Neoliberal Bonk

So this happened:

While the removal of The White Nationalist Manifesto came with little fanfare other than Amazon saying that it violated the company’s policies (though it was unclear what policies those were), Johnson could see the writing on the wall. Two days later, Amazon banned 15 more Counter-Currents titles, including Western Civilization Bites Back by British Nationalist Party leader Jonathan Bowden and books by Nazi mystic Savitri Devi. Amazon had also banned four books by white nationalist leader Jared Taylor.
Other white nationalist authors targeted include American Nazi Party founder George Lincoln Rockwell, Harold Covington from the Northwest Imperative, Ben Klassen of the “Creativity Movement,” and National Alliance founder William Pierce, author of The Turner Diaries. All in all, dozens of titles were pulled from Amazon’s listings, leaving them essentially unavailable for most people in the U.S. It is an ongoing purge, so the number is increasing quickly, with no end in sight.

And this:

Facebook banned several prominent accounts promoting white nationalism on the platform on Thursday.
Accounts barred from Facebook, as well as its subsidiary Instagram, as part of the new enforcement include the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, the far-right troll Milo Yiannopoulos and the anti-Muslim figurehead Laura Loomer. Jones was previously banned from Facebook but still had an account on Instagram, which was no longer live as of Thursday.
“We’ve always banned individuals or organizations that promote or engage in violence and hate, regardless of ideology,” a Facebook spokesperson said. “The process for evaluating potential violators is extensive and it is what led us to our decision to remove these accounts today.”

And all of the people you would expect to be upset about this are indeed very, very upset. But in their haste to rise up and demand a platform for saying things like grieving parents of murdered elementary school students were actors, they rose up a little too fast and struck their head on something.

It’s what I like to call the “Neoliberal Bonk.”

Neoliberalism (and I’m quote an encyclopedia definition specifically so no one can say I’m working on a bias) is an “ideology and policy model that emphasizes the value of free market competition.” Let the market decide, says neoliberalism. The market is the best way to run things, says neoliberalism. The market needs to be as free as possible, says neoliberalism. We must be liberal, or have a free hand, with the market, like one may be liberal with the ketchup on french fries, unless vinegar or mayo is more you thing.

Under neoliberalism, the unifying theory is that the government must be used as little as possible, allowing the private marketplace to be let free. After all, the argument goes, freeing “the beast” of the market will allow people to “vote with their dollars” and create a system without the flaws of meddlesome government regulation where only the most successful market forces will survive because they provide the best services.

Now obviously, this doesn’t really work because people are frequently quite horrible in their pursuit of ever more money without anyone there to tell them to stop. In short, neoliberalism is bad economics because it thinks people, and by that extension markets run by people, will always be run in an upstanding way out of fear for someone losing their place in the market if the consumers disapprove of some of the owner’s methods. People aren’t rational, they don’t behave in one single uniform way and, as we can see by Twitter’s example, there’s often more to their market decisions more than just pleasing a consumer base.

If you go about buying up all of your competition until people have no choice to buy from you because you’re the only game in town, that’s not exactly the market working as it should. If you have the rights to, say, certain medicines that human beings need to stay alive, you can jack up the price as much as you want because where else will they get the not-die-stuff? That is not acting in consumer’s best interest, but it does generated disgusting amounts of profits. If you know that your site, driven by ad revenue, is showing ads mostly to bots and not real people, but you don’t want to acknowledge that because your advertisers might bail and hurt your value to shareholders… well, you get the idea.

So where does the bonk come in?

Well, if markets are the sole arbiter of what is acceptable and good, and there either is no or shouldn’t be any government regulation ensuring every last voice is heard in this situation… well, that’s just the market deciding. The folks getting upset that bonkers conspiracy theory peddlers aren’t being treated the same as makeup tutorials just don’t seem to understand how the market works. You can’t expect a for-profit outlet like Facebook or Amazon to be compelled to host and tacitly promote something that may damage their standing on the market. Under neoliberalism, you can’t force private enterprise to do anything that might justify their pursuit of profit. To do that, you’d need… government.

You can’t demand that an outlet like Facebook behave like a government when you want protection but not when you want to be free of regulation. Governments aren’t built that way, at least ours isn’t at current. Now of course, there is a form of government that is built on the idea of protection for one specific group while attacking others… but I don’t think they’re quite ready to go full fascist… yet. Neoliberal Bonk is that amazing phenomenon of having lived in a society that has for so long downplayed and weakened government while simultaneously championing the market that folks start to have difficulty separating the two or realizing that the latter is under compunction to behave like the former.

You stand up, try to defend yourself, and BONK hit your head on the hull of the USS Neoliberalism, a ship that conservatives themselves have been building for 40 years. Now, however, that their economic policies are proving so incredibly awful that even their own base are getting affected, more and more folks are banging their heads on the boat they helped create, and those sitting topside on the promenade deck can’t even hear it.

So the next time you hear some right-wing maniac complaining that the new overlords of our technical age aren’t allowing said maniacs to damage their brand, remember that this is the situation they had been campaigning for, and it’s just the will of the free market judging their product to be a liability.


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