Germany has taken the lead in what is quickly becoming an all out war on free speech. Under the guise of combatting “fake news”, any form of speech deemed undesirable by the establishment will be oppressed and ultimately removed. Germany has already introduced legislation, France has announced to do the same, The Netherlands is contemplating it (and will follow soon), and the EU has appointed a “High Level Expert Group to tackle disinformation” (chair of the group will be Madeleine de Cock Buning from The Netherlands, a friend of Minister of the Interior Kajsa Ollongren, whom I have recently described as one of the most dangerous politicians of the moment for her inclination towards censorship).
The German NetzDG or Network Enforcement Act came into effect on October 1 2017. Its official purpose is to combat fake news, particularly on social media platforms. Its actual effect, which many (including myself) believe was also the actual intention, is that the right wing has been disproportionately, almost exclusively targeted for censorship and suppression.
Muzzling critics of government
The editor of an independent (anti-Kremlin) journalistic magazine called InformNapalmDeutsch, Irina Schlegel, was banned from Facebook for three days over a post in which she critizied the German government’s silence on the revolution in Iran:
One gets the impression that Germans have become a nation of incredible cowards, when one hears the silence on the Iranian revolution
In a response to her ban, she stated that she suspected the removal of her post (by Facebook) was politically motivated, adding that the new German law is making it easier for her opponents (“pro-Russian trolls”) to get her off of Facebook.
I suspect the removal of my post is politically motivated. Pro-Russian trolls have been trying to get me off of Facebook for years. This new law is making it easier for them.
Muzzling those who criticize the muzzling of critics
The NetzDG law allows people who feel attacked or harmed by “fake information” the opportunity to anonimously log complaints, which turns “the mob” into a de facto thought police. As long as there are enough people willing to log complaints about something, and / or the social media platform is simply willing enough to ban something from their site, anything could be arbitrarily removed.
It didn’t take long for criticisms of the censorship law itself to be removed from social media platforms. In the example below, Twitter user @olivergorus tweeted: “This is what the #NetzDG looks like in action. Truth and opinion are suppressed. If my tweet is legally “relevant”, I will eat a broom. This is simply an attack on freedom of speech”, to which he received a notification that his tweet will not be displayed in Germany.
— Hartes Geld (@Hartes_Geld) January 4, 2018
Censorship in Germany is delegated to private parties (Facebook, Twitter, Google), which allows the government to stay free of accusations of censorship or unethical meddling in public discourse. Censorship is applied accordnig to corporate terms of service, there are no courts involved and therefore the victims of censorship have no possibility to appeal their punishment.
While the establishment is forcing Christian bakeries to “bake the cake”, because private companies apparently cannot be allowed to choose with whom they do or do not want to do business, Facebook and Twitter are actively encouraged to refuse service to customers, specifically over ideology / way of life. The establishment’s difference in sentiment towards these cases is determined only by its politics. While protecting (or demanding protection for) one group, the establishment is seeking to attack another in ostensibly the same way.
Muzzling the muzzler
The German Minister responsible for the censorship law, Heiko Maas, received a lot of criticism over NetzDG. After two AfD representatives were blocked, a satirical magazine was also blocked for referencing those incidents. Maas replied by saying that social media networks “should not have to allow their platforms to be abused for criminality. Social networks have to abide by the law, just like everybody. Anybody who wishes to protect freedom of speech should not stand by as the open exchange of viewpoints is being undermined by illegal stalking / witch hunts and threats.”
The problem is of course that there were already laws against threats and stalking, and NetzDG actually eliminates the legal process from the equation, which means there is no objective standard by which words are judged. This in itself is what undermines the open exchange of ideas – there cannot be an open exchange of ideas when unscrutinized mob rule decides which ideas are allowed to be exchanged and which are not. Inverting reality in the way Heiko Maas is doing here, specifically to defend the oppression of dissenting voices, is at the very essence of what George Orwell meant by newspeak. Without any drama, this is at its core the idea of “Big Brother” – a machine which cannot be controlled and cannot be questioned or attacked, deciding how people are allowed to think and speak.
In a somewhat gratifying turn of events, opponents of the censorship law demonstrated its dangers by reporting Heiko Maas himself for a seven year old tweet, in which he called Thilo Sarrazin (former President of the German national bank and author of the book Deutschland schafft sich ab, or Germany abolishes itself) an idiot. Minister of censorship Heiko Maas had his own tweet censored (Maas denies having deleted the post, and says he hasn’t received any notification from Twitter about its removal, so the exact situation remains unclear).
Beware the mob, one day they will come for you, too.
Twitter, Facebook and Google each have a well-documented anti-conservative bias. Now, they are not only allowed to act on that bias, they are encouraged to do so. They enjoy legal protection for their practice or banning users and deleting posts as they see fit (or rather: they have users delete their posts, probably to deny accusations of active censorship). There is no doubt that right wing individuals and organizations will be the primary targets of this censorship, as they have been the primary targets of banning and shadow banning in the recent past already. An interesting question remains how legislation like NetzDG will affect free speech platforms like Gab.ai (hi!). Will they be shut down altogether in Germany or will Germany be allowed to fine corporations that are have no physical presence in the country? Blocking sites altogether would send Germany on a slippery slope towards China and North Korea. Fining corporations would make it effectively impossible to launch or operate a free speech alternative and corner the social media market for the establishment companies which are already in charge today.
I see this ending in only one of several options:
- The establishment succeeds in labelling anti-establishment speech as “fake news”, oppressing it and then censoring it altogether. There will be no independent journalism of any relevance left, establishment parties will (continue to) alternate in power, offering the population the illusion that they have any democratic influence over their destinies, over “left” or “right”, while in reality those two will have merged into one even more than they already have. This future will without exaggeration be the manifestation of 1984, where the masses will uncritically swallow whatever information they are fed, and dissidents will be so few in number and so effectively bullied into hiding that they will be utterly irrelevant. This sounds dramatic, but those old enough will remember how unthinkable it was to almost the entire population to vote for so-called “far right” parties, or to seriously criticize mass immigration, before we had open access to information and communication through the internet. How much information was withheld, how many facts concealed. Have no doubt that those days will return if the establishment manages to control the internet.
- The establishment tries to get control of the internet, but fails. After years of increasing political correctness, freedom will ultimately win. Establishment media will continue to lose ground to independent and challenger online media, the SJW-social media giants will lose ground to free speech alternatives; awareness will spread of the level of deception we have endured, and a political revolution will sweep across the west, ousting the establishment and reinstating individual freedom as the cornerstone of western civilization. In this future, President Trump and the Brexit referendum will be lauded as historical turning points, critical victories in the culture war, fueling the power shift from the globalist establishment to the nationalists and traditionalists. The Visegrad countries will count as the backbone of this western renaissance.
- The west is weakened by a prolonged power struggle between the establishment and its challengers. The establishment manages to hold on to power without being able to definitively secure it, turning to more and more violent options to oppress the opposition, after which the west devolves into violent revolution and / or civil war. The fight will be between the establishment, an anti-establishment rebellion and an army of outsiders – Muslim immigrants seeking to take over (undoubtedly to the surprise of the establishment, which will have counted on their support in the conflict).
Scenario 3 seems further off than the other two, and is least likely to happen, if only for the speed at which history is developing now. A clash between the establishment and anti-establishment groups is inevitable, and the question is mainly if and to what degree this clash will be a violent one. The outcome of that clash will determine whether the future will look more like scenario 1 or 2.
The internet is one of the establishment’s major oversights. If they had fully realized the potential of the internet to challenge the monopoly on information (and by extension, the monopoly on power), they would never have allowed it to get to this point. The Brexit referendum and the election of President Trump offer proof that the people can beat the machine, but they also both illustrate how important the free flow of information is, considering that in both cases virtually all the major mainstream media channels supported the establishment, and the opposition thrived mainly online. Governments are taking drastic measures because the situation is already out of control – their control at least. This should make it easy to see through the deception and catch on to the real agenda, but many will choose to believe the powers that be, if only to avoid having to rethink their world view – and to avoid having to admit they have been fooled by power hungry oligarchs all this time.
This is going to get worse before it’s going to get better, but I do believe it’s going to get better. May we never become complacent, may we never surrender.