The Googleplex, Google’s original and largest corporate campus, 2006/Coolcaesar
Crisis pregnancy providers have complained that “Under pressure from pro-abortion rights group NARAL, Google has banned ads from crisis pregnancy groups who were bidding on keywords like ‘abortion clinic’ in order to offer an alternative.” The abortion providers say, however, that the ads “include text indicating that the centers provide abortions.”
Two recent incidents are worth considering in relation to this dispute:
First, some readers may remember the horrifying saga of Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia abortionist, largely ignored by American media. As Canadian civil rights lawyer Ezra Levant explains,
Gosnell killed a six-pound baby boy, born at 30 weeks. Healthy, premature babies are regularly delivered a month and a half younger than that. He killed an even older baby, for an extra $1,000. He would deliver the babies, and then cut their spinal cord — a procedure he and his staff called “snipping.”
It was murder, over and over again, over decades. Police found a house of horrors in his office — even dead babies stacked in the freezer.
Legacy media coverage reflected the view that readers should not even want to know much about Gosnell.
As Levant puts it,
That sort of horror story would sell. Too well. Because it would undermine the official narrative that abortions can’t be criticized, that late-term abortions are a myth, that it’s all safe and sound and medically approved and happy. That happy left-wing pro-abortion narrative would be damaged by reports of a multimillionaire abortionist, getting rich off murder, operating in the system for decades.
But what difference does new media make?
Well, what happened when Phelim McAleer, Ann McElhinney and Magda Segieda tried to make the film Big Hollywood wouldn’t make? Not only about what the man had done but about the forces that enabled him to do it safely for many years?
The filmmakers were going to use Kickstarter until they received an e-mail saying their project might upset “community guidelines.”
Kickstarter had previously helped producers Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer raise over $200,000 for their documentary FrackNation. But the filmmakers say the crowdfunding company slow-walked their project once it learned about the topic. McAleer and McElhinney say Kickstarter did not respond to multiple e-mails for several days and finally responded with a request that the project video be amended before it could go live.
“We ask that the phrase ‘1000s of babies stabbed to death’ and similar language be modified or removed from the project,” a Kickstarter representative identified as George said in a March 27 e-mail to Ann and Phelim Media. “We understand your convictions and the horror of this person’s crimes, however we are a broad website used by millions of people. Our Community Guidelines outline that we encourage and enforce a culture of respect and consideration, and we ask that that language specifically be modified for those reasons.“
New media community guidelines forbid upsetting sensitivities; the fact that a description of an event might be correct is irrelevant under the circumstances.
As fellow Canadian blogger Kathy Shaidle puts it, Facebook, YouTube, Blogger, and other new media are the landlords of social media. And conveniently they are also in charge of deciding what tenants’ rights should be. The McAleer team ended up having to try to raise money to make the film themselves.
Shaidle cautions that people who espouse any sort of traditional values should not rely on new media but build their own networks:
The “alternative media” that thousands of conservative and libertarian bloggers and videographers are so proud of has been built on somebody else’s property. We can be evicted, without warning or reason, at any time.
Leaving aside the dubious nature of most of these “popular uprisings,” remember that these tools belong to powerful people who are not like us and who don’t like us. More.
New media’s champions were often educated at the sort of American universities about which Greg Lukianoff (who is incidentally a liberal atheist) writes in Unlearning Liberty, universities that have “First Amendment” zones.
SUch a concept betrays the American Constitution. The First (constitutional) Amendment was,
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.
The Amendment was always intended to apply to an area known as the United States and its territories and possessions, not to a shed or patio somewhere therein. Significantly, the most routine violators of its spirit today are universities. In other words, the shape of things to come.
The second item of interest, which dropped into the box today, is a post by an engineer explaining why he could but would not work for Google:
Google says “Don’t do evil” on one hand, but on another hand Google also reads the contents of its users’ emails and tracks their behavior on the Internet – two things which I would characterise as directly evil. Google reads the emails that my mother is writing and tracking what my friends are buying. For advertisement purposes, Google says, and we only discovered the true consequences later when Edward Snowden blew the whistle.
It turned out that Google had been helping American and European intelligence agencies illegally wiretap their own citizens. “We tried to fight back, we tried not to be evil!”, Google responds, but we never saw Google shut down its service in protest like Lavabit. We never saw Google fight back for the best of its users, which consists of a great majority of the world’s population. We saw Google justify its data inspection by saying that it was great for advertisement models.
Trust me, I love the Internet. But it was inevitable that so powerful a tool for reporting—or suppressing—information would be commandeered by governments, especially those anxious to form a monolithic opinion among their citizens. On some issues, like gay marriage, abortion, and euthanasia, most Western governments will try to enforce silent compliance. The Internet, built as I noted earlier by good engineers rather than great thinkers, is the perfect tool for their ambitions. Google can make you cease to exist, as far as your fellow citizens are concerned, and the rest is silence.
I’m optimistic only this far: If the Gosnell movie can get made without the filmmakers being arrested, perhaps even on the basis of information apparently supplied by a rogue government agency to the filmmaker’s opposition, those people who want to know what happened will still have a chance. It is a chance that the dying traditional media cannot and will not offer. Those media have found public relations for mindbending government easier and safer in these times.
Denyse O’Leary is a Canadian journalist, author, and blogger.