to hasten.

If one were to vivisect the values of a broader emerging right-wing dissident movement, he’d irrefutably have to suggest there were in fact a number of different organisms living together in relative symbiosis, as opposed to a single creature.  That is not to say there is a high degree of arm-linking and kumbaya nonsense between say, civic nationalists and ethno-nationalists – the assertion of the contrary itself an embarrassing miscalculation on the part of progressives – regardless, the loose coalition of right-wing types shows its adolescence mostly in the sense of standing against something rather than standing for itself.  It may even be apt to say the movement will glean no genuine maturity until after it has either “won” or been kicked from the roost altogether.

Beyond the tactical misstep of forcing people who believe in the sovereignty of a nation state to align themselves with people who think it should only benefit white people, or really a completely normal and universal belief up until a few years ago being forced into the same corner as race realism, the biggest issue with the progressive strategy here is that it clearly demonstrates “right-wing populism” to be nothing more than unacceptable democracy.  There cannot be a competing consensus with competing values or priorities, so it becomes far easier to simply link it with the historical bogeymen of World War II than it does to ascribe any semblance of legitimacy to it. The intention is to build the backlash up to literal comic book levels of villainy, “Natzees on teevee!” Even this tactic shows the degree of success by which the modern progressive movement can be measured. Imagine so affirmatively shaping the narrative that a political movement championed by slope-brained charlatans could invoke a conflict near a century ago with some hope for success.  Stunning as it is, this is the tactic that has historically worked for the progressive movement. Alas, most of history was without the Internet.

The Internet erodes the progressive scheme to a degree.  For one, participation on the Internet already works in something of a decentralized manner.  People willingly self-federate, create in-groups, and foster esoteric internal cultures within their given circles.  Social media will be no different. The traditional schema for political power is concentration, and as of this moment, the Internet lacks it.  To that end, Twitter and Facebook gleefully forcing dissenting voices from their platforms does not reinforce their concentration of power at all.  It does quite the opposite. These sorts of censoring acts are viewed as innately negative mostly because the modern right continues to operate on a liberal interpretation of morality in a liberal political environment.  The Internet has no morality, and is anything but liberal. No one is equal on the Internet, not a person, entity, or server. The reality of Twitter banning someone for wrong-think has a more negative impact on their own ability to wield political power than it does the supposed victim.  The tactic erodes legitimacy, it stifles the ability of a platform to control communication, and forces the banned individual to use a platform outside Jack Dorsey’s or Mark Zuckerberg’s means of control. Best yet, it compels the individual to deliberately seek out platforms that cater to dissidence, either by virtue of circumstance or by their very design.  Did everyone suddenly forget /pol/ exists? Did they forget it was blocked by New Zealand when the Christchurch shooting happened? That it caters to anonymity? That these people are amazingly coordinated, have no single leader to bring them down and have actually affected practical political outcomes, even if it is just stealing Shia LaBeouf’s flag?

The Internet changes the parameters of victory and defeat.  Twitter is the enemy’s territory. Why would anyone expect a hot meal and a soapbox?  Being on Twitter is like being on an incursion behind enemy lines. The mission is recon, subterfuge, and sabotage.  It’s about counter-intelligence. /pol/ understands this marvelously, the white supremacist symbol meme serves as an example.  But walking onto the opposing force’s airbase and getting thrown in a gulag and then complaining about it is just foolish. There is a fundamental misunderstanding about the right-wing’s role on social media platforms.  More to the point is why they would want a centralized position by which all of them could see their voices snuffed out by future political action or a pressured server host backing out? The dissident right should get used to swimming in forbidden channels, practicing guerrilla communication campaigns, and fostering a culture in an anonymous environment – none of which Twitter offers them.  Indeed, the only real victims of the dissident right have been its self-appointed leaders bearing blue checkmarks, and it is other blue checkmarks from the same camp telling us to care about them.

The right-wing revolt against social media has already grown too large for Twitter and Facebook to control.  They have no ability to reasonably reign in the anonymous rank and file that makes up the majority of their headaches.  They can only go after the big fish, the most important of which – like Alex Jones – have the capital and clout to survive on their own platforms.  People like Milo and Laura Loomer and the rest are worthless grifters. They appeal to no one who has the ability or the desire to do anything but what neoliberal democracy mandates: give money and sycophants to someone, and call them important.  They aren’t. They are idols to be burned by the Left as propaganda victories. They are Guy Fawkes effigies. Everyone else knows just to wear the mask.