Since Julian Assange was gagged earlier this year, state-sponsored censorship has attempted to snuff out the light of independent and alternative media voices from across the political spectrum. In the first half of August, this process appeared to escalate drastically. As Disobedient Media reported earlier this week, outlets from Infowars to Telesur have faced the wrath of technocratic social media giants.
The escalation of establishment censorship has been stunning. Just last week, former State Department official and whistleblower Peter Van Buren’s Twitter account was suspended under dubious circumstances. Consortium News wrote of his suspension:
“This week Van Buren had his Twitter account permanently shut down and seven years of his Tweets wiped from the record. Why? Because he challenged mainstream journalists who contested a Tweet from journalist Glenn Greenwald that mainstream reporters support America’s wars and help bring them about. One corporate journalist decided to silence Van Buren by complaining to Twitter, which, within two days, and with no due process, obliged.”
Yesterday, independent journalist Caitlin Johnstone’s Twitter account was suspended before being reinstated within hours after a massive public backlash.
As Caitlin wrote after her suspension was lifted, a wave of lesser-known accounts, both conservative and left-leaning, have also been suspended in what has become a massive social media purge of dissenting thought. Johnstone commented on Twitter’s decision to reactivate her account, characterizing it as a tacit admission of a wrongful decision. This comment, in turn, appears to have led to a twelve-hour lockout.
The fact that @Twitter has tacitly admitted to wrongfully suspending my account makes me think about all the other accounts who get suspended that don't have a large following to make a bunch of noise and object when they are silenced. Glad to be back, but this isn't good enough. t.co/LLvFjt9gDw
— Caitlin Johnstone (@caitoz) August 18, 2018
In her article discussing the incident, Johnstone noted that the tweets and articles at issue were consistent with previous articles and sentiments which, though controversial, had not resulted in the termination of her account. She wrote:
“Interestingly, I’ve been saying this exact same thing repeatedly for over a year. An article I wrote about McCain in July of last year titled “Please Just Fucking Die Already” received a far more widespread backlash than this one, with articles published about it by outlets like CNN, USA Today and the Washington Post. Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar talked about me on The View. I was never once suspended or warned by any social media outlet or blogging platform at that time; it was treated as the political speech about a public figure that it clearly and undeniably is. The only thing that has changed since that time is the climate of internet censorship.”
Disobedient Media spoke with Caitlin Johnstone, asking her what she believes motivated the marked escalation in censorship over the last few weeks. She told us:
“The Silicon Valley billionaires which coordinate extensively with the US government are plainly a part of the ruling alliance between plutocrats and secretive government agencies. That alliance, which some refer to as the deep state, depends on its ability to propagandize us effectively to manufacture support for the plutocratic agendas of war, exploitation, ecocide and domestic espionage. It needs to control the media in order to manufacture consent for those agendas (which no ordinary person would otherwise support), and the internet has given rise to media platforms which are much harder to control than the mainstream media.
So they’ve been working to quickly manufacture consent for internet censorship, beginning with widely reviled soft targets like Alex Jones and manipulating the conversation to a debate about *who* should be censored instead of a debate about whether a handful of plutocrats should be permitted to censor the dominant platforms that society uses to communicate at all. From there, their goal is plainly to squeaze all dissenting voices as far away from large audiences as possible, one by one.
But they work to manufacture consent because they need that consent. If they don’t have it, the mask of freedom and democracy falls away, people lose trust in the propaganda machine, and the media psyops upon which the ruling power establishment is built become impossible. People refused to give their consent to my banning, speaking out with one voice across all political factions, I was reinstated, and someone at Twitter was probably reprimanded. Even people who don’t like me much spoke up, because they know they’re next in line. They found a huge collective “NO” to this, and they used it, and it worked. And I find that very encouraging.”
Accounts that rapidly challenged Johnstone’s suspension included but were not limited to Matt Taibbi, Jimmy Dore, Max Blumenthal, Glenn Greenwald, Julian Assange, (whose account is currently run by his campaign) and many others, including this writer.
To provide additional context on Caitlin’s suspension, we return to the infamous Shareblue and events earlier this month, when Disobedient Media and others who have reported on the fallacies surrounding Guccifer 2.0 became the subjects of a disingenuous smear piece penned by journalist Duncan Campbell.
That attack was rapidly amplified by none other than Caroline Orr, a writer and Editor of Shareblue, who spread the hit piece to her hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers, many of whom appear to be part of a massive botnet.
British IT manager & ex-hacker Tim Leonard has been ID'd as the person behind a massive pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign who helped manufacture "evidence" to deny that Russia carried out the DNC hack.
If you're familiar w/ "Adam Carter," this is him. t.co/sP3rbnTon4
— Caroline O. (@RVAwonk) July 31, 2018
Similarly, Orr posted twitter threads lambasting Johnstone for her stance on John McCain, after which Johnstone documented a flood of attacks from obviously bot-net accounts. Orr’s direct involvement in instigating Johnstone’s suspension and in amplifying the doxx of Adam Carter was separated by fewer than two weeks.
What does an Assad apologist look like?
It looks like someone who would say John McCain deserves to die for his role in promoting US wars… but that Assad is just a family man who definitely hasn't slaughtered civilians. pic.twitter.com/ZuNq90nve0
— Caroline O. (@RVAwonk) August 17, 2018
In dispensing with the use of proxies, Orr provided a direct link between the attacks on Adam Carter, Caitlin Johnstone, and Shareblue. This raises a core question: why did a Shareblue Editor get her hands dirty in not one, but two occasions in such a brief span of time?
In the wake of the publication of Campbell’s smear, Disobedient Media reminded readers that Shareblue is closely tied to Hillary Clinton, with The New York Times affectionately dubbing it ‘Hillary Clinton’s Outrage Machine’ in 2016. The organization is owned by Clintonite David Brock, who was reported to have run a multi-million dollar troll army in favor of Clinton in the lead-up to the 2016 US Presidential election. The New York Times explained:
“The Brock network includes his Media Matters for America watchdog website; two pro-Clinton “super PACs,” the opposition research outfit American Bridge and the pro-Clinton fact-checking and reporter-spamming operation Correct the Record; and Shareblue, which filled the need, Mr. Brock said, for a progressive outlet that spoke directly to the grass roots and which “was avidly and unabashedly pro-Hillary.”
“… Beyond creating a boisterous echo chamber, the real metric of success for Shareblue, which Mr. Brock said has a budget of $2 million supplied by his political donors, is getting Mrs. Clinton elected. Mr. Daou’s role is deploying a band of committed, outraged followers to harangue Mrs. Clinton’s opponents.”
The Los Angeles Times described David Brock’s other pro-Clinton Super PAC, Correct the Record:
“In effect, the effort aims to spend a large sum of money to increase the amount of trolling that already exists online…a paid army of “former reporters, bloggers, public affairs specialists, designers” and others to produce online counterattacks.”
The above descriptions of Correct The Record’s paid troll armies and Shareblue’s attempts at narrative control fit the description of the botnet that Johnstone described mass-reporting her at the instigation of Caroline Orr, who Tweeted:
“What does an Assad apologist look like? It looks like someone who would say John McCain deserves to die for his role in promoting US wars… but that Assad is just a family man who definitely hasn’t slaughtered civilians.”
Some of the botnet Tweets that followed Orr’s attack, cited by Johnstone in her article on her suspension, are included here to visually illustrate the reality that this was a coordinated bot army at work.
The fact that the multitude of accounts attacking Caitlin lacked even ten followers, while also using an identical, copy-pasted message is a textbook example of botnet activity. In other words, these were not human beings reporting Johnstone: this was a mindless hive literally repeating the establishment line.
Such an occurrence is stunning, because it shows us in very plain terms that a botnet was deployed to silence an anti-war voice. These were not human beings used to mass-report and suspend Caitlin – it was a soulless digital faux-human army wielded by a the Editor of a Clintonite superPAC, the existence of which has been documented by numerous establishment media outlets and independent researchers.
In real time, we witnessed the establishment desperate attempt retake narrative control on social media, an aim which Caitlin often reminds us is at the core of the plutocratic control over public discourse and therefore control over policy and society.
It is also worth reiterating that, just as Russian election meddling allegations were a stale projecting of the DNC’s very real rigging of the 2016 Democratic Primary race, the use of botnets to wield political influence has been projected onto Russia and conservatives to deflect from their use by Clinton sponsors. In fact, just prior to her suspension, Johnstone wrote regarding this manipulative tactic, stating:
“Manipulators particularly use projection as a tactic to hide what they’re doing to you in plain sight. A manipulator can have you chasing your tail by simply suggesting that you or others are doing what you are seeing them doing with your own eyes. DNC caught rigging the election? Oh no, it was actually Russia who rigged the election by catching the DNC rigging the election. See what I did there? It’s so dumb, but it works.”
This author previously wrote that the plutocrat’s intense abhorrence of Twitter botnets could be read in Jungian terms as the subconscious projection of the establishment’s shadow. That is, the more the elite protest about the use of bots on social media, the more they are likely to use such technologies and similar tools to attack the very human public that they continuously misidentify as inhuman bots.
One explanation for recent events is that, now that the unelected power structures has gagged Assange, his supporters and dissent in general are next in line to bear the brunt of the weight Assange carried singularly on his back for all these years, while trapped in a tiny embassy with a broken tooth and a frozen shoulder.
The truth is, we cannot shed light at this time on the specific motivations behind the steep escalation of censorship we’ve seen in the first half of August. However, we can very much theorize that it represents the next falling domino after the silencing of Julian Assange. What we can state with certainty is that it represents a real example of information warfare. Whether we – writers and readers alike – recognize that we are on one side of a war is irrelevant. The establishment has not just taken up arms, it is deploying them against all of us.