Welcome to Corporate Authoritarianism
We built a massive mousetrap and now we can't get out
I was interviewing a filmmaker yesterday, quite a brilliant up and comer whose name I won’t mention. He’s been unpersoned for a crime he was accused of and exonerated for in the courts from back when he was a confused and reckless teenager, growing up black in America with a single parent and no real sense of discipline. But he somehow made it through and became a prominent filmmaker on his way to being nominated for the Oscar. But then news broke of his past and it was over for him. Just over. If the people decided he was done then the corporations did follow. He was tried again in the court of public opinion and they decided he was guilty based on cherry picking facts and distorting them to suit the portrait they were painting of him.
The corporations - in this case, the film studios - complied. That was only the beginning.
The recent purge of Trump - the President of the United States - and his supporters from Twitter and Facebook and other tech and hosting platforms is an unacceptable overreach of tech oligarchs who have too much power, money and control over how we live our daily lives. We gave it to them stupidly, willingly. Now we’re seeing why that was a bad idea.
When people are afraid you can convince them of anything - that Jews must be purged from the village to keep it German pure. Or that newly freed slaves are a threat to every man, woman and child so make sure you create crimes to arrest them with and put them into jail for life. Or that the lady who sold you milk and hand-sewn poppets was a witch that should hang in the town square as you cheer from the sidelines: yes, kill her. Purge the Devil from our ranks.
Welcome to Corporate Authoritarianism that took hold over the past twenty years as we all became interconnected, easily tracked and traced, and under the thumb of massive electronic systems that own us, pretty much. And as the saying goes, when you have them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.
What does Corporate Authoritarianism look like? It means you can be cut off and cut out of mainstream civilization. You can lose your ability to make a living, lose your platform, lose your friends. So maybe that doesn’t feel like authoritarianism - after all, doesn’t that usually involve the government and threats of prison or maybe death? Yes, it does. But when the corporations do it they are not asking you. They are telling you. Submit and comply or you’re out. We’ll see if government can beat back the forces of control of Big Tech. The Democrats clearly do not care.
Meet the Real Authoritarians
With Gen-Z fully on board with both their techno-toys, their reflective narcissism and their imagined activism (it’s only activism if the authoritarians go along with it), and fully on board with unpersoning any undesirable from their ranks - the authoritarians not only have unchecked and unlimited power they have a whole generation totally down with that. As long as you give them Medicare for All, excuse their student loans and maybe spend on the environment and antiracism policies to make everyone equal their world will seem free. Until such time as one of them is unpersoned and they feel the almighty boot on their face. But that can only happen if you step out of line. All of the ways that you can make a living now are somehow dependent on one of the massive corporate overlords who have been given so much power BY the conservatives who agreed that corporations are people. That was their pitch. This is their monster. They want Trump gone. Democrats want Trump gone. Big tech obliges. How is that not in government?
Citizen United United Makes Big Tech an Apex Predator
For all of the Democrats who screamed about Citizens United fully employed its benefits in 2020, making it the most costly election in American history.
Source: Open Secrets
15 billion spent to buy the presidency, and even that wasn’t enough - they needed the entire media establishment AND Big Tech to flood the zones in places that mattered, to lower the percentage of accepted ballots and to use COVID to ensure the ballots were all done by mail. All of this perfectly legal but it was unusual to any rational person, let alone your average Trump supporter. It was not completely out of line for people to question how it all went down. It is within their rights to do that. That doesn’t justify the angry mob at the Capitol but it also doesn’t necessarily mean the mob at the Capitol would not have happened anyway (I think it would have because these folks are anti-government, anti establishment more than they are pro-Trump) or that all of those hundreds of thousands protesting in DC that day weren’t the Trump version of the “pussy hat” marches all over the country. Wasn’t that also about a “stolen” election? Didn’t we spend four years crying about that? Yes, we did. Trump supporters had that exact same right.
Money Money Money
Jeff Bezos is not only the richest man in the world, not only the guy who brings you food and products during a pandemic, not only the guy who controls your information stream on Amazon Prime but he’s also the guy who can shut down Parler.
Total contribution: $8.9 million
Top recipients: Joe Biden
The e-commerce giant contributed $8.9 million through individual and PAC donors to federal candidates. [source]
Google is not only the way you search for everything but they collect data on that search. They follow you with their ads to collect yet more data on what you do online, how you spent your time, what you buy. But they also control your email. And your phones, in some cases, and your televisions (like mine). They own Youtube, and there they collect data on your viewing habits and if they want to they can ban you. They could also, say, target you if you are a potential dissident agains the state. They can do anything because they have all of your information, which we all willingly gave them. They can ban anything or block anyone arbitrarily, with zero oversight. To quote Chinatown, THEY OWN THE POLICE.
Total contribution: $21 million
Top recipients: Joe Biden, Democrat super PACs
Google’s parent company Alphabet is one of the largest corporate donors during the 2020 election cycle. The company’s employees and PACs have contributed a total of $21 million to presidential and congressional candidates since 2019.
Nearly 80 percent of the funds went to Democrats, while just 7 percent went to Republicans.
A whopping $3.66 million went to the Joe Biden campaign. The tech giant also gave nearly $1 million to Bernie Sanders and $700,000 to Elizabeth Warren. The Democrat super PAC, Future Forward USA, and the DNC are the two largest institutional beneficiaries, receiving $2.5 million and $1.9 million respectively.
Among individual donors, Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai contributed a total of $10,000 through six donations to Google’s PAC. And Google cofounder Larry Page made a $5,000 one-time donation in late 2019.
Facebook dugs its talons in a long time ago, like all of the tech oligarchs harmlessly at first. But it knows you and it knows your friends. It knows what you talk about and what you buy, what you like and what you spend your time and money on. It has built psychographic profiles on you that it can sell to other data companies. It can control what you see, and decide what information you should be getting. You can’t be trusted with that, you see, because a small group of idiot thugs busted into the Capitol in a uncharacteristically violent attack for a group who has always condemned violence. And yet, here we are, painting all Trump supporters with that brush even though that was the one thing they had over the left: they weren’t the violent ones.
Total contribution: $6 million
Top recipients: Joe Biden
Employees and PACs affiliated with Facebook donated a total of $6 million during the 2020 election cycle. More than 92 percent of the funds came from individuals. Mirroring Google’s and Microsoft’s partisan splits, Facebook spent nearly 80 percent of the funds on Democrats and only 10 percent on Republicans.
The Joe Biden campaign alone received $1.3 million from the social media giant, followed by Bernie Sanders, who received $249,000. The DNC received approximately $347,000, while the RNC, the top Republican beneficiary, also got $216,000.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t appear to have spent any money on direct political donations, other than to the Facebook PAC, but he and his wife, Priscilla Chan, have given $400 million to local governments in order to foot the bill for election-related costs. [source]
Apple has not yet shut down podcasts on iTunes, but they banned the Parler app from their service, along with Amazon. Parler was planning on re-launching on a different platform but as of yesterday no hosting service will give them that opportunity. THAT is corporate authoritarianism and it’s a monopoly.
Twitter did not spend big money on the election, instead they put their money into antiracism, which is probably a more ethical way to dump huge amounts of cash than buying an election.
So getting back to my friend, who is symbolic of the little guy in the age of corporate authoritarianism. What can he do if they decide he is not worthy of YOUR attention? They can erase him. He doesn’t exist. If I step out of line on Twitter I can be banned and thus, my business will be destroyed. It’s Cancel Culture but now it’s much much bigger.
Parler, say of it what you will, was not a threat to anyone - I know because I used it. They did not employ algorithms to manipulate you into daily outrage. It was a barely usable clunky service. Shutting them down, then every hosting company refusing to put them on their platform was nothing but a show of force by the left.
The left believes Trump is Hitler and white supremacy was the threat. But that isn’t what Trump’s power is about. Sure, he drew that faction into his fold and has not really condemned them the way he should have (he’s said what he has to say but is that really enough?). What Trump offers them is the most high profile person in this country who is unafraid to speak out against the left. To Trump supporters - both those who are in MAGA and those who voted for him as a bulwark against the left, only Trump pushes back as loudly as is required. Who fight against the left without Trump? Not the Never Trump conservatives. They appear to be fully on board because they too wanted Trump gone and gone.
One thing is for sure - a good majority of Americans no longer trust either our media or our government. That is a very bad way to start 2021.
Any smart Democrat would push back hard against the censorship to show the American people they still care about freedom of speech and that they understand how vulnerable all of us are in the new regime of corporate authoritarianism. I’m not seeing any single one of them doing that. Which again tells me power is about to head in Trump’s direction, even after this.
Those pushing back include Angela Merkel of Germany and Alexi Navalny who was poisoned by Putin and says this:
A chilling message from someone who lives under an actual dictator warning about oppression in the United States. It is too bad no one in power seems willing to listen.