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“So crucial is the online censorship regime to Western power centers that one thing is certain — any individual or company that even thinks about defying it will be severely attacked and punished,” journalist Glenn Greenwald said on an episode of his “System Update” podcast.
Big Tech platforms and the U.K. government have launched a war against Rumble, using recent allegations against comedian and political commentator Russell Brand as a pretense.
Rumble is an online platform that reaches large audiences and has a demonstrated commitment to defending free speech against the “censorship-industrial complex,” Greenwald said.
Four anonymous women accused Brand of rape, sexual assault and other types of emotionally controlling behavior that allegedly occurred more than a decade ago. The allegations were made as part of a joint investigation from The Times of London, The Sunday Times and Channel 4 Dispatches.
To date, no police complaint has been filed against Brand.
Legacy media outlets quickly and universally condemned Brand. But many voices in alternative media, including Greenwald, argued Brand should not be condemned as guilty and punished without due process.
“That’s all basic, uncontroversial stuff. Or so we would have thought,” Greenwald said. “As we have repeatedly seen, however, most liberal institutions of power in the West no longer even pretend to affirm basic precepts of due process, just as they barely feign support any longer for foundational concepts of free speech.”
Brand faces a wave of deplatforming and demonetization. The day after the allegations were made public, YouTube announced it demonetized all of Brand’s past and future videos. The BBC and Paramount+ also pulled some of his shows from their streaming platforms.
In the following days, Greenwald said Caroline Dinenage, member of Parliament, wrote to several media outlets, including Rumble and TikTok demanding they ban or demonetize Brand and that they outline how Brand is compensated and how they plan to eliminate his revenue.
But Rumble refused to comply, noting Brand had never been convicted of any crime, and that it is “not competent to adjudicate his guilt or innocence, just like it’s not competent to adjudicate truth and falsity in our nation’s most complex political and scientific debates,” Greenwald said.
In response, the British government and media and the U.S. corporate media have “launched a full-on assault on Rumble,” he said.
The Times of London said the U.K.’s new Online Safety Act could be used to eliminate Rumble in the U.K. altogether. The Sun warned that Rumble’s executives face the threat of arrest under this new online safety if they try to enter the U.K. without fully complying with these new censorship orders.
Greenwald said the attack on Brand and the new law are only “the beginning of the cycle of reprisal, not the end.”
The new UK ‘Online Safety Bill’
The British Online Safety Bill, passed earlier this month, empowers the British government and state officials to force internet companies to censor information on their sites.
“There’s no more conceit that this is all the decision-making of private corporations acting autonomously on their own. It’s now just out in the open,” Greenwald said. “And that’s what all these bills essentially are designed to do: transfer this power to the state to control the flow of political information online.”
He added that even the centrist mainstream publication The Economist, last year warned the bill was dangerous, “a bumper piece of legislation that will impose sweeping new obligations on search engines, social media sites, forums, video sites and the like.”
The bill will legally require tech firms to protect their British users from “racism, death threats, sexual exploitation, dodgy adverts and much, much more,” it said.
Greenwald said the language of the bill focuses on protecting children, but it effectively controls what adults can see.
The Economist also said the “sheer size of big platforms (500 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute) means that it is not feasible for humans to check every post. Firms will have to rely on automated enforcement.”
“With billions of dollars potentially at stake,” said Mark Johnson of the U.K.’s Big Brother Watch, “the risk is that firms will err heavily on the side of caution, leading to overzealous blocking of innocuous posts.”
Greenwald predicted that anything but the “most tepid and most obviously safe messages “is subject to being swept up in what will obviously be, by design, an overly zealous censorship regime that is being implemented by these tech companies out of fear that they will run afoul of these laws and there are highly punitive fines.”
Because it is expensive and difficult to set up different country-by-country compliance structures, Greenwald said companies are more likely to comply on an international basis.
The law passed Parliament on Sept. 19, just as the allegations against Brand were made public. Once it receives royal assent, social media firms will have to move quickly to remove content or stop it from being posted in the first place.
“Given the magnitude of that kind of punishment, do you think any company, other than Rumble and maybe Twitter, depending on their commitment, is going to risk the punishment necessary to defy these governments or simply decide, I’d rather not do business in a country that forces me to deny to my adult users political content that they want to see simply because the government orders me to censor?”
The political attack on Russell Brand
YouTube said Brand was suspended for violating its “creator responsibility policy.” A spokeswoman told The New York Times, “If a creator’s off-platform behavior harms our users, employees, or ecosystem, we take action to protect the community.”
Greenwald said organizations that deplatformed Brand were “engaging in obvious political censorship and capitulation to the demands of establishment sectors that hate Russell Brand, not because they believe he did this, but because his political messaging is so threatening.”
“Whatever the merits of the allegations are, it’s trial by media that he is being targeted because he has become perhaps the most prolific critic of corporate media as well as the War State and the Ukraine proxy war on the planet.
“Maybe he’s second to Tucker Carlson but he’s clearly threatening some very powerful interests and so he is being targeted in a coordinated fashion in the same way that he articulated somewhat ironically when he interviewed me.”
Brand recently interviewed Blumenthal after GoFundMe suspended The Grayzone’s fundraiser for political reasons, or “external concerns,” according to the platform, and the $90,000+ in donations received was made inaccessible to them.
Blumenthal said Brand was “demonetized by YouTube, which is really the ultimate form of cancellation in our culture because YouTube, which is owned by Google, is essentially the inner vortex of our Digital Commons — which are privatized yet controlled from the outside by powerful interests including the Department of Homeland Security, British intelligence and so on.”
He added it had now become common that “dissenters and prominent anti-establishment voices are financially sanctioned inside the West for their political views but they’re never given due process.”
The New York Times alleged the nature of Brand’s dissent had changed. It said his early stand-up routines had a “left-wing focus,” but that he had recently produced content “more aligned with conservative talking points.”
Greenwald said he thought this purported change was the reason the corporate media weaponized these accusations against him, by chasing down accusers from over a decade ago and persuading them to come forward.
Greenwald also questioned The Times’ premise that opposing a war launched by NATO and the CIA, critiquing Big Pharma and regulatory capture, skepticism over the COVID-19 vaccines and defending free speech were in fact “conservative talking points.”
Corporate media uses Brand to attack Rumble
The Times wrote that Brand hosted a show on Rumble, “a social media network associated with conservative voices.” That label is both unjustified, Greenwald said, given the many left voices also present on the platform, and used as a way to discredit it.
The media, he said, created this discourse about Brand and about Rumble, and then U.K. legislators acted on it.
Greenwald shared MP Dinenage’s letter to TikTok on behalf of the U.K. Parliament, which demanded answers about Brand. He shared another one she wrote to GB News, where one of the anchors defended Brand on one of its programs in a debate with someone critical of him.
On last week’s episode of his “America This Week” podcast, journalist Matt Taibbi commented on Dinenage’s letters:
“I’m just stunned by this, that any government committee would get involved with trying to convince a private company to remove somebody’s source of income in the middle of something that has nothing to do with the government.
“There’s no investigation that I know of. So what’s the justification for this kind of behavior? We accept it because we know they do this kind of thing now, but legally, how does that happen, and why is it happening, and why are people okay with that?”
Co-host Walter Kirn pointed out that it is the same “state-sponsored social media,” being challenged in the Missouri v. Biden case.
Brand’s own discussion of the silencing of dissent on his show this week, mentioned the Children’s Health Defense (CHD) lawsuit against the Trusted News Initiative alleging antitrust and First Amendment violations as an example of how the “media operate in coordination and lockstep to present a narrative that appears to be impenetrable, so immersive and absolute that it simply must be true.”
The BBC, which said it is investigating Brand, is a founding member of the Trusted News Initiative, whose other members — and defendants in CHD’s lawsuit — include Reuters, The Associated Press and The Washington Post.
Greenwald also reported that Dinenage had received gifts — tickets and accommodations to the Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Arts 2023 — from YouTube.
She was also the MP behind the Online Safety Bill, he said.
The Grayzone reported that Dinenage was implicated in the U.K.’s “crackdown on COVID-19 dissenters.” Her husband, Mark Lancaster, is the Deputy Commander 77 Brigade in the British Army, which uses social media and the “dark arts of ‘psyops’” to influence local populations and change their behaviors.
Rumble rejected the U.K. Parliament’s demands in a tweet:
— Rumble – 🏴☠️ $RUM (@rumblevideo) September 20, 2023
Rumble said it would not punish Brand without due process, but also that even if he were found guilty, it was not incumbent upon media platforms to punish people for things they had done off-site.
Kim Iversen made a similar point on “The Kim Iversen Show” just after the charges were made public.
“As long as you are not promoting crime and as long as you are not committing crime, you should be allowed to make a living,” Iversen said.
Greenwald summed up his views on the issue:
“We do not want to have this extrajudicial punishment in the hands of massive corporations that have no due process or accountability attached to them [so] that when we are accused of crimes or convicted of crimes, we now get punished not only through the legal mechanisms set up by the state but also that corporations start cutting us off from the financial system, barring us from participating in politics.
“These are despotic fabrications and cocktails of whole cloth that show you how authoritarian these people are.”
He said in addition to media outlets reporting that Rumble may now be forced out of the U.K. through the Online Safety Bill and threatening that it could be used to arrest its executives, The Guardian also boasted of its success in pressuring corporate advertisers to leave Rumble.
These attacks, he said, affect Rumble’s ability to finance the platform. He appealed to his viewers to support it.