Crushing online censorship

It’s absolutely unacceptable that social media monopolies are allowed to engage in politically motivated censorship and deplatforming of Americans. Finally, action is being taken to address that:

Executive Order on Preventing Online Censorship

Issued on: May 28, 2020

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Policy. Free speech is the bedrock of American democracy. Our Founding Fathers protected this sacred right with the First Amendment to the Constitution. The freedom to express and debate ideas is the foundation for all of our rights as a free people.

In a country that has long cherished the freedom of expression, we cannot allow a limited number of online platforms to hand pick the speech that Americans may access and convey on the internet. This practice is fundamentally un-American and anti-democratic. When large, powerful social media companies censor opinions with which they disagree, they exercise a dangerous power. They cease functioning as passive bulletin boards, and ought to be viewed and treated as content creators.

The growth of online platforms in recent years raises important questions about applying the ideals of the First Amendment to modern communications technology. Today, many Americans follow the news, stay in touch with friends and family, and share their views on current events through social media and other online platforms. As a result, these platforms function in many ways as a 21st century equivalent of the public square.

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube wield immense, if not unprecedented, power to shape the interpretation of public events; to censor, delete, or disappear information; and to control what people see or do not see.

As President, I have made clear my commitment to free and open debate on the internet. Such debate is just as important online as it is in our universities, our town halls, and our homes. It is essential to sustaining our democracy.

Online platforms are engaging in selective censorship that is harming our national discourse. Tens of thousands of Americans have reported, among other troubling behaviors, online platforms “flagging” content as inappropriate, even though it does not violate any stated terms of service; making unannounced and unexplained changes to company policies that have the effect of disfavoring certain viewpoints; and deleting content and entire accounts with no warning, no rationale, and no recourse.

Twitter now selectively decides to place a warning label on certain tweets in a manner that clearly reflects political bias. As has been reported, Twitter seems never to have placed such a label on another politician’s tweet. As recently as last week, Representative Adam Schiff was continuing to mislead his followers by peddling the long-disproved Russian Collusion Hoax, and Twitter did not flag those tweets. Unsurprisingly, its officer in charge of so-called ‘Site Integrity’ has flaunted his political bias in his own tweets.

At the same time online platforms are invoking inconsistent, irrational, and groundless justifications to censor or otherwise restrict Americans’ speech here at home, several online platforms are profiting from and promoting the aggression and disinformation spread by foreign governments like China. One United States company, for example, created a search engine for the Chinese Communist Party that would have blacklisted searches for “human rights,” hid data unfavorable to the Chinese Communist Party, and tracked users determined appropriate for surveillance. It also established research partnerships in China that provide direct benefits to the Chinese military. Other companies have accepted advertisements paid for by the Chinese government that spread false information about China’s mass imprisonment of religious minorities, thereby enabling these abuses of human rights. They have also amplified China’s propaganda abroad, including by allowing Chinese government officials to use their platforms to spread misinformation regarding the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to undermine pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

As a Nation, we must foster and protect diverse viewpoints in today’s digital communications environment where all Americans can and should have a voice. We must seek transparency and accountability from online platforms, and encourage standards and tools to protect and preserve the integrity and openness of American discourse and freedom of expression.

Revolt against the health dictatorship

Reuters has an amusing account of Brazilian President Bolsonaro’s war against the global public health dictatorship. The former Army captain rejected coronavirus hysteria and essentially staged a military takeover of his Brazil’s Health Ministry, thereby avoiding the weird fate of locked-down countries such as the US and Britain:

In mid-March, Brazil took what seemed to be a forceful early strike against the coronavirus pandemic.

The Health Ministry mandated that cruises be canceled. It advised local authorities to scrap large-scale events. And it urged travelers arriving from abroad to go into isolation for a week. Although Brazil had yet to report a single death from COVID-19, public health officials appeared to be getting out in front of the virus. They acted on March 13, just two days after the World Health Organization called the disease a pandemic.

Less than 24 hours later, the ministry watered down its own advice, citing “criticism and suggestions” it had received from local communities.

In fact, four people familiar with the incident told Reuters, the change came after intervention from the chief of staff’s office for Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro. […]

The about-face, given scant attention at the time, marked a turning point in the federal government’s handling of the crisis, according to the four people. Behind the scenes, they said, power was shifting from the Health Ministry, the traditional leader on public health matters, to the office of the president’s chief of staff, known as Casa Civil, led by Walter Souza Braga Netto, an Army general. […]

Brazil now has the world’s second-worst outbreak behind the United States, with more than 374,000 confirmed cases. More than 23,000 Brazilians have died from COVID-19.

“So what?” Bolsonaro said recently when asked by reporters about Brazil’s mounting fatalities. “What do you want me to do?”

😂😂😂

Cabinet members tried numerous times to persuade Bolsonaro to endorse a nationwide lockdown, according to a person with direct knowledge of the discussions. Bolsonaro refused, the person said, believing the virus would soon pass and that health officials were exaggerating the need for physical distancing that had proved effective in other parts of the world.

Note: physical distancing has not “proven” effective in other parts of the world. There is no proof of this whatsoever.

“The masses aren’t able to stay at home because the fridge is empty,” Bolsonaro said to the media on April 20 outside his official residence in Brasília.

The Japanese model

One of the more unexpected revelations of the current madness is that Japan is now more free than the United States of Lockdown. Back on February 1, I pointed out the seemingly odd fact that the country’s government had no power to quarantine Japanese citizens it had evacuated from virus epicenter Wuhan, or even force them to undergo tests.

Now we learn that Japan, which seemed to have a blasé attitude about the virus and avoided “locking down” its population like prisoners after a riot, is lifting its state of emergency after suffering a mere 851 deaths due to WuFlu. From the increasingly indispensable Peter Hitchens:

The important news was that Japan, an advanced country with several megacities and a closely-packed population of 126.5 million persons, has abandoned its comparatively mild and largely voluntary restrictions on daily life. […]

These restrictions, more mouth than trousers, were introduced a few weeks ago after various politicians and media promoted a panic about the supposed danger of Coronavirus. As ‘The Guardian’ put it: ‘Japan did not impose the kind of lockdown seen in Britain and other parts of Europe, but encouraged firms to allow staff to work remotely, and bars, restaurants and other small businesses to close or restrict opening hours. People were asked to avoid unnecessary outings, but there were no penalties for non-compliance. Since February, 851 deaths in Japan have been attributed to Covid-19. This seems to me to be a rate per million of something around 7.2 . […]

‘Mask-wearing, home-working and social distancing were all advised, but Japan’s constitution prohibits a mandatory lockdown. Businesses, including restaurants, were allowed to choose whether they remained open, and only 0.2 per cent of the population were tested for the virus.

‘”It is a mystery to everybody,” said Tasuku Honjo, professor of immunology at Kyoto University and winner of the 2018 Nobel Prize for medicine. There were “several theories” as to the reason for Japan’s success. “One is that people in this country like to be clean. They wash their hands frequently and they do not kiss and hug”, he said.

‘Prof Honjo added that other suggestions were that the widespread BCG vaccination boosted Japanese people’s immunity, and it was also possible that the genes of Asian people were more resistant to the virus than Caucasians.

‘Another hypothesis was that Japan was hit by an early, weaker strain of the virus before it was able to mutate.’

Perhaps, as Hitchens suggests later in the post, the virus just behaves according to its own logic and is largely unaffected by government action. If true, this would imply that the costly lockdown policies imposed on billions of people around the world were completely pointless. I suspect that is the case and that attempting to control this respiratory virus by shutting down society and commerce will be remembered, like the totalitarian movements of the twentieth century, as a spasm of hubris and folly — very possibly the largest, most damaging mistake in human history.

I have to remind myself every day how crazy it is that businesses and places of worship are STILL closed or operating under severe restrictions in many states, despite the tapering off of the epidemic and the lack of scientific evidence that these policies serve any public health purpose whatsoever. There is a human tendency to rationalize whatever is happening as “normal,” no matter how bizarre and ridiculous it is, as long as it is endorsed by the right authority figures — a tendency strengthened in America, I believe, by the decline of intellectual standards, the atrophying of independent thought, and the “zombification” of the population through many years of exposure to mindless mass media degeneracy. One blogger has suggested that the purpose of disaster movies has been to condition the population to accept real-life horrors with glassy-eyed complacency. That seems plausible to me, and the events of the past couple of months really make me wonder what insane violations of human dignity the people of the West, specifically the US and England, will not accept if they are solemnly assured that they are necessary to protect public health. Perhaps we will see screaming people plucked off the street by men in hazmat suits and stuffed into metal cubes in the backs of pickup trucks. But the evils of the new age are likely to be more banal, less sensational and therefore invisible to the majority of the demoralized Western public.

In any case, Japan’s admirable refusal to buckle in the face of relentless panic-mongering stands as a powerful rebuke to manufactured corona hysteria and the novel, insidious form of despotism that has quite suddenly installed itself over much of the world.

One country, one system

2014 protests (Source)

Hong Kong’s history effectively comes to an end as the once quasi-autonomous city becomes fully absorbed into the Chinese Communist borg — only 27 years ahead of schedule:

A national security law introduced Friday at the opening session to China’s National People’s Congress to tackle the ongoing political unrest in Hong Kong would allow Beijing to send its security agents to operate freely in the former British Colony to “fulfill relevant duties to safeguard national security in accordance with the law.”

Chinese law enforcement and security agents previously had no purview in Hong Kong under the “One Country, Two Systems” arrangement that allowed the Chinese international financial hub a certain degree of autonomy to runs its own affairs.

The proposed national security law, which Chinese authorities deemed an “absolute necessity” and is guaranteed to pass, is the latest and most far-reaching attempt by Beijing to tighten its grip on Hong Kong. […]

“This is the end of Hong Kong. This is the end of ‘One Country Two Systems.’ This is it. Make no mistake about it,” pro-democracy lawmaker Dennis Kwok, who has been the target of Beijing’s recent ire, told the media after hearing the news of the planned law Thursday night.

This comes after the coup in LegCo on Monday:

Several pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong were dragged out of a legislative council session on Monday in a melee that broke out over a bill that would criminalize any disrespect of the Chinese national anthem, according to reports.

“If Hong Kong was a democracy, we would not need to start scuffles like this,” one of the lawmakers carried out, Eddie Chu, told the BBC. “Unfortunately we are forced into this situation. I can foresee more fights within the chamber and outside the chamber.”

The uproar began when pro-Beijing lawmaker Chan Kin-por, who was appointed by the council president last week to oversee the election of a new House committee leader, occupied the chairman’s seat and surrounded himself by more than 30 mask-clad security guards.

The House committee, which decides when controversial bills, including the Chinese national anthem bill, will be voted on, has gone without a chairperson for months. China has accused pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong of filibustering the bill to stall until council elections in September.

As pro-democracy lawmakers entered the chamber, they tried to reach the chairman’s seat but were met with force from the guards in a skirmish that lasted several minutes. At least one person was knocked to the ground, according to the BBC.

Pan-democratic politician hauled away (Source)

Pro-Beijing lawmaker Chan Kin-por takes charge (Source)

The Big Lychee reacts:

There is at least a morbid fascination in watching – in real time – a dictatorship destroy a free society. In just seven days since ‘Freak-Out Friday’, we’ve seen the LegCo coup, a ban on the June 4 vigil and choreographed attacks on the once-independent RTHK and exams authority.

Now Beijing has decided to impose a de facto Article 23 national security law on Hong Kong by directly inserting it into Annex III of the Basic Law. Don’t quibble about whether this is legal: if the CCP does it, it is.

All we know is that the new law will ban sedition, subversion, foreign intervention and ‘terrorism’. There are no details as yet, and the final wording will no doubt be intentionally vague. The aim is to hugely expand the pretexts for silencing and punishing dissent.

Whatever the wording, the outcome is likely to include criminalization of opinions, such as mere advocacy of Hong Kong independence or the downfall of the Communist Party. This points to Internet or print censorship. The new law will probably enable suppression of a wide range of opposition activities – for example the banning of websites used to organize protests, or even possession of anti-government banners. It could include the intimidation of lawyers who defend opponents of the regime or people who help fund activist causes (‘subversion of state power’ in the Mainland).

The ban on foreign interference will obviously target ties between the pan-dem camp and overseas politicians or other ‘foreign forces’, and probably enable the freezing of any (allegedly) foreign-sourced funds going to pan-dems. It could also be used to bar more people from Hong Kong – and even to kick out non-locals like teachers or journalists who are deemed to be infiltrators helping the opposition.

China’s emperor-for-life appears to be firmly ensconced in the Dragon Throne, and there is no prospect of the CPC loosening its grip on power anytime soon, let alone some other system of government replacing the 90-million-member party and the totalitarian hell-state over which it presides.

Nevertheless, it is worth bearing in mind that no regime can last forever, and most are quite short-lived on the scale of human history. As long as people desire freedom, as the people of Hong Kong most certainly do, then hope remains. Hong Kong in its glory and splendor will rise again.

Forever lockdown: China edition

Like the song that never ends, it just goes on and on, my friends:

Some 108 million people in China’s northeast region are being plunged back under lockdown conditions as a new and growing cluster of infections causes a backslide in the nation’s return to normal.

In an abrupt reversal of the re-opening taking place across the nation, cities in Jilin province have cut off trains and buses, shut schools and quarantined tens of thousands of people. The strict measures have dismayed many residents who had thought the worst of the nation’s epidemic was over.

People “are feeling more cautious again,” said Fan Pai, who works at a trading company in Shenyang, a city in nearby Liaoning province that’s also facing renewed restrictions. “Children playing outside are wearing masks again” and health care workers are walking around in protective gear, she said. “It’s frustrating because you don’t know when it will end.”

It won’t end. The virus won’t simply go away no matter how antisocial a country is willing (or forced) to be. “Everyone will be exposed to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus, and most people will become infected. COVID-19 is spreading like wildfire in all countries, but we do not see it,” wrote the former state epidemiologist of Sweden.

The promised vaccine is a long way off, but for the time being we can at least pretend to contain the virus by inflicting novel types of misery on our fellow human beings. China, always eager to make its mark as an innovation superpower, has certainly emerged as a global leader in the exciting field of Population Control and Mass Sadism:

Still, delivery services have been mostly halted and anti-fever medication is banned at drugstores to prevent people from hiding their symptoms.

China’s latest flare-up is well-timed, as complacent Americans and Europeans are beginning to venture carelessly out of their homes — and we just can’t have that. We are in a curious situation, where countries that barely notice the virus’s existence are considered to be losing the war against it, while those that shut themselves down like a hung computer are considered to be winning. The Japanese, for example, have their heads buried firmly in the sand regarding the virus, and accordingly have suffered a staggering 768 deaths. When will they wake up?! Inquiring minds want to know.

The specter of a second wave — a term that I suspect is not being used accurately by the non-scientists that write these articles — is again invoked to argue that we can never go back to normal, we can never let our guard down, even for a second. We are all Wuhan now. If you want a picture of the future, imagine an infrared thermometer pointed at a human forehead — forever:

While the cluster of 34 infections isn’t growing as quickly the outbreak in Wuhan which started the global pandemic last December, China’s swift and powerful reaction reflects its fear of a second wave after it curbed the virus’s spread at great economic and social cost. It’s also a sign of how fragile the re-opening process will be in China and elsewhere as even the slightest hint of a resurgence of infections could prompt a return to strict lockdown.

As I wrote back on April 4:

“There is no quick fix” is the message that is increasingly coming from our elites. They are preparing us for a long, miserable and ruinous battle against the microbe, one which our economy, society, and political order are not likely to survive. The forever wars weakened and demoralized America. The forever lockdown, if actualized, will finish us off. Buckle up!

Game over

Johan Giesecke

It’s hard for people to change their mental models when confronted with new information. But it helps when the source of that information is an authority figure — the more authoritative, the better. So, for those who are still not seeing the obvious, here is an article in the esteemed medical journal The Lancet by the former state epidemiologist of Sweden, which I assume should satisfy most people’s requirements for credibility. The key paragraph is below:

These facts have led me to the following conclusions. Everyone will be exposed to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus, and most people will become infected. COVID-19 is spreading like wildfire in all countries, but we do not see it—it almost always spreads from younger people with no or weak symptoms to other people who will also have mild symptoms. This is the real pandemic, but it goes on beneath the surface, and is probably at its peak now in many European countries. There is very little we can do to prevent this spread: a lockdown might delay severe cases for a while, but once restrictions are eased, cases will reappear. I expect that when we count the number of deaths from COVID-19 in each country in 1 year from now, the figures will be similar, regardless of measures taken.

My takeaway: all of the radical interventions to contain this virus — from the Stalinist lockdowns in China and India, to the high-tech public health panopticon in South Korea, to the police-state hilarity in England, to the mass business closures and “social distancing” rules in the US — all of it, absolutely all of it has been completely and utterly pointless in terms of its stated purpose of containing the virus. The virus can’t and won’t be contained.

From the above, it follows that the interventions should stop — immediately! They never should have been done in the first place — except, of course, for protecting nursing homes (which New York State and other places infamously failed to do). Furthermore, all the scaremongering needs to end — the live updates of death and infection figures, the media and social media hysteria, the alarming headlines about the mysterious damage this disease might or might not do — which is pointless to dwell on, because people can’t avoid being exposed to the virus, and the chances of dying from it are so very low.

All the talk about mass testing and contact tracing is a totalitarian absurdity. There are 1.37 million confirmed cases in the US. Expanded testing will reveal millions more cases. Assuming we can successfully contact trace all of those millions of people, this theoretical (and impossible) process will identify tens or hundreds of millions of contacts. We are not going to forcibly quarantine, say, 100 million people, or make them stay home from work. To attempt such a thing would require inconceivable, Maoist interventions that would destroy American society. But without large-scale quarantines, what’s the point of testing everyone? There is none.

While we’re at it, let’s drop the talk of a “new normal.” No, we are not entering a new normal, we are going back to the OLD normal where Americans are allowed to leave their homes for any reason or no reason, eat at restaurants, worship at churches, gather, congregate and interact with their fellow human beings, minus the face coverings and the bizarre and complicated social-distancing rituals — except, of course, for those who prefer to cover their faces and stay isolated. But they will be a minority — hopefully.

Above all, the new cult of “social distancing” should be resisted. Treating every American like a disease vector is not going to save us. Forcing shoppers to stand six feet apart from each other and curbing elevator occupancy is not going to stop this virus. Making normal, everyday social interactions impossible or de facto illegal is not going to improve public health. Individuals must reject this intensifying campaign to atomize and destroy society through pointless, humiliating behavior controls that create distance between human organisms but, in reality, cannot meaningfully contain the virus — and in the long run will kill more people than the alleged pandemic itself.

We need to be clear that these measures are stupid and counterproductive. If you doubt this, please read the above article by Johan Giesecke again and think through the implications. We are all going to be exposed to this virus. The only way to avoid it, perhaps, is to become an anchorite in a distant cave or desert — but by the time you get there, you will have been exposed anyway — unless you wear a hazmat suit en route. But you won’t do that, because that would be insane.

The lockdowns will continue until morale improves

The state of Connecticut (population 3.6 million) has had a grand total of 2,436 WuFlu deaths.

Hospitalizations (a lagging indicator of infections) declined for 11 straight days as of May 3.

Nursing homes account for some 55% of WuFlu deaths in Connecticut.

Yet the state must remain on full lockdown until May 20, at which point a phased easing will commence. Another brutal 16 days of little to no revenue until restaurants with outdoor dining areas, hair salons and nail salons will be permitted to open their doors again. If certain conditions are met.

None of this makes any sense.

The almost total transformation of society

“As a historian, the almost total transformation of society scares me”

The Rabbi Hillel Goldberg is on the right track, although he has far too much faith in the people in charge and has failed to grasp the key point that the “current transformation” is not “meant for our good” and has nothing to do with a microbe. Nevertheless, his historical comparison is apt. Most people will find it ridiculous or even offensive, because they will take it literally and ignore the deeper point that the Rabbi is making, which involves mass psychology. The speed and scale of the societal change that has occurred worldwide is truly frightening and without precedent in all of human history. The fact that the supine people of the West have accepted it with barely a question or complaint really makes me wonder what further surprises may be in store for us over the coming weeks or months. If you are not disturbed by where this is trending, you are simply not paying attention.

The manufacture of consent

Clap Because We Care NYCWhat is the purpose of “Clap Because We Care,” the nightly ritualized clapping and cheering for medical personnel and other essential workers* in New York City?

As far as I can tell, the function of this ritual is threefold:

1) To heighten the impression of total and permanent crisis, reinforcing the need for indefinite lockdowns;

2) To evoke traditional celebrations of military personnel and first responders, creating the impression that the viral outbreak is similar to a war or terrorist attack;

3) To generate a (fake) sense of community with strangers who are similarly confined to their homes (this being the only large-scale social activity still permitted), and therefore conditioning New Yorkers to accept, embrace and even enjoy their isolation and confinement as the “new normal.”

In summary, the purpose of these orchestrated clapping sessions – like the terrifying stories being spewed by the media and social media – is to manufacture consent for ongoing, massive political and societal changes that would otherwise be unacceptable.

Creepy stuff.

*(The category of “essential workers” is quite broad; based on the city’s definition of “essential businesses or entities,” it seems to include bankers and journalists as well as healthcare workers treating WuFlu patients. By some accounts, the clapping is primarily directed at medical personnel, but other reports mention truck drivers, grocery store workers, etc. The vagueness of what categories of workers are being celebrated is another creepy aspect of the ritual. At least in Airstrip One, the clapping is specifically for the NHS.)

New Jersey police use Chinese drones to harass Americans

Remember when we laughed at China for using drones equipped with loudspeakers to enforce lockdown orders? Back in the good old days of… early February? Yep, those were the days.

Well, it didn’t take long for that dystopian innovation to reach America’s shores:

Police departments across the country are resorting to the use of drone surveillance to enforce social distancing in both public and private spaces during statewide shelter-in-place orders.

New footage shot by MSNBC shows police in Elizabeth, New Jersey using drones to look for people not social distancing in areas their patrol cars cannot access.

“The drones make it easier for people to see into certain areas where access by patrol car is more difficult,” Rehema Ellis, an NBC news correspondent said. “That includes tight spaces between buildings, behind schools, and in backyards.”

Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage told MSNBC that cities need to get creative, and defended the intrusive tactic as potentially saving lives.

“If these drones save one life, it is clearly worth the activity and the information the drones are sending,” the mayor said.

Of course. That is going to be the justification for every outrage in the future. “If it saves ONE LIFE, it’s worth [… suspending your civil liberties, trashing the economy, dissolving society… forever].” One life. I wonder what the founding fathers would have made of this argument?

When a drone identifies a group of people collected together, such as individuals quarantined in their backyard, it says, “you should not be congregating in groups.” Consequences for refusing to abide by the drones in Elizabeth, NJ include a court summons or a $1,000 fine.

Here’s the kicker:

A Chinese company known as Da Jiang Innovations (DJI) donated these types of drones to 43 law enforcement agencies in 23 states. Last May, the Department of Homeland Security issued a memo warning that Chinese drones are possible security risks, ripe for the “potential use for terrorism, mass casualty incidents, interference with air traffic, as well as corporate espionage and invasions of privacy.”

Donated, seriously? And the police departments thought this was a good idea?