by: Ty Reynolds
“A sizable minority…realistically, soon to be a majority, believe that free speech is not a good thing.”
It’s a damn frightening statement coming from a man in a position to know what he’s talking about.
Ed Latimore ( www.edlatimore.com ) is a successful online entrepreneur and former professional boxer that has found a way to thrive in the current environment of ideologically inspired scalp collecting that has become the ugly norm in the United States, and has a unique perspective on the ultra-polarized social climate and how to best operate within it online and elsewhere.
He must be correct or risk going broke. It’s stout motivation like this that makes him a man worth listening to regarding the subject.
As the world embeds itself ever deeper into the digital world, the mere tweaking of an algorithm is enough to make any individual and the memory of them disappear, so having a deep understanding of the rules and regulations of the internet, specifically the many social media platforms that now dominate it, has become imperative to him and others like him who make their livings online. Especially as corporations adapt to what he sees as the changing, more authoritarian views, of their consumer base.
Latimore’s next observation drives that final reality home with remarkable simplicity and precision.
“Corporations do what satisfies the largest part of their user base because if they’re going to lose money, they’d rather lose one-third than two-thirds…you combine those two things together, that the majority is starting to think that’s not a good idea [free speech], and whether you agree with the action or not, you get the complete erasure on the internet of the President of the United States.”
Nothing really strikes at the heart of the problem more than that objective fact. The words of the leader of the free world are subject to the whims of corporations (who are not subject to the First Amendment). Big Tech, an industry that routinely sees It’s most well-known CEO”s casually attend toothless Congressional hearings that always prove to be nothing more than politically driven barking, not biting, has usurped authority over the modern public square and there isn’t a soul alive that doesn’t live under the shadow of their banhammer.
As these entities accumulate power, and a growing number of their users applaud their use/abuse of that power, the concern that too much has already been lost to ever be reclaimed is growing more prevalent in the minds of many observers. Latimore concurs with these fears:
“I don’t think it’s going anywhere. Short of a collective change in the mindsets of people, but that’s not going to happen…History tells us everyone thinks it’s a good idea, until they come for you right? Have you ever heard that poem…when they came for me, no one was left to say shit for me? Oh yeah, that’s coming.”
That surreal American reality is as much a threat in the professional world as it is in the private realm. There are more than friendships at stake now. It is not hyperbolic to state that to tweet is to risk one’s livelihood.
Latimore, who regularly notes the lessons that may be derived from the superhuman-like efforts of crackheads, has managed to retain an edge while accumulating a large follower base across multiple social networks under these conditions, though. It’s an achievement that invites questioning, as it may provide a template for others on how to remain honest to themselves in an environment that displays an ever-increasing demand for conformity.
It is an approach that wisely recognizes that politics has become secondary to narrative.
“The environment isn’t as crazy as people think it is. There are rules…as long as you don’t directly insult somebody and you aren’t posting threatening things, or things of a racial slur nature, you tend to be okay. A big example I use if people say you are politically a certain way, I always mention Mike Cernovich, because Mike Cernovich, if anyone was going to get banned for their political leanings or views it’s going to be him and that hasn’t happened. My take is probably a little different from a lot of people and I don’t think the rules for social media are crazy”
“With that said, I totally think that we’re at a point where you can’t say what you want to say and speak your mind if you have a perspective that is counter to the main narrative that the main stream media is trying to push, and really that’s supported by the populous. I think you have a problem; I think you’re going to have a problem getting employment, or how your social circle sees you or whatever.”
“And my solution to that is I understand the exchange I have made…if you really wanted to you could go through stuff and find out I’m not your guy to hire, to work with, or to admit someplace. I’m fine with that, but I’ve also structured everything so that I’m okay with that, so that I grow when attention is sent to me. I’ve learned how to monetize that attention so that I don’t have to be worried about my livelihood…At the end of the day, outside of my jokes, my jokes are humor, I’m trying to make my social media environment better, because that’s how I live my entire life.”
While censorship on its own can be avoided, polarization, it’s inevitable byproductg, spills into the real world and is often an obstacle and temptation that is more difficult to circumnavigate. Many corporations, media figureheads, and online personalities cannot resist taking advantage of the nation’s polarized state and use it as a tool for monetary gain. The practice is obviously financially beneficial, but the consequences for those not seated on the board are higher degrees of censorship, as any increase in polarization will result in an increase in demand for silencing competing principles and ideas. Which of course leads to a more intense level of polarization to exploit.
This cycle of escalating suppression and division naturally forces many neutral parties, or nuanced parties as the former pugilist would prefer, to self-censor and/or project an image of conformity. In the case of large corporations, disingenuous pandering is more often than not the best business decision, even if that action does not align with the private personal opinions of the respective decision maker.
Censorship alone merely gags the ability to voice certain principles or perspectives. Polarization has the potential to force many to choose outright betrayal of their principles in order to protect what they have already accumulated and their future well-being. It doesn’t just imprison or exclude free speech; it forces those that wish for the survival of freedom of expression, especially online, to put that principle against the wall and pull the trigger themselves if they wish to avoid exclusion from society.
Latimore, however, views using polarization as a marketing strategy as risky for those that deploy it and can note instances when refusing to abandon principle in the face of immense social pressure has resulted in an increase in both income and popularity.
“All polarization is, is stating something without nuance, so it’s not incorrect, it’s just not complete. This is how a lot of people speak and think in general, because it’s kind of lazy, but it works to rouse up a side. And I could make that benefit me…I don’t think it is a sustainable long-term strategy, but it is certainly one that can work.”
“What corporations have to do is they have to stop being so greedy…The big corporations understand that it’s a numbers game. More people simply think a certain way. It makes more sense to serve that community as they pay most of your bills.”
“But if you’re a corporation that wants to go the other way, I think a really good example of this is Chic-fil-A…Chic-fil-A is a great example of really standing your ground against what is considered the mainstream narrative. This is a church-going organization, obviously religious. They pay their people, but they have traditional stances on things like that, too.”
“But think about this, they have to have impeccable customer service, and pay better than minimum wage, and have an incredibly addictive chicken sandwich for people to support them. People will support them. People will go out of their way to support Chic-fil-A, even though Chic-fil-A has views that are different. You can have a different view and stand for that view and not be polarizing.”
Individual citizens can also free themselves from the restraints of immense social pressure induced by Big Tech censorship and corporate profit seeking, but Latimore believes a better understanding of the basics of business is a likely prerequisite.
“I found that the average person does not understand how money is made. They don’t understand the basics of taking something that people value, finding an audience for it, sell it, generate profit. And that’s probably why they fall for the myth of a corporation caring…So if the average person just understood how business worked, how making money works, we’re going to be in a very different situation…They should understand how business works, and that will allow them to ask the question who benefits from this?”
“The people need to understand that there is such a thing as manufactured demand. I am 100% convinced that the media, the government, and we’ll say Big Tech, Big Pharma, big corporations in general, they aren’t lock-stepped in general where they meet at a conference every month, but there is a real benefit with a news cycle being as inflammatory as possible, because that drives viewers, viewers drive advertiser dollars, and advertising dollars are now more viable to a corporation…It’s really kind of nasty when you look at it like that, and I wish people understood one thing: There is a vested interest, like financial vested interest in you being out of control, riled up, emotional, and angry.”
Corporations are certainly vulnerable to their consumer base exposing their minds to the existence of such an unspoken chain of cooperation between those that govern us, inform us, and peddle merchandise to us, but not all of them. Big Tech’s product is human beings. Ultimately, in Latimore’s eyes, that means any change on social media platforms will be driven by our own behavior and what we will tolerate from ourselves.
“Social media, that’s in our hands. The people. We get to decide. That’s probably our best fighting chance. But we’re already so toxic, and sick, and angry at one and other from just the world in general that a lot of us get on and fight and argue…I think social media is unique though in that it’s driven by the humans…All of this is driven by money. The only way to make money for the corporation is for you to buy their product. Social media just hosts things and they let you advertise and you pull the money from the advertisers. They don’t really care…But the people are there. The people are hanging out. And they decide to buy X,Y,Z. Social media just responds to that. It’s us, though.”
That’s what makes Latimore’s belief that a soon-to-be majority is rising up that wishes to see the demise of free speech as a hallowed principle in our society so frightening. Standing up to censorship and polarization, especially in the domains in which we have now chosen to conduct much of our human interaction, is all on us, and if Latimore is correct (not much reason to believe he isn’t) most of us will soon not care. Or worse, agree with the additional layers of restriction, as they believe those burdens will only be endured by their rivals.
As usual, the greatest enemy currently faced by the American people is their own stubborn gullible behavior. We’re such a country of would-be winners that most of us are more than willing to accept the “L” as long as the other side gets a bigger one. Losing less is still winning more…
Freedom wilts and vanishes in circumstances like these, and the memory of it follows close behind. If freedom of expression is to be preserved, the people that currently take it for granted must acknowledge that conserving it is more pressing than silencing those that do not subscribe to similar world views. The future of free speech in the United States will remain bleak until that wall has been brought down.