Of Course the Feds Were All Over Twitter

Of Course the Feds Were All Over Twitter

I hope readers will forgive me if I revisit a topic two weeks in a row. But perhaps they agree that the so-called Twitter files remain the most important news out there. Not, as I said, because we learned something new from them, but because they confirm what you and I, dissidents, whether you wanted to be one or not, already knew. We were asked over and over again, so to speak, “Who do you trust, us bureaucrats or your own lying eyes?” And it’s not just nice, it’s fundamental to rational self-government that we know that they, the bureaucrats, have lied, not our eyes .

The last two installments of the files, from Michael Schellenberger and Lee Fang, is perhaps the most shocking yet, but let’s distinguish between shock and surprise. Indeed, in a democratic republic, it is shocking to have confirmed to us that our national secret police worked closely with a corporate entity to manipulate our de facto town square and influence the results of an election. FBI urged Yoel Roth to suppress Hunter Biden laptop story It is indeed shocking that in a country committed to civilian rule, our military is conducting influence campaigns on the de facto American soil of an American social media platform; The Pentagon conducted psychological warfare operations on Twitter with the help of Twitter. But it shouldn’t be a surprise, even though we’re proud enough of our representative federal system to have any of this endorsed. On the one hand, the FBI has a well-established track record of shady political interference that is too long to detail here — the left has spoken about it before, along with the paleoconservative and libertarian right. On the other hand, Twitter represents the intersection between technology and journalism, and there are few segments of American society more connected to the national security state than it is.

As the fourth estate, the media are central actors in the information sector, which is the concern of our and other security services. Participatory mass politics is built on consensus building of various kinds, and the First Amendment represents an attempt to create and protect a common sphere for this making of meaning outside of the state itself. At this point in our moment of acceleration, questioning the concept of a neutral public square is almost passé, and I simply contend that it never existed. But we should recognize that the mythology of the neutral public space, and particularly the mythology of a free and independent press to which Americans have acculturated, is an artifact of the Cold War and the triumph of the American security state.

This mythology was constructed, manufactured by an American establishment that was really effective and somewhat elitist at the time. Efforts towards total war and technological growth, particularly in communications, had more centralized tools of command and control and consensus building than ever before. Mass mobilization and war economy in World War II, Allied propaganda efforts and the new secular articulation of liberal Western values ​​at Nuremberg, as well as the ongoing Cold War efforts all contributed to the formation of a genuine mass society with a strong cultural establishment. And, to put it bluntly, National Review and other respectable conservative publications of the time acted as controlled opposition within a shared liberal consensus, protecting its right fringe.

The Internet was widely to herald a new age of decentralization that would make the mythical neutral public space a reality. In fact, some people still believe this could happen. To a certain extent, digital communication should eliminate the centralization points, the editors and publishers and thus the editorial lines. Of course we’ve seen some of this, as everything from email chain letters to blogs to news sites has given what has been semi-successfully suppressed as fringe a wider reach and a much more prominent place in public discourse. But in both the public and supposedly private spheres, the internet ecosystem is necessarily centralized as well. This is structurally true when we think of servers and cables and increasingly monopolistic platforms. It is also historically true when considering the origins of the internet as we know it in the national security state, both in its initial development as a DARPA command and control technology capable of surviving nuclear war, and in subsequent large investments in silicon Canyon.

All of this is to say that the Twitter files, shocking as they are, shouldn’t surprise us. Our media ecosystem, like everything else in this country, is a product of America’s national security history, and probably more. The popular unreflective view of political media is that it’s about politics; A reporter reports on what is happening in a special different public sphere called “politics” that lies apart from the public space that we all occupy. But no such independent political sphere exists in a mass democratic society, and since Watergate at least, if not since the world wars, the route to media prestige has been not to report on political conflicts but to take part in them, knowingly or unknowingly. It turns out that before Elon Musk, Twitter was staffed with cowardly officials bent on pleasing contacts and former colleagues in the national security state, not so different from them Washington Postthe New York Timesor CNN.

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