If you want to know how well our elites are managing to control the discourse, consider this: a pair of “Let’s Go Brandon” anthems shot to the top of iTunes chart rankings this week.
Rapper Bryson Gray’s song hit number one despite getting banned from YouTube on the ridiculous pretext that it contains “medical misinformation,” while rapper Loza Alexander’s “Let’s Go Brandon” hit number two. Both of them beat out Adele’s “Easy On Me,” which was knocked down to number three. (Another version of Alexander’s song nabbed the number four spot.)
So three of the four top iTunes songs this week are “Let’s Go Brandon” anthems. Truth be told, the songs are not all that good. Their popularity has more to do with what they represent, which is a firm rejection of the idea that we can simply be told what to do and how to think by a cultural and political elite who hate us, and that we have no control over the public discourse or the narratives that define our times.
Big Tech’s efforts in this regard are especially notable for being utterly ham-fisted — from YouTube’s penchant for banning everything from Gray’s rap to anything else its censors deem to be “medical misinformation,” to Twitter’s transparently hypocritical enforcement of its rules against abuse and harassment, to Facebook’s absurd censorship of a meme blaming President Joe Biden for high gas prices.
Billionaires, it turns out, have a penchant for desperately trying to control information. LinkedIn Founder Reid Hoffman and left-wing financier George Soros, a couple of billionaires with a history of peddling lies and manipulating the media, this week announced the creation of a creepily named venture, “Good Information Inc.,” which according to Axios will “fund and scale businesses that cut through echo chambers with fact-based information.” Heading up the operation will be former Democratic strategist Tara McGowan.
As my colleague Tristan Justice noted, this crew comes to the “misinformation” game with considerable baggage. McGowan ran a left-wing nonprofit backed by Hoffman called ACRONYM that botched the Iowa Democratic causes in 2020. Before that, Hoffman financed an actual misinformation campaign in the 2017 Alabama Senate special election, in which fake online accounts were made to appear as Russian bots supported by Republicans.
Although these billionaires are perhaps the worst possible spokesmen for combatting “misinformation,” their efforts are part of a larger, increasingly desperate movement among our elite managerial class to control information and narratives. In each case, the obvious motive is to quash ideas and opinions — even memes and jokes! — that leftist elites in Silicon Valley and corporate boardrooms don’t like.
— Dead Inside Annie (@AptlyAnnie) October 27, 2021
These efforts can seem scary and dystopian at first, and in some ways they are. Billionaires are powerful people. But the trend is best understood as a futile bid to control a discourse and a medium that cannot be controlled — not even by the most powerful people in the world.
Like the clueless reporter who pretended the NASCAR crowd was chanting “Let’s go Brandon,” not realizing she was creating an epic meme with a life of its own, the efforts of our erstwhile gatekeepers, however slick and well-funded, will ultimately backfire.
You see their desperation cropping up everywhere lately: the hand-wringing over Dave Chapelle’s wildly successful Netflix special “The Closer,” the legacy media’s ongoing unhealthy obsession with Substack, CNN’s aggressive lying about Joe Rogan taking “horse dewormer” to recover from COVID-19.
— Kaveh Shahrooz کاوه شهروز (@kshahrooz) October 11, 2021
You see it in our politics, too. This week Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, a boomer leftist who’s been in Washington since 1982, defended Attorney General Merrick Garland’s now-discredited memo targeting parents, insisting there is indeed a dire nationwide problem of violence at local school board meetings.
How does Durbin know? Because he went online and typed “school board violence” into “one of the search engines” and found “page after page” of reports. Never mind that the National School Board Association letter that prompted Garland’s memo was later disavowed by the NSBA, Durbin’s got an internet connection and by golly he’s going to use the search engines! (For his part, Garland’s justification for his shocking memo amounted to what he saw on the tee-vee.)
Between Durbin and Garland, it’s hard to imagine a pair of powerful people more clueless and out of touch than this:
.@SenatorDurbin defends the DoJ targeting parents: "I typed in school board violence on a search engine this morning. Page after page is coming up … I don’t believe we should infringe on free speech but free speech does not involve threats and violence, period" pic.twitter.com/yCgNPNZC16
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) October 27, 2021
Or consider the self-important, unintentionally funny “open letter” published by NeverTrump blog The Bulwark this week, listing a bunch of things the signatories don’t like about Republican-backed efforts at election reform. Noam Chomsky signed an open letter with Bill Kristol and Max Boot. It sounds like the setup to a bad joke, and it is.
Setting aside the letter’s actual misinformation about such GOP efforts, the idea that in 2021 an open letter signed by a bunch of self-styled public intellectuals would matter to anyone outside their own circumscribed milieu is laughable. It certainly will have no effect whatsoever in the real world.
(Speaking of The Bulwark, McGowan suggested it’s just the type of outlet that Good Information Inc. might fund as part of the billionaire-backed effort to fight “misinformation.”)
But when all’s said and done, when all the open letters have been signed by all the top credentialed people, when all the wrongthink songs have been banned by Big Tech censors and all the bad memes have been blocked, none of it will matter. What our sclerotic elite don’t understand is that they can’t control the medium, so they can’t control the message. No one can.
Maybe that’s a good thing, maybe not, but the bell can’t be un-rung — no matter how much George Soros and Reid Hoffman juice The Bulwark. Let’s go Brandon.