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Assigning Disparaging Identities as a Social-media Weapon

Published by marco on

Back in November, I listened to this Joe Rogan interview with Tim Dillon and Alex Jones. Tim Dillon is pretty funny. Joe’s going on about taking a UFO to Alpha Centauri and the evolution of humanity and Dillon interrupts him to say “I’m not even allowed to go to an Applebee’s, Joe. … I live in California. I’m barely allowed to leave my house.” … later he says, quite poignantly, “I think we should be humans as long as we can.”

Joe Rogan Experience #1555 − Alex Jones & Tim Dillon by Joe Rogan (YouTube)

Very near the end of this 3:10:00 show, Joe wraps things up. Rogan may be saying a lot of crazy stuff—I don’t know, I don’t listen to him very often—but in this interview, he’s fair and sane and offers a true way out of the morasse of unproductive infighting into which much of online discourse has waded. I’ve emphasized some sentences.

Joe: [To Tim] I appreciate you being here. It was everything I hoped it would be. [To Alex] This was a great one, Alex. I think people got to see a side of you that they maybe didn’t even see in the other two podcasts. I think maybe you did a great account of yourself…

Alex: Really? You think so?

Joe: A lot of the shit you brought up today, I mean, you were pulling shit off the top of your head…a lot of it was accurate. A good solid percentage of it.

Alex: I’m not trying to bullshit.

Joe: No, you’re not trying to bullshit. I know you’re not. And this is what I’ve always told people about you. And again, I think we’re at a critical time where we’ve got to rethink all these people that are calling for people to be censored. And calling for people to be deplatformed. I think you’ve got to rethink this. I think everybody has to rethink this. Because I think you might be looking back on this ten years from now and be thinking, ‘Oh my God; what the fuck did I support?’

Alex: Well, I agree with you, but you’re being nice to the censors. They’re tyrants.

Joe: I think there are a lot of people in this machine and a lot of these people: they’re not tyrants; they think they’re doing good. They really do. There’s a lot of people out there calling for people to be deplatformed, calling for people to be censored, because maybe they have children and they see their children being indoctrinated into Q-Anon and all this kind of ridiculous thinking and maybe they think that the way to fight some of this shit is to just take this stuff off-line, so the kids have no access to it.

Alex: That only makes their children want it more.

Joe: Not only that, but it makes the people who believe that there’s a conspiracy to silence the truth, it makes them even more fervent in their beliefs. It makes them start believing it even more rabidly and, not only that, it creates echo chambers.”

That’s what the interview was really like. There was a lot of nutty stuff thrown about, but most of it was true, although it wasn’t always clear why it was important to mention it or talk about it at that particular moment. That’s where the propaganda comes in, of course, but it was no more or less hair-brained that many other discussions online. It wasn’t dangerous.

It’s not clear why Jones needed to be banned—at least not from those 3 hours of interview and discussion. I mean, Rachel Maddow (just for example) sows a deliberately misleading if not outright mendacious storyline that makes people very comfortable with the thought of outright war with Russia. No-one’s even asking her to knock it off, to say nothing of banning her from any platform.

But people can’t read and they can’t listen and they make up their own stories to fit their own narratives. And nearly everyone does it, especially if the target is juicy enough, if the target is someone you already dislike or disagree with—and you know you can get the rest of your blue-check twitterati to brigade with you.

For example, there’s the shit-show around Glenn Greenwald leaving the Intercept. Now I have to watch Naomi Klein smear Glenn Greenwald as a Trump-lover? And then accuse him of leaving the Intercept to make more money? He had the same cushy-ass sinecure that you did, Naomi—for half-a-million per year. What the actual fuck, Naomi? Are you so in-the-tank with never-Trump that you don’t see the journalistic issues at all? I guess there are a certain class of people who feel that defending free speech only goes as far as defending free speech that is officially approved. Her fervor for the task was disappointing.

A Thankless Job

Then there’s this characterization from The Knives Come Out as Greenwald Splits From the Intercept Citing Censorship by Alan Macleod (Mint Press) (in fairness, from an article that can’t tell “access” from “axis”)

“The Atlantic’s David Frum, the man who coined the term “access of evil” for the Bush administration, professed his outrage over the emergence of an alliance of reactionary thinkers, including Greenwald and Matt Taibbi on the left and Tucker Carlson, Joe Rogan, and the Federalist Magazine on the right.”

Joe Rogan is in no way right wing. He hunts, you nitwits. That doesn’t make him right-wing. You would, of course, have to listen to the words he actually says, which is too much work for most people, apparently. It’s far easier to pick up official talking points and go with those. Nobody ever got fired for agreeing with the Democratic Party at a purportedly left-leaning but pretty corporatist outfit.

Pretty much everyone who’s against Greenwald is still happily chirping about a Russian-influence theory that has been long since disproven to have happened in the way characterized. Luckily, they managed to train a whole country full of people to, once again, respond to anything they don’t like as Communist or Russian-influenced in order to invalidate it without consideration. This sounds like a healthy intellectual culture that’s bound to lead to a healthy, thoughtful culture.

“As journalist Matt Taibbi noted, “The Intercept uncritically took dictation from John Brennan, Jim Clapper, and Michael Hayden, and killed a piece by their Pulitzer-winning founder because it was critical of the probable next president.””

Max Blumenthal gets in a great murder-by-words on Twitter here.

“The Intercept’s Betsy Reed, who earns $427,419 a year & produces zero journalism of her own, mocks independent journalists who rely on Substack & Patreon to get by. Not everyone has a reclusive billionaire to pay them huge sums to edit stuff no one reads.”

Some interesting interviews

In the following video, Chris Hedges interviewed Matt Taibbi on his show On Contact. In it, they spend half an hour discuss various topics, but there is a focus on the way the “official” press plays court stenographer for the liars and manipulators in organizations like the CIA and the NSA—or others who have retired from the military or these agencies to offer their opinions to the press.

Shredding journalistic credibility by Chris Hedges and Matt Taibbi (YouTube)

In the following video, The Hill interviews Glenn Greenwald about why he left The Intercept. He also describes an atmosphere in journalism that is far more about political posturing than about establishing a common set of facts and information.

Glenn Greenwald RESPONDS: Why I Left The Intercept Over Censorship by The Hill (YouTube)

Tucker was one of my biggest defenders when the Bolsonaro government was trying to have me arrested. […] When I wanted to talk about the persecution of Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, I got to go on Tucker’s show to do it … and reach an audience that, even though they may not agree with everything I’m saying in the moment, by being able to communicate with them and have an open channel of discussion with them, they are, at least, if they trust me, they’re going to give me a fair hearing.

“Which is what you want if you believe the things that you’re saying need to be heard and are important. It’d be so much easier to isolate myself in echo chambers where everybody applauds me. […]

The reason I started writing was that I wanted to bring attention to the things that I thought the media was ignoring. Not what the media was already covering. I assume that my readers already know all the reasons why Trump is horrible. I’ve written negatively about Trump before.

I just don’t think it’s a valuable use of my time or platform to just go around repeating what CNN and MSNBC and the NY Times Op-ed page are already saying. What good does that do, other than win me applause? I want to bring attention to some of the kind of unseen trends that I think are really disturbing, that my readers would benefit from rather than just having their view reinforced and I think that’s why I’ve built up a loyal audience over the years.”