When I helped create PayPal in 1999, it was in furtherance of a revolutionary idea. No longer would ordinary people be dependent on large financial institutions to start a business.
Our democratized payment system caught fire and grew exponentially with millions of users who appreciated its ease and simplicity. Traditional banks were too slow and bureaucratic to adapt. Instead, the revolution we spawned two decades ago inspired new startups like Ally, Chime, Square, and Stripe, which have further expanded participation in the financial system.
But now PayPal is turning its back on its original mission. It is now leading the charge to restrict participation by those it deems unworthy.
First, in January, PayPal blocked a Christian crowdfunding site that raised money to bring demonstrators to Washington on January 6. Then, in February, PayPal announced that it was working with the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to ban users from the platform. This week the company announced it is partnering with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to investigate and shut down accounts that the ADL considers too extreme.
Why is this a problem? Isn’t it perfectly reasonable to make sure bad actors don’t fund hate through these platforms?
I’m a Jewish American who has special appreciation for the ADL’s historical role as a watchdog against antisemitism. Whether it came from the Aryan Nation or the Nation of Islam, the ADL did admirable work in combatting it. But the ADL has changed. Like the Southern Poverty Law Center, the organization has broadened its portfolio from antisemitism (or racism in the SPLC’s case) to cover what it considers to be “hate” or “extremism” in general.
The new ADL opposed the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh because of his “hostility to reproductive freedom.” It partnered with such beacons of philosemitism as Al Sharpton (you read that right) to boycott Facebook for allowing “hate speech on their platform.” It opposed Trump’s executive order banning Critical Race Theory in federal government training. And it called for Fox News to fire Tucker Carlson for his comments on immigration.
Whether one agrees with any of these positions is beside the point. The point is that the ADL, like the SPLC, now weighs in on issues far beyond its original purview.
Related: Target Banning Books from Website.
Given the endless series of political controversies Woke Capital keeps throwing up, it is understandable if most people have forgotten about the entire pitiful episode. Here is a quick refresher: Back in November 2020, Target.com had among its catalog two books that upset Twitter activists: Irreversible Damage by Abigail Shrier, and The End of Gender by Dr. Debra Soh. A Twitter user complained that books they did not like were being sold, prompting a rapid response from Target. Both books were removed. Naturally, this produced a political backlash, so Target reversed the ban the next day.
That appeared to be the end of the story; yes, an embarrassment for a major corporation, and a bad omen for the direction of corporate America, but the books were again available on Target’s website. Until they weren’t. Prior to attending Target’s annual meeting on June 9, we dug into the controversy again and found that Abigail Shrier had tweeted about her book being unavailable on Target.com — months after the ban was supposedly reversed.
We checked ourselves, and both Irreversible Damage and The End of Gender are once again unavailable on Target’s website. We asked a Target Investor Relations representative why these books were apparently banned again. The answer? Despite their rapid reversal last fall in the face of widespread outrage, Target quietly introduced a new set of “guidelines” that determines what books they will let people read. Even though this is clearly a matter of controversy and interest to shareholders and the general public, Target introduced its new policy without any apparent press notifications. (Target’s Investor Relations Department declined to answer when we asked if this policy had been formally announced before the annual general meeting.) Typically, corporate prostrations to the trinity of “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” are accompanied by enthusiastic fanfare in the form of advertisements and tweets and infographics. Not so with Target. Their new book-banning policy was instead hidden away in an obscure corner of their corporate website; technically public, yet conspicuously unpublicized.
As Ray Bradbury wrote in the introduction to the 50th anniversary edition of Fahrenheit 451, “There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running around with lit matches.”
Speaking of which, flashback: Antifa Forces Portland Book Store to Stop Selling Andy Ngo’s Book About Antifa.