No such thing as dissent in the age of big tech

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Joe Lauria. Photo courtesy of guest

“Scheer Intelligence” has been reporting on the rise of censorship in the internet age in a number of ways since the podcast was started in 2015. Now host Robert Scheer is concerned that, under the cloak of the Ukraine conflict, all forms of alternative media on the internet could soon be eliminated. Examples already abound: archival videos of Chris Hedges’ RT show “On Contact” were taken down from YouTube; social media companies like Twitter and Facebook have been shutting down any posts that challenge mainstream narratives on the Ukraine conflict;  Google AdSense recently informed publishers, including MintPress News, that, “Due to the war in Ukraine, we will pause monetization of content that exploits, dismisses, or condones the war,” lumping any pieces that question the NATO narrative on Ukraine into the content it described; and now, both MintPress News and Consortium News, two longstanding independent media websites founded by veteran journalists, have been banned from taking donations via PayPal.

Consortium News editor Joe Lauria—who spent decades working as a reporter based at the U.N. and has written for the Boston Globe, the London Daily Telegraph, the Johannesburg Star, the Montreal Gazette, and the Wall Street Journal, among other publications—joins Scheer on this week’s “Scheer Intelligence” to discuss what he’s ascertained led to this recent decision by the online payment platform and what these moves mean to journalism. It all comes down to reporting by the website, founded in the early 1990s by the late journalist Robert Parry, that contextualized the current conflict in Ukraine. In various pieces, the publication examined NATO’s eastward expansion as well as the U.S. role in the violence that erupted in 2014 in Maidan Square. Lauria tells Scheer he finds it incredible that historians can examine how the 1919 Versailles Treaty led in part to World War II, but any discussion of events that led to the current Ukraine conflict is immediately censored or censured as “exploiting, dismissing, or condoning” it. According to Lauria, the site has in no way taken a “side,” meaning it has not supported either Russia’s or Ukraine’s actions; it has merely attempted to responsibly report on the nuances that he finds are so often lacking from corporate media reports on the conflict between Kyiv and Moscow. 

Initially, not only had PayPal banned Consortium News from receiving new donations, but it had informed Lauria that PayPal may keep the nearly $10,000 in the news site’s account as “damages.” After this interview was recorded, PayPal relented on keeping those funds, while, as of this writing, it is still banning new donations. To Lauria and Scheer, these chilling decisions on behalf of inordinately powerful tech companies are ushering a dangerous era of censorship that is even more alarming than the McCarthy period. Listen to the full discussion between Lauria and Scheer to understand why the two journalists have come to this harrowing conclusion about Big Tech, dissent, and the future of journalism as we know it.



Joshua Scheer