Thursday, June 13, 2019

Rules

     One of the funniest scenes in the original Ghostbusters movie comes when Sigourney Weaver’s character attempts to seduce Bill Murray’s character, and he replies “I make it a rule never to get involved with possessed people.” Weaver starts petting him, and he continues, “Actually, it's more of a guideline than a rule.”

     If you’re a typical moviegoer, you laugh. If you’re a permanently constipated hypercritical observer of linguistic patterns and modes of implied communication – i.e., if you're your humble Curmudgeon – you laugh, but you jot down the incident for use in a future essay about semantic dissimulation.

     Yes, I really am that monomaniacal about words and how they’re used to convey meanings or conceal them. And today you, Gentle Reader, are the beneficiary. Don’t you feel lucky?


     Every word in the English language has an exact meaning, and no two of them have the same one. “Rule” and “guideline,” in the above segment, are today’s focus. Obviously they refer to different standards for behavior. A rule has hard boundaries: there are no thou shalt nots that can become well, okay, just this once. A guideline allows for unspecified exemptions, awarded according to someone’s personal judgment.

     A rule’s boundaries are only real if they’re enforced by prescribed penalties. If there’s no penalty, then there’s no rule. He who claims to abide by a rule yet allows himself to violate it without suffering a penalty – indeed, without even a conscience pang – is lying to you. He might have a guideline; he certainly doesn’t have a rule.

     (I once became incredibly incensed at a Catholic priest who characterized the Ten Commandments as “guidelines.” I told his pastor about it. He never did it again as far as I’m aware. Think about what his characterization would imply before passing on.)

     Just recently, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said, in public, that YouTube, a Google subsidiary, would start restricting content that doesn’t violate its published standards. Clearly, those standards aren’t rules. Consider, by analogy, a traffic cop who tickets a driver for driving “too fast” even if his radar gun reports the poor guy as having been within the speed limit, and you’ll get the idea.

     The tech giants are increasingly revealing themselves as bound by no rules. They certainly don’t regard themselves as bound by the ones they promulgate for the rest of us. What they like, they’ll carry, promote, monetize, and so forth; what they don’t, they’ll forbid, demonetize, or “shadow ban” — and there is no appeal from their whims.

     This is at the heart of the arguments over whether the federal government should impose regulations – real, enforceable rules – on Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other companies that, up to this point, have been allowed to posture as open to all, tolerant of content that falls within openly promulgated standards, and are therefore immune to laws and regulations that pertain to “publishers” who exercise the privilege of censorship.


     The case of greatest immediate interest involves one of the most completely benevolent yet widely despised organizations in the U.S.: Lila Rose’s pro-life group Live Action. Recently, for reasons that have yet to become perfectly clear, Pinterest classified Live Action’s outreach materials as pornography and banned them. James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas delved into this affair:

     YouTube immediately banned the video above. As O’Keefe himself put it, apparently investigative journalism doesn’t meet YouTube’s community standards. (The video has since been re-uploaded to YouTube by a third party.)

     What does this signify? Does YouTube have rules, guidelines, or merely personal whims exercised as it pleases its insiders to do so? Should YouTube continue to get away with such behavior in contravention of its supposed standards, what message will that deliver to the rest of Big Tech, most particularly the “social media” companies that constitute the contemporary “town square?”

     Alternative, freedom-of-expression-oriented services such as Gab and BitChute should beware. They’ve been targeted for takedown by the forces behind the practices at Google, YouTube, Pinterest, et alii, precisely because they don’t censor or suppress content their owners and administrators disagree with. If the Left-colonized behemoths of Big Tech can’t break them, the Left’s next step will be to try to infiltrate them and colonize them, just as they’ve infiltrated, colonized, and conquered Google and the rest from within. Remember Robert Conquest’s Second Law of Politics. This process is founded on the essentials of human motivation: what we prize most, we are most willing to labor for. Like the Peter Principle, Parkinson’s Laws, and The Law of Unintended Consequences, it never sleeps.

     Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom – and freedom of expression is the first freedom of all.

5 comments:

Pascal said...

Nicely done and timely.

This "the Left’s next step will be to try to infiltrate them and colonize them," is entirely how the Progressive movement (using indoctrinated Leftists as their witting and/or unwitting agents) has infiltrated ALL Western institutions, so that none functions as it originators intended. Termites of the human kind: leave the fa├žade, perhaps with a few holes showing, but completely hollowed out.

Haven't you an essay from the past that exposed it?

Pascal said...

I just checked, and I've provided example of those termites 5 times: https://pascalfervor.blogspot.com/search?q=termites

The first was in 2009 "The Elimination of Man," and the last in 2012 "The Tragedy of World Reaction to Evil." But none of those actually laid out how they acquire their positions and cause their damage as you would have done.

Ron Olson said...

Bravo Fran! I heard about this but you made it clear. Thanks for all your hard work and hope you never get too tired to continue.

SiGraybeard said...

The Project Veritas video has been dropped by YouTube again, saying "This video is no longer available due to a privacy claim by a third party" One could read this as blaming the victim (Project Veritas) saying they're the legitimate owners, without actually saying that.

A deeper search to check if it's on Project Veritas' channel doesn't show this video anywhere.

Joseph said...

"If the Left-colonized behemoths of Big Tech can’t break them, the Left’s next step will be to try to infiltrate them and colonize them, just as they’ve infiltrated, colonized, and conquered Google and the rest from within."

If governments try regulating the social media, you can expect them to eventually guarantee the "right" to infiltrate.

The best solution might be Mastodon, designed to ensure it could not be taken over, although pieces of it might be.