Some of us are old enough to remember the playground taunt, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” That denial of the power of words, of course, was merely to disempower a bully and quite a bit more effective than crying for mommy in most circumstances.
In this age of online censorship and newly invented categories of offense, it is difficult to even claim that words have absolutely no impact on us. Being called a “racist” or “domestic terrorist” does matter, it can come with serious social consequences and be used as a pretext for punishment of political opponents. No laughing matter.
We are governed by words. If we see a red sign emblazoned with the letters S-T-O-P, we tend to comply (at least partially) without much thought. And, whether you want to comply or not, because of written laws, you’ll end up giving the IRS a significant portion of your income. Words can and do hurt your wallet, they limit opportunity and shape outcomes.
We are steered, employed by others to their own ends, by use of description, framing and narratives. For example, whether a deadly conflict is described as being a “military intervention” (Yemen) or as an “invasion” and “aggression” (Ukraine) has little to do with substantive difference and everything to do with how propagandists wish us to perceive the event.
Context provided, what is or is not reported, changes the moral equation.
Those who control social media platforms understand the power of words. They know that awareness is induced through language and that narrative matters. This is why they have taken such interest in curtailing speech and the dissemination of information. Even if corrupted by partisanship, many of them likely see this as their responsibility or a moral obligation.
Unfortunately, regardless of intent, these self-appointed gatekeepers failed. The same people who routinely “fact-check” hyperbole and satire, even banned people for suspecting the lab origin of the pandemic, have yet to identify the Russian collision narrative as false. The most egregious act was Twitter using bogus reasons to suspend the account of the New York Post for their sharing the Biden laptop bombshell on the eve of the 2020 Presidential vote. Talk about election interference!
Elon Musk’s announcement of his ownership of a significant stake in Twitter and then subsequent buyout of the far-left’s favorite social media has shook up the political establishment. Elizabeth Warren, a powerful US Senator, who leveraged a fiction about her Native American heritage to attain her own privileged position, somehow worth $67 million herself, had this to say:
Strange how now she speaks up about potential “dangerous to democracy,” but not when Big Tech was using the pretense of their “community standards” to ban content creators, including a former President, for challenging their ideological agenda and narratives. Sure, they always could conjure their excuses or hide behind “Twitter is a private business, if you don’t like it start your own internet,” disingenuously while suing individuals who defied their demands, but now the truth comes out, suddenly it is all about democracy:
To those of us who have faced algorithmic demotion and punitive measures for our wrong-think, doing things like posting the actual flag of Ukraine’s Azov battalion or a quote of Hitler praising censorship intended as ironic, there is appreciation for Musk as a free speech advocate. To those who use the word “democracy” as an excuse to trample rights, this represents an enormous threat to the ability to control narrative.
For those of us who have been paying close attention and involved, we know why Yahoo News, along with other far-leftist run online publishers, have shutdown their comment sections. Sure, they may say this was to prevent misinformation, but the reality is that there would often be factual rebuttals or additional context that would undermine the narrative of the article. It was always about control, not protection.
The war of words is as important as that which involves tanks, bombs and guns. It was propaganda and censorship, as much as physical means, that enabled Nazis to put Jews in camps. This is why Russo-phobia, the demonization and cancelation of a whole ethinic group, over things the the US-led imperial left, is so troubling. President Obama was not accused of war crimes for a brutal AC-130 attack on an Afghan hospital, despite the dozens of verified casualties, why is that?
It is, of course, how the story is presented that makes all of the difference. If a writer wants a leader to appear incompetent they might use the words like “bungled” as the description. If they wish to spin it as positive they’ll say “setbacks” and dwell on framing the cause as righteous instead. Those who want the public to support one side of the Ukrainian conflict will downplay or even completely ignore important context, like NATO expansion, the violent overthrow of Ukraine’s democratically elected government in 2014, and merciless shelling of the Donbass region.
And this is why Musk promising to restore freedom of speech on Twitter is such a big deal and especially to the current power brokers. The military-industrial complex, which owns the corporate media and many of our politicians, stands to lose billions in revenue if they can’t convince the gullible masses that Vladimir Putin is literally Hitler for leading a US-style “regime change” effort in his own neighborhood.
This is why they’ll fight tooth and nail to keep the presentation of the story as one-sided as possible. They do not want us to hear the facts that may cause questions. They only want us to have their prepacked stawman “don’t say gay” version of their enemies, presented by the late-night funnyman for ridicule, rather than allow a truly informed debate.
Unlike many, the ignorant who accept narratives at face value, the elites with government and corporate power understand that the world is run by ideas. It is how wars are won.