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Russia wins energy war in Europe after EU surrenders on Nord Stream 2

The European Commission’s agreement to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline signals Russia’s conclusive victory in its protracted struggle to secure its position as Europe’s principal gas supplier whilst retaining control of its energy resources.

Alexander Mercouris

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Confirmation that the EU Commission has dropped its opposition to Nord Stream 2 – the giant gas pipeline Russia is building through the Baltic to supply natural gas directly to Germany – effectively ends whatever doubts previously existed about the project.

More importantly, it also means Russia has won the energy war, which has been raging around the issue of Russian gas supplies to Europe over the last decade and a half.

Nord Stream 2 is the second undersea gas pipeline directly linking Russia to Germany.  It comes after Nord Stream 1, which was laid down in the late 2000s and completed in 2011, coming on stream in 2012.

The story of the export by Russia of gas to Europe is extraordinarily tangled and is scarcely ever discussed properly.  This is unfortunate because in my opinion it is the single most important reason for the collapse in relations between Russia and the West since Putin came to power in 1999.

Following the collapse of the USSR in 1991 there was a general assumption in the West that Russia would become the major source of oil and gas for the European economy.

This went together with an assumption that Russia’s vast oil and gas fields would be developed and exploited by Western energy companies in much the same way that those companies had developed oil and gas fields in other places.

This was the period of the so-called “dash for gas”, with Europe’s coal industry – highly polluting and with a notoriously truculent and politicised workforce – being deliberately closed down in anticipation of a vast flow to Europe of cheap Russian gas.

It never quite happened that way.  Even during the Yeltsin era resistance in Russia to the country ‘opening up’ its oil and gas fields to unrestricted development and exploitation by Western energy companies proved sufficiently strong to prevent it happening.

Following the change of government in Russia in 1999, with Vladimir Putin emerging as Russia’s leader, first as Prime Minister and then as President, the possibility of Russia ‘opening up’ its oil and gas fields to unrestricted development and exploitation by Western energy companies was finally and conclusively ruled out.

Putin at the time of his appointment was already known as someone who believed in the importance of Russia retaining control of its energy resources.  Indeed Putin had actually written a doctoral thesis on the subject (a partial translation can be found here), which since his emergence as Russia’s leader (and especially after the Yukos affair) has been the target of hostile commentary (see for example here).  Almost certainly the fact Putin was known to believe that Russia should retain control of its energy resources was one of the most important reasons so many people within the Russian leadership in 1999 backed him for Russia’s President.

Though the bitter hostility of the West to Putin has many causes, the anger caused by his role in closing Russia’s vast oil and gas fields to unrestricted development and exploitation by Western energy companies is in my opinion unquestionably one of the most important, and one that consistently gets underestimated.

Suffice to say that all the allegations that Putin is corrupt and a billionaire have their origins in stories which circulated in the early 2000s that the “real” reason Putin wanted to prevent Western energy companies from exploiting Russia’s energy wealth was because he wanted to keep this wealth for himself.  In this way action which Putin took for patriotic reasons could be misrepresented as done for selfish ones.  It is no coincidence that some of the very earliest claims made about Putin and his billions centred on false allegations that he owns hidden shares in Gazprom, Russia’s giant gas monopoly exporter, and that he is its actual owner.

This is not to say that Putin opposes all investment by Western oil and gas companies in Russia’s energy sector.  On the contrary he not only wants such investment but he actively encourages it.  However Putin has always insisted that this investment be controlled and regulated by the Russian state, and his strong preference is that it happen through collaborative joint ventures with Russian companies, especially Rosneft.

This was not what Western governments and Western energy companies had had in mind.  Their conception was for something closer to what happens in some countries in what was once called the Third World, where Western energy companies run the show, exploiting the energy wealth of these countries as they please in their own and the West’s interests.  Not for nothing were some calling Russia before Putin became its leader “Nigeria with snow”.

Western oil and gas companies, as the hardheaded and pragmatic people that they are, have long since reconciled themselves to the new reality.  Companies like BP, Total and Exxon have long  shown a willingness to work with the Russians on Russia’s terms.  Indeed they have developed a genuine respect for the tough way the Russians negotiate to protect their interests and then stick by any agreements they make.

The same however has not been true of the more ideological and geopolitically minded officials in the West’s governments.  The US and UK governments and the European Commission in Brussels in particular have been implacably hostile, doing everything they can to bring the Russians to heel so as to force them, in the euphemistic language they like to use, to liberalise Russia’s energy industry ‘upstream’ so as to match the liberalisation that supposedly already exists in the West’s energy market ‘downstream’.

The result has been a festering energy war between the West and Russia which has gone on for years, with Gazprom – Russia’s majority state owned monopoly gas exporter – the primary target.

Gazprom is regularly accused in the West of manipulating Russia’s gas exports in order to achieve Russia’s political objectives, and recently it has been the subject of legal action brought against it by the European Commission amidst allegations that it has abused its monopoly position to gain unfair commercial advantages in the European energy market.

The agenda – obvious to all informed observers though never openly stated – is to force the Russians to privatise Gazprom and to break it up, ending its position as a monopoly exporter of Russian gas, and opening up Russia’s gas industry to exploitation and development by Western energy companies regulated by the European Commission in Brussels.

In reality there is no evidence the Russians have ever used their energy exports to gain political advantages in Europe or anywhere else, and it would be completely counter-productive for them to try.  As for the accusations that Gazprom abuses its monopoly position in order to gain commercial advantages for itself, these ignore the fact that Gazprom acts at all times as the export arm of the Russian state, giving its energy supply contracts something of the quality of interstate agreements rather than mere commercial agreements.

The primary tool used by the European Commission for its attacks on Gazprom is the EU’s Third Energy Package, which seeks the liberalisation of Europe’s energy market and industry by opening it up to competition.  The European Commission insists this means Gazprom cannot have exclusive control of any pipelines it builds or operates on EU territory since supposedly that would be contrary to the Third Energy Package since it would give Gazprom an over-dominant market position.

The Russian government signed the Third Energy Package but in the end refused to ratify it.  Russia has since repeatedly made clear that it does not consider itself bound by the Third Energy Package.  The reason is that the Russians understand that if they accept the Third Energy Package the European Commission will in time try to extend it to Russia itself by demanding that the Russians ‘liberalise’ their energy industry ‘upstream’ by privatising and breaking up Gazprom and by opening up Russia’s oil and gas fields to Western energy companies in order to conform to the European energy market liberalised by the Third Energy Package ‘downstream’.

Behind this move and counter-move was a Western miscalculation that the EU had the whip hand  over Russia because of the EU’s supposedly dominant position as Russia’s primary energy customer.  Since it was assumed that the whole existence of the Russian economy depended on Russia selling its oil and gas to Europe, the Europeans assumed the Russians would eventually be forced to accept the Third Energy Package so that they could continue to sell their gas to Europe.

In December 2014 however the Russians proved this to be completely wrong when they abruptly cancelled the South Stream pipeline, which was supposed to supply gas through southern and eastern Europe, after the European Commission insisted that the Third Energy Package applied to it.  Moreover the Russians not only cancelled South Stream but announced that they would no longer seek to build or operate gas pipelines on EU territory, and that instead of South Stream they would build a pipeline to Turkey instead, which is not a member of the EU and whose territory is not EU territory.

This Russian move came as a complete shock, provoking furious recriminations across the EU whilst demonstrating that the whole assumption that Russia so depended on Europe for the sale of its gas that it would eventually be brought to heel was completely wrong.  On the contrary it turned out that it was the Europeans who depended on Russia for their gas, and not the other way round.

At this point it is necessary to say something about European efforts to ‘diversify’ away from Russian gas and their failure, and about the role of Ukraine.

As the energy war between the EU and Russia heated up from the mid 2000s, demands – many of them originating in Washington and London, even though the US and UK are not significant importers of Russian gas – for the EU to ‘diversify’ its gas imports away from Russia so as to reduce the EU’s supposedly dangerous dependence on Russia steadily built up.

These led to various schemes to reduce the EU’s ‘dependence’ on Russian gas, including the importing of liquified natural gas from the Persian Gulf and the US, the building of the Nabucco pipeline across Turkey and the Caucasus to Azerbaijan, the importing of gas from the newly discovered gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean, and the importing of gas from north Africa.

These projects and the EU’s campaign against Gazprom were given further life by a succession of ‘gas wars’ fought between Russia and Ukraine in 2006 and 2009.

The background to these wars is that the existing pipeline network between Russia and the EU was largely built by the USSR from the 1960s to the 1980s, with many of the pipelines passing through Ukraine, which was of course at that time a constituent republic of the USSR.

After the USSR broke up the Russians for a time sought to keep Ukraine politically friendly to themselves by supplying Ukraine with cheap gas.

The result was that the Ukrainian budget benefitted from the transit fees Gazprom paid Ukraine for having gas destined for Europe pass through Ukraine’s pipelines, whilst Ukrainian oligarchs – like the oligarchs in Russia in the 1990s – made gigantic fortunes by buying cheap Russian gas domestically within Ukraine itself and then selling it at a high price to Europe.

After Putin became President this cozy arrangement came to an end.  Russia began insisting that Ukraine pay the full market price for Russian gas, and in 2006 and 2009, as earlier gas supply contracts came to an end, Russia made it a condition for the supply of gas to Ukraine that it do so.

At the same time the Russians began to insist on prompt payment by Ukraine for gas already supplied, and demanded that Ukraine pay all outstanding arrears for gas supplied but not paid for.

In 2006 and 2009 Ukraine refused to pay the higher price demanded by the Russians, and failed to pay its arrears, causing Russia to cut Ukraine’s gas supply off.  Ukraine retaliated on both occasions by siphoning off gas passing through its pipelines intended for Gazprom’s European customers.  The result was gas shortages across central and eastern Europe.

On both occasions Ukraine eventually backed down, but the interruptions of gas supplies to Gazprom’s customers in central and eastern Europe were seized on by Gazprom’s and Russia’s critics who alleged that they proved that Russia was an unreliable supplier.

For their part the Russians and some of their European energy customers concluded that Ukraine was an unreliable transit state, causing the Russians to launch pipeline projects like South Stream, Nord Stream 1 and eventually Nord Stream 2 in order to bypass Ukraine.

By December 2014, when South Stream was cancelled, all these disputes and conflicts had come to a head.

The European projects to ‘diversify’ away from Russian gas had all failed.

The reason was that all these projects ran into the same problem: they did not provide enough gas to reduce Europe’s need for gas from Russia, and they made no economic sense because the gas they would have provided would have been significantly more expensive than the gas supplied by pipeline from Russia.

In the meantime the Ukrainians during fraught negotiations over gas supplies from Russia over the course of the summer of 2014 once more threatened to siphon off Russian gas passing through Ukrainian pipelines destined for Gazprom’s EU customers.

Meanwhile the Russians for their part were having far more success in diversifying their gas exports to non-European customers than the Europeans were having in reducing their need for imports of gas from Russia.  Specifically in 2014 the Russians announced major projects to build two giant pipelines to supply gas to China.  Though these pipelines have been derided by Western and Russian liberal critics as making no economic sense because the Chinese will pay less for the gas than Russia’s European customers, there is no doubt the Russians will make a profit from the sales, and the fact that they will soon be selling large amounts of gas to China means that they are no longer as dependent on the Europeans as their customers as they once were.

The European country which found itself most exposed was Germany, whose large industrial sector not only requires plentiful supplies of cheap gas but which has also become more gas dependent as Germany has been closing down its coal and nuclear industries.

The result is that despite the sanctions the EU imposed on Russia on German insistence in July 2014, in June 2015 – just a few months after the cancellation of South Stream in December 2014 – and with the full backing of the German government, a new pipeline project linking Germany to Russia across the Baltic was announced, which is Nord Stream 2.  Moreover in order to ensure that this pipeline would be built the Germans agreed to Russia’s demand that it would not be subject to the EU’s Third Energy Package.

The new pipeline predictably provoked a sustained campaign of opposition from a coalition of opponents including those who claimed to be concerned about Europe’s ‘energy dependence’ on Russia, various eastern and central European states unhappy at the loss of transit fees caused by the direct supply of gas to Germany from Russia, other EU states such as Italy unhappy at the way Germany dealt directly with Russia in its own interests whilst simultaneously insisting that other EU states impose sanctions on Russia, and of course Ukraine, which risks being cut out completely as a transit state.

Opposition to Nord Stream 2 was led by the European Commission on the grounds that it was not compatible with the EU’s Third Energy Package and would increase Europe’s dependence on Russian gas.  The Germans and the Russians countered, truthfully if somewhat disingenuously, that Nord Stream 2 is not subject to the Third Energy Package since it does not cross over EU territory as it passes under the Baltic Sea

The reality is that in today’s Europe if the Germans and the Russians agree on something it is going to happen irrespective of whatever others might think or say about it.  The German government could have killed Nord Stream 2 at any time but it chose not to because that would have outraged German industry, already seething over the sanctions imposed on Russia.  That in effect all but guaranteed that despite all the objections Nord Stream 2 would go ahead.

The EU Commission has now dropped its objections to Nord Stream 2 and said Nord Stream 2 is not covered by the Third Energy Package.  This amounts to it raising the white flag, not just in relation to Nord Stream 2 but in respect of the whole energy war.  Suffice to say that it is not a coincidence that at the same time the European Commission’s case against Gazprom seems to be fizzling out.

What this means is that following more than a decade and a half of struggle the Russians have finally and conclusively won the energy war.

Not only will Nord Stream 2 be built as the Russians want – without it being subject to the Third Energy Package – but there is nothing now to stop the Russians building Nord Stream 3 or Nord Stream 4 or as many other pipelines as they want under the Baltic on the same basis.

Not only does that secure Russia’s position as the predominant supplier of gas to Europe for the foreseeable future, but it means that Russia will go on supplying its gas to Europe whilst retaining full control over its own energy resources.

The Russians have paid a price for this war.  Not only have they been forced to spend vast amounts of money building expensive pipelines to bypass Ukraine, but plans they once had for Gazprom to become a gas retailer within the European energy market have had to be abandoned.

Gazprom’s excessively low market valuation for a company of its size and resources undoubtedly also in part reflects the harm it has suffered because of this war.

The Russians will nonetheless consider all this an acceptable price to pay given the scale of their victory.

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New Zealand weapons ban dream move of leftist activists

The American left is sure to pick this up and start screaming for an “assault weapons ban” because this supports their agenda so well.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Reuters reported on Thursday, March 21 that the Prime Minister of New Zealand enacted a sweeping change, banning weapons of the type that were used in the massacre of at least fifty Muslims, who were gunned down on livestream while in Friday prayer services in Christchurch last week. We quote from the Reuters piece below, with added emphasis:

New Zealand will ban military-style semi-automatic and assault rifles under tough new gun laws following the killing of 50 people in its worst mass shooting, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Thursday.

In the immediate aftermath of last Friday’s shootings at two mosques in the city of Christchurch, Ardern labeled the attack as terrorism and said New Zealand’s gun laws would change.

“On 15 March our history changed forever. Now, our laws will too. We are announcing action today on behalf of all New Zealanders to strengthen our gun laws and make our country a safer place,” Ardern told a news conference.

“All semi-automatic weapons used during the terrorist attack on Friday 15 March will be banned.”

Ardern said she expected the new laws to be in place by April 11 and a buy-back scheme costing up to NZ$200 million ($138 million) would be established for banned weapons.

All military style semi-automatics (MSSA) and assault rifles would be banned, along with parts used to convert weapons into MSSAs and all high-capacity magazines.

Australia banned semi-automatic weapons and launched a gun buy-back after the Port Arthur massacre in 1996 in which 35 people were killed.

Ardern said that similar to Australia, the law would allow for strictly enforced exemptions for farmers for pest control and animal welfare.

“I strongly believe that the vast majority of legitimate gun owners in New Zealand will understand that these moves are in the national interest, and will take these changes in their stride.”

This is undoubtedly going to be real red meat (or perhaps real vegetables) for the anti-gun lobby in the United States. This is because New Zealand strongly resembled the US in terms of firearm rights and the penetration of numbers of guns in the populace of this remote island nation. Reuters continues, with statements that would probably surprise, even horrify some gun owners in the States, but which are doubtlessly useful for the application of pressure on such individuals:

New Zealand, a country of fewer than 5 million people, has an estimated 1.2-1.5 million firearms, about 13,500 of them MSSA-type weapons.

Most farmers own guns while hunting of deer, pigs and goats is popular. Gun clubs and shooting ranges dot the country.

That has created a powerful lobby that has thwarted previous attempts to tighten gun laws.

Federated Farmers, which represent thousands of farmers, said it supported the new laws.

“This will not be popular among some of our members but … we believe this is the only practicable solution,” a group spokesman, Miles Anderson, said in a statement.

The main opposition National Party, which draws strong support in rural areas, said it also supported the ban.

The changes exclude two general classes of firearms commonly used for hunting, pest control and stock management on farms.

“I have a military style weapon. But to be fair, I don’t really use it, I don’t really need it,” said Noel Womersley, who slaughters cpoliticalattle for small farmers around Christchurch.

“So I’m quite happy to hand mine over.”

To be absolutely fair, the attack on the mosques was an awful event, made the worse by the shooter’s deliberate attempts to politicize various aspects of what he was doing and what he “stood for” as an attack ostensibly against US President Donald Trump, some seven thousand miles away in the United States.

The immediate reaction of the people interviewed, some among them related or friends with the victims of the massacre, was to embrace the weapons reform laws:

Nada Tawfeek, who buried her father-in-law killed in the attacks, Hussein Moustafa, on Thursday, welcomed the ban.

“It’s a great reaction. I think other countries need to learn from her [Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern],” Tawfeek said.

Mohammed Faqih, a member of the Islamic clergy who flew in from California and attended the funerals for some victims on Thursday, said he was “extremely grateful” for the gun ban.

“I wish our leaders in the States would follow on her footsteps and do the same thing,” he said.

One can expect there to be quite the outcry among American liberals about gun control, especially if anything remotely resembling this event takes place or is thwarted in coming days in the US.

It may seem very cold and cruel to focus on the political angle of this story rather than the human tragedy that it is. However, in this situation we have seen signs that the most vile form of human tragedy has actually taken place – the murder of dozens of innocent people for a mere political point. Indeed this thought has been noted and vilified already, as Mr. R.X. Dentith, writing for the New Zealand website Spinoff here quoted:

American paleo-conservative Rush Limbaugh was one of the first to note: “There’s an ongoing theory that the shooter himself may, in fact, be a leftist who writes the manifesto and then goes out and performs the deed purposely to smear his political enemies, knowing he’s going to get shot in the process. You know you just can’t – you can’t immediately discount this. The left is this insane, they are this crazy. And then if that’s exactly what the guy is trying to do then he’s hit a home run, because right there on Fox News: ‘Shooter is an admitted white nationalist who hates immigrants.’”

…[P]eople like Limbaugh… can’t stomach the idea the terrorist action in Otautahi might be motivated by the kind of rhetoric Limbaugh helps disseminate – tend to think there is a culture war going on, and they are on the losing side.

This war has many names, and the enemy is easily identified: it is the battle against Cultural Marxism; the fight against Toxic Feminism; the resistance to Identity Politics; and the fear of the Great Replacement, the thesis at the heart of the terrorist’s own manifesto.

The Great Replacement thesis posits that the majority white European countries are being “invaded” by non-white, non-European peoples. Not just that, but due to declining birth rates in the West, this “invasion” constitutes a wholesale replacement of the white population over time.

Mr. Dentith tries further to knock down this notion of the Great Replacement. However, he misses a much more basic point.

Someone who goes and takes human lives and broadcasts them for any reason is not a mere political operative. The person who does this is a very sick, deranged human being indeed. Evil is certainly appropriately used here.

However, evil is often quite cunning, and despite the intellectual arguments about the reality or non-reality of any particular manifesto statement, in this case, the killer played the media with infernal intelligence, and they took the bait. It is possible that Prime Minister Ardern also took the bait, in this most awful of bad situations, and to give her credit, she took swift actions to try to “correct” what was wrong.

But the problem here was not the type of weapons used. The problem is the fact that they were used by a person who thought these fifty people’s lives were worth nothing more than a bit of policy change. One of the worst examples of human evil in recent times, this incident shouts to the world that there is a problem, but the problem remains unsolved, even though many people will hand over their firearms out of a genuine wish for compassion to those lost and the hope that somehow this action will prevent a future incident.

But the logic of this emotional reaction is nil. And what is worse is that the American Left knows this, but does not care. The movers and shakers of liberalism will likely milk the actions of sincerely horrified New Zealanders for all they are worth to try at affecting change in American constitutional rights.

And the innocent dead will not rest in peace, because the real problem has not even been examined.

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Upstart Populist Party Shocks In Dutch Election Upset, 2 Days After Utrecht Attack

International reports have described the FvD as receiving “a surge of last-minute support” in the days following the Utrecht attack.

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Via Zerohedge…


Dutch voters have sent shock waves through Europe at the polls on Wednesday in the wake of Monday’s deadly Utrecht terror shooting, in which a now detained 37-year old Turkish man went on a terrifying tram killing spree which left three dead and three injured.

Euroskeptic party, Forum for Democracy (FvD), has emerged victorious in key provincial elections this week, paving the way to making it one of the two largest groups in the Dutch Senate, and representing growing Dutch frustration with the recent unprecedented refugee influx in Europe.

Newcomer Forum for Democracy party is led by 36-year-old Thierry Baudet, who is a critic of the EU and of the Netherlands’ immigration policies, via EPA

International reports have described the FvD as receiving “a surge of last-minute support” in the days following the Utrecht attack, which investigators have since described as having a “terror motive” based on a letter found in shooter Gokmen Tanis’ possession.

Forum for Democracy party leader Thierry Baudet had immediately placed ultimate blame  for the incident on the government’s “lax immigration policies” and provocatively stated a day before the elections (referencing his political rival)

If people want more deadly shootings like the one in Utrecht, then they have to vote for the VVD.

Baudet, riding a wave of renewed Euroskeptic sentiment, and whose party also wants to see more military spending, green initiatives, and an easing on income tax while greatly restricting the borders, said in the aftermath of Wednesday’s vote: “The voters in the Netherlands have spread their wings and shown their true power.”

Referencing the Utrecht attack and other deadly terror incidents on European soil, he added: “We have been called to the front because we have to. Because the country needs us.”

Three were killed and several injured in Monday’s Dutch tram terror attack, which raised the country’s emergency threat level to five as it was unfolding, its highest level.

Interestingly, the 36-year old Baudet and his party continued campaigning down to the last moments even as others stopped in the wake of Monday’s attack which rocked the Netherlands. According to Al Jazeera:

Following the lead of US President Donald Trump, Baudet opposes immigration and emphasises “Dutch first” cultural and economic themes. He opposes the euro and thinks the Netherlands should leave the European Union.

Baudet had continued campaigning when other parties stopped after Monday’s attack in Utrecht, in which a gunman shot three people dead on a tram. The populist leader blamed the incident on the government’s lax immigration policies.

The FvD is now set to take 12 seats in the upper house of parliament, which is equal to Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s conservative VVD Party, a scenario before this week considered unlikely according to many observers.

The FvD slightly outscoring the VVD means Rutte’s government has lost its majority for the 75-seat Senate ahead of upcoming May elections.

In a post-election speech on Wednesday, Baudet described further that what’s now being described in international media as “an upstart populist party [that has] shocked the Dutch political establishment” as punishing the arrogance of elites.

In his pro-Western civilization themed remarks, Baudet added, “We are standing in the rubble of what was once the most beautiful civilization in the world.”

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Will The Trump White House finally punish Facebook for censorship?

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 113.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a look at US President Trump’s tweet where he has said that he would be “looking into” a report that his social media chief, Dan Scavino Jr. has been censored by Facebook.

Are we finally about to see the Trump White House move to punish social media outlets for their blatant and bias censorship of alternative narratives that dare to stray from globalist neo-liberal and radical left ideology?

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“Conservatives face a tough fight as Big Tech’s censorship expands”, authored by Donald Trump Jr., via The Hill…

As Big Tech’s censorship of conservatives becomes ever more flagrant and overt, the old arguments about protecting the sanctity of the modern public square are now invalid. Our right to freely engage in public discourse through speech is under sustained attack, necessitating a vigorous defense against the major social media and internet platforms.

From “shadowbans” on Facebook and Twitter, to demonetization of YouTube videos, to pulled ads for Republican candidates at the critical junctures of election campaigns, the list of violations against the online practices and speech of conservatives is long.

I certainly had my suspicions confirmed when Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, “accidentally” censored a post I made regarding the Jussie Smollett hoax, which consequently led to me hearing from hundreds of my followers about how they’ve been having problems seeing, liking or being able to interact with my posts. Many of them even claimed that they’ve had to repeatedly refollow me, as Instagram keeps unfollowing me on their accounts.

While nothing about Big Tech’s censorship of conservatives truly surprises me anymore, it’s still chilling to see the proof for yourself. If it can happen to me, the son of the president, with millions of followers on social media, just think about how bad it must be for conservatives with smaller followings and those who don’t have the soapbox or media reach to push back when they’re being targeted?

Thanks to a brave Facebook whistleblower who approached James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas, we now know that Mark Zuckerberg’s social media giant developed algorithms to “deboost” certain content, limiting its distribution and appearance in news feeds. As you probably guessed, this stealth censorship was specifically aimed at conservatives.

Facebook appears to have deliberately tailored its algorithm to recognize the syntax and style popular among conservatives in order to “deboost” that content. “Mainstream media,” “SJW” (Social Justice Warrior) and “red pill” — all terms that conservatives often use to express themselves — were listed as red flags, according to the former Facebook insider.

Facebook engineers even cited BlazeTV host Lauren Chen’s video criticizing the social justice movement as an example of the kind of “red pills” that users just aren’t allowed to drop anymore. Mainstream conservative content was strangled in real time, yet fringe leftists such as the Young Turks enjoy free rein on the social media platform.

Despite the occasional brave gesture, politicians have been far too sluggish in recognizing the extent of the problem. But the Republican Party and the conservative movement are becoming more vigilant against the suppression of our speech, as we saw at last weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

Silicon Valley lobbyists have splashed millions of dollars all over the Washington swamp to play on conservatives’ innate faith in the free-market system and respect for private property. Even as Big Tech companies work to exclude us from the town square of the 21st century, they’ve been able to rely on misguided conservatives to carry water for them with irrelevant pedantry about whether the First Amendment applies in cases of social media censorship.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) has been making a name for himself as a Republican prepared to stand up to Big Tech malfeasance since his time as Missouri’s attorney general. He delivered a tour de force interview with The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberly Strassel in front of the CPAC crowd, one that provided a clear-eyed assessment of the ongoing affront to the freedoms of conservative speech and expression.

Hawley demolished the absurd notion that “conservative principles” preclude taking action to ensure free debate online simply because Big Tech firms — the most powerful corporations in the world — are private companies.

Hawley pointed out that Big Tech companies already enjoy “sweetheart deals” under current regulations that make their malfeasance a matter of public concern. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, for instance, allows them to avoid liability for the content that users post to their platforms. To address this problem, Hawley proposed adding a viewpoint neutrality requirement for platforms that benefit from Section 230’s protections, which were originally enacted to protect the internet as “a forum for a true diversity of political discourse.”

“Google and Facebook should not be a law unto themselves,” Hawley declared. “They should not be able to discriminate against conservatives. They should not be able to tell us we need to sit down and shut up!”

It’s high time other conservative politicians started heeding Hawley’s warnings, because the logical endpoint of Big Tech’s free rein is far more troubling than conservative meme warriors losing their Twitter accounts. As we’re already starting to see, what starts with social media censorship can quickly lead to banishment from such fundamental services as transportation, online payments and banking.

Left unchecked, Big Tech and liberal activists could construct a private “social credit” system — not unlike what the communists have nightmarishly implemented in China — that excludes outspoken conservatives from wide swaths of American life simply because their political views differ from those of tech executives.

There is no conservative principle that even remotely suggests we are obligated to adopt a laissez-faire attitude while the richest companies on earth abuse the power we give them to put a thumb on the scale for our political enemies.

If anything, our love of the free market dictates that we must do whatever is necessary to ensure that the free marketplace of ideas remains open to all.

Donald Trump Jr. is executive vice president at The Trump Organization.

 

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