Wednesday marked the four-year anniversary of the Capitol Inauguration Day riots.
That day, cars were set ablaze, rioters blocked a bridge. There were well more than 200 arrests and dozens of injuries.
Violence had taken a few months to get to Washington, but the country had been watching as masked wanna-be revolutionaries terrorized the elderly and young women at Trump rallies and Republican and conservative events across the states.
America’s corporate leaders didn’t join the riots, but they might as well have. President Donald Trump and his administration weren’t like any previous administration: They were different. They were dangerous. They needed to be stopped.
So over the four years following the reintroduction of street violence to Washington, Big Tech and its friends launched a campaign of shadow-banning, suppression, and misinformation, first targeting crazy and less sympathetic elements on the fringe, before moving onto the simply helpless, and then even the powerful ones whom acceptable opinion had turned against.
What began with suppression of cynical conspiracies quickly grew into suppression of inconvenient facts. What started as shadow-banning morphed into outright banning. Independent, outsider fact-checks became arbitrary and unexplained internal decisions. Eventually, legitimate scientific and political views pushing back on COVID mandates were targeted.
As four years wrapped up, criticizing the riots and Russia hoax graduated to reporting on inconvenient primary documents that indicated corruption in the Biden family — none would be allowed. Thousands of people whose names few knew eventually became names like Alex Jones, and then became the third-largest newspaper in the country, all the way up to the person we once thought was the most powerful man in the world.
It was an incredible display of power, and none of it came from our government. In fact, Trump’s White House seemed powerless to stop it. The Republican Senate alternated between toothless threats and shrugs to “free markets,” while elected Democrats and their media friends either openly cheered or remained silent.
Silicon Valley’s courage has grown steadily as each step it took to silence and deplatform met weakness from the right and applause from the left. If the move to censor The New York Post’s reporting on Hunter Biden was the moment Big Tech began its march on Rome, the subsequent silencing of the president and even congressional committees — without ever feeling the need to justify their actions — was crossing the Alps.
But the Alps weren’t the goal. So when a fringe element of Trump supporters launched an attack on the Capitol, Big Tech had all the justification it needed to take its campaign to the next stage.
More than justification, it would be easy: The Democrats had won control of the U.S. Senate that same day. But don’t be fooled: Even a robust Republican Senate majority would have lacked the power and nerve to stand up to America’s tech titans. Why? Simple: America’s political class is weak.
Our political leadership is “frail, old, and out of touch in a rapidly changing world,” The Federalist’s Ben Domenech wrote in his Wednesday newsletter.
The frail leadership of the United States is the great unremarked phenomenon of this moment… In this moment of crisis, we have what appears to be the most elderly class of political elites in the history of the nation. The octogenarian and septuagenarian set of Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, Jim Clyburn, Chuck Schumer, Mitch McConnell, Dick Durbin are white knuckling it to the end of their careers — attempting to make their mark before leaving the stage and passing things on to people who share none of their memories of the time before.
Now compare that to the strength and vitality of the corporate titans of New York and California. Sure, our leaders in Washington, cowering from death behind COVID masks and tens of thousands of ideologically vetted Guardsmen, might be convinced of their own power, but is Jeff Bezos convinced of it?
He and his cohorts are not, but they are convinced of themselves — and their role in “the arc of justice,” their place on “the right side of history.” They are not weak, and their mission to make the world anew is more than some cynical play for profit.
The corporate embrace of Woke ideology and morality might have once sprung from self-interested business practices and simple exercises in power-building, but for years now has been a religion. This religion gives these men such confidence that they truly believe they are serving the cause of right when they exile their critics and competitors from the public sphere.
Further, this religion extends beyond Big Tech, counting among its adherents other ultra-wealthy men like Michel Bloomberg and Tom Steyer. These men want a new order, and are convinced they can create it.
America’s leading businessmen were once grounded by ties to cities in the American South, Midwest, and West, but increasingly our capitalism has shed its old Chamber makeup. Today, America’s elites exercise outsized dominance almost exclusively from a tiny number of glittering coastal cities. These elite have a new church, and yes, a craven part of them must realize their profits might be hurt if they don’t devote themselves strictly enough to its tenets.
These companies have more power than any in history. True, the East India Company’s 200,000 armed men were a force to be reckoned with, but to control what is and isn’t truth on a global scale? Sure, the worst excesses of the so-called “robber barons” saw unions violently put down and rail traffic to New York City blockaded, but even they could not blockade information.
These men — the most powerful private men in history — share something with those Antifa and Black Lives Matter rioters down in the streets: A total and unwavering belief in their own righteous morality. It girded them when, last week, they discarded even the lie that for years has formed the center of their defense against the politicians and media they once felt it necessary to placate: that if you don’t like something in the system, you can build an alternative.
The decision by the most powerful companies in history to conspire against social media competitor Parler — without even an attempt to provide evidence of wrongdoing — was a step beyond any previously taken. By denying the No. 1-downloaded app in the country access to Amazon Web Services, the host it had built its existence on, the rulers of Silicon Valley destroyed the upstart.
In addition, with companies like online credit-card processor Stripe joining in, the ability of other “unacceptable” businesses and causes to so much as accept payments and donations is now on notice.
This isn’t surface level: This is the guts of capitalism, and it’s just begun. Credit card companies, banks — they’re moving into the innards of our freedoms and it will impact your business, newspaper, and yes, eventually even your church group if you believe the wrong Christian tenet.
In a free society, if you see an opportunity or don’t like what’s already out there, you can try to make your own. You can accept payments for services, turn a profit, hire, expand. These are both fundamental aspects of the American dream. In the span of one week they were shattered, not by government, but by private and unelected businessmen.
It’s a moment in Big Business’s campaign unlike any before: It’s the sacking of the American Dream. Thus far in Washington, our leaders have remained quiet, busying themselves with impeaching a man who is no longer even president.
The Thirty Years War is usually said to have begun on May 23, 1618, 403 years ago this spring. European leaders had been wary: They knew they were living on a tinderbox, and it seemed any incident might set it off. Royal marriages fell through, a Spanish plot to overthrow Venice was foiled, a duke died without heirs — but each time a weakened Europe stumbled back to its feet.
When there was a Protestant revolt in Prague, most vividly remembered for the Catholic statesmen thrown from a tower window at its beginning, everyone knew a fight was to be had, but few if any, preeminent Thirty Years War historian C.V. Wedgewood explains, believed this was the moment: “It was not clear until 17 months later, even to the leading men in the countries most deeply concerned,” she wrote in 1938, “that this revolt rather than any other incident in that stormy time had lighted the fire.”
When it did finally become clear, the rulers of the day lacked both the power and wisdom to end a terrible event that would fracture the continent and Western Civilization as its people knew it.
While all eyes are glued to an ugly, deadly, and tragic but ultimately isolated riot and the arrests that follow, the religious zealots of the Commanding Heights have thrown our freedoms from the tower window. With a partisan corporate media in support, a frail political class in agreement or in fear, and a conservative resistance hopelessly compromised by Silicon Valley’s money and influence, America’s leaders lack the power and wisdom to end it.
The American people are not in for the kind of bloodshed and misery that characterized The Thirty Years War, at least not yet, but we may well be in for the complete fracturing of American society as we’ve known it. And make no mistake: This incident, more than any other incident in this stormy time, may have lighted the fire.