Home/Rod Dreher/Shhh! Don’t Talk About Hunter Biden

Shhh! Don’t Talk About Hunter Biden

Hunter Biden, from ABC News Nightline one year ago (Source)

The New York Post had a big scoop today:

Hunter Biden introduced his father, then-Vice President Joe Biden, to a top executive at a Ukrainian energy firm less than a year before the elder Biden pressured government officials in Ukraine into firing a prosecutor who was investigating the company, according to emails obtained by The Post.

The never-before-revealed meeting is mentioned in a message of appreciation that Vadym Pozharskyi, an adviser to the board of Burisma, allegedly sent Hunter Biden on April 17, 2015, about a year after Hunter joined the Burisma board at a reported salary of up to $50,000 a month.

“Dear Hunter, thank you for inviting me to DC and giving an opportunity to meet your father and spent [sic] some time together. It’s realty [sic] an honor and pleasure,” the email reads.

An earlier email from May 2014 also shows Pozharskyi, reportedly Burisma’s No. 3 exec, asking Hunter for “advice on how you could use your influence” on the company’s behalf.

The blockbuster correspondence — which flies in the face of Joe Biden’s claim that he’s “never spoken to my son about his overseas business dealings” — is contained in a massive trove of data recovered from a laptop computer.

Read it all — there are screenshots, and a louche photo of a shirtless Hunter taken from the hard drive.

The story might have been a one-day affair — except for Twitter and Facebook interfered to keep people from sharing it. Pete Spiliakos says it succinctly:

It’s crazy. Maybe the story is weak, or has problems. Fine! Write about that. But for pity’s sake, don’t try to suppress the thing. Look at this:

 

“Unsafe”? For the Biden campaign, maybe, given that Hunter Biden says (for example, in this ABC Nightline interview) that he never talked to his father about Burisma business. Facebook muted the story on its platform. 

This really is outrageous. You can say that Twitter and Facebook are private companies, and that therefore they have a right to do this. I think that is true as a matter of law — but should it be? They operate more like public utilities than newspapers. Leaving aside the legality of this move, think about what it says that the two most powerful social media companies have taken it upon themselves to censor a major newspaper’s story about a presidential candidate’s allegedly corrupt son, just weeks before the election? Do you not see how dangerous this is, given the power of social media over our discourse?

Twitter and Facebook crossed a line. They showed their true colors today. When the election is over, Congress is going to have to have some serious discussions about regulating them in the interest of free speech and fairness.

In Live Not By Lies, I write about how Big Tech, including social media giants, work against free speech and free thought. Here, I’m talking about data mining:

Why should corporations and institutions not use the information they harvest to manufacture consent to some beliefs and ideologies and to manipulate the public into rejecting others?

In recent years, the most obvious interventions have come from social media companies deplatforming users for violating terms of service. Twitter and Facebook routinely boot users who violate its standards, such as promoting violence, sharing pornography, and the like. YouTube, which has two billion active users, has demonetized users who made money from their channels but who crossed the line with content YouTube deemed offensive. To be fair to these platform managers, there really are vile people who want to use these networks to advocate for evil things.

But who decides what crosses the line? Facebook bans what it calls “expression that . . . has the potential to intimidate, exclude or silence others.” To call that a capacious definition is an understatement. Twitter boots users who “misgender” or “deadname” transgendered people. Calling Caitlyn Jenner “Bruce,” or using masculine pronouns when referring to the transgendered celebrity, is grounds for removal.

To be sure, being kicked off of social media isn’t like being sent to Siberia. But companies like PayPal have used the guidance of the far-left Southern Poverty Law Center to make it impossible for certain right-of-center individuals and organizations—including the mainstream religious-liberty law advocates Alliance Defending Freedom—to use its services.Though the bank issued a general denial when asked, JPMorgan Chase has been credibly accused of closing the accounts of an activist it associates with the alt-right. In 2018, Citigroup and Bank of America announced plans to stop doing some business with gun manufacturers.

It is not at all difficult to imagine that banks, retailers, and service providers that have access to the kind of consumer data extracted by surveillance capitalists would decide to punish individuals affiliated with political, religious, or cultural groups those firms deem to be antisocial. Silicon Valley is well known to be far to the left on social and cultural issues, a veritable mecca of the cult of social justice. Social justice warriors are known for the spiteful disdain they hold for classically liberal values like free speech, freedom of association, and religious liberty. These are the kinds of people who will be making decisions about access to digital life and to commerce.

The rising generation of corporate leaders take pride in their progressive awareness and activism. Twenty-first century capitalism is not only all in for surveillance, it is also very woke.

Nor is it hard to foresee these powerful corporate interests using that data to manipulate individuals into thinking and acting in certain ways. Zuboff quotes an unnamed Silicon Valley bigwig saying, “Conditioning at scale is essential to the new science of massively engineered human behavior.” He believes that by close analysis of the behavior of app users, his company will eventually be able to “change how lots of people are making their day-to-day decisions.”

Maybe they will just try to steer users into buying certain products and not others. But what happens when the products are politicians or ideologies? And how will people know when they are being manipulated?

Big Tech is not your friend. Today we saw this with brutal clarity with Facebook and Twitter’s moves. What are we not seeing?

UPDATE: Whatever happens to Trump on Election Day, let us hope and pray that the GOP holds the Senate:

UPDATE.2: Big Tech pulling out all the stops this week. From the Wall Street Journal:

As a documentary, “What Killed Michael Brown?” has everything going for it. Its subject is timely, about the pre-George Floyd killing of Michael Brown by a police officer that set off riots in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014.

It’s written and narrated by Shelby Steele, the prominent African-American scholar at the Hoover Institution, and directed by his filmmaker son, Eli Steele. Its subject—race relations—is a major fault line in this year’s presidential election, one reason the Steeles scheduled their film for release on Oct. 16. Our columnist Jason Rileywrote about the film on Wednesday.

One problem: “What Killed Michael Brown?” doesn’t fit the dominant narrative of white police officers killing young black men because of systemic racism. As a result, says the younger Mr. Steele, Amazon rejected it for its streaming service. “We were canceled, plain and simple.”

In an email, Amazon informed the Steeles that their film is “not eligible for publishing” because it “doesn’t meet Prime Video’s content quality expectations.” Amazon went on to say it “will not be accepting resubmission of this title and this decision may not be appealed.”

On their website — whatkilledmichaelbrown.com — the Steeles offer other options for people looking to watch their documentary. But it’s sadly telling about elite political conformity that an intelligent film that gives voice to a variety of people, almost all black, who would otherwise not be heard is somehow deemed unfit for polite company. As Eli Steele puts it, “When Amazon rejected us they also silenced these voices and that is the great sin of a company that professes to be diverse and inclusive.”

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

leave a comment

Latest Articles