This week, we learned a lot about who wields true power in the world.
On January 6, 2021, a crowd of mostly Trump-supporting protesters surged past security into the White House due to frustrations over unanswered claims of election fraud. This act is being described by some as an act of mostly peaceful civil disobedience coupled with antics akin to a fraternity prank, and by others as an attempted overthrow of the government based on "incitement" by President Donald Trump.
In response, with rationale about the public safety and prevention of violence, tech oligarchs like Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg did something that would have once been considered unimaginable. These unelected CEOs of private companies, in collusion with his political enemies, for all practical purposes completely silenced the sitting President of one of the most powerful countries on Earth. With the flip of a switch, in the midst of a contentious transfer of power, they cut the leader of the nation off from tens of millions of his supporters.
Quickly thereafter, in a series of moves which would have made George Orwell's head spin, the tech giants began purging the social media voices of the President's most prominent allies, including recently pardoned General Mike Flynn, a man who many American nationalists would have looked to as a trusted leader in the absence of President Trump. A flurry of purges followed of popular accounts of independent journalists and citizen Trump supporters, whose means of communication were shut down without warning or means of appeal in an act justified by vague claims about "misinformation" or "dangerous" content.
Many high-profile politicians, pundits, and citizen "influencers" began migrating to the social media platform "Parler," a Facebook alternative plugged by popular Fox News personalities like Dan Bongino and Sean Hannity. This fairly new social media platform features a clunky interface and less-than-ideal security protections for its users.
What happened next was shocking to millions of people - though not to those of us who had been closely following the battle to preserve free speech in the internet age. First, Parler's smart-phone app was banned from the Apple store for failure to comply with Apple's restrictions on "dangerous and objectionable" content. Next, enemies of the President and his supporters petitioned Parler's cloud-hosting company, Amazon, to remove Parler from its servers. Citing concerns about public safety, Amazon chose to cease hosting for Parler. Thus, the social media outlet preferred by the best-known voices of Conservatism, Inc, found itself quickly hobbled.
They should have listened to Andrew Torba. The Christian, 30-year-old father and self-described "American populist" from rural Pennsylvania, has fought this battle already - and survived.
In 2016, the shocking election of Donald Trump rocked the ruling class to their core. The election of Trump had been facilitated by an army of independent reporting outlets and citizen influencers loosely known as the "alt-right," who led a resistance to Team Hillary and Team Never Trump, plaguing them like a swarm of ants attacking an elephant. Determined to prevent an uprising of the rubes and other undesirables from being repeated, Big Tech began aggressively purging accounts of the newly emboldened "Nazis" of the alt-right. The "respectable" Republicans, not wishing to be associated with the unwashed and politically incorrect troublemakers on their side of the political spectrum, almost universally applauded this development.
For a while, the accounts of popular deplorables routinely re-emerged with slightly different user names, and were quickly removed again - a kind of technological game of whack-a-mole. It was tiresome and not viable as a long-term plan.
Andrew Torba had worked in Silicon Valley and was well aware of the hostility towards conservatives that dominated the Tech Industry. In response, he launched the social media site Gab in August of 2016. The start-up, a favorite haven for the "alt-right" influencers shunned by Big Social, was swiftly decried by country club conservatives for its hardline stance on free speech: All free speech, within the limits of United States law, is allowed. Because of his principled commitment to free speech and foresight about the battle ahead, Torba allowed his platform to be used by "alt-right" accounts who engaged in unseemly behaviour like refusing to observe the language and debate parameters preferred by the left, and openly discussing Those Who Must Not Be Named - White Americans - as a group that exists and has distinct interests. Though Gab is open to all, it is routinely described in the mainstream news as "far-right," with implications that it is a dangerous hotbed of extremism.
The things that happened to President Trump and Parler this week have all already happened to Andrew Torba. In a short video recently released to his followers, a bleary-eyed but chipper Torba, wearing a trucker hat embossed with "MAKE SPEECH FREE AGAIN" and standing in front of a wall with a cross visible in the background, explained how the challenges of the past have prepared Gab for this week.
"It's happening. It's finally happening. This is a moment that we have been preparing for, for four and a half years now. August of 2016 is when we started Gab. And in 2018, we were removed from everything. We were banned from the app stores, which we're seeing unfold again, which I predicted would happen...We have been building for the past two years our own infrastructure. We have our own servers. We built our own email services for internal use. We built our own app stores. We built our own web browser. We built our own social network. We built our own YouTube alternative which we just launched two weeks ago. They told us to build our own. And that's exactly what we did. And through the grace of God we survived the biggest no-platforming and censorship of a technology startup, of any business in the US, ever, in 2018. And we're still standing."
With Parler scrambling to stay online, Big Tech defectors are flocking to Gab. Torba reports that their traffic was up almost 800% yesterday, and that his team is working around the clock to install new servers to keep up with the demand.
In his video message, Torba shows optimism and encourages other Americans, citing his Christian faith as reason for hope.
"I wanted to make this message to give people hope, because in a time like this it can be really easy to set into despair, and to get depressed and to get anxious, and get worried. But I'm not worried, because I serve and worship the creator of the universe, Jesus Christ, who is king, and who is on the throne right now. God is in control, and patriots are in control. We're gonna save our country, folks. And Gab is gonna help do that by saving free speech on the internet."
By providing a haven for free speech outside of the reach of the oligarchy, Torba will become a target of the frothing, power-hungry Goliaths of the modern world. Pray for him.
The Carolina Contrarian, Anne Wilson Smith, is the author of Charlottesville Untold: Inside Unite the Right. She is a soft-spoken Southern belle by day, opinionated writer by night. She loves Jesus, her family, and her hometown. She enjoys floral dresses and acoustic guitar music. You may contact Carolina Contrarian at CarolinaContrarian@protonmail.com.