It was the frog in boiling water, how we all migrated online and put our most private personal data, attention, time, energy and trust into Big Tech. That was a mistake. I got online in 1994, way before the internet was swallowed up by a handful of Silicon Valley wizards. Back then, it was wide open. I was able to build my own website, awardsdaily.com, which I’ve had for 20 years. I lived much of my life online as an immigrant to this new world. Every generation that came after me doesn’t know what life was like before the internet. When Google came along, it seemed pretty great. I was an Amazon user way back in 2000. I got on Facebook and Twitter around 2007.
I watched as these massive behemoths pretended that they cared about being free and open, and I mocked people who were suspicious of putting their private information online. We assumed they would not abuse our trust. We were wrong.
Back then, websites competed the old fashioned way — using search engines. It wasn’t always easy, figuring out how to build an audience but at least it was open to all. Each person could compete for eyeballs by using the right search terms and providing dynamic content.
But then came Big Tech. Then came Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey. Zuckerberg wanted to be King and he began either buying established social networks that were popular (like Instagram) or putting upstarts out of business with his applications (like Persicope). Twitter didn’t seem as power hungry and competitive as Facebook, and eventually Amazon’s Jeff Bezos would hold the One Ring to rule them all.
Jeff Bezos built a company that I put my full trust in back in 2000 when I bought books from Amazon and helped put bookstores out of business. It all seemed so great. You pay a fee and you get free shipping. Whatever you wanted you could find on Amazon — a superstore for the superhighway. Then it was groceries. Then it was the Washington Post. Then it was Whole Foods. Then it was service providers and a host of other offers by Amazon that all still fell under the Bezos purview. We had no clue we were putting that much power into the hands of one person, now the richest person in the world: an American oligarch.
Facebook and Twitter had their tentacles in much deeper. They were messing with our brain chemistry by getting us hooked on a manipulative algorithm, which is like a dopamine rush that can become as addicting as slot machines in Vegas. Facebook was insidious in how it pushed the engagement to the top of your feed, doing the thinking for you to make you mad all day long. Twitter changed its algorithm in 2016 to become more like Facebook — to push the engagement to the top of their feed. And look at Twitter now. It is a thriving hive of junkies hunched over their screens screaming at people, dehumanizing people, forming mobs to bully people, and oh so much virtue signaling to get that HIT. And let’s not forget the daily churn of public humiliation and cancel culture. If you can drag someone into the public square you can get them fired, you can change casting in a movie, and you can freak out the New York Times. As the saying goes, when you have them by the balls their hearts and minds will follow.
Twitter is a juicy sexy desirable burst of dopamine that feels so so so good. The meaner you are, the better it feels because mean drives the likes, like virtue signaling draws the likes and the likes deliver the dopamine.
I was friends with Neera Tanden on Twitter. We were both part of the Hillary Clinton army of “blue check Twitter” who spent our days warring with the Bernie and Trump tribes. There was no bottom. Each group had dehumanized the other and we treated each other like cockroaches to be found and exposed and destroyed. I became so vicious I was thrown off this site, Medium, for arguing with Bernie supporters in 2016. It took me a while to snap out of it. I quit Facebook, unaddicted my brain, and I spent time among those I once called my enemies. It is a longer story how I got there but I realized that there was a bubble of ideology I was inside of that amounted to a feedback loop that went from Twitter to mainstream media like CNN and MSNBC and the New York Times and then back to Twitter — crowdsourced news that bounced off of unhealthy algorithms and dopamine junkies.
I spent months in Trump world, making friends with them, listening to podcasts, watching Fox News in an attempt to find the Nazi racist extremists the media told me about. I never did. I also went into Bernie land in an attempt to find the terrible misogynist bullies I had believed them to be. I found instead decent people who felt strongly about policy. Both of these groups, I now realize, were anti-establishment sprung from the Occupy Wall Street and Tea Party movements that sprang from the Wall Street meltdown in 2008. I was defending that establishment.
Our willingness to trust Big Tech came on slowly. We barely noticed. We just kept using these massive data collection machines thinking, oh there won’t be a problem. The worst thing is that they want to sell us stuff. We’re used to that, right? But the problem is that way too many people began using a handful of platforms — so pervasive you couldn’t get away from it now if you wanted to. They know too much. They watch your every move online and now they can punish you for anything you ever said or did or wrote or watched or read. They can do that. They know who your friends are, what you buy, when you buy it, what sites you use for dating, for groceries, and what you personally believe.
The Democrats are fully behind this because they are in bed with Big Tech. To them it is simply another extension of their power. If Big Tech was in bed with the GOP right now, Democrats would be fighting it. But now they’re perfectly fine watching the hammer come down on ordinary citizens who have rights but no power, who have a right to freedom under the law but no money to litigate it when it is taken from them.
Zuckerberg did whatever he wanted with our information, as has Google, as has Apple. They used us like lab rats, then they sold our data, they used our data and they’re still using it. But it isn’t even about data anymore. It is about their power — and our helpless response to it.
During this election, there was a “cabal,” as bragged about in TIME magazine where the deepest pockets aligned with Big Media and Big Tech to basically rig an election against Trump and put Biden in the White House. Biden had to do next to nothing to campaign. He sat back and let the cabal do its work, changing voting rules, shifting the narrative, and ordering Jack Dorsey to block a Hunter Biden story. Dorsey happily complied. He might have unchecked power but his power depends on how his users see him and his site. Perception is everything. Thus, the $10 million to antiracism, thus the spiking of the Hunter Biden story. He serves the Left because the Left dominates his platform and keeps him rolling in power and money.
Facebook, too, is performing like a trained seal at the hands of the “cabal,” the establishment where almost all of the country’s wealth is concentrated. They can do whatever they want because if you use their platform you have no rights, no choice, and the Constitution doesn’t apply inside the walls of a private company. We gave them too much of our time, attention, information and power. That was a mistake. It was a mistake to concentrate power online into so few hands. It was a mistake to use Facebook and Twitter as our main sources of news and information. It was a mistake to put our careers in the hands of these tech oligarchs with no protection in place.
Why was it a mistake? Because Jeff Bezos and other corporate giants took Parler offline just because they could and no one stopped them. Not only didn’t they stop them, they joined them. They removed an alternative website where millions of people who wanted an alternative to Dorsey’s algorithm addiction machine (Parler doesn’t use the algorithms to manipulate its users for profit) and there was nothing anyone could do about it. The owners of Parler were told by tech giants at other corporations that they were shit out of luck. It took the big money of Rebekeh Mercer to put them back online.
Note CNN has no problem calling out the “deep pockers” of Mercer but says nothing about the deep pockets of Big Tech, the deepest, in fact, in the world. At least Elon Musk finally passed Mark Zuckerberg.
We trusted Jeff Bezos to sell us books. Now he had the power to pull the plug on millions of people who used Parler and weren’t Q’anon or extremists. People like Bezos have too much to lose at the hands of the government. No doubt people in the “cabal” told Dorsey and Bezos in no uncertain terms that they were going to be held accountable for the events on January 6.
In America, people have the Constitutionally protected right to protest. Because some of them lost their minds and busted into the Capitol (and a few tragically lost their lives for it) doesn’t make that whole protest that day illegal. Yes, the Left believes they had no right to protest because they were protesting in support of Trump’s “Big Lie,” but that is only because they control the information stream and if they wanted Biden to win and they made sure he would win, then they want that win to be thought of as legitimate.
But Americans have long been conditioned to see elections as happening on Election Day. They didn’t realize the election was over long before Election Day because of the early mail-in voting the “cabal” bragged about in TIME. They changed the rules to accommodate COVID precautions. Any person could see what was happening and how this election was going — it was unlike anything I’d ever seen. I had never seen so many forces coming together like that to manipulate news (“mostly peaceful protests”) and completely ignore the person who was running against Trump, not asking any tough questions, or any questions at all — and somehow that was all okay because of COVID.
I had been an early Biden advocate and I thought he could have won fairly on his own, and I kept asking, “what is happening?” I saw the power of Big Tech and Big Media coming together to win an election — and there is not a damned thing anyone can do about it. If you protest any of it you are a domestic terrorist.
Trump won Iowa, Florida and Ohio by comfortable margins, which tells us that there is a good chance without the “cabal” and COVID Trump would have won. People aren’t allowed to be mad about that? They aren’t allowed to protest that? When Trump’s team used Facebook in 2016 to specifically target key groups to suppress the vote on Election Day, that felt like cheating too in exactly the same way. The difference was that Americans were allowed to protest his win from day one and all through his presidency. Democrats were allowed to call him illegitimate. They were encouraged and allowed to attack him and his family and his supporters nonstop. There was no bottom.
They had every right to PEACEFULLY protest that day and they have every right to have their own platform like Parler and Jeff Bezos should not have a say in any of it. Neither should Mark Zuckerberg. Neither should Jack Dorsey. They’re not elected officials. Now the Democrats have puffed up the war theater at the Capitol with a “Green Zone” to intimidate Trump supporters and shame them out of doing what every American has a right to do: stand up for their rights, whatever they are. That they’re all being smeared as racists is a horrifying dystopian thing to watch because so many just numbly going along with it. And why wouldn’t they? Twitter says so. Big Media says so. Big Tech says so.
Because they can’t be trusted, because they abused our trust, now it is time to regulate the holy fuck out of Big Tech. Now the hammer must come down. There has to be a fair playing field. They don’t get to decide who has rights and who doesn’t based on an information stream that itself can’t be trusted because it too has been seduced by the algorithms. Clickbait is now unquestioned reality.
The only way out of this mess is for Twitter and Facebook to lose its grip on our emotional lives so we can end the tribalism against our fellow humans. I can promise you that 95% of what you think about Trump supporters is wrong. And 95% of what they think about Democrats is wrong. Polarization has gotten out of hand and has become dangerous.
And please, don’t pay lip service to “unity” unless you actually mean it and the Democrats do not mean it. They mean do what we tell you to do and we still stop stripping you of your jobs, your voice, your reputation.
I am on the left. I’m supposed to be happy about watching Big Tech completely capitulate to the rising authoritarianism on the left. But I’m not happy about any of it. I’m disgusted. I barely recognize this country anymore. I certainly don’t recognize the Democratic Party.
I hope we can find a way out of this mess sooner rather than later. I hope the Democrats can address and confront the power of Big Tech and the lies of Big Media. If they don’t, they have lost me as a voter.