Hi, it's been a while.
I don't know if anyone was expecting my take on the 2020 US Presidential election. I mean, I called it. I won a few hundred bucks betting that Trump would lose. But of course I'm not happy about it.
I mean, I'm personally cool. Quite cool really. US global power is coming down, and fast. Pressure on China will soften up (not disappear), Europe is starting to show some balls in asserting some independent foreign policy. See the EU-China Investment Treaty, and Germany actually going on with Nord Stream 2.
Most importantly Trump's loss has been a massive, hilarious steal, a farcical fraud where they blatantly took two weeks to slowly cook up the election results and scam 75 million Americans. The whole thing was the epitome of "not even funny". To think that most of the world today is ruled by such a dumb, ham-fisted third world country is infuriating.
I mean, people, please. Elections in civilized countries take 24 hours, tops. Japan is a big country with 125 million people. It's also fairly low tech, and American political influence means that their government is handicapped in many ways. There are no ID cards, for example. That's part of why Japan has been by far the country worst affected by Corona in East Asia. Well, election results in Japan come down the same day or at most the next morning. In Europe they usually confirm in 4 hours after poll closing. The closest thing I can think of is the Thailand elections in 2019 where the junta took a whole 2 months to cook their elections resulting in … the junta staying in power. Of course.
From the perspective of accelerating the demise of the American empire, the election results were almost ideal. Trump lost, so America will be weaker, and Trump lost in such a disagraceful way that America will be weaker still, as infighting diverts much of its strength, and the few people with both a 3-digit IQ and some sense of decency suddenly realize that the state that governs them is but a third world kleptocracy.
So yeah, that's cool, but Trump's defeat also signals that decay has already set in, and it's quite bad already. And even though a Gaul or Dacian patriot might have enjoyed the sight of the Roman Empire falling into constant civil war in the 3rd century, odds were the Gothic invasions that followed ended up with his daughters being raped and his head severed and put on some German's lance. So yeah, not funny.
Not that I expect actual barbarian invasions or anything: even Islam in 2021 is fake and gay. But I do have many American friends: about half the readers of this blog are American. They are all good people and I feel for them. They lost their country in the most disgraceful way, and they're in for a world of pain in short notice.
See the January 6th incident at the Capitol and it's aftermath. Let's first not discuss why it was allowed to happen; whether it was a set up by the government, or just a random event allowed by an incompetent police force. To this day nobody knows why the Reichstag was set on fire in 1933. It doesn't matter, the aftermath was what it was: the Nazis suspended the constitution and installed themselves as a single-party regime.
And that's what's happening in America too: Massive purge on Twitter and Facebook, including the still legal president Donald Trump (!). Trump who is most likely kidnapped. Remember when people were outraged about people "disappearing" in China? Well in Woke America they disappear the fucking president. Why? Because they can.
Twitter is purging, well I'll go to Parler. No chance. Parler has been banned from both (!) Apple and Google's mobile app stores, and they can't even keep the web app online as Amazon Web Services has also kicked them out. And that's not about the Daily Stormer which can be argued is quite extreme. Parler's audience is mostly pretty lame boomer rightwingers. MAGA hats. Well those aren't allowed to gather online anymore.
Now everyone is running around thinking on what to do next. Obviously mainstream platforms aren't hospitable anymore. I've been telling people for a while now to get on Urbit. It's perfectly functional and future-proof. My group address on Urbit is ~docteg-mothep/bloody-shovel. Go to urbit.org for details on how to install the app. The thing with Urbit is that it's not a public forum. It's more of a fancy decentralized Telegram, an instant messaging application with some extra features, but there's only chat groups, more or less private; there's no central node. Well, some people just want Twitter. They want that public forum. They want the central node. They want to fight.
tl;dr: don't fight. You're not gonna win. This links with an older and more important debate. The debate on passivism, which Moldbug introduced long ago, most famously on his commentary on Anders Breivik's incident.
Moldbug's idea is that the Left is the ruling class for a reason; that it reached power through insurrection, and is memetically invulnerable to subversion itself. In fact it's anti-fragile: it grows stronger the more you oppose it. The Left has this never-ending myth of being the underdog, the party of the downtrodden masses who fought against oppression by the evil old white man. So the more that you, old white man (doesn't matter if you're not old or that white, they'll make something up) oppose them, the more it validates their narrative, so the stronger they become, and the more resolute in their backlash.
Let's let aside the actual mechanics of this. How exactly "narrative validation" results in more effective crackdowns is indeed an interesting topic to explore. Let's just assume Moldbug is right, and I think he largely is. Right wing activism really isn't working, and our standing today is incomparably weaker than it was 10 years ago. Whether this was the result of mere Cthulhu swimming left as a law of physics, or the contingent result of Trumpism and other right-wing populism in the world is inmaterial. The shit is getting bad. We're in serious danger of being silenced, fired from our jobs if not outright arrested and jailed just for dissenting with leftist ideology. This is a fact.
So what about Twitter? A lot of people have been making the analogy that US Big Tech censorship is already tantamount to that of China. Well I know something about China so let me share a very relevant experience in Chinese social media during the past decade.
You see, China used to have something quite similar to Twitter. It started as an outright clone, later evolved on its own, quite interesting way. I'm talking of Weibo 微博
Weibo started in 2009, and a year later already had 100 million users. Chinese people are very online, and they very much enjoy the sort of casual, easy dopamine release that comes from microblogging. The Japanese are also avid Twitter users, incidentally, while they never had much of a blogosphere. The language also helps: 150 Chinese characters amount to about triple that in English, so you can say quite a lot.
As usual in China, there's little regulations, and little enforcement of existing regulations, so once Weibo came in it was very free and open. It was the first national forum of public opinion that the Chinese had ever seen. It became huge almost instantly, and of course the most popular part of it was political debate. Everyone and their mother had become a political pundit on Weibo, rather amusingly forgetting they lived in a Communist single-party state. For a couple years people shat on their mayors, their governors, this or that politician, this or that policy, or even the Communist party itself. The American Embassy joined the party with their famous Air Quality reports (at the time air quality in China was really awful and the government refused to release figures), which were promptly retweeted by 300 million boomers with added comments on how much better America was at everything.
Well that situation couldn't last. China was at the moment undergoing a rather big leadership transition (Xi Jinping assumed power in late 2012), so the massive agitation going on at Weibo went on undeterred. But governments, certainly the Chinese government, might be slow, but once they get moving they're unrelenting. In 2013 China decided to crack down on free speech on Weibo, and crack down they did. Famous accounts which had been too edgy politically got visits by police, if not outright arrested. Some were jailed, others had to make public proclamations of loyalty to Socialist values. We're talking of people with tens of millions of followers; China is a big country.
Once the big guys were dealt with pour encourager les autres, the masses were targeted with the beginning stages of what has now become a very sophisticated apparatus of keyword censorship. In Weibo today you just can't search what you want. If there's a rumor that Xi Jinping has farted this morning, the word "fart", "frt", "f4rt" and all permutations that might come up are all promptly banned from searching at any sizable Chinese social media. That's step 1: stop the thing from going viral. Step 2 is deleting already existing mentions of the fart. The thing. That takes time but they have an army of censors (which Weibo was forced to hire at their expense) to take care of that. Step 3 is banning you from tweeting about the fart, but that's a last resort, as it's the most annoying and harder to implement.
Soon enough Weibo just became unusable. Most people up there were on the platform precisely to shitpost on politics, to be edgy, to shit on the government, to be a viral pundit, retweeted by 50 million people at least once in their lives. The new regulations were so oppressive that most people just left. Not to some other similar platform. There had been some at the beginning but they all lagged off and eventually were killed, and the government wouldn't allow a new microblogging site. When Weibo was censored people just left, period. They abandoned the public square. They mostly retreated to WeChat, the national instant messaging app. Some didn't get the message and started being edgy on their public statuses, but most just retreated to private chat groups, where they could be safe from the prying eyes of government. The public square was killed, on purpose, and it never recovered.
Well, not quite. After politics were banned from Weibo, only the most inane stuff was allowed to remain. Mostly celebrities and PR accounts, and the odd clueless boomer. But it's been years now, so plenty of people who need an easy internet exposure but have no intention to talk politics are still on Weibo, many producing quite decent content. A lot of aspiring intellectuals have also learned what is politically correct and what not and have managed to survive. Plenty still get banned mercilessly after some innocent mishap though, as Carl Zha (by all indications a paid propagandist for the government) who lost 10 million followers after dissing some Chinese fighter jet or something. But the platform is lively again, if in a more boring, sanitized way. Half a generation of youngsters have grown up without knowing what legal shitposting was like, and so just don't do it. You can't miss what you've never known.
Now, America isn't China, so there's no guarantee that the situation will evolve in the same way. Maybe Parler or Gab manage to survive the multi-pronged assault by every single part of the tech stack, and they thrive as a hotbed of right wing activism. I don't find it very likely though. I see Twitter becoming a sanitized platform where only government-approved speech is allowed, and most people will be fine with that. I'll stay on Twitter if only to follow a bunch of academic linguists who I find interesting. Also Japanese Twitter has its charm, as Twitter censorship is much, much weaker in exotic languages.
So to recap: I think we should do what the Chinese did, which is retreat to private groups. So go to Telegram, to Urbit if you're smart. I'd avoid Slack but you can run a private Mattermost server which is very similar and actually private. There's a million things you can do. You can also hang out here: this blog is safe and will stay up as long as I can afford it. I expect I'll have more time to write long form this year as Twitter shitposting gets outlawed.
On private groups: so yeah, all the agitation in China retreated to private groups, but note that China only allows one mobile IM application: WeChat. Well there's a few others but people are sheep and everyone is on WeChat. WeChat is not even encrypted or anything, the government can get access to your logs fairly easily. Of course it's not like your local police gets a transcript every night of what you're telling your mistress, there's a long process with a lot of layers to go through, but it can and does happen. So you can imagine that private groups engaging in actually subversive stuff will get in trouble sooner or later.
Well, they did. Since 2019 administrators of WeChat chat groups are legally liable for all speech uttered inside the group. Of course this was framed about drug dealing, cyber-bullying and other illegal behavior; but "spreading disinformation" is illegal behavior too, so you can imagine the chilling effect that had on chat groups in China.
Thankfully in the West we have more of a choice, and it's very unlikely that we ever get to a situation in which even our private chat groups are being surveilled for, say, climate change denial or transphobia. Gotta watch out though, the Left is most certainly going to try. They're preparing a "domestic terrorism" law in the US which promises to be quite Orwellian, and WhatsApp is integrating with Facebook soon. Do yourself a favor and get that shit out of your phone.
So to recap: stay safe. See you on urbit, and expect a big renewal of the blog soon.