Algorithms of Suppression
Update: Google’s Acting Director of Political and Stakeholder Outreach got in touch with the Claremont Institute to notify us that the labeling of The American Mind as a “racially oriented publication” was a mistake. Our re-marketing ad campaign to americanmind.org readers for our annual dinner is now active once again. See below for our initial summary and analysis of the fiasco.
The Claremont Institute has launched a campaign to engage our fellow citizens in discussion and debate about what it means to be an American. As part of that effort, we have begun to point out the increasingly existential danger of identity politics and political correctness to our republic. As if to prove our point, Google has judged our argument as wrongthink that should be forbidden. They are now punishing us for our political thought by refusing to let us advertise to our own readers.
We wanted to advertise our 40th Anniversary Gala on May 11, at which we’re honoring Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, to readers of our own online publication, The American Mind, like this:
But Google refuses to allow us to do so. (If you’re interested, buy tickets here—Monday is the deadline!)
Google, either its algorithm or some individual, had a look at my essay launching our new campaign for a unifying Americanism, “Defend America—Defeat Multiculturalism.” They decided it to be in violation of their policy on “race and ethnicity in personalized advertising” and shut down our advertising efforts to American Mind readers. We weren’t “advertising” anything in the essay, of course, but the relevant section of their policy lists “racially or ethnically oriented publications, racially or ethnically oriented universities, racial or ethnic dating” as examples of violations.
Somebody must have determined we were offering “racially or ethnically oriented publications.” This is news to us. The Claremont Institute has spent forty years teaching all who are willing to listen that the meaning of the proposition that all human beings are created equal is the central, animating principle of American political life.
One of my colleagues spent two hours on the phone with Google to determine whether we could appeal this ruling or determine which section of the essay was in violation. The response, in short? There is no appeal; we recommend you remove the content to bring yourself into compliance.
As I wrote in the very essay that Google is now telling us to remove from the public square:
By multiculturalism, we do not mean the mere presence of many cultures, races, or ethnic traditions, which are a fixture of modern American life… One of America’s—and Americanism’s—great virtues has always been the maintenance of a wide realm of liberty and civic society in which a vibrant mix of cultural heritages and individual excellence could flourish….
Multiculturalism, on the other hand, is not this benign tolerance of diverse traditions. Multiculturalism is a comprehensive ideology, demanding obeisance to a rigid system of justice, vices, and virtues. It boasts an intellectual tradition that guides its leadership and adherents in the policing of its boundaries and the maintenance of its categories. It keeps a running list of friends and enemies, a roster of praise, shame, and blame….
I went on to make the case against multiculturalism, identity politics, and political correctness—the holy trinity of the modern left. Claremont stands against modern leftist ideology and politics, with its conception of group rather than individual rights, because it seeks to overturn the notion of American justice based on equal protection of equal individual rights that is at the center of the Declaration of Independence.
As I warned near the end of my essay:
Our multiculturalists are quite consciously playing with fire by sowing such existential discord among their fellow citizens. This is a recipe for rancor, division, enmity, balkanization, and worse. After the torrent of blood spilled in the Civil War and later struggles by America’s attempt to expunge the principle of counting by group—especially race!—our modern multiculturalists want to bring it back and establish it as our new national religion.
The naïve observer of Google’s policy and action against us might conclude that merely to mention race and ethnicity is forbidden. Not so: we are unaware of any report of Google censorship of the numerous progressive groups that promote the prevailing creed of identity politics based on race and ethnic identity. The trouble with Claremont’s argument is its furtherance of a politics that counts people as individuals rather than members of racial or ethnic groups.
What Google is really doing (like Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms) is policing the terms of American political debate to advance acceptable establishment ideology. In First Amendment parlance, Google is in the viewpoint discrimination business, and its target is heresies like ours against the prevailing orthodoxies of our time.
The inconvenience for us was of course a minor one. We haven’t been de-platformed yet and we can still process transactions and donations online. But this small outrage against free thought is indicative of a larger and growing crisis in tech censorship. In ways small and large, day-by-day and week-by-week, our tech oligarchs are putting their thumbs on the scale against the free flow of ideas. A republican citizenry that cannot exchange ideas freely will soon cease to be free politically. Our experience is just one more example of the groupthink oligarchy probing the perimeter of our constitutional order.
As I argued in my essay, the American Right needs to understand the threat and band together to defeat it. The Claremont Institute will continue to help lead that effort, and we urge concerned citizens and organizations to join us.
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For more discussion of the threat of multiculturalism, identity politics, and political correctness, see our discussion of Claremont Institute Chairman Tom Klingenstein’s essay, Our House Divided: Multiculturalism vs. America. See also a discussion of David Azerrad’s essay on identity politics, “The Promises and Perils of Identity Politics.”