For those who don’t know, Alex Jones is the popular talk-show host of Infowars: an often bat-shit crazy but at times entertaining news network, that has a massive following online. Jones’ ouvre of journalism involves suggesting the Pope is a pedophile, and that chemicals in the water are turning frogs gay.
Don’t believe us? Here’s a quick segment:
Yesterday, in what appeared to be a coordinated move, Facebook, Yotube and Apple banned Infowars from their platforms. The usual cycle of partisan fury has broken out across all online social media networks. Infowars have published their account of events here.
Beyond the outrage on the right and celebration on the left, an unusual sense of discomfort seems to be growing across the digital divide.
The co-ordinated nature of the ‘purge’ has drawn scrutiny. Facebook, Apple and Youtube are three separate tech-giants. Yet all three companies appear to have 'de-platformed' Infowars at the same time.
Some of these arguments are appropriate and valid. Yet should journalists in mainstream media, or Silicon Valley titans, decide who should be exommunciated from the Internet?
The same media that have attacked Infowars, have labelled individuals such as PewdiePie (a gamer), Jordan Peterson (a philosopher) and Tim Pool (a multimedia journalist) as either ‘alt-right,’ dangerous or undesirable. If Silicon Valley can ban crank networks such as Infowars today, there is nothing to stop them banning Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, a Malcolm X or a Donald Trump, in the future.
There is also the competition element. The strange success of InfoWars as a publishing entity highlights just how badly traditional media is performing.
What just happened to Infowars is bigger than any single publisher - and bigger than Alex Jones. It’s really about what sort of internet and what sort of world, you want to live in. A free world of ridiculous Gay frogs and crank conspiracy theories? One in which you get to make up your own mind? Or a controlled world of civic, reputable and artificially approved dialectic?
Being based in the Middle East, we sympathise with the former. Which is why we published this headline, as a homage to the 'crazy-man' of Online News. In both mythology and anthropology, the crazy individual can have their uses.
That Infowars can be taken seriously, and regarded as a threat by Silicon Valley and Big Media, may also be a symptom of the times. In a healthy body politic, Infowars would never have such a receptive audience. The very success of the Infowars brand, is a sign of just how cynical people have become. 'Disappearing' Infowars on three key platforms will not end this cynicism: it may inadvertently increase it.
Inevitably, calls for government regulation of Silicon Valley will follow. Until a disintermediated network for social media is created - controlled by no single institution or organization - the tendency to ‘tweak the algorithm’ in favor of the powerful, will never go away.
For now, Jones' continues to broadcast via the Web and other channels such as Twitter. Oh, and as far as we know, the Sith have not overtaken Silicon Valley. At least not yet…