As I have been around for over five decades on the planet now, I have had a lot of experiences such as marriage and divorce, children then no-children, friends committing suicide (me-trying, unsuccessfully), homeless then two houses, job then no-job then job-again, rich and poor (rich was better) but last week I had a new one, and an upsetting one at that for a member of a democratic constitutional monarchy known as the United Kingdom. I was explicitly censored – in the past I had suffered indirect discrimination on the basis of some of my views, Marxist leaders of the student union had denied me the right to speak and I even experienced reciprocal racism as the last white boy in an all Moslem street, but I had never been explicitly censored. There was no discussion or remediation, it was just done. This same platform I was given the left-foot of fellowship from had marketed itself as publishing “anything by anyone” and you could read everything from erotica to UFO-ology, politics to science; Barack Obama was a regular and there were redneck Trumpists – you get the drift. In short, it was a reminder of the “free internet” that would allow the little Mom and Pop grocery store to compete with the corporate giant supermarket because they suddenly had a platform on an equal footing to those major players – it was commerce direct to the consumer. It suddenly meant information and news was available too, direct to the consumer, outside the control of the major media organisations which were becoming a reflection of the prejudices and the political agenda of their owners. In short, it was a medium of free speech that allowed alternative interpretations of facts and events, inviting people to decide for themselves.
The censorship experience was made more pointed because I had recently received an email brief from an international advocacy organisation I support that was reflecting on the attempted prosecution of a street evangelist and the arrest of another 74-year-old street evangelist for “hate speech” under UK Public Order legislation. It never ceases to be ironic that someone expounding the gospel that defined “love” for the Western world, is now classified as a “hate-speaker” by the enlightened and woke liberals (actually self-identifying neo-Marxists when you get down to it). Police had arrived on scene and literally yanked the geriatric subversive off his improvised pedestal (a milk crate or similar), cuffed him and dragged him off because he had insisted he had a right to be there and a right to free speech as a British citizen. Astonishingly it had taken the cases 18 months to go to court, they had both been subject to all sorts of continuing restrictions on their liberty, and when it finally arrived at court the judge ruled that the evidence was so lacking that the evangelists had “no case to answer”. In the summation the Judge made this important statement:
“Freedom of speech is the cornerstone of a free and democratic society and must be robustly protected even when that speech is or is perceived to be offensive”
It is interesting that this term “cornerstone” is used – it is an old-fashioned architectural metaphor that referred to a very large stone that provided stability for the walls around it. If you removed the cornerstone, the probability was that the building would collapse. It is a metaphor to use when emphasising the absolute central importance of a concept without which all else will fall apart. The Judge was arguing here that free speech is one such concept. The framers of the American constitution agreed and cemented this right into the fabric of their Republic, and it is seen in the language of the First Amendment:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
What was so remarkable about this formulation was that it prohibited the government from ever curtailing that right, and it would be illegitimate for any mandate to be passed that would limit this freedom. Whether we as non-Americans like it or not, the American constitution founded a Republic which is the longest running the modern world has known. It was and is such a basic right and one of the secrets of a healthy society. Many modern democracies in their struggles against the tyranny of those who had previously claimed the right to govern them, whether through papal bull or hereditary line, incorporated similar strong statements of a right to dissent and protest, all founded on the freedom of speech. It is noted that in most legal codes that there is no comparable statement of a right to live a life free from being offended or challenged, or even insulted. The presumption for a free society is that the spectrum of views and opinions, divergence of worldview and religion, implies differences of opinion that might be passionately expressed and sometimes lead to personal discomfort, even upset or offence.
Yet, there has been an attempt in the last decade, which has risen to a crescendo in some quarters, to try and equate the feelings of emotional discomfort, upset or offence with “hate speech”. The “snowflake” movement, perhaps an interesting metaphor in itself, is a paradigmatic example of this tendency – if you do anything to cause me to “melt”, i.e., anything that causes me to lose my emotional equilibrium through challenge to my “deeply held” beliefs, this is equated with “hate”; that is, verbal violence. Rather paradoxically then, me the sensitive, enlightened and peace-loving victim can use physical violence against you in response to defend this authoritarian assault on my well-being. In the name of “social justice” then and a collective moral imperative, we have the total prohibition of free speech that none might be offended and the government or some agency of the State is called on to be the referee and enforce this “justice”. Yet where we have had no free speech in societies during the 20th century, those cultures descended rapidly into tyranny, with an elite dominating the rest of the population. For this reason, I believe it would be far better for the antagonised or traumatised “snowflake” to learn the skills of emotional resilience and the verbal skills to defend themselves or to be allied with those who have those skills. When we want to live in a free society, we accept others may use their freedom in ways objectionable to us. William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania understood this clearly as he insisted the inevitable alternative to an absolute freedom of worship and the rights to self-government was “tyranny” from the central government. Tyranny for Penn, as for many of the American founders, was when government claimed an absolute right to govern and tolerated no dissent from the people. Dissent was expressed first in speech and then words – this is why this freedom of speech is tied so explicitly and closely in the founding of the American republic and the “cornerstone” is such an appropriate metaphor. Without freedom of speech and a guarantee and protection of it, we lapse into tyrannical government.
Now to bring this up to date, the “COVID-era” has been an all-out, full-frontal assault on the freedom of speech of which I am now an expert witness. In the name of a “Public Health Emergency”, the governments of the world have passed tyrannical legislation (I, as a British citizen, have specifically in mind here the UK’s Coronavirus Act) that allows them to censor, even to the point of rendition to “re-education camps” (in the case of the UK Act) , those who want to argue an opposing point of view and most lately, the possibility of internment if you refuse to accept mandatory vaccination. What has also been new has been internet social media and infrastructure companies have become proactive in removing content judged, or more accurately, “pre-judged” to be in violation of some government standard of what is the “correct”, i.e., government mandated, position to take on the COVID-19 pandemic. Platforms that 18 months ago were encouraging everyone to “tell their story – you have a right to be you and only you”, were now agents of State censorship and as they owned the physical infrastructure too, stubborn informed dissenters as well as the conspiracy theorists and the religiously apocalyptic were finding their websites shutdown and their videos removed. This “new normal” has frequently been disguised with the clothes of “experts have concluded…” or “experts believe…” but we find that these are not even medical experts, they are classified as experts because they are hired consultants. We must remember that “experts” missed the 2008 crash and experts, even scientific ones, argue with each other and often never agree. In fact, the positive aspect of this disagreement is “expert” dissenting voices are often the first to identify problems that are ignored by all the other “experts” and they expose duplicity and corruption in the “official” positions. The dissenting or maverick “expert” has oftentimes been vindicated later as the “whistle-blower” exposing malpractice.
Now, we can at last get to the rub of this particular article. I have been a writer on a particular “open” publishing platform, Medium since late 2017 and published a wide range of articles, from commentary on the treatment of sick children, abortion to veganism and of course on COVID. I had an extremely modest following of 10 readers and might have expected 30 reads a month. Most of last year was on COVID (probably notched up 7 or 8 articles) but there was a couple of interjections with the American Presidential election and some LGBT(Q+…) stuff. You can still find all of these on my personal blog but if you try and access them on medium you get a 410 page – that is techie speak for “this has been permanently deleted” and not by me.
Apparently, I became a Public Health risk:
Due to the elevated risk of potential harm to persons or public health, Medium’s Trust & Safety team has removed your account under its rules:
Your profile and posts will no longer be publicly available on Medium. Your work will remain accessible to you while signed in, and may be exported at any time by following the instructions here, but will appear as unavailable to others.
Your Medium membership, if you have one, will be canceled and any remaining funds you may have prepaid will be returned to you.
Medium Trust & Safety
Now, there are two most disturbing aspects to this:
- The “Rules” (follow the link above) in which I was judged to be in violation of effectively prejudged any debate to be had over any aspect of COVID-19 policy. Anything in violation of the “official” government response is automatically in violation of the rules – period.
- There was no attempt at dialogue with me or due process followed to review the decision, or invite me to remove offending articles – my subs were refunded with the initial email informing me of the removal.
Not to put too fine a point on this, this is censorship that is at best unethical in a democratic society. At worst, it shows we are in transition to a neo-marxist world order. Anyone who reads my work, regardless of whether they agree with it or not, would not dismiss it as trivial or unresearched unless they had an ideological axe to grind. In fact, being a “conservative” on a “liberal” publishing platform is a bit like being the first person of colour in a white-only environment, you have to be twice as good as the other guy to be taken seriously. I had some great, intense and searching exchanges with those of opposite views to myself because of the mutual respect and belief in rational discussion, meant we could debate and, dare I say it, be wiser after the fact.
Thus, this was my response to this charming communication:
Hi Trust and Safety Team
Thankyou for your notification of the removal of my account and the refunding of my fees.
However, as per your rules, https://policy.medium.com/medium-rules-30e5502c4eb4 I respectively wish to appeal the removal of the account on Public Health grounds. I was always at pains to stress in many articles I was not giving medical advice and referred people to medical sources if that was where their interest was, as well as their own physicians. Now I can agree that some of my articles mention items you have enumerated in your ‘Prohibited Health Claims’ but these have always been in the context of a wider argument, e.g. although I mention COVID-19 as a ‘bioweapon’ I direct people to listen to the presentation where this is discussed and evaluate it within that context. I am not even saying I agree with these claims but that specific claim, after all, was at least lent credibility by the author of the International Laws regarding bioweapons (incorporated into both US and European Law) and the synthetic nature of COVID-19 was discussed in excruciating detail in legitimate academic virology journals shortly after the pandemic broke. Bona fide Harvard professors have been extremely critical over a number of years of this research which was sponsored by Dr Fauci at various points in his career (including his present positions), predicting an event like the pandemic as a result of it and the Wuhan lab was in receipt of grants from this and other related US and international bodies promoting this type of ‘Gain of Function’ research. Whenever I discussed such claims, I have always cross-referenced with sources or where they were written in a less academic way, pointed to material I had written which is well referenced and supported; not many people want virology journal references with their morning reading but if you follow my trail, they are there.
In no sense am I a conspiracy theorist or anti-vaxxer, having had vaccines in the past and currently studying for a PhD now after 2 science degrees and 2 further degrees in philosophy. Much written or blogged about COVID does smell of conspiracy fantasies, I do not believe the Earth is flat and Elvis is most certainly dead. I am rather interested in evaluating the evidence and challenging what seems, because of my experience as a researcher and 30 years a working engineer, as being incredibly poor science and claims which cannot be supported by evidence or data. Regarding this vaccine there are real concerns as reported today in the MIT technology review https://www.technologyreview.com/2021/07/30/1030390/vaccinated-getting-covid-delta-mask-mandate-superspreaders/ and there has been clear misinformation regarding what this vaccine will do, the safety and testing of the vaccine, as well as the severity and nature of the disease, which mortality figures, from the CDC itself, show. It has been a cause of great personal distress and pain to myself to witness small business after small business in my country folding whilst international giants and pharmaceuticals are raking in billions; where people’s personal freedoms being removed whilst governments pass laws that enable forced rendition to “re-education facilities” should they be judged to have an “incorrect” attitude to a public health issue (not just COVID-19) – these lovelies are contained in our British Coronavirus Act; never before has a British government passed such legislation and this has been repeated in country after country around the world.
However, the real basis of my appeal is not on this technical basis. If my work regarding COVID-19 was a public health risk, I would have thought due process would mean you would request me to remove those articles, or direct me to this policy and ask me to revise them, rather than close the account without discussion. Not all my COVID articles were focussed on specific scientific claims, others dealt with matters of theological argument and others looked at the sociology and psychology of the pandemic. Other articles were not on COVID at all, some dealing with cultural matters like abortion, others dealing with political topics.
I would also not have been so surprised at the removal of the account if I had racked up 1000s of views on these articles and was becoming a featured writer and an embarrassment to Medium because the NYT were featuring me as a Trump supporting conspiracy theorist. Rather, I think I managed 30 reads last month and that was across all the articles! I did have a small group (less than 10) followers who a few of I certainly have enjoyed a positive interaction with even though their views were almost opposite to my own. This was what I thought Medium was about – a place for the free exchange of ideas. The best way to counteract the false is to invite the presentation of the truth and to have the debate. To just censor serious work invites the kind of violence and intolerance we are now seeing throughout the West.
I am more than happy to remove anything that is found to contravene rules as they stand and ask you to reconsider.
As you can see, I was more than happy to meet them halfway and revise content they found offensive. After days of “careful consideration”, they sent me this in reply:
After careful review of the details of the appeal, and the relevant account or post history, Medium’s Trust & Safety team has concluded that it remains in violation of site policies and will not be restored. The decision at this time is final.
My point is this, if this censorship is the place our Western culture has arrived at, we are days away from tyranny. To quote myself, “to censor serious work invites the kind of violence and intolerance we are now seeing throughout the West.” If people see no value in reasoning or discussing their differences, sooner or later they become enticed by the purveyors of “direct action” and resort to violence. People lose all respect for individual freedom and a mobocracy decides what is right, what is wrong; the obligation is for the individual to conform without question for the sake of the common good, if not they are viewed as a “traitor” or “collaborator” and you can burn their house down (with them in it). I have a Romanian friend who said that what has happened to our freedoms with the restrictions placed on us, and the increasing severity of the decrees imposed on us, was what it was like in their own country during the “revolution”. We must remember that “lockdowns” were the response of communist China to a disease that has a 99.7% post-infection survival rate – and that is the average across all demographics. For those under 21 it is a 1 in a million chance of dying from COVID – a child is more likely to die in an accident going to school in their parent’s car than to die from COVID. China’s response should not surprise us, and neither should the WHO’s endorsement of it – Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was the leader of a particularly unpleasant sect of the Ethiopian communist party in a previous life before the WHO.
Communism has never respected the individual’s right to dissent and decides what is best for the individual at the pain of death. Any dissent is in violation of the “common good” or “will of the people” and that, leap-frogging a few steps and depending on the particular socialism in force, is justification for the cancellation of the privileges of your citizenship, permanent imprisonment or immediate execution. The Marxists of the 20th century notched up around 120 million “executions” in the name of the “common good”, exceeding the medieval Catholics for bloodthirstiness. Ever since the French Revolution, we as European citizens of a socialist polity are seen to have no “natural” rights against the State – this is why the American constitution insisted on inserting “inalienable rights” granted to us by “the Creator” in their Constitution to ensure the American State could never become like the states that the immigrants fled from, it could never appropriate unlimited power and demand total obedience from those it ruled.
In summary, this type of politics is the exact opposite of the free-speech cornerstone of democratic republics. We have been witnessing a soft-totalitarian takeover of the West in the last 18 months, where communist policies have been enacted with barely a pause of conscience of national leaderships. Our leader here in the UK kept referring to “there is something wrong with contemplating ‘X’ for the British”, e.g., showing a vaccine passport to go to the cinema or enforcing a mandatory vaccination, to only announce it a couple of weeks later. Our rights to work, trade and travel have all been curtailed by an enormous government power-grab and people are being lined up to be “vaccinated” under duress and threats with experimental and unproven biological agents in direct violation of both the Nuremberg Concord and Helsinki Declarations after the experimentation of the Nazis on internees. The requirement for “informed consent” is ignored, and people are discouraged from discussing their options with doctors (the government still fearing the better ones who are not quite ‘on message’), recommended to defer instead to government “experts”, “vaxxed-up” celebrities and newspaper “fact-checkers” for their medical decisions.
So, to sign off, someone has suggested our existing institutions are now so corrupt we need to establish new ones and develop an infrastructure independent of our governments. With my fresh experience of censorship, I believe the window for a common framework of values that allows us to peacefully coexist with the secular statists, discussing, debating, resolving or respecting our differences, is in danger of passing away. As a matter of survival, it may be necessary for us to do so until we have restored a democratic state. Many of my ancestors died fighting for my freedom with swords in their hands, it may be that I too have to choose to die standing up rather than living on my knees; choosing to live life fully and freely rather than surrendering my liberty that I might be “kept safe”..