The Cancellation Crew is Coming
Posted July 15, 2021
It was the worst day of my friend’s life. He had a successful podcast and video streaming service. It had been growing by the day for years. He had dedicated fans, a social media reach that was enviable, great guests, and enough revenue to hire a small staff and pay his travel bills.
Based on this foundation, he imagined a future of offering a serious challenge to mainstream sources of information. He would use the internet to achieve its promise: a new world in which even the little guy can make it big in journalism.
Then one day, and without warning, it was all over. His Twitter account was taken down. He lost the entire method of outreach and referral. He had no way to get back those followers. Then the Facebook page of his media company was summarily deleted on grounds that it was spreading whey called misinformation (which is not the same as disinformation). Then the worst part came later that day: YouTube blew up his entire page, providing no access to either his subscribers or even content.
It was very clearly coordinated between all these companies. His company was targeted for destruction. And why? He was not in any way spreading hate. He was not promoting specific alternative therapeutics. He was not even that much of a political rabble-rouser, beyond pushing a pro-freedom message that was a legitimate part of the American political spectrum only two years ago. He was targeted because he wasn’t saying what he was supposed to say in our Orwellianized world of imposition and compulsion.
Dark to Light
I recall speaking to this gentleman a few weeks later. The depression I could hear in his voice and see on his face was palpable. It was tragic. Everything he had worked for his entire adult life was shattered by forces outside of his control. He seemed demoralized and lost. But I could also tell that he would not give up. He was thinking through things and planning.
He was not naive about the possibility that this could happen. He had the service Odysee backing up his videos already. He had a Gab account. He had dabbled in various Facebook alternatives. None of them seemed promising as real venues for recreating his reach. After spending so many years driving and building on mainstream platforms, only to have it all wiped out in one way, the prospect of essentially starting over seemed daunting, if not demoralizing.
And yet when I spoke to him two days ago, the dark had turned to light. He started pushing out his content on all these alternative platforms. People remembered his work from before, so he hadn’t lost his reputation for interviewing great guests and asking excellent questions. He had already decentralized his podcasting platforms so that turned out not to be a problem.
I would say it’s been about a year since the day of disaster. As it turns out, his reach of hundreds of thousands has turned into a reach in the millions. He is making money too, in different ways, but it is coming in — through donations, advertising, and the crypto token market. He was pleased to let me know that he is fully rebuilt and more happy to be working than ever before. In fact, he is happier because now he uses services built on decentralized technology that is beyond intimidation.
He warned me that some of these platforms have an anything-goes feel to them. So yes, you will run into some unsavory elements. But he thinks the trade off is worth it. You have to put up with some things you don’t like, in order to have access that is not threatened with takedown once the venue acquiescences to the party in power. He pushed through his cancellation and body bagging and prevailed.
I would not want to be in his position. But I’m enormously inspired by his persistence. However, it wasn’t just about his own decisions, though they mattered enormously. He was helped by one of the least-reported trends in technology, namely that these alternatives are booming as never before. The censorship alive in the incumbent companies has seriously taken a toll.
I got curious and looked up various traffic ranking services. I’m absolutely blown away. The YouTube competitors Bitchute, Rumble, and Odysee — all founded in 2017 and starting with nothing — have all rocketed up to the stratosphere. They all rank among the top 1,000 websites on the planet earth. Having been in website development and content creation since 1995, I can promise you that gaining that kind of ranking and keeping it, much less keeping it growing, is an awesome accomplishment.
If the traffic of just these three companies were totaled, they would come close to rivaling YouTube itself. In time they will, not as a unit but as a decentralized network.
Sure, you can look up these companies on the mainstream media and see all the usual prattle about how they are “far right” and invaded by Trump supporters and so on. The truth is otherwise once you look at the content. They are creative and broad, and have the feeling of being both free and civilized. These are all smears doled out by old-style bigshots against new competitors. It is very easy to ignore these claims. They are getting hoary and tired in fact.
The Market Still Works
Last week, the Biden administration said that they will target the power of big tech with awesome new antitrust actions. I do not believe it. What will actually happen is that regulatory agency power will be enlisted to gum up the works for competitors to big tech, while giving perfunctory slaps on the wrist to the firms that have been their biggest political supporters. It’s the platforms I listed above, and many others besides, that will face down regulators.
A good example is the push for net neutrality. The mandate is that the service providers treat every content delivery service the same in delivery, a very expensive proposition that only industry leaders can afford to fund over the long term. The upstarts need to be able to experiment with different pricing schemes. This has worked to bolster a competitive industry. The imposition of new rules will cartelize the market on the margin, erecting new barriers to entry that will harm consumers over the long term. This is what they say is promoting “competition.”
It won’t be the Biden administration that takes down what we call big tech. It will be market forces that reward innovation over censorship. The watchword of the day is decentralization. These new platforms are competing with each other, but not in a world in which one becomes dominant but one where they all thrive in their own market niche. Each experiments with its own special sauce and users choose the one that works best for them.
The problem of canceling started as an annoyance, migrated to become a genuine problem, and now has become an existential threat not only to what digital media is supposed to be... but also to the ideas of freedom and rights. Censorship was once the exception, justified in the name of keeping things off platforms that users did not want. Now it has become the norm, practiced not to enhance the venue’s value but to reduce it in ways that consumers do not like.
There is no greater economic and financial opportunity in the world than the discovery of an underserved population of consumers with the means and wherewithal to make a switch. That is the moment in which we find ourselves, with tremendous pent-up frustration at all the ways in which the tech giants have betrayed their users. They are digging their own graves, and existing traffic trends prove it.
The cancellation crew is coming for everyone with a different idea. The time to prepare is now, with alternatives. Sometimes it is as simple as changing your browsing habits and information sources. Changing those notifications. Shifting that default search engine. Getting used to a new digital experience. It won’t be Biden’s regulators that will rein in the tech giants, but market forces that know failure when they see it, and then act to provide something better.