One of the supposed “horrors” of communism was its use of mass indoctrination. Vast captive populations, trapped behind the Iron Curtain, were subjected to relentless mind control, turning them into good, loyal, empty-headed commie robots.
Communist propaganda blared from every side: newspapers, magazines, radio, TV, billboards, public loudspeakers, on the job, at school, at public events such as May Day parades.
Worst of all was the censorship. Everything was censored. The news, of course, but also art, literature, even music. Everything had to conform to the Party-line. Communism was a closed world of the mind.
The West, and especially the United States, on the other hand, were “open societies.” People were free to read and view whatever they chose. Artists and writers could freely create, following their own muse. Journalists and academics could speak and write without fear. This was the glory of the Free World.
Of course, somehow, all this freedom resulted—at least in those venues seen by mass audiences—in near unanimous support for the West and its economic and political and social systems, and near unanimous rejection and condemnation of alternatives and opponents, especially communism.
Somehow, the United States was a society in which you could be born, live a long life, be literate and well-read, and quite possibly never once—not once—in that entire lifetime actually hear an articulate defense of communism or socialism. Somehow.
But there was no censorship. No centralized system of control of what you could see or hear or read.
Today we have the Internet. The glory of the Internet is that anyone can find anything. Just enter a search term and you can easily find arguments for or against any point of view, even communism. But this may be coming to an end.
The World Socialist Web Site (www.wsws.org) has published a couple of articles recently describing a truly ominous development. Google, the premier search engine in the world, is apparently now rigging its search results to exclude alternative websites.
According to WSWS, “global traffic rankings of a broad range of left-wing, progressive, anti-war and democratic rights organizations have fallen significantly.” Sites that have seen a drastic decline of search referrals include WikiLeaks, Alternet, Counterpunch, Global Research, Consortium News and Truthout. “Even prominent democratic rights groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Amnesty International appear to have been hit.”
Google’s new policy is supposed to fight “fake news” and “conspiracy theory.” Unnamed “evaluators” now flag sites that have “factually inaccurate information to manipulate users in order to benefit a person, business, government, or other organization politically, monetarily, or otherwise.”
These “evaluators” are in effect censors, and they have a mandate to effectively exclude any search results pointing to sites they believe to be “factually inaccurate” or “conspiracy” oriented. Given the almost immediate results of this new policy—a 70% reduction in referrals to WSWS, for example—these censors must be flagging an incredibly broad array of left-wing and oppositional websites as “fake news.”
Consider the following results for someone trying to find out about socialism:
In May, the search term “socialism” generated 31,696 impressions, and the WSWS was ranked between 5th and 6th in search results. In June, the WSWS was removed from the top 100 search results for the term. Thus searches for “socialism” produced zero impressions for the World Socialist Web Site, the most widely read online socialist publication.
Google’s new policy amounts to a kind of state censorship. The Google search engine has a dominating and central position today in the Internet. It is effectively a public institution.
True, you can still access WSWS and all other sites directly. But how does a beginner find them? Of course it’s still possible, but it now will require more work.
I remember how hard it was for me, as a young person, decades before the Internet, to find anything supportive of socialism and communism. Back in those days, the only way to expose yourself to a socialist or communist point of view on current events was to subscribe to a magazine. Just finding what magazines were available and where to subscribe was not easy. Explicitly socialist or communist magazines were scarce or nonexistent in most libraries.
The Internet changed all that and made it easy. That era may now be passing.
- Google rigs searches to block access to World Socialist Web Site
- New Google algorithm restricts access to left-wing, progressive web sites
- NYT Cheers the Rise of Censorship Algorithms
- Does the WSWS write about Leon Trotsky? Not according to Google
- Google’s chief search engineer legitimizes new censorship algorithm