End of free speech on the social media? 17

On September 3, 2011, and again on September 28, 2015, we posted an article that makes the case for free speech.

Today we repeat this vital part of it:

The greatness of the West began with doubting. The idea that every belief, every assumption, should be critically examined started the might of Europe. When those old Greek thinkers who founded our civilization learnt and taught that no one has a monopoly of truth or ever will have, they launched the intellectual adventure that has carried the human race – not without a long interval in the doldrums – literally to the skies.

Socrates taught the utility of suspicion. He is reputed to have said, “The highest form of human excellence is to question oneself and others.” He was not, however, the first to use doubt for discovery. Thales of Miletos, who was born 155 years before Socrates, dared to doubt that religion’s explanatory tales about how the world came to be as it is were to be trusted, and he began exploring natural phenomena in a way that we recognize as scientific. He is often called the Father of Science. With him and his contemporary, Anaximander, who argued with him by advancing alternative ideas, came the notion – for the first time as far as we know – that reason could fathom and describe how the universe worked.

Science is one of the main achievements of the West, but it is not the only product of constructive doubt that made for its greatness. Doubt as a habit of mind or tradition of thinking meant that new, foreign, even counter-intuitive ideas were not dismissed. Europe, before and after it stagnated in the doldrums of the long Catholic Christian night (and even to some extent during those dark centuries), was hospitable to ideas wherever they came from. …

Our civilization cannot survive without this openness. Critical examination is the breath that keeps it alive. But it is in danger of suffocation. It is more threatened now than it has been for the last four hundred years by dogmatisms: Marxism, environmentalism, religion – above all Islam which absolutely forbids criticism.

Now to those sources of destructive dogmatism we must add another: the European Union.

The ideas of Marxism, environmentalism, Islam most need to be criticized. Because they are inherently intolerant, terroristic, and totalitarian. Over and over again, unendingly, they need to be torn to pieces by critics who hate them.

And they are the very ideologies that the European Union wants most to shield from critical examination. 

Breitbart London reports:

The European Commission has today [May 31, 2016] announced a partnership with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft in order to crack down on what it classes as “illegal hate speech” while “criminaliz[ing]” perpetrators and “promoting independent counter-narratives” that the European Union favours.

A press release from the Commission this morning claims the new initiative has been set up “to respond to the challenge of ensuring that online platforms do not offer opportunities for illegal online hate speech to spread virally”.

The move has been branded “Orwellian” by Members of the European Parliament, and digital freedom groups have already pulled out of any further discussions with the Commission, calling the new policy “lamentable”.

The unelected, executive branch of the European Union (EU) released a Code of Conduct today that “includes a series of commitments to combat the spread of illegal hate speech online in Europe” developed “together with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft (‘the IT companies’)” who have “signed up”.

That the bureaucratic dictatorship of the EU should try such a deplorable move is not surprising.

But why are Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft conceding to its authoritarian anti-freedom demands?

The commitments include “educat[ing] and rais[ing] awareness with their users” and building a “network” of “trusted reporters” to flag unwanted content. Facebook and Twitter are to provide “regular training to their staff on current societal developments” and work more closely with national governments and “their law enforcement agencies” to remove content the EU does not favor.

Most alarmingly, however, the platforms have also promised to engage in the active promotion of views and organisations the EU does favour, and the re-education of supposedly hateful users.

Facebook and others must, “recogniz[e] the value of independent counter speech against hateful rhetoric and prejudice, aim to continue their work in identifying and promoting independent counter-narratives, new ideas and initiatives and supporting educational programs that encourage critical thinking.”

Note that in  current leftist-dominated jargon, “critical thinking” means “uncritical thinking” – ie. meek acceptance of leftist dogma.

Janice Atkinson MEP told Breitbart London: “It’s Orwellian. Anyone who has read 1984 sees it’s very re-enactment live.

The Commission has been itching to shut down free speech in the Parliament and now they’re attacking social media. We have already seen Facebook ‘policing’ so-called right-wing postings.

“If an MEP, such as the centre-right Hungarians, the Danish People’s Party, the Finns, the Swedish Democrats, the Austrian FPO, say no to migration quotas because they cannot cope with the cultural and religious requirements of Muslims across the Middle East who are seeking refugee status, is that a hate crime? And what is their punishment? It’s a frightening path to totalitarianism.” …

The Code of Conduct has also been slammed by groups who have been working closely with the Commission. In a sign of an impending backlash, one organisation which promotes privacy, data protection, and net neutrality has already vowed to break ties.

The European Digital Rights (EDRi) announced its decision to pull out of future discussions with the Commission today, stating it does not have confidence in the “ill-considered code of conduct”.

“Faced with this lamentable outcome, and with no possibility to provide meaningful input to this process, the Commission has left us with no other choice but to withdraw from the discussion,” said Estelle Massé, EU Policy Analyst at Access Now. …

What does Facebook have to say about it?

Monika Bickert, Head of Global Policy Management at Facebook, said: “We welcome today’s announcement and the chance to continue our work with the Commission and wider tech industry to fight hate speech.”

Last September, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was overheard confronting Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg about “hate speech”, with Mr. Zuckerberg replying: “We need to do some work”

Now, the EU has described how: “The IT Companies support the European Commission and EU Member States… They share, together with other platforms and social media companies, a collective responsibility and pride in promoting and facilitating freedom of expression throughout the online world.”

Promote freedom of expression by censoring it? How does the Commission (ie. the bureaucratic oligarchy that governs the EU) reconcile these two contradictory activities?

The Commission argues that expanding censorship will somehow protect and expand free speech, because “[hate speech] negatively impacts those who speak out for freedom, tolerance and non-discrimination in our open societies and has a chilling effect on the democratic discourse on online platforms”.

Orwellian indeed!

Vĕra Jourová, EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, said the new measures would counter Islamist terrorism:

“The recent terror attacks have reminded us of the urgent need to address illegal online hate speech. Social media is unfortunately one of the tools that terrorist groups use to radicalise young people and racist use to spread violence and hatred”.

Some excuse! The Islamic terrorists use code. And it is primarily to protect Islam from justified and desperately needed censure, that this whole scheme is being hatched, anyway.

What do Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft have to say about it? We are given only a Twitter statement:

Twitter’s Head of Public Policy for Europe, Karen White, said: “Hateful conduct has no place on Twitter … We look forward to further constructive dialogue between the European Commission, member states, our partners in civil society and our peers in the technology sector on this issue.”

“Hateful conduct”?  People express their opinions on Facebook. They argue for what they like and against what they don’t like. If they can no longer do that, there won’t be much use for it. What will Twitter be used for if not opinion? And how interesting will YouTube be, purged of argument?

Who will use the social media merely to repeat authorized opinions like mantras? By agreeing to carry only permitted orthodoxies, they are destroying themselves.

The world is changing – for the better? 5

We are witnessing a seismic shift in global affairs. The shake-up is a perfect storm of political, demographic and technological change that will soon make the world as we have known it for the last 30 years almost unrecognizable.

Those attention-gripping words open an article by Victor Davis Hanson at Townhall:

Since the mid-1980s there have been a number of accepted global constants. The European Union was assumed to have evolved beyond the nation-state as it ended the cycle of militarism and renounced free-market capitalism. With its strong euro, soft power and nonaligned foreign policy, the EU was praised as a utopian sort of foil to the overarmed U.S. with its ailing dollar. …

The Arab Middle East for the last 40 years seemed to be the world’s cockpit, as its huge petroleum reserves brought in trillions of dollars from an oil-depleted West, along with political concessions. Petrodollars fed global terrorism. Oil-poor Israel had little clout with Europe. In general, the West ignored any human-rights concerns involving the region’s oil-rich dictatorships, monarchies and theocracies, as well as their aid to Islamic terrorists.

Conventional wisdom also assumed that an indebted U.S. was in permanent decline, a cash-rich China in ascendency. …

But none of that conventional wisdom now seems very wise — largely because of a number of technological breakthroughs and equally unforeseen political upheavals.

The eurozone is unraveling. An aging, shrinking population and a socialist welfare state lead to serfdom, not utopia. …

The Arab Middle East is now in a free fall. Tyrants in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen were ousted, while one in Syria totters. But while the world hoped secular democrats would follow in their wake, more likely we are witnessing the emergence of one-election Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood. The region will be mired in turmoil whether these upheavals turn out to be like the hijacked Iranian revolution that ended in theocracy, or the Turkish democratic model that is insidiously becoming Islamist.

Horizontal drilling and fracking have made oil shale and tar sands rich sources of oil and natural gas, so much so that the United States may prove to possess the largest store of fossil fuel reserves in the world — in theory, with enough gas, oil and coal soon never to need any imported Middle Eastern energy again. “Peak oil” is suddenly an anachronism. Widespread American use of cheap natural gas will do more to clean the planet than thousands of Solyndras.

If the United States utilizes its resources, then its present pathologies — massive budget and trade deficits, mounting debt, strategic vulnerability — will start to subside. These new breakthroughs in petroleum engineering are largely American phenomena, reminding us that there is still something exceptional in the American experience that periodically offers the world cutting-edge technologies and protocols — such as those pioneered by Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Starbucks and Walmart.

In comparison, China is not only resource-poor but politically impoverished. For decades we were told that Chinese totalitarianism, when mixed with laissez-faire capitalism, led to sparkling airports and bullet trains, while a litigious and indulgent America settled for a run-down LAX and creaking Amtrak relics. But the truth is that the Los Angeles airport will probably sooner look modern than the Chinese will hold open elections amid a transparent society — given that free markets did not make China democratic, only more contradictory.

Even more surreal, tiny oil-poor Israel, thanks to vast new offshore finds, has been reinvented as a potential energy giant in the Middle East. Such petrodollars will change Israel as they did the Persian Gulf countries, but with one major difference. Unlike Dubai or Kuwait, Israel is democratic, economically diverse, socially stable and technologically sophisticated, suggesting the sudden windfall will not warp Israel in the manner it has traditional Arab autocracies, but instead become a force multiplier of an already dynamic society. Will Europe still snub Israel when it has as much oil, gas and money as an OPEC member in the Persian Gulf?

Good, good – but Islam is still waging jihad and spreading sharia law; and the UN still exists; and Iran is still becoming a nuclear power; and Obama is still occupying the Oval Office.

In praise of the rich 3

Communism:  “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need”.  A central authority with a monopoly of force – which is to say the state – must gather and distribute resources. Condition of the nation: serfdom and poverty.   

Capitalism: “From each according to his need, to each according to his ability”. You decide what you need and work for it by providing others with what they’ll buy. The amount you get will be the measure of your ability. Condition of the nation: freedom and prosperity.

 

Collectivism: Economic equality achieved at the cost of liberty. 

Individualism: The only desirable equality is an equality of liberty. My liberty should be limited by nothing except everyone else’s. 

 

Walter Williams writes at Front Page:

Thomas Edison invented the incandescent bulb, the phonograph, the DC motor and other items in everyday use and became wealthy by doing so. Thomas Watson founded IBM and became rich through his company’s contribution to the computation revolution. Lloyd Conover, while in the employ of Pfizer, created the antibiotic tetracycline. Though Edison, Watson, Conover and Pfizer became wealthy, whatever wealth they received pales in comparison with the extraordinary benefits received by ordinary people. Billions of people benefited from safe and efficient lighting. Billions more were the ultimate beneficiaries of the computer, and untold billions benefited from healthier lives gained from access to tetracycline.

President Barack Obama, in stoking up class warfare, said, “I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money.” This is lunacy. Andrew Carnegie’s steel empire produced the raw materials that built the physical infrastructure of the United States. Bill Gates co-founded Microsoft and produced software products that aided the computer revolution. But Carnegie had amassed quite a fortune long before he built Carnegie Steel Co., and Gates had quite a fortune by 1990. Had they the mind of our president, we would have lost much of their contributions, because they had already “made enough money.”

Class warfare thrives on ignorance about the sources of income. Listening to some of the talk about income differences, one would think that there’s a pile of money meant to be shared equally among Americans. Rich people got to the pile first and greedily took an unfair share. Justice requires that they “give back.” Or, some people talk about unequal income distribution as if there were a dealer of dollars. The reason some people have millions or billions of dollars while others have very few is the dollar dealer is a racist, sexist, a multinationalist or just plain mean. Economic justice requires a re-dealing of the dollars, income redistribution or spreading the wealth, where the ill-gotten gains of the few are returned to their rightful owners.

In a free society, for the most part, people with high incomes have demonstrated extraordinary ability to produce valuable services for — and therefore please — their fellow man.

People voluntarily took money out of their pockets to purchase the products of Gates, Pfizer or IBM. High incomes reflect the democracy of the marketplace. The reason Gates is very wealthy is millions upon millions of people voluntarily reached into their pockets and handed over $300 or $400 for a Microsoft product. Those who think he has too much money are really registering disagreement with decisions made by millions of their fellow men.

In a free society, in a significant way income inequality reflects differences in productive capacity, namely one’s ability to please his fellow man. …

Stubborn ignorance sees capitalism as benefiting only the rich, but the evidence refutes that. The rich have always been able to afford entertainment; it was the development and marketing of radio and television that made entertainment accessible to the common man. The rich have never had the drudgery of washing and ironing clothing, beating out carpets or waxing floors. The mass production of washing machines, wash-and-wear clothing, vacuum cleaners and no-wax floors spared the common man this drudgery. At one time, only the rich could afford automobiles, telephones and computers. Now all but a small percentage of Americans enjoy these goods.

In a free country, the rich are not rich because the poor are poor;  nor are the poor poor because the rich are rich.

Those are richest who serve others best. (In general, that is. There are of course exceptions, like George Soros.)

They create wealth.

So that, among free countries, where the rich are richest the poor are least poor.

As in the United States of America.

Health derangement syndrome 1

If starving isn’t unhealthy, what does the word ‘unhealthy’ mean?

There are powerful persons who believe with fanatical conviction that (other) people should starve to death rather than eat something ‘unhealthy’.

As a result, millions are deprived of food.

Even Bill Gates protests about this state of affairs. We say ‘even Bill Gates’, because he usually goes along with the thinking of those who believe in government control of individual lives, aka socialists. (See in the quotation below a list of lefty organizations he supports.)  He doesn’t seem to realize that he is one of the greatest benefactors of mankind ever, through supplying billions of people with something they want: the products of Microsoft, which are put to trillions of productive uses throughout the world. Doing so –  as a model capitalist – has rightfully made him rich, and he has no moral obligation to redistribute his wealth in a secondary and much feebler attempt to do good. But he apparently thinks there is, perhaps out of some unwarranted feeling of guilt.

Whatever prompts him, he has undertaken to alleviate the chronic hunger of whole populations in Africa. And he has run into an impediment: the adoption, by stupid African rulers, of two Western ‘progressive’ notions: that people must be made to eat healthy food, and that genetically modified foods are unhealthy.

This article is from FrontPageMag:

The left-of-center philanthropist says starving Africans should be allowed to eat genetically modified foods.

Bill Gates took on the Famine Lobby while addressing a forum on the world food supply in Iowa. Speaking at the World Food Prize Symposium in Des Moines, Gates took aim at the chorus of environmental leftists and organic food advocates who believe Africans should starve rather than eat genetically modified (GM) foods. “Some voices are instantly hostile to any emphasis on productivity. They act as if there is no emergency, even though in the poorest, hungriest places on earth, population is growing faster than productivity,” he said.

The opposition is significant, because Gates is left-of-center himself. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with assets of $29 billion as of 2005, has focused on the “population” side of the “problem” in the past, sending billions of dollars in grants to such pro-abortion groups as Planned Parenthood; Population Action International, Population Services International, the Alan Guttmacher Institute, and the Population Resource Center. Gates has also financed such organizations as the [Soros supported] Tides Center, the Tides Foundation, the National Council of La Raza, and has supported a gun control initiative in Washington state.

However, Gates announced he will issue a $120 million grant to increase food productivity in sub-Saharan Africa through the planting of genetically modified seeds. In Des Moines, Gates cited a Stanford study from 2008 concluding African farmers will lose one-quarter of their productivity within 20 years if they continue to plant the same strains of corn. However, “If the seeds perform well, African farmers can expect to produce two-million more tons of maize in a year of moderate drought.” Radio Iowa reports Gates has “committed more than a billion dollars” in all.

In proposing this initiative, he is standing up to the Green Left, which has long favored environmental “purity” [over] human well-being. Greenpeace cooked up the term “Frankenfood” to demonize genetically modified foods a decade ago. …

Dire predictions aside, GM foods not only potentially increase food production but have replaced the need to spray crops with chemical pesticides, which sickened or killed Africans. Those farmers who spray can now streamline the process, saving them much time and money. The modified crops are more resistant to cold, drought, herbicides, pests, and disease. They also supplied nutritional gaps in the consumption patterns of the poor. For instance, so-called “golden rice” spliced Vitamin A into rice, which could stave off blindness among the world’s poor who eat little more than rice. …

Greenpeace has long claimed GM foods increase allergies; however, the World Health Organization – hardly a corporate, capitalist shill – concluded, “No allergic effects have been found relative to GM foods currently on the market.” Although six EU nations ban GM foods, Jaap Satter, a senior policy adviser at the Dutch Agriculture Ministry, has said, “You cannot say anymore that there is a scientific reason to be against genetic modification.” The National Research Council summed up the situation: “no conceptual distinction exists between generic modification of plants and microorganisms by classical methods or by molecular techniques that modify DNA and transfer genes.”

Some environmentalists seem concerned the foods will be too successful at feeding the poor. Al Gore has worried, “The most lasting impact of biotechnology on the food supply may come not from something going wrong, but from all going right…we’re far more likely to accidentally drown ourselves in a sea of excess grain.” Given the environmentalist movement’s hatred of population – best exemplified by Obama Science Czar John Holdren’s justification of compulsory abortion in the United States – this may be the real locus of their disdain.

So deep is the Green Left’s hatred of GM foods that even an organization Gates founded has given genetically modified food a chilly reception. “The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa was established by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation” and the Rockefeller Foundation in 2006 “with the objective of improving agriculture in Africa.” However, its leader, former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, vowed in 2007: “We in the alliance will not incorporate GMOs [genetically modified organisms] in our programmes. We shall work with farmers using traditional seeds.”

The scare tactics and shunning of American and Euro-socialist leftists is theoretical and faulty – but their mania has reaped a deadly harvest among the world’s most vulnerable people.

In 2002, Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa refused to accept tons of U.S. food aid for his starving nation, because the aid contained genetically modified food (maize, specifically). “Simply because my people are hungry, that is no justification to give them poison, to give them food that is intrinsically dangerous to their health,” he said. The deluded president continued, “I will not allow Zambians to be turned into guinea pigs no matter the levels of hunger in the country.”

The levels of hunger were staggering. Nearly one-third of Zambia’s 10 million people faced famine. Some 14 million Africans faced starvation region-wide. Nonetheless, the president privately upbraided officials in the UN World Food Programme for distributing GM foods, which fed 125,000 people in five camps. The WFP reported some impoverished Zambians “resorted to eating little more than twigs and ash from the fire in a brown soupy concoction.” Desperate, rural villagers broke into the palace where the stockpiles were rotting and stole 2,000 bags of maize.

In response, the World Summit on Sustainable Development, held in Johannesburg in 2002, signed a “statement of solidarity” with Zambia. Charlie Kronick of Greenpeace went further, alleging the humanitarian aid constituted a sick capitalist ploy. “There is a constant drip of pressure from the U.S. government and biotech industry to make sure Africa is softened up for GM,” he theorized. “Europe is closed to them and they need a market for it.”

Others offered more than ideological support. Zimbabwe joined the boycott, preventing GM grain’s importation. Angola followed suit in 2004. Lesotho and Mozambique milled all such grain so it would not be planted and “infect” other crops.

Not all were limited to the EU and Africa. In 2004, Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez passed “possibly…the most sweeping restrictions on transgenic crops in the western hemisphere.”

At home, the opposition has been remarkably well-heeled. National Review’s Deroy Murdock found:

In 2001, the 30 leading anti-biotech groups…spent $341.4 million, including Greenpeace USA’s expenditure of $23,748,737, Environmental Defense’s $38,794,150 and the Natural Resources Defense Council’s $41,625,882. Between 1996 and 2001, this crusade’s lavish underwriters included the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation ($11,906,500), the Ford Foundation ($39,978,020) and the Pew Charitable Trusts ($130,996,900).

It also included a large portion of the organic food market. Somehow, this story of an industry trying to spike a competitor did not make MSNBC or the pages of Mother Jones.

Whatever the dangers, the prohibition of GM foods is a moral issue. As Velasio De Paolis of the Pontifical Urban University has said, it is “easy to say no to GM food if your stomach is full.” However misled he is on other issues, Bill Gates deserves credit for standing up against the Green Left on this point.

But on another, closely related, issue he has so far failed to take the right stand:

The question remains, will he do so on the issue that seems closest to his heart: the eradication of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa? In a recent speech on the topic Gates admitted, “two tools helped to bring the death rate down: One was killing the mosquitoes with DDT.” Before Rachel Carson’s crusade – based entirely on scientific theories that never panned out – DDT use had nearly eradicated malaria. Now, according to one report, “there are approximately 350 to 500 millions cases of malaria, killing close to one million people” annually. “Every day, malaria takes the lives of 2,000 children in Africa alone.” Yet instead of backing DDT use, Gates has sought to find a vaccine.

If Gates truly wants to put the well-being of Africans above political correctness, DDT is the best place to start.