This essay appears in audio format at the beginning of The Portal Podcast, Episode 41.
The subject of this audio essay is my absence, the tech platforms, the 2020 election, Jean Seberg and, oddly enough, article 58 of the former Soviet Union’s Russian Penal Code.
I don’t want to say too much quite yet about what I’ve been up to, but suffice it to say that I’m fine (or at least as fine as anyone is in 2020). Also, rest assured that I have not forgotten about you all or lost interest in the podcast or, more importantly, our community. Far from it. In fact it’s the exact opposite of that. I want to ensure that we can continue talking and building the community that has sprung up around the podcast. Portal Nation, if you will, is a place where I choose to spend my own free time with perhaps less distance than I should have with my audience, many of whom have become my friends.
Some time ago, I started warning many of my friends to be very careful on the internet in the immediate run-up to the 2020 US election. In particular I warned people associated with the Intellectual Dark Web that they should be very careful not to lose their accounts. In the time since, we have seen new levels of bizarre behavior on Twitter and Facebook which seem to be catching up to Google in terms of naked attempts to manipulate the national conversation. Not all of it is sinister, mind you. I don’t hate having actual facts checked by true fact-checkers although the words ‘actual’ and ‘true’ are doing a lot of heavy lifting in this sentence.
The idea for the warning was simple. Back in November of 2016, I started commenting on the idea that the “Fake News” panic was ‘not authentic’. That it was likely constructed in November of 2016 as a placeholder to be used by institutions stunned by the results and rocked in their faith that they could broadly control every election to make sure that both candidates were broadly acceptable to the institutional class with no Ralph Naders, Ron Pauls, Ross Perots or Bernie Sanders to worry about.
Now that is an odd thing to say. What does that mean, ‘inauthentic’ or ‘constructed’? Many of you are now no doubt thinking “I remember everyone talking about fake news all during the election.” Isn’t that interesting. Because that is not what happened at all. That’s a fake memory, and it’s not even yours. In fact, as late as the end of October 2016, almost no one was talking much about “fake news”. In fact the concept didn’t even really spike until after Trump’s victory. It was not until the week of Sunday, November 13, 2016 that the hypnotic and invariant phrase “Fake News” exploded and went from being an extremely minor news story to the supposedly settled explanation for everything that had caught the New York Times, The Democratic Party and the heavily anti-Trump Tech Giants measuring the oval office drapes while about to lose the race of a lifetime. Which is to say, I wasn’t buying it. I just sat there and watched helplessly as everyone I knew responded to the perseverated phrase being repeated into their minds.
Interestingly, this was seemingly an exact repeat of the “Dean Scream”, which occurred on Monday January 19, 2004, when the news media destroyed the political campaign of Howard Dean over a total and complete non-event by perseveration alone, to create fear, uncertainty and doubt or (FUD) as it is known to conspirators who practice this disinformation technique. At that time the entire United States (save for a few contrarians) got brainwashed into seeing a candidate supposedly lose his mind on stage, which would never have occurred to anyone if the institutional media hadn’t repeated it into a so-called ‘alternative fact’ in the minds of Americans.
If you doubt me, Dave Rubin and I arranged to have me on his show, The Rubin Report, before Trump’s inauguration, so that there would be a permanent archival record of my claims, and to which all folks who would later question these claims could return. I further went to the trouble before the election of having my employer acquaint everyone in the firm with the theory of Preference Falsification due to economist Timur Kuran, one of our first guests, because I was all but certain that the polling data and the Gated Institutional Narrative had not accounted for people lying about their hidden support for Donald Trump.
Perhaps now you understand more about the title of the last Portal Episode as a mildly coded message to my treasured audience. I once again suspected that almost everybody who is not sufficiently disagreeable to be considered Milgram Negative, Asch Negative and Zimbardo negative, according to the three famous psychology experiments, was about to go completely insane, as we did four years ago. It is simply too hard for ordinary people, whose ability to feed their families depend on working for institutions to resist the drumbeat of either the Democratic or Republican master narratives.
Now most of you in my audience were born after 1980, and so you cannot obviously remember the revelations of the mid 1970s the way I do, when I was around 10 years old. But for me and others in Progressive American Families, the revelation that the FBI had secretly planted totally false stories like the one that destroyed the reputation, career and ultimately the sanity of law-abiding progressive Hollywood star Jean Seberg in mainstream newspapers and news magazines like the Los Angeles Times and Newsweek casts a long shadow. The reason is simple: we have all the chilling receipts, as the kids say today. The idea of the US deep state’s use of mainstream media to destroy lawful citizens’ lives and sanity simply for political beliefs is not a conspiracy theory. It is a 100% certain conspiracy fact that, for some odd reason, isn’t taught much in US high schools. It is also the reason we must investigate the investigators and eavesdrop on our own spies, if we wish to remain a free society.
Well, I am of the belief that destroying people is considered fair play in elections by the insiders who view these contests as their own private blood sport, to which ordinary dissenting Americans are viewed as interlopers, and thus prey. And, increasingly, very few of us outsiders seem to believe in democracy anymore, as we increasingly believe that our side must always win against the implacable foe by any means necessary, to quote brother Malcolm. When this sport of personal reputational destruction is coordinated by members of the complex formed by institutional media, the intelligence community, the political parties, political consultants, finance, tech and the academy I call it Seberging to remind us of just how real the threat is to all who have idiosyncratic politics but who have done nothing legally wrong.
Now, as many of you might guess, if I had a strong belief that I could do something to save us by telling you to “vote Biden” or “vote for Trump”, I don’t think I would let this stand in my way. But, truth be told, I don’t think we are playing ‘The lady or the Tiger’ with these two parties anymore. It’s more like the Bengal tiger vs the Siberian Tiger. So naturally I was trying to figure out any way to plausibly get the two parties to focus on eating each other, rather than the rest of us. And I am sorry to say that I, along with absolutely everyone I know, have failed to come up with any plausible options. We seem to be on autopilot. We have built institutions which are going to oversee our undoing unless someone figures out a way to stop playing with the failed septuagenarians and octogenarians who came in as young people to the national stage in the 1970s, and have rewritten the rules for their own plunder and enrichment for 30 to 50 years.
[This essay’s a bit heavy right? Pause the audio. Pace yourself. Take a deep breath. Maybe think about puppies?]
Continuing. So to sum up the above: I don’t believe almost any of what we are talking about on a daily basis makes any sense. We are going to wind up with one of two candidates that should not be running for control of the nuclear missile launch codes. Four years ago, I called the 2016 election the Sophie’s choice election, and I barely got myself to vote for Hillary Clinton, who I could not stand. This year I put the pen directly over Biden’s name and could not get the pen to move towards the paper. This was a bit of a surprise. That’s never happened to me before, where I could not vote for my own party. Was it true that I had become a Trump supporter? I tried the same ouija board maneuver, and this time I couldn’t even get the pen to hover over Trump’s name. What was happening? I won’t bore you with who I voted for, because it doesn’t matter. I am only telling you this because I failed this basic test and threw my vote to someone who will not win. And with that, I will promise you that I will not judge you for your vote. You cannot do worse than I did, so I have no way to blame you for whichever way you choose to fail. This was not the Sophie’s choice election. This was supposed to be the The King Solomon election, in my mind, where, if either candidate truly loved the country more, he would have been the first to resign.
So getting back to my absence, I became convinced that the Portal was of very little value to you in the election. Many of you flattered me by saying “Where are you when we need you most?”, as if I had somehow abandoned you. I am touched, but that is not where we are. I don’t have your answers. I am lost as well, so I have been trying to look past the election for months. I am just being honest here.
Whatever we are going to do to save ourselves from the Kleptocrats of the center, the nut jobs of the far right, the apathy of the non voters, the woke lunacy and the dreamers of third party options, we are going to do with either Trump or Biden in office. Four years ago before Trump took the oath of office, I was at a dinner in LA with Sam Harris and Dave Rubin. Sam was talking about how he was going to have to hold Trump accountable with his broadcasts, and I said something that I’d like to think turned out to be wise. “Sam, you just can’t do that,” I said. He asked why I would say that given my feelings which were not out of line with his. I said “I’ve studied Trump’s style and it is based around deliberate ambiguities that Left and Right can be counted upon to hear as meaning different things. If Trump makes N nested ambiguous statements in a minute, he will create a minimum of 2 to the N legs of the decision tree that must be considered, given your strategy. He will force you and the rest of the United States public intellectuals to waste much of your intellectual life, for four to eight years, picking up after him. He just needs to knock over the intellectual vases faster than you can glue their shards back together. No matter how good you are, you aren’t going to make it through like that.” “So what will you do instead?” he asked. “I said I will make one or more clear statements that Donald Trump represents an existential risk to the United States and that I expect he will use his freedom as an outsider to do a combination of both very good and very bad things. But I am not going to let him run my intellectual life every day on his truly ingenious brain farts. I will then focus my energy and attempt to hold my own party, the Democrats, intellectually accountable so we can win with someone we can believe in.” And except for that part at the tail end, I think I did about as well as I could have in anticipating the problems and formulating a strategy during these four years.
So, why be absent? Well, I haven’t gotten to the part about Article 58 yet. Recall that I don’t believe that FakeNews was an authentic narrative in November 2016. So… what was it then? Well, I don’t know. But if I had to guess, there was probably a meeting somewhere in early November of 2016, where it was decided that the United States needed a narrative to buy time for its aggrieved institutions so that the 2020 election could be ‘fixed’ to the greatest extent possible. And I believe that Fake News was likely the placeholder that had been settled upon. That would be the origin of the gradual changes in Terms of Service across Twitter, Facebook, and Google, and how the structural changes were coordinated that gradually eroded all protections for free speech across the platforms. That’s where Data and Society and its crazy ‘Guilt by association minus any methodology’ technique appeared. In essence, the four year battle plan was to figure out how to use the Fake News meme to gain greater narrative control of the news. Only there was a new problem.
We the people had become the news. We shared stories and links. And to control the news, now meant the institutions had to control us as ordinary people much more aggressively. We all opined often and often better than the professional commentariat at that. And Long Form Podcasting, as led by the popular Joe Rogan, became seen as the great embarrassment and threat to mainstream legacy media. People dying to be treated like adults, with long attention spans, dropped NPR and the New York Times, as home to the 1619 project, which its leader openly admitted was attempting to get America to riot(?!), and flocked to podcasts hours in length to listen to Snowden or Bernie Sanders on Joe Rogan. And there was absolutely no plan to stop this that was working, when they finally realized just how powerful these podcasts are. You could hear Roger Penrose one minute and Edie Bravo the next. Everyone knew that simply calling Sam Harris “gross and racist”, Joe Rogan “alt-right”, Ben Shapiro a Nazi white supremacist, Peter Thiel “anti-gay”, Bret Weinstein “anti-black”, and Maajid Nawaz an Islamophobe, was beyond stupid. I mean, our audiences had spent hours listening to us and interacting with us at events. It wasn’t just that the mainstream media was bullshitting the American public. They were gaslighting us all around people we already knew, and failing so long as there were people willing to risk their reputations to shatter the spell.
So they figured out that we needed the platforms, in part, to reach each other and proceeded to change the platform rules over and over again to make them vague, illogical, ideological, inconsistent and actually impossible to understand. Add to that, these platforms were now patrolled by new Religious Police as if Twitter were Saudi Arabia with the The Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice replaced by the Trust And Safety Committee. No one could say what the rules were. What exactly was deadnaming, for example? Is saying that Bruce Jenner won the 1976 decathlon, years before Caityln Jenner even existed, a punishable offense? Only the Trust and Safety committee could tell you.
Which brings us to Article 58 of the Soviet era Russian Penal Code which introduced the concept of “enemy of the workers” and “counter-revolutionary activities”. You see, Article 58 was a law where everyone was guilty, but not everyone was prosecuted. Thus any inconvenient person could be disappeared into the gulags or executed in show trials under Article 58. And that is where we are. Shortly before the election, a provocative mid-October New York Post article on Hunter Biden appeared that could not be shared on Twitter or Facebook. Which is, of course, insane. But also anticipated. Here’s why.
They failed to come up with a workable strategy to control us, because there is really nothing they can do short of totally draconian China-like measures, and so they will ultimately lose this battle one day. The jig has been up for years now. But the legacy and tech powers do not know how to concede. So they gaslight, harass and threaten individuals that don’t agree to silence themselves. And, sure enough, just like with Article 58 and the show trials, the tech platforms treat Trust and Safety as a Star Chamber where you can be accused without being told what you did wrong and tried in absentia. Hell, we are all guilty of violating these Terms of Service, because they aren’t real, well-defined, or even self-consistent.
Which brings me to what I said to my brother, Bret, not long ago when he proposed Unity 2020 as a plan to undermine the control of the two party duopoly by drafting a republican and democrat to run together. I told him it couldn’t work unless an extraordinary piece of luck occurred, and that it was a bad use of political capital to call everything dangerous, like this election, ‘make or break’. The other thing I said was that Unity 2024 is a good idea, but that he should do this project in a separate account on Twitter and Facebook. He did not listen at first and released video on his own youtube channel. Very quickly, the @articlesofunity account they had set up on Twitter was suspended without explanation. Links to Unity2020 websites shared through direct messaging were labeled ‘suspicious’ and ‘spam’ by Twitter’s Religious Police. It appeared that the thought of Americans burying their hatchets was seen as a serious offense which the usually forward thinking CEO Jack Dorsey himself could not face for reasons that remain utterly opaque. A short time later, Bret logged into Facebook to find that his personal account, in which he had not posted for some time, had been irreversibly closed, reviewed, and there were no appeals possible while stating no reason for the expulsion. After a public outcry from Joe Lonsdale, Tulsi Gabbard, myself and others, and some back channel communication to Facebook Board members, the account was mysteriously opened again with a claim that it had merely been flagged by “a system”. Clearly whatever Facebook was doing it was willing to lie about this in front of the eyes of the world right before an election. Either it was reviewed, and the claim about a mere system flagging the account was FakeNews, or there was no review, and claim of human review was FakeNews. In either case, Facebook, the New York Times, Twitter, CNN and all the other supposedly authoritative media have been pushing the FakeNews they claim to decry. There are no other possibilities, for those of us who have been watching this space, that bear scrutiny, given the inconsistency of the claims.
And so, I took the time off, so as not to give too much surface area to Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey and Sundar Pichai, and whomever they are coordinating with or delegating to in the 2-3 months before the election and a couple months after. It is what financial professionals called the uncompensated risk of losing my ability to communicate to you while the Tech and Media worlds are going for broke to control this election. If I knew that there was a good choice in the election, the risk would have a purpose. But I can see the unraveling of the US fabric with either choice. It made me sad to pull back from something I love doing, and it’s a real cost to me as it’s significant income to miss out on at a time I want to be building for retirement (presumably sometime in my 80s, the way I’m going). But truth be told, there were also some other issues I was having with covid-exposure and guests in the studio, loss of privacy, and sad interactions with unstable people in my communities, who seem to need psychological help. I may say more about these issues later.
But I’ve missed doing the Portal for you all. And I will be back in 2021 and perhaps a few episodes before then. But in the meantime, remember that one of The Portal creeds is to only go long heroism if you can short martyrdom as part of the trade. I didn’t enjoy us having to get Bret reinstated at Facebook, as no ordinary person without connections or followers would get this treatment. And we still haven’t succeeded in getting Jack to explain what is going on at Twitter with the suspensions. So stay safe out there. You don’t have to swing for the fences on this elections because, quite frankly, both of these are terrible options. Vote however you feel is right. Because, if I’m right, the real work is going to come after this, the most bogus of US elections that I have ever seen. Be well everyone.