Saturday, May 15, 2021

Recommended: The Transformation Of Democracy Into Oligarchy

The idea that our democratic republic is being transformed into an oligarchy that features an unholy alliance of Big Tech, the Deep State, and Politicians isn't news. However, I'd like to draw the attention of readers to a fine article on the subject--followed by a link to a pending court case in the US District Court of Massachusetts. Here's the article:

The New Majority Tyranny as the Old Oligarchic Despotism

We are witnessing a transformation from democratic into oligarchic rule, technologically enhanced and hidden under a democratic guise.

As you will see, this is a theme that we touched on most recently in Cultural Sovietism. In that post we looked at Alexis de Tocqueville's notion of "soft tyranny" in America. The authors of the linked article, too, look to de Tocqueville to understand what's going on in 21st century America. When de Tocqueville was writing his great Democracy in America, in the early middle part of the 19th century, "media" was the newspapers. Things are a bit different now, but the principles that de Tocqueville evoked remain highly relevant. Here's an excerpt--but go to the original which is quite a bit longer:

Hidden within the sophistic distinction between “freedom of speech” and “freedom of reach” defenders of Big Tech use to justify Big Tech’s use of censorship, lies a horrifying impulse. In the most haunting passage in Democracy in America, Tocqueville depicts majority tyranny as a slavemaster castigating an individual with heterodox views in a way eerily evocative of today’s cancel culture: 

The master no longer says: You will think like me or die; he says: You are free not to think as I do; your life, your goods, everything remains with you; but from this day on you are a stranger among us. You will keep your privileges as a citizen, but they will become useless to you. If you aspire to be the choice of your fellow citizens, they will not choose you, and if you ask only for their esteem, they will still pretend to refuse it to you. You will remain among men, but you will lose your rights to humanity. When you approach your fellows, they will flee from you like an impure being. And those who believe in your innocence, even they will abandon you, for people would flee from them in turn. Go in peace; I spare your life, but I leave you a life worse than death.

For Tocqueville, this nightmarish form of majority tyranny is the great danger to liberty in a democratic society. It is a society in which people are afraid to express their views or even to inquire into their validity. Trembling in that fear, the person loses the habit of forming bonds with others.  

In the America that Tocqueville visited, he observed that this immense power is only used for good purposes, for enforcing good morals. In other countries, he notes, “you see governments that strive to protect morals by condemning the authors of licentious books,” but not in America. Here, he writes, “no one is tempted to write them,” for majority opinion would condemn such an author to the despicable fate described above.

Critically, however, Tocqueville mentions that it is “only an accident” that this power is put to a “good usage.” Tocqueville here warns that this immense power—greater than any despotic government—could easily become a tool for evil, a “tyranny over the mind of man,” in Jefferson’s words. In order to learn what the happy accident is that turns this power to good and not to evil in American society, one must turn to Tocqueville’s observations about associations and the press, i.e., the media, in America.

A properly functioning press plays a vital role in the maintenance of a democratic regime, Tocqueville observes. In fact, he claims that “sovereignty of the people and freedom of the press are two entirely correlative things.” The former depends on the latter so much so that “in a country where the dogma of sovereignty of the people openly reigns, censorship is not only a danger, but also a great absurdity.”

What causes this great power to be salutary and not harmful to popular government? Two particular circumstances: the great number and the high degree of decentralization of newspapers in America. “The most enlightened Americans,” Tocqueville records, “attribute the lack of power of the press to this incredible scattering of its strength.” 

“It is an axiom of political science in the United States,” he continues, “that the sole means of neutralizing the effects of newspapers is to multiply their number.”  Tocqueville observed, in contrast, that the press in France was centralized in a few hands, an observation reminiscent of today’s Tech Oligarchy. 

Now, the court case, which offers at least some hope. I picked this up via TGP. The hope is offered in the order of Judge Mark L. Wolf--a Reagan appointee! The order is dated 5/13/21 and it sets a hearing for 5/20/21. What the judge is doing in this order--which you can read here, it's just three pages long of very clear writing--is inviting interested persons to weigh in as amici curiae regarding what he terms 

"the substantial constitutional questions concerning whether Twitter's conduct should be deemed to be state action."

I hope that got your attention. That's a big, big deal. The judge notes that the plaintiff is not a lawyer and is proceeding pro se. Therefore, because of the substantial constitutional questions, he wants qualified amici to weigh in on these questions.

The plaintiff is a colorful character you may have heard of, who alleges election fraud in Massachusetts. This is him:

V. A. Shiva Ayyadurai (born Vellayappa Ayyadurai Shiva, December 2, 1963) is an Indian-American engineerpoliticianentrepreneur, and promoter of conspiracy theoriespseudoscience and unfounded medical claims. Ayyadurai makes the widely disputed claim to have invented email.

Ayyadurai also attracted attention for two reports: the first questioning the working conditions of India's largest scientific agency; the second questioning the safety of genetically modified soybeans. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Ayyadurai became known for a social media disinformation campaign about the coronavirus; spreading conspiracy theories about the cause of coronavirus; promoting unfounded COVID-19 treatments; and campaigning to fire Anthony Fauci for allegedly being a so-called "deep state" actor.

Ayyadurai holds four degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), including a Ph.D. in biological engineering, and is a Fulbright grant recipient.

He garnered 3.39% of the vote as an independent candidate in the 2018 U.S. Senate election in Massachusetts, and ran as a Republican in the 2020 U.S. Senate election in Massachusetts, but lost to Kevin O'Connor in the primary.

Ayyadurai's case focuses on his unsuccessful run for the US Senate. In the wake of his election loss, Ayyadurai--via Twitter--made allegations of election fraud. Then this. The tweets were deleted by Twitter at the direction of employees of the Massachusetts Secretary of State and Ayyadurai's Twitter account was suspended.

Now, here I quote TGP:

CDA 230 is the provision of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 that gives internet and social media companies legal immunity from lawsuits due to the content they publish. 

This provision in law gives companies like Facebook and Twitter a way to dismiss lawsuits, but it also gives them the ability to act with impunity so that their actions cannot be legally challenged. These companies have, according to their detractors, abused this immunity by suppressing dissident, and specifically conservative, views, viewpoints and journalism.

Because Dr. Ayyadurai did not argue about Twitter’s “Terms of Service” everything will instead hinge on the degree of interaction between Twitter and the state government of Massachusetts. 

And according to Dr. Ayyadurai, those links have already been proven in testimony, since Twitter has built a special portal offered to certain governmental entities so that government officials can flag and delete content they dislike for any reason, as part of what they call “Twitter Partner Status.”

Ayyadurai's motion seeks to make Twitter a party to the law suit--despite the provisions of CDA 230--on the grounds that Twitter was acting essentially as an agent of the state.

It seems to me that this case has at least the potential to disrupt coordination of the unholy oligarchical alliance described above. I like to think that de Tocqueville is smiling right now.


  1. Thanks Mark, as usual, quite well written and very timely; I’ve been pondering this, as it’s come out thanks to Tom Fitton in 2 other states and is quite problematic to me (maybe the most of all that’s going on). Here in Iowa ( and here in California ( the same thing happened, where the state’s officials pushed Twitter to remove content that was critical of the state. If our states too are actively shutting down people who publicly disagree, not sure the odds ever can get back to winnable, much less even. Think the judge is aware of those instances, or that Judicial Watch will file such an amicus?
    Doubting Thomas

    1. Very interesting. Since the judge has asked for expert opinions, this is the time for activists to make him acquainted with the extent of the problem.

    2. Even if the judge rules vs. Big Tech, the DS etc. crowd will just learn to be more careful, in how they convey marching orders (instead of using a discoverable portal).

  2. Rather o/t, but last nite Laura I. had Greenwald on, about how real Journalists were being defamed by the Intercept, for their coverage of BLM riots.
    GG ripped the Intercept's R. Mackey's spin, vs. these journalists' normal pursuit of where the action was, and added how antiFa “regularly attacks journalists physically”.
    See .

    What's rather striking is that, at ,
    the Comments section was so sparse, w/ only 33 replies in over 2 days, most of them hostile (but for 1 reader “pivot”, only once getting a “Respect” click), and many of the hostiles getting 5 or 6 “Respect” clicks.

    One such comment went

    < Well, well. Mackey and The Intercept really exposed themselves with this piece of *garbage*.
    Below the radar no more; fully above the horizon and pinging their *totalitarian* signal for all the spot. >

    When GG was there, posts at The Intercept would soon enough get hundreds of Comments.
    They likely lost a ton of readers, when GG departed.

  3. "They likely lost a ton of readers, when GG departed"

    They've all gone to substack.. his article here has many hundreds..