Free Speech Inc.
Before we get into it, a few things should be clarified. The planned and synchronized removal of Alex Jones from the world’s largest digital and social media platforms is not a question of free speech. This argument is nothing but a straw man designed to be burned in effigy by the droves of TOS (terms of service) goons, who have taken it upon themselves to become pro bono, corporate defense attorneys on our social media feeds. Arguing about moral obligation and constitutional principle when it comes to the fundamentally amoral structure of capitalist organization is a fool’s errand. We should all know how that argument ends. Usually in a court of law and many slapped wrists.
The mercenary nature of the American business model also belies the reasons Apple, YouTube, Facebook and the rest of them gave for taking this Orwellian action. Namely, the idea that they took offense at the content being produced by Jones is laughable. One simply has to peruse the catalog of offensive, scandalous and disgusting content all of these platforms continue to offer and always have offered – from pornography to graphic images of gratuitous violence and all manner of basic crap people are bound to come up with.
It is this last point, if anything, that could truly be used against these billion-dollar, publicly traded companies. We are, after all, the source of all the content they are profiting from at grotesque levels, and unlike other media networks – ABC, CNN, NBC, etc. – who buy or produce the content they deliver, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are all lining their pockets with content we create and we produce at exactly zero cost to them. A serious question of whether these companies have any right at all to ban, silence or censor anyone for any reason is one that a competent lawyer should have no problem before a judge. A smart prosecutor would surely win millions for a client of Jones’ heft, in retroactively enforced punitive damages.
Alex Jones’ content was no less or more egregious than anything you might find on the Internet, but his content had the distinction of having a wide circulation, to use legacy terminology. But, how did Alex Jones achieve such a massive audience in the first place? The answer to that question is at the core of what all of this is really about. For all we know, Jones himself is in on the plot. Given the rampant disinformation and his absurd treatment of many of the stories he covers, it would not surprise me in the least if Jones was a plant from the very beginning.
The Ghost in the Machine
The San Jose Mercury News was ready to make a splash in the new, exciting world of the Internet. This small, West-coast publication had just revamped their entire website in 1996. The information superhighway was barely in its infancy and most people were still trying to figure out what a 56k modem was, but the Mercury was about to blow it all out of the water.
Gary Webb was a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist at the daily, and he had just completed a three-part series called Dark Alliance – an explosive piece, that disclosed the unbelievable truth about the direct involvement of U.S. government agencies in the crack cocaine epidemic of South Central L.A. The Mercury chose to make it the lead story for the grand unveiling of the website that Summer. Nothing would ever be the same.
The site went down several times. Traffic was so heavy, their severs could not withstand the barrage of hits. For the very first time, a story on the Internet went viral.
The mainstream news media did not know what hit them and immediately began trying to discredit Webb’s allegations in the midst of their confusion. How had this tiny paper in the middle of nowhere pull it off? It had barely been two years since this strange, novel piece of technology had come on the scene and these behemoths were still trying to decipher a business model that worked. Now they had to deal with this upstart spreading cross-checked, factually-sound reporting everybody wanted to read? Outrageous.
They went after Webb and the Mercury hard, though it took them three months to come up with their smears. The New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times published several invectives against the story, publisher and author in November of that year. The pressure from these journalistic ‘eminences’ grew stronger and, eventually forced the Mercury to disavow the series completely, despite editor Jerry Ceppos acknowledging the story contained no factual errors. Webb was forced out of his job and less than ten years later was found dead of multiple gunshot wounds in an apparent “suicide”.
The CIA’s own internal investigations following the publication of the Dark Alliance series, not only vindicated Webb’s research but implicated the agency and U.S. government even further. Despite this, mainstream news sources have never recanted their attacks on Webb, and some have continued to publish diatribes against the heroic muckraker as late as four years ago.
It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Strawman!
As threatening as Gary Webb’s stellar work turned out to be for the tightly-controlled news rooms of the mainstream publishers, it paled in comparison with the veritable army of independent researchers and citizen journalists his story and its fortuitous dovetailing with the emergence of the Internet created.
Alex Jones himself is among them. But, he is only one among many more who have pioneered a revolution in journalism, which the corporate news outlets have been trying to put down ever since. The un-vetted dissemination of information is a nightmare for the powerful, who rely on the so-called fourth estate to shape the narratives, which benefit and further their interests. The prospect of unsupervised, unruly bunch of nobodies doing their own investigations – and worse – having a platform to publish their findings is utterly unacceptable to them.
The mainstream media itself will do whatever their masters decree, but a reality they have yet to escape is the persistent lack of a viable business model to supplant their analog days and are struggling to survive, in general. The vital loss of public trust, however, is a hurdle too high to jump by innovation alone.
What we are seeing now, with the heightening of moralistic rhetoric and the fomenting of the outrage culture on social media is but a backdrop for clearing the field and an attempt to regain absolute control over the creation and distribution of information. Russian “bots”, #metoo, Alt-right, Antifa and all the pseudo-social issues infecting our digital public spaces are designed to inflame and infuriate the masses so the ‘lords of the Internet protocol’ can justify their blatant clamp down over the flow and distribution of content.
Is the timing of this obviously coordinated attack by the thought police not slightly suspicious, coming as it does on the heels of the end of Net Neutrality? Have you asked yourself why these ‘private’ companies, who may go under in a couple of years, have any say about what we can and can’t do, say or think online?
Alex Jones may very well be a puppet. A straw man they built in the spirit of Gary Webb. A phony anti-establishment figure, embodying the hundreds of thousands of independent seekers Webb woke up, who they could amplify and prop up only to eventually burn him at the stake. Jones’ recent legal trouble could have softened him up enough to consider an exit strategy, if he wasn’t already a known quantity.
It’s too late, though. You can have Alex Jones if you want. 22 years ago today, a real, uncompromising truth-seeker walked among us and delivered a fatal blow to the dishonest news media, unmasking the perfidious extent of their spin and willful omissions of fact by exposing a conspiracy so large and so embedded in our government institutions, that those who claimed, until then, to be the watchdogs of America would never be believed again. Gary Webb paid for it with his life, but he left the truth behind as his unrelenting witness.