Handle predicts a shakedown

Sunday, November 26th, 2017

Handle predicts a shakedown, and Arnold Kling sees it as a very plausible scenario:

That is, the capitalists will try to purchase respectability and pay off potential critics that could create real trouble for their businesses by buying ‘indulgences’ in the form of funding donations for certain prominent anti-capitalists, conspicuously and prominently towing the party line in public on the most important ideological commitments, and hiring the right number of the right people for cushy sinecures. If they show they are reliable allies instead of potential threats or rivals, and put enough money where their mouths are, and use their platforms, technological savvy, and expertise to help progressives win elections (e.g. Eric Schmidt wearing his “Staff” badge at Clinton campaign HQ), then in exchange, they will be left alone, and maybe even get some special treatment, favorable coverage, and promotion instead of demonization.

The thing about this shakedown tactic, Kling adds, is that it is like paying ransom in a kidnapping:

It relieves your problem, but it increases the chances that there will be other victims. In the case of a shakedown by activists, giving them hush money relieves our problem but it hands the group more resources to go and shake down the next corporate victim.

Handle has much more to add:

One additional thing to keep in mind is that the overall sector is not merely rich and prestigious and full of big juicy targets, but that many of the most important companies are fundamentally media outlets that have the potential to play gatekeeper roles regarding information and to use that power to influence public opinions and perceptions, or, in the alternative, to bypass the common gatekeeping that is characteristic of the legacy media institutions, or even to become rivals using a different set of standards for information filtering.

So ACORN can shake Freddie down for some hush money, and the progressive elites will support that effort as benefiting one of their coalition’s clients, maybe holding their noses a little, but otherwise whether or not it happens is not a very important issue for them. See also the “predatory loans” settlements.

But Twitter, Google, and Facebook and now the way social informational social points are broadcast, spread, and establishes, and have all kinds of way to subtle or overtly promote or suppress and generally have “jurisdiciton” over who can say what over their platforms. And, currently, none of that power is constrained by statute or the First Amendment or threat of civil liability, which means that power over information can currently be used in ways that circumvent any of the restrictions on direct state action. Amazon and Netflix and the rest are also media institutions to the extent they produce their own content and decide which content to host or not, or in the case of Amazon which services or pages to host. And of course many of these companies recycle and repackage and deliver the content of legacy media institutions, and so can have an enormous effect not just on that industry but to shape the ideological window of accessed messages. Also, Bezos bought the Washington Post for good reason.

If everybody is having their worldview and daily passions mediated by a few private internet companies which are also fundamentally media institutions that “curate” access to all the other media instutions, then it is absolutely clear to progressive elites that these companies pose both the greatest potential threat and greatest potential opportunity in a generation to propagate their views, agenda, and aims. That makes it absolutely essential they be strongly encouraged to get fully on board with the program as soon as possible, and be made to stay on board.

Occasionally, one is going to have to hang (or threaten to hang) an admiral or two pour encourages les autres and to let everybody know who’s boss and who can bring down whom if one strays too far from the path. The obvious thing that makes every technological company liable for demonization and even legal destruction is discriminatory employment practices. Those companies really can’t do anything about that sword of Damocles hanging over their head, and so they will be playing ball to whatever extent necessary to keep it in the air, hoping they will earn the grace of some prosecutorial discretion by so doing.

Now, this permanent prosecutorial threat is a terrific way to launder state action and have ideological regulation enforcement outsourced to private entities that aren’t constrained by the First Amendment or other rules. If non-progressives don’t grasp the overall situation soon and do something about it, then their futures will not be very bright.


  1. Wang Wei Lin says:

    Google, Facebook, and Twitter have become a front for the progressive state. While free of Constitutional restrictions as fronts, they are on the leash of the progressive state. Look how Google acquiesces to Communist China. Since the management of these companies have no moral core, they will gladly obey the tug on the leash.

  2. Guy says:

    “towing the party line…”

    Petty and off topic (and late)? Absolutely. Still irritating.

  3. William Newman says:

    And towing is something that’s commonly done with line-in-the-sense-of-rope, so I can see how the confusion would be inviting. Similarly “rein” is a very unusual word these days, and “free rein” is essentially unused these days except in one expression which people who hear it fairly naturally guess from context that is spelled “free reign”. Those are errors, but at least they’re not the kind of glaring unforced silly error that we see in e.g. using “literally” when it makes no sense (typically when “figuratively” would make some sense).

    Perhaps the key to seldom making errors on obscure homonyms like that is to learn from books instead of lectures, which allows you to divert your error budget from homonyms to pronunciation errors for obscure words that you have read several times but never heard spoken.

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