Aug 15, 2023


Justin E. H. Smith:

Our equivalent of socialist realism has thus slipped in through the back door: not through the top-down imposition of tyrannical laws, but through the profit-seeking of private companies that have set themselves up as the monitors and arbiters of acceptable speech. What is acceptable always turns out to be whatever makes them money, but our lived experience as subjects of this regime is substantially the same as being governed by illiberal laws. In fact it is even worse, as the government has no real power to stand up to the content-generating monoliths — something that was clear in 2020, when Mark Zuckerberg testified before a plainly clueless panel of senators tasked with investigating censorship and misinformation. Though they were seated above him in a bare spatial sense, the actual order of power in the room was inverted. Likes, retweets, upvotes, customer feedback, and algorithmic incentivization had already won out over any ideal, however imperfect, of self-government, autonomy, saying what you think, striving to know your own mind, loving the truth while always remembering how hard it is to find it.