PEPE ESCOBAR – Big Tech’s ‘Cancel Culture’ Love Affair

Cancel culture is inbuilt in the techno-feudalist project: conform to the hegemonic narrative, or else.  Journalism that does not conform must be taken down.

By Pepe Escobar
Special to Consortium News

This month, several of us – Scott Ritter, myself, ASB Military News, among others – were canceled from Twitter. The – unstated – reason: we were debunking the officially approved narrative of the Russia/NATO/Ukraine war.

As with all things Big Tech, that was predictable. I lasted only seven months on Twitter. And that was long enough. Contacts in California had told me I was on their radar because the account grew too fast, and had enormous reach, especially after the start of Operation Z.

I celebrated the cancelation by experiencing an aesthetic illumination in front of the Aegean Sea, at the home of Herodotus, the Father of History. Additionally, it was heart-warming to be recognized by the great George Galloway in his moving tribute to targets of the new McCarthyism.

In parallel, comic relief of the “Mars Attacks” variety was provided by expectations of free speech on Twitter being saved by the benign intervention of Elon Musk.

Techno-feudalism is one of the overarching themes of my latest book, Raging Twenties – published in early 2021 and reviewed here in a very thoughtful and meticulous manner.

Cancel culture is inbuilt in the techno-feudalist project: conform to the hegemonic narrative, or else. In my own case regarding Twitter and Facebook – two of the guardians of the internet, alongside Google — I knew a day of reckoning was inevitable, because like other countless users I had previously been dispatched to those notorious “jails”.

On one Facebook occasion, I sent a sharp message highlighting that I was a columnist/analyst for an established Hong Kong-based media company. Some human, not an algorithm, must have read it, because the account was restored in less than 24 hours.

But then the account was simply disabled – with no warning. I requested the proverbial “review”. The response was a demand for proof of ID. Less than 24 hours later, came the verdict: “Your account has been disabled” because it had not followed those notoriously hazy “community standards.” The decision was “reviewed” and “it can’t be reversed”.

I celebrated with a Buddhist mini-requiem on Instagram.

My hit-by-a-Hellfire missile Facebook page clearly identified for the general public who I was, at the time: “Geopolitical analyst at Asia Times”. The fact of the matter is Facebook algorithms canceled a top columnist from Asia Times – with a proven record and a global profile. The algos would never have had the – digital – guts to do the same with a top columnist from The New York Times or the Financial Times.

Asia Times lawyers in Hong Kong sent a letter to Facebook management. Predictably, there was no response.

Of course becoming a target of cancel culture – twice – does not even remotely compare to the fate of Julian Assange, imprisoned for over three years in Belmarsh under the most appalling circumstances, and about to be dispatched for “judgment” in the American gulag for the crime of committing journalism. Yet the same “logic” applies: journalism that does not conform to the hegemonic narrative must be taken down.

Conform, or Else

At the time, I discussed the matter with several Western analysts. As one of them succinctly put it, “You were ridiculing the U.S. president while pointing out the positives of Russia, China and Iran. That’s a deadly combination”.

Others were simply stunned: “I wonder why you were restricted as you work for a reputable publication.” Or made the obvious connections: “Facebook is a censorship machine. I did not know that they do not give reasons for what they do but then they are part of the Deep State.”

A banking source that usually places my columns on the desks of selected Masters of the Universe put it New York-style: “You severely p****d the Atlantic Council”. No question: the specimen who oversaw the canceling of my account was a former Atlantic Council hack.

Ron Unz in California had the account of his extremely popular website Unz Review purged by Facebook on April 2020. Subsequently, readers who tried to post their articles met with an “error” message describing the content as “abusive”.

When Unz mentioned my case to renowned economist James Galbraith, “he really was quite shocked, and thought it might signal a very negative censorship trend on the Internet.”

The “censorship trend” is a fact – for quite a while now. Take this U.S. State Department 2020 report identifying “pillars of Russia’s disinformation and propaganda ecosystem.”

State Dept. Directive

The late Pompeo-era report demonizes “fringe or conspiracy-minded” websites who happen to be extremely critical of U.S. foreign policy. They include Moscow-based Strategic Culture Foundation – where I’m a columnist – and Canada-based Global Research, which republishes most of my columns (but so does Consortium News, ZeroHedge and many other U.S. websites). I’m cited in the report by name, along with quite a few top columnists.

The report’s “research” states that Strategic Culture – which is blocked by Facebook and Twitter – is directed by the SVR, Russian foreign intel. This is ridiculous. I met the previous editors in Moscow – young, energetic, with enquiring minds. They had to quit their jobs because after the report they started to be severely threatened online.

So the directive comes straight from the State Department – and that has not changed under Biden-Harris: any analysis of U.S. foreign policy that deviates from the norm is a “conspiracy theory” – a terminology that was invented and perfected by the C.I.A.

Couple it with the partnership between Facebook and the Atlantic Council – which is a de facto NATO think tank – and now we have a real powerful ecosystem.

It’s a Wonderful Life

Every silicon fragment in the valley connects Facebook as a direct extension of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)’s LifeLog project, a Pentagon attempt to “build a database tracking a person’s entire existence.” Facebook launched its website exactly on the same day – Feb. 4, 2004 – that DARPA and the Pentagon shuttered LifeLog.

No explanation by DARPA was ever provided. The MIT’s David Karger, at the time, remarked, “I am sure that such research will continue to be funded under some other title. I can’t imagine DARPA ‘dropping out’ of such a key research area.”

Of course a smokin’ gun directly connecting Facebook to DARPA will never be allowed to surface. But occasionally some key players speak out, such as Douglas Gage, none other than LifeLog’s conceptualizer: “Facebook is the real face of pseudo-LifeLog at this point (…) We have ended up providing the same kind of detailed personal information to advertisers and data brokers and without arousing the kind of opposition that LifeLog provoked.”

So Facebook has absolutely nothing to do with journalism. Not to mention pontificating over a journalist’s work, or assuming it’s entitled to cancel him or her. Facebook is an “ecosystem” built to sell private data at a huge profit, offering a public service as a private enterprise, but most of all sharing the accumulated data of its billions of users with the U.S. national security state.

The resulting algorithmic stupidity, also shared by Twitter – incapable of recognizing nuance, metaphor, irony, critical thinking – is perfectly integrated into what former C.I.A. analyst Ray McGovern brilliantly coined as the MICIMATT (military-industrial-congressional-intelligence-media-academia-think tank complex).

In the U.S., at least the odd expert on monopoly power identified this neo-Orwellian push as accelerating “the collapse of journalism and democracy.”

Facebook “fact-checking professional journalists” does not even qualify as pathetic. Otherwise Facebook – and not analysts like McGovern – would have debunked Russiagate. It would not routinely cancel Palestinian journalists and analysts. It would not disable the account of University of Tehran professor Mohammad Marandi – who was actually born in the U.S.

I received quite a few messages stating that being canceled by Facebook – and now by Twitter – is a badge of honor. Well, everything is impermanent (Buddhism) and everything flows (Daoism). So being deleted – twice – by an algorithm qualifies at best as a cosmic joke.

Pepe Escobar’s latest book is Raging Twenties. He remains un-cancelled on VK, Telegram and Instagram.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

36 comments for “PEPE ESCOBAR – Big Tech’s ‘Cancel Culture’ Love Affair

  1. robert e williamson jr
    April 23, 2022 at 16:18

    FYI National Review – 4-18-22 by Arjun Singh Saudi investor Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal is reported to 0wn 5.2% of twitter stock and led the opposition to Musk’s (he owns 9 % of twitter stock) bid to buy Twitter.

    Thaks CN

  2. Jennifer A.
    April 22, 2022 at 01:38

    If you have to get involved with DARPA, Facebook is the mild choice. I wouldn’t want the bipedal robot who competed in the 5K to come after me.

  3. Lois Gagnon
    April 21, 2022 at 20:15

    You can tell how shaky the US Centralized Empire is by the rate at which it tries to silence its most accomplished critics. It is weaker than it and its apologists care to acknowledge. Western colonialism at the point of a gun is dying. Not a moment too soon.

    Thanks to Pepe for giving it to us straight all along.

  4. Frank Lambert
    April 21, 2022 at 18:01

    I don’t assume everyone knows about the White Rose movement, whether on ConsortiumNews other websites or John and Jane Q. Public elsewhere.

    College educated folks I know never heard of it, which is why I told them about what transpired back then, and why I mentioned it as an addition to Pepe’s article.

  5. Ernest Martinson
    April 21, 2022 at 16:33

    Both Facebook and Twitter cancelled me. I suppose I could use some more schooling in conforming to the two-party line.

  6. fourth estate indeed
    April 21, 2022 at 15:55

    So, how long have certain Journalists known about the DARPA/FACEBOOK Link; including, possibly, the WIRED STAFF™ (re the 02/04/22 Lifeloghyperlink above), and why hadn’t it been spread far and wide – made common knowledge –almost two decades ago?

    Yet another reason many of us stopped trusting journalists decades ago. Many of us without voice suspected Facebook from Day One, particularly with that Peter Thiel mentoring and hugely funding connection from Day One. Silicon Valley’s newspaper of record The San Jose Mercury News (now the Mercury News [rag]), when it was still well funded and under Knight Ridder, criminally touted Facebook’s IPO. I stopped buying the rag as a culmination of their DOD/CIA/Nefarious High Tech Obfuscations and their tragic Gary Webb/Dark Alliance betrayal.

    Many of those Ahole Editors and Ahole Ivy League Journalists are still lingering like a well protected stench in and around Silicon Valley, where unsheltered homelessness and poverty have absolutely exploded.

  7. Oregoncharles
    April 21, 2022 at 14:24

    “The resulting algorithmic stupidity, also shared by Twitter – incapable of recognizing nuance, metaphor, irony, critical thinking” – I think this is an error. I think those qualities are precisely what they’re intended to expunge. Algos are just some programmer’s prejudices in mathematical form.

    And a caveat: I see Escobar as illuminating precisely because he relays the Russian and Chinese point of view. That’s a useful service, but I have no more faith in their self-serving pronouncements than I do in Washington’s. There are no angels in the real world.

    And of course, Strategic Culture is now inaccessible because it’s based in Moscow.

    • Flaming Telepath
      April 21, 2022 at 16:39

      Hey, Oregoncharles (and of course, Pepe if you happened to be tuned in to these comments), your closing statement caught my attention. I live in Maine in the USA and for the last couple of days, when I try to access Strategic Culture Foundation, it asks me to “sign in” with credentials – something I’ve not seen before, and, since I haven’t set up an account with SCF, I’m out of luck. This is a huge disappointment, I have to say, since SCF features a very impressive group of journalists…not just Pepe, but the likes of Matthew Ehret, Alastair Crooke, Martin Jay, Cynthia Chung….the list goes on and on…..all incredibly well-informed geopolitical analyst/historians of a very high calibre.

      So, can you or anyone out there tell me if this is a “nationwide” “blackout” for all of us in the USA? Given recent events, it wouldn’t surprise me too much, but is still rather shocking!

      Thanks to anyone who sees my post and can offer any info regarding this…..FT

      • Ralph Reed
        April 22, 2022 at 03:18

        There Telegram account says they’re moving to a new server and not to “be worried.”

      • Tobysgirl
        April 22, 2022 at 15:55

        I’m in Maine and I tried accessing Strategic Culture, but there was a long wait. When I go to Donbass Insider, there is a five-second delay, during which I must assume some governmental apparatchik is seeing who is accessing DI. What is amusingly ironic about our government is that they should be directing their paranoia at themselves since they’re the ones destroying the U.S., not old ladies (in my case) in Maine.

        • Theleona
          April 24, 2022 at 20:00

          To Tobysgirl: Amen!

      • William Todd
        April 25, 2022 at 14:52

        I’m in New Hampshire just across the Maine border and have no problem accessing Strategic Culture without an account there. My ISP is breezeline (nee atlanticbb (nee metrocast)). It’s possible that some other ISP is accessing that web site differently: if so, using a VPN might help.

    • rosemerry
      April 22, 2022 at 02:30

      I have tried to post a comment several times and have a new block stopping me.
      I get Strategic Culture but am unable to access RT or sputnik because of EU ruling.

  8. Dinka Doll
    April 21, 2022 at 14:22

    I am so sick and tired of those algorithms, my accounts get banned for pictures, get banned for pics that were posted a few years ago, my Tiktok got banned for showing a Foot with stockings. My friends get banned for saving “shot” in a photography context.

    • Tobysgirl
      April 22, 2022 at 15:57

      I heard about some guy who got banned from Twitter for using the word “cracker” in reference to food. Yes, Gettr was started by a Trump pal, but that’s where the feminists go now since Twitter is a sinkhole of misogyny.

  9. Geo
    April 21, 2022 at 13:45

    This piece is a frightening and a fun read (love the dark sense of humor) but something about it doesn’t sit well with me. It makes me question this fixation on the term “cancel culture.”

    I’m just curious if anyone knows why the current wave is called “cancel culture” when for all my life it was called “censorship”?

    What is this new framing about? Is cancel culture just the new dumbed-down buzzword for it or is there some deeper partisan obfuscating going on where because the conservatives have been pro-censorship for so long (forever really) that now it’s being rebranded as some shiny new thing liberals created? I’m probably reaching in that but genuinely curious.

    On a site founded by the late/great Robert Parry how is this culture of cancellation so shocking? Are we not familiar with Parry and his history of being censored and banished from the mainstream? This is always what happens when you challenge power. Today it is big tech, before it was print. It’s not new, it’s just a new domain.

    I’m not saying he doesn’t have valid points or that tech censorship isn’t frightening. I’m just baffled by this hysteria over the newfangled “cancel culture” as if real journalism and activism hasn’t always been attacked.

    Either way, as always, it will be the most essential voices which are censored in quiet, and the spotlight seeking outrage peddlers who go on Fox News, Rogan, and the other largest platforms in America to shout about cancellation while asking for GoFundMe donations and discussing their new book deals. To me, when I read these cancel culture pieces it feels like the writer is trying to get on that hype train and not serious about the issue.

    Raging about cancel culture while detaching it from the real history of censorship does a disservice to the issue and just turns it into sensationalist clickbait. Is Twitter canceling someone any different than the MSM censorship and refusals to print the journalism of Parry, the whole reason he founded Consortium News?

    • Oregoncharles
      April 21, 2022 at 16:42

      FWIW: “cancel culture” means an attack on the person, for instance by trying to get them fired, beyond just censoring their message.

      For instance, going back a few years, the comedian Aziz Ansari was completely vanished by an unjust and abusive report of (rather clueless) dating behavior. As far as I know, he hasn’t surfaced since.

    • Stephen Frisbee
      April 21, 2022 at 19:54

      I was also surprised by Pepe’s headline reference to ‘cancel culture’ when everything he describes is so far beyond shunning of ‘inappropriate’ remarks. We are serving MICIMATT’s (see article) euphemistic preferences by calling outright censorship as somehow a mere culture taboo. BTW: I’d like to MICIMATT referenced so frequently by all writers on the subject that people will not wonder what the acronym means.

      April 22, 2022 at 04:46

      You might be making way too much out of the headline. Of course the article is about censorship, which several articles on this site have dealt with over the past week or so. Pepe was canceled from Twitter. He no longer exists there. Anyone who doesn’t get with the enforced narrative is removed. One can be censored without being totally removed from a platform.

    • Tobysgirl
      April 22, 2022 at 16:02

      I agree with Oregoncharles, this goes beyond censorship. The first instance of cancel culture I read about in Kennedy’s The Real Anthony Fauci was a scientist who discovered monkey virus in the Sabin and Salk polio vaccines during the 1950s. She was locked out of her office, shunned, etc. An academic was scheduled to speak at Harvard about romanticism and philosophy this month; she was cancelled because she is on the board of the Women’s Liberation Front. Yes, censorship is at the heart of cancel culture, but it also often involves attacks, marginalization, demonization, calling people “conspiracy theorists,” etc. Pretty damn funny being called conspiracy theorists by the people engaging in conspiracy!

  10. Caliman
    April 21, 2022 at 13:35

    I think the anti-empire minority needs to realize that we can’t use the empire’s specialized tools of control (FB, Google/Youtube, Twitter, etc.) any more than being able to rely on the mainstream news for information dissemination. So, complaining that one is being censored, while true and sad, seems beside the point: what did you expect?

    So, much like the mainstream of the population no longer follows the corporate news because they realize it’s not news by and for our class, these “mainstream” internet sites need to be similarly shunned. It should not take being censored … you should proactively disallow and unuse these sites … they need to be starved to death.

    Sites like CN and others exist. Each of us I’m sure has our list of “regular” sites we visit and support. So here on the edges of the internet universe, we can get the real news through diligent search. That’s the way it needs to be, at least for now.

  11. Realist
    April 21, 2022 at 13:14

    Frankly, Pepe, you are not losing much with your “right” to attempt meaningful communication in staccato bits of 288 characters, which is probably less than the cranial capacity of the proverbial goldfish. The whole system exposes itself as ludicrous when bona fide journalists or pundits try to reconstruct a lengthy argument or debate that transpired on Twitter, which must have been named after a bunch of intellectual twits who waste more bandwidth on their headers, trademarks, blue check marks and such than the actual information content carried in each such mental hiccup. Moreover, reducing human communication to the ever-annoying gimmick of “initialism,” which replaces actual words with ambiguously constructed acronyms is no accomplishment, but just another step backward for the human race.

    Facebook is just some snooty club where you must check your individuality and right to think, analyse and opine before you are allowed membership. Who needs or wants to be so straight-jacketed, especially if learning truths, teaching what you have learned and trying to make a difference are your basic objectives? I’d be ashamed to belong to such an anti-intellectual lynch mob. I thought that liberals and other purported free thinkers found Facebook to be an object of ridicule way back when Sarah Palin was its most notable advocate. Fools just got hooked on the same bad habit.

  12. John Medcalf
    April 21, 2022 at 13:09

    To be as effective as they are the algorithms must be doing what is intended.
    It’s time to produce an easily discoverable database of who’s being censored with links to whatever has been archived elsewhere.
    Much love.

  13. April 21, 2022 at 12:33

    I was accessing your (Pepe Escobar’s) articles on your Strategic Culture website but found it inaccessible this morning, (requesting a previously unneeded user identity and password . The creepiness factor is growing. How long the internet will last as truly open is hard to know. But I want to know if Strategic Culture will come back to be available to your readers?

    • Ralph Reed
      April 22, 2022 at 03:23

      Their Telegram account’s penultimate post says not to worry; they’re migrating to a new server.

  14. Frank Lambert
    April 21, 2022 at 11:57

    The future looks bleak, doesn’t it. The propaganda and censorship campaign to hide the truth and criticize those courageous souls like Pepe Escobar and so many others for honest journalism has been on a rampage by the Globalist/Capitalist “international bankers”
    for total control of this planet and it’s inhabitants for their insatiable desire for more wealth, and more power.

    In a way, the computer age is not as great as it seems, where we want everything in an instant, but at what cost?

    During the early 1940’s, college students in Nazi Germany, during summer break where sent as aids, on the Eastern Front to help the Army, and some of the University of Munich students, Hans and Sophie Scholl witnessed the firing squads of the Waffen SS, shooting civilians, and were horrified, and when back in Germany, printed about four (I think it was) pamphlets, and secretly made copies to distribute to others on the atrocities committed by the army. It didn’t take too long for the Gestapo to find out who published these pamphlets, and they were rounded up, tried by a Nazi court, found guilty, and beheaded that night.

    Look up ‘The White Rose of Munich’ and you’ll see the story. This is why the scum who rule Amerika went after Julian Assange for exposing similar crimes and the courageous Chelsea Manning as well.

    But then again the West supports the Nazi Movement in the Ukraine. Not to strange when you read between the lines.

    Keep going, Pepe! You’ve been a hero of mine for many years!

    • Carolyn L Zaremba
      April 21, 2022 at 13:40

      Everyone knows about the White Rose movement. At least, everyone who reads Consortium News.

    • Rudy
      April 21, 2022 at 13:49

      The West feels more and more like China.

      • Walt
        April 21, 2022 at 20:11

        Not really. China is a well run country which cares for the health of its citizens.

      • Walt
        April 21, 2022 at 20:20

        And how does China “feel”, pray tell me?
        Do you live here?
        Have you ever visited China?
        From where then do you get your information about how China “feels”?

        • Tobysgirl
          April 22, 2022 at 16:07

          Thank you for that. I get really tired of Westerners and their anti-Russia and anti-China knee-jerk responses. Why oh why do we think we are so superior? If I were younger and not disabled, I would leave the U.S. in an instant. As it is, I have nothing to offer another country.

    • April 21, 2022 at 14:14

      Very significant article by Pepe, and the reporting of independent sites like Consortium News, and the others mentioned here, and Frank’s point of connecting this with Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning, and the story of the “White Rose of Munich”, which I read in the Remnant Newspaper. We are the next generation, and though small, like they did, publishing and distributing pamphlets, and being “censored” by execution, yet, the tyranny did fall, and we must do the same in our own time.

  15. TheresTheRub
    April 21, 2022 at 11:45

    “Cancel culture is inbuilt”

    Yes all animals are equal, but some of the animals are more equal than others.

    Cancel culture being a less equal component of coercion, whilst other forms of coercion are more equal than others.

  16. doris
    April 21, 2022 at 11:04

    Like Boy Shrub said, “The Constitution is just a GD piece of paper.” And now they’ve wiped their bottoms with it.
    Thanks for your work, Pepe! It IS a badge of honor!

  17. Pedro
    April 21, 2022 at 10:34

    Raging Twenties is on my bookshelves. I appreciate the essays I had missed and the new writing. I always read your pieces. Thanks for putting up with the insanity of the “social media” miasma. I have let my fb account lie fallow for at least 10 years. I’m playing possum and even forgot my password. Mi esposo shows me Twitter threads sometimes and all I see is a string of inane opinion with an occasional decent quip.
    Tis indeed a badge of honor to be disrespected by the dishonorable. Keep at it Pepe.

  18. April 21, 2022 at 10:19

    One would think that Trump supporters, having seen what the cancel culture did to them, would refuse to buy into the same tactics being used with reference to the Russian/Ukraine situation, but too many are now part of that herd. The stupidity involved is so blatant as to be terribly sad, and the consequences horrendous.

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