Praise be to Pfizer, the vaccine is here. It’s 90% effective! Given that COVID-19 only appears to affect about one percent of people anyway, one wonders if perhaps this vaccine actually increases your chance of getting it. Don’t assume the math doesn’t actually work that way. This country has entered a hall of mirrors now, or perhaps it’s that horrifying sense of paranoid disconnection from reality associated with a Maureen Dowd level of marijuana edible consumption. You can’t trust anything you read. Trump said there was a vaccine coming; the media rushed to “debunk” this irresponsible claim. But there was a vaccine coming. It just wasn’t going to be ready until we had a President who doesn’t ask awkward questions about our absolute dependence on India and China for low-quality, high-profit pharmaceuticals.
If, indeed, we have that President. Your mileage might still vary. But you would’t know it from reading social media, because the past twelve days or so have witnessed an unprecedented and terrifying display of power on the part of Silicon Valley — one that should upset the Molotov-throwing Antifa soldiers as much as it worries the “Farmers For Trump”.
In every great quasi-criminal business enterprise, there’s a moment where the mask slips and the actual evil of said enterprise is revealed for all to see. Consider the infamous cost-of-lawsuit calculation where Ford knowingly allowed the Pinto to be built with a defect that could cost 180 additional deaths, because the cost of settling those lawsuits would be less than the cost of fixing the problem, which was estimated at $11 per car. A lot of people walked away from Ford as a result. I’m less certain about that because automobile manufacturing is a slippery slope when it comes to cost of human life. You can always make the car safer, but doing so allows your competition to undercut you, thus reducing the number of safer cars distributed to the public. That being said, the threshold for these decisions should probably be more than the $75/car that would be the modern equivalent of a Pinto problem.
Naturally, Ford was playing in the minor leagues compared to what modern corporations can accomplish. The vast majority of them have a business model built on sweatshop labor from start to finish; your smartphone is dependent on child labor, as is your electric car or your enviro-smug hybrid. In much the same way that the “glitches” in the recent voting process never handed Mr. Trump 144,000 or even 144 unattributed votes, the “inevitable” changes in society always seem to favor the megacorps. The ridiculous state-level overreactions to COVID-19 put the heads of small businessmen in the guillotine, then the corporate-approved riots dropped the blade on their necks. Everything you buy comes from Amazon now; the firm’s wealth and value have soared as it earns billions of dollars in extra profits. Playing along, the government shutters the parks, closes the gyms, encourages you to stay home passively absorbing the pedophile productions of Hollywood and Netflix. President-Elect Biden plans a 100,000 strong COVID Job Corps. These new jobs will fix the economy. If you can see yourself as a Job Corps swabber, you’ll want to hustle for an interview, because Mr. Biden also says he will also lift the “refugee cap” from Trump’s 15,000 per year to 125,000 per year. There will be unlimited “student visas”. If you work in tech, you know how the student visas are used.
The megacorps have no limit to their appetites. Their competition has been crushed, their audience is literally captive, but they can’t deliver an increased profit report in the next fiscal year without serious cuts to those pesky labor costs. President-Elect Biden hears them. They are too big to fail. We’ve become Saudi Arabia, only instead of selling oil to prop up a failed state we are just going to print more money. As is always the case, this flood of cash will increase the value of capital and destroy the value of savings, putting a nice layer of tile on the ceiling separating the middle and upper classes.
Amazon’s perfidy should be no surprise; the company has always played hardball, most notably with state sales taxes. As long as it was a competitive advantage for Amazon to dodge sales taxes, that’s how it was; once the competition had all moved online, Amazon used the introduction of internet sales taxes to impose a crippling regulatory and infrastructure on the competition, all of which had to absorb the same compliance cost with far less sales volume to spread it around. Yet there is something understandable about the firm’s greed. It simply wants to maintain tech-stock levels of growth from now until the heat death of the universe. This is insane, but it is the natural consequence of capitalism.
Less understandable, and less human: the sudden, universal, and airtight decisions by social media powerhouses to subvert the democratic process. For months prior to the election, Twitter and Facebook/Instagram hectored its audience to vote by mail. Hell, Spotify was doing it. “Learn how voting by mail is safe and secure”, they said, knowing it was neither. How could it be? We’ve all seen what it looks like when these mail-in votes are counted — or maybe you haven’t, because videos of the vote-counting process are stricken from the Internet with the kind of lightning alacrity we were always told couldn’t be applied to child porn or the Taliban’s beheading videos. During the election and in its immediate aftermath, Twitter censored Mr. Trump and his allies, performed mass exorcisms of wrongthink from their membership, and plastered their screens with Orwellian reassurances that all was in fact well with the election. Who are you going to believe? A blue-text statement about voting, or your own lying eyes?
(It’s worth noting that all may in fact be well with the election, but at this point the appearances of impropriety have become legion and therefore deserve serious consideration on the part of everyone involved. Surely Mr. Biden and his supporters would rather see a fully audited process; they cannot claim their “mandate” without it.)
There was no escape from the tech companies, which spoke with a single voice. A data scientist raised $244,000 in a day via GoFundMe to perform a review of voter registrations, only to have GoFundMe freeze the funds and seize the campaign. This decision was widely cheered, but why? If there is no fraud, as we have all been repeatedly reassured, then who cares how a bunch of idiots spend their money? The mere suggestion of impropriety in the voting process became grounds for the banhammer. Four years ago, we were told that Russia had easily compromised a single day of in-person voting. The methods of this compromise were always glossed over; when push came to shove, it turned out to be $50,000 worth of Facebook ads, which deranged the multi-billion-dollar Clinton machine like a stalled moped laid across the superconducting rail of a bullet train. Today, we are told that voter fraud is impossible, that the pictures of poll workers opening Chinese parcel-company envelopes filled with ballots are no cause for concern. LEARN HOW VOTING BY MAIL IS SAFE AND SECURE, AMAZON PRIMECITIZEN!
This behavior is more closely allied to Amazon’s sales-tax shenanigans than one might suspect. For years, the social-media companies and tech giants have used “common carrier” immunity to shield them from product liability claims or criminal charges. These immunities, put in place decades ago to ensure that you couldn’t sue AT&T because someone used a pay phone to put a hit out on your Mafia-connected sibling, were folded, spindled and mutilated beyond recognition to suit Facebook and Twitter. These firms claimed that they did not monitor content and that they were therefore not liable for all the horrifying things done using their platform. (If nothing else, there’s the fact that Facebook is mentioned in one of three divorce cases.)
This pretense of common carrier immunity continued unabated right up until the moment that it was no longer necessary to ensure the survival of those companies. On that day, which can be fixed somewhere around the third of November, 2020, they went all-in on political activism, secure in the belief that they could deliver an election to a friendly administration. Even an idiot can see that Twitter and Facebook have chosen sides. It’s now time to hold them responsible for their content. A tech company big enough to censor President Trump is big enough to keep kiddie porn off its pages. Making this explicit would also make room for the creation of genuinely common-carrier social media. Don’t look for that to happen. Every “disruptive” Silicon Valley company ends up using its bankroll to legally prevent any possible future “disruptors” from “disrupting” their revenue streams. The same thing will happen with social media.
“Guess what, Jack,” you may be saying. “I don’t give a shit about what Twitter does, or what Amazon does. I’m perfectly adapted to the modern paradigm; I bring my whole self to work because everything about me from my edgy sexuality to my satisfied atheism is totally compatible with the system as it exists at this moment. I believe all the things you read on those little black modern-pledge-of-allegiance signs in front of all the expensive downtown housing. As far as I’m concerned, anybody who doesn’t share my beliefs is a Nazi, and there’s nothing more American than punching Nazis.” Well, this is a very felicitous state of affairs in which to find one’s self nowadays — but ask yourself if it will last? Can you guarantee that your beliefs, your behaviors, your skin color will always be acceptable to The Powers That Be? Think about it for a moment. There’s a line somewhere in your head that you won’t cross. Maybe it’s giving up your hard-earned private property to people who are less “privileged”. Maybe it’s allowing your children to be “educated” in something that sickens your heart. Maybe it’s watching your parents or siblings be euthanized because their healthcare is too expensive for a public system to bear. When the Overton window moves to shine some light on that line in your head — and it probably will, given enough time — how certain will you be about the inherent righteousness of The Current Year?
The 4chan crowd likes to say that 2020 has “redpilled the normies”. This is in the Matrix-referencing sense that we are now being shown the lines of power and control behind the scenes, not in the “don’t forget to say something belittling about a woman’s outfit on the first date” sense of “redpill”. No matter who you are or where you stand on today’s issues, chances are you now know who among the powerful is with you and who is against you. This knowledge is power. What happens next is anyone’s guess.
For Hagerty, I wrote about an old Volkswagen and a deadly crime of quite another sort.