Silencing Your Opponents as a Means of Economic Warfare (Part One–Revised)

by Kevin D. Freeman on September 4, 2017

There is a multi-player game underway in our world with huge stakes. There are global battles and domestic ones. Weapons involved include missiles, tanks, fighters, warships, guns and bombs. Beyond that are numerous economic, diplomatic, and political efforts to achieve objectives, dubbed “War by Other Means.” These efforts often intersect. A trade war, for example, is an economic weapon but the threat of a trade war is a diplomatic one.

The focus of this blog has been and will continue to be cyber-economic warfare. Basically, this is war whenever money is involved. As The Philippine Star has recently acknowledged:

The United States is the most powerful economy in the world; but, it still relies primarily on the power of the gun in the pursuit of its international affairs. On the other hand, emerging superpowers like China, Russia India and Japan are turning to economics as their primary form of warfare.

In the United States, foreign policy issues are centered on combat issues. Should the USA arm directly arm Iraqi and Syrian Kurds to fight ISIS? Should it increase military presence in Syria? Should increase the number of troops in Afghanistan? Should it launch a pre-emptive military strike against North Korea? The answers to all these questions are based on furthering the interests of the United States.

China has the same interest of furthering its own economic And security interests. But, so far it has followed a different path. Instead of a military war, it is waging an economic war. China curtails the import of Japanese autos to signal its disapproval of Japan’s security policies. It has given aid to Cambodia in exchange for active support of its aggressive policies in the South China Sea. It continues being the principal trading partner of North Korea to counter balance American influence in the Korean peninsula. It threatens to reduce economic benefits to countries that host the Dalai Lama.

In their book WAR by OTHER MEANS, Blackwell and Harris defines this type of warfare as geoeconomics: “The use of economic instruments to promote and defend national interests, and to produce beneficial geopolitical results and the effects of other nations’ economic actions on a country’s geopolitical goals.”

There has been a great deal of discussion about war recently. North Korea demonstrating hydrogen bomb capability and threatened to use it as an EMP weapon has understandably heightened tensions. We have threatened possible military retaliation with all sorts of economic impacts, including on Chinese banks and the energy industry. So even a kinetic war has tremendous economic impacts.

Recently departed Presidential advisors Bannon and Gorka have both voiced their concerns that we are already in an economic war with China. Add in the cyber component and you get Russia and Iran also on the threat list, as well as a host of non-state actors. The point is simple. There is a global cyber-economic war underway between nation states and non-state actors.

Domestically, war tends to be about politics although threats of physical civil war have escalated in recent months. Over the past few years, we have seen domestic political warfare adopt economic warfare techniques. At the simplest level these appear as boycott where one group proclaims they will cease purchasing goods from a company until they change their behavior. We have seen boycotts from the left targeting Fox News advertisers and from the right targeting, well, Target. Over time, these efforts have become more sophisticated and now include shaming and silencing. Even more concerning is the fact that foreign nations and non-state actors are using these techniques to silence and then obliterate opposition. In other words, the global war has spilled over into our internal politics. Because the United States of America has such an outsized impact on our planet, it only makes sense that foreign groups would choose to influence our domestic agenda.

This Blog will provide a sampling of efforts underway to silence opposition and thus push a particular agenda. Due to the length of the topic, we will have to divide our thoughts into two posts. This one will discuss five of ten ways that free speech is under assault. Part Two will cover the next five methods of silencing any dissent.

Be aware that much of the agenda being pushed is pure poison for America as we know her. And, be aware that the war is being escalated by the political parties themselves, often in an unholy alliance with dangerous outside efforts. When President Trump was elected, the opposition formalized. The left saw his election as a Russian plot under the direction of Putin. Thus, they felt the need to create a master plan of opposition. Here is a write-up on the anti-Trump campaign at Talking Points Memo. Here is a direct link. Here is the motto:

Every moment is an organizing opportunity, every person a potential activist, every minute a chance to change the world.

Indivisible is a very well-organized opposition that has already supported multiple marches around the country. The fact that this information is openly available on the Internet is a testament to free speech. The problem is, however, that not all political opinions are afforded that right. In fact there is a very conscious effort to stifle the free speech of anyone who dares oppose the liberal line.

Method #1:  The Tactic of Shaming

In a proper debate, name calling is considered to be an ad hominem attack, unworthy of the debater. Yet, it is frequently and effectively used in shaming. A perfect example was recently seen on the Indivisible website with the phrase “Next up on Trump’s white supremacist agenda…” For a group titled Indivisible, doesn’t that seem a bit divisive?

Shaming is a technique promoted by Saul Alinsky in Rules for Radicals:

RULE 5: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions.

Shaming is also a means of eliminating another person’s speech as noted by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. According to a Daily Caller article, in 2011, Clinton said that while the Constitution guarantees free speech, the U.S. government will “use some old-fashioned techniques of peer pressure and shaming, so that people don’t feel that they have the support to do what we abhor.”

Attorney Steve Coughlin had this to say in response:

“An official of the United States, in an official communiqué, went to a foreign land to commit to a foreign leader that the United States Government would engage in the extra-legal practice of intimidating American citizens in the exercise of what is otherwise their protected free speech rights under the First Amendment.” 

In other words, the government would use shaming techniques to virtually shut down its political opposition. This is precisely what we have seen through the world over the past several years. When some in  Europe worried about the rapid influx of immigrants, they were shamed into silence by the government and a well-funded media campaign. What is so abhorrent about this tactic is that it often involves tax dollars so that the one being shamed is paying for it as well.

Now what are some truly abhorrent things that justify shaming? Racism? Pornography? Child abuse? Drug abuse? A case could be made for several things. But just consider that in the case of pornography, the civil rights attorneys went out to defend the pornographer as well as the consumer. Shame was brought down on the prudes who preferred to not have free pornography offered in public libraries. Thus, shaming is a selective tool.

The modern shaming is to label anyone who opposes certain leftist policies as racist, Islamaphobic, or homophobic. Anyone who says that “all lives matter” is automatically a racist, for example. In fact, at one point simple opposing one of President Obama’s policies was considered racist. Now, simply supporting a Trump policy is racistIf you oppose Shariah law in your community, you are considered an Islamophobe. If you support a traditional Christian Worldview, believing marriage should be between one man and one woman, you are considered a homophobe.

All of this is to say that the standard response to these well-debated issues is to label and shame and thus silence any opposition as “hate speech.” The technique was fully in play after the Charlottesville tragedy. His crime? President Trump said that there was bigotry on many sides involved. Yes, what happened when a white supremacist viciously ran down and murdered a counter protestor was evil in the worst form. But what about the outrage against violence by the other side? Did the media forget that a few weeks earlier a Trump-hating gunman attempted to kill Congressional Republicans at a baseball practice?

There was a time when the left felt it to be their duty to defend true hate speech, such as the neo-Nazis who wanted to march in Skokie, Illinois in 1978. The ACLU stepped in to defend their rights “and the speech we hate.” The argument then was that if we don’t allow speech we don’t like, everyone will eventually lose their right to speak. The left today, however, has been using every means possible to label and shut down speech they don’t like.

Shaming has been institutionalized and is very well funded. At the center of it is the SPLC (Southern Poverty Law Center) which has become the de facto judge and jury of hate speech and hate groups. Of course, the SPLC has their own political agenda and it doesn’t necessarily reflect America as a whole. Based on the rhetoric though, that’s ok because anyone who disagrees with their designation must be a hater. And their criteria appears somewhat fluid. At one point they labeled an entire town as a hate group without any real justification. They later were forced to withdraw the designation but damage had already been done.

The mainstream media and even the government have taken the SPLC’s word on hate groups. In 2014, the FBI had to step back because the SPLC had included multiple traditional Christian groups and even the Anti-Defamation League on their notorious list. Worse still, the SPLC list has inspired hate on its own, directly leading to attacks both at the Family Research Council and against the Republican baseball team. How does the SPLC get a free pass? Two things. First, they are politically correct and in line with traditional leftist views so they enjoy media support. Second, they get lots of corporate money. This is where economic warfare comes in. Corporations can donate to the SPLC and thus reduce being accused of being haters. Remember how JP Morgan Chase was attacked by Occupy Wall Street? Now, by donating $500,000 to SPLC, they can avoid being targeted. Apple has donated $1 million. From The Wall Street Journal on August 24th:

Corporate America will do almost anything to stay on the safe side of public opinion—at least as it’s defined by the media. CEOs will apologize, grovel, resign, settle. They will even, as of this month, legitimize and fund an outfit that exists to smear conservatives.

The press is still obsessing over President Trump’s incompetent handling of the violence in Charlottesville, Va., and that has suited some profiteers just fine. The notorious Southern Poverty Law Center is quietly cashing in on the tragedy, raking in millions on its spun-up reputation as a group that “fights hate.” Apple CEO Tim Cook informed employees that his company is giving $1 million to SPLC and matching employee donations. J.P. Morgan Chase is pitching in $500,000, specifically to further the SPLC’s “work in tracking, exposing and fighting hate groups and other extremist organizations,” in the words of Peter Scher, the bank’s head of corporate responsibility.

What Mr. Scher is referring to is the SPLC’s “Hate Map,” its online list of 917 American “hate groups.” The SPLC alone decides who goes on the list, but its criteria are purposely vague. Since the SPLC is a far-left activist group, the map comes down to this: If the SPLC doesn’t agree with your views, it tags you as a hater.

Let’s not mince words: By funding this list, J.P. Morgan and Apple are saying they support labeling Christian organizations that oppose gay marriage as “hate groups.” That may come as a sour revelation to any bank customers who have donated to the Family Research Council (a mainstream Christian outfit on the SPLC’s list) or whose rights are protected by the Alliance Defending Freedom (which litigates for religious freedom and is also on the list).

Similarly put out may be iPhone owners who support the antiterror policies espoused by Frank Gaffney’s Washington think tank, the Center for Security Policy (on the SPLC’s list). Or any who back the proposals of the Center for Immigration Studies (on the list).

These corporations are presumably in favor of the SPLC’s practice of calling its political opponents “extremists,” which paints targets on their backs. The group’s “Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists” lists Mr. Gaffney (who worked for the Reagan administration); Maajid Nawaz (a British activist whose crimes include tweeting a cartoon of Jesus and Muhammad ); and Ayaan Hirsi Ali (a Somali refugee who speaks out against Islamic extremism).

What does the SPLC do with all the money? Research shows that they have established a rather large offshore endowment. Is it possible that they also receive foreign donations held offshore? The leftist website Daily Kos pointed out the huge foreign connections in 2012. Given their domestic political clout, is it possible that the SPLC could be used by foreign entities to influence or undermine this country?

The economic warfare does not end there, however. Once branded on the SPLC list, other corporations perceive a green light to discriminate. One example was that PayPal recently banned (and later had to reinstate after a major outcry) two groups labeled as haters.

Method #2:  Cutting off Access

What happened at PayPal is not an isolated incidence. In fact, there is a serious push to silence groups by denying them access to the Internet. As noted by The Guardian (UK) on August 28:

Matthew Prince had the power to kill the white supremacist hate site the Daily Stormer for years, but he didn’t choose to pull the trigger until 16 August. That’s when the chief executive of website security company Cloudflare “woke up … in a bad mood and decided to kick them off the Internet”, as he told his employees in an internal email. Without Cloudflare’s protection, the Daily Stormer was forced to retreat to the darknet, where it is inaccessible to the majority of internet users.

Cloudflare is just one of many internet companies that cleaned house amid a wave of public outrage following a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. Critics charge that technology platforms have enabled a disparate network of racist extremists to seek one another out, raise funds, and plan and execute such rallies. But unlike consumer facing companies such as Facebook, YouTube, PayPal and Discord, and even as liberal voices – including the Guardian editorial board – applaud it, Cloudflare won’t defend its actions.

“I am deeply uncomfortable with the decision we made,” Prince said in an interview. “It doesn’t align with our principles.”

The primary principle at stake – that the US and the internet both remain free speech zones, even for Nazis – has never been more fraught.

“This is a really terrible time to be a free speech advocate,” said Jillian York, director for international freedom of expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “It’s a ‘First they came for the … situation,” she said, referring to the famous Martin Niemöller poem about the classes of people targeted by Nazis, “only in reverse”. York said that it was frustrating that the debate around online censorship was gaining traction when it impacted neo-Nazis, rather than the other classes of people who have been harmed by it for years, including breastfeeding mothers, artists, and transgender activists. [To CONTINUE READING at The Guardian…]

What this essentially means is that a small cadre of corporations that control access to the Internet can effectively silence any speech they dislike. When they do so, they will no doubt turn to the SPLC or similar groups for justification. In fact, they may even be bullied into shutting down the free speech rights of others. In the case of PayPal, the attempt was to cutoff any financial support to groups deemed to be haters, even though many such groups really aren’t haters but simply have a different view.

Maybe the most concerning of these attempts is by Google. Recently Google was accused of having a leftist bias and fired the employee who dared to question their approach. They did this despite the strong argument that the law protected the employee as a whistle-blower. As explained on August 8th in a Washington Examiner article titled Google is More Afraid of Liberal Outrage than of Federal Law:

“In a ten-page internal memo, Damore dared to question the company line on diversity. He asked instead whether biological differences explain why so many more men than women work in Silicon Valley. He argued that by “shaming into silence” different opinions, Google “has created an ideological echo chamber where some ideas are too sacred to be honestly discussed. And Google proved he was right by firing him.

Google purports to value “honest discussion.” And reasonable people should be able to disagree about these things. Google just didn’t want the bad publicity of having someone with such ideas on their payroll. But never mind the incongruity or hypocrisy. The more important problem is that litigation is around the corner.

“I have a legal right to express my concerns about the terms and conditions of my working environment and to bring up potentially illegal behavior, which is what my document does,” Damore told the New York Times.

According to Dan Eaton, an attorney and ethics professor at San Diego University, the engineer certainly has grounds for a case on two fronts. “First, federal labor law bars even non-union employers like Google from punishing an employee for communicating with fellow employees about improving working conditions,” Eaton writes.

And second, because the memo was a statement of political views, Eaton says Google may have violated California law which “prohibits employers from threatening to fire employees to get them to adopt or refrain from adopting a particular political course of action.”

An international corporation with armies of both lawyers, Google knew all this. They decided to take their chances with state and federal law anyway rather than stick up for one of their employees and risk public backlash. That’s an incredibly telling decision from a company that has mastered everything from artificial intelligence to self-driving cars.”

Even the Boston Globe expressed concerned at the potential for chilling free speech:

“The lesson is clear: To get along at Google, you must go along. Either embrace the company’s progressive principles in every significant detail, or shut up. It’s a corporate culture that may work out in the short run, but it threatens to stifle the spirit of daring and creativity that built Google into a great company.

I also wonder whether Google will impose its monoculture on the rest of us. Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., is arguably the world’s most powerful monopoly, a $90 billion-a-year behemoth that is a primary information source for billions of people. Its various services, including Google search and news and the YouTube video service, are governed by software algorithms created by the same people who can’t imagine working alongside someone like James Damore. How long before their personal opinions are reflected in the code they write?

Last year, YouTube slapped restrictions on videos published by the right-wing organization Prager University, to prevent them from being viewed by children and other sensitive viewers. The videos contained no violence, nudity, or cuss words, just mini-lectures by people like former Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz and former Harvard Kennedy School fellow Ayaan Hirsi Ali, many of which are on touchy issues such as Israel and Islam. But a parent who has set her YouTube account to “restricted mode” to protect her kids from sex and violence will also keep them from seeing these inoffensive but opinionated videos.”

Gizmodo has also expressed concern. There is a clear warning. Do Not Cross Google.

Method #3: Silencing Media Opposition

If you lose Internet access, how do you get your word out? We know that the traditional/mainstream media has a leftist bias. But conservatives could always turn to Fox News. In the last year, however, Fox has come under increasing assault. Soros-funded Media Matters has an all-out war underway already.

Basically, the goal has been to label anything contrary to certain beliefs as “Fake News.” This tactic has been employed by both the left and right with a high degree of success. From National Review:

The real fake-out is that the Left is capable of honestly policing fake news. Last week, Harvard released a new research guide on “fake news.” “Fake news,” of course, is the source of all evil, according to the Left. It’s only thanks to lies that Donald Trump was elected! Instead of targeting stories that are completely false, however, the Left applies the label of “fake news” to outlets that report factual stories but draw political conclusions from them — in other words, they call everything with which they disagree “fake news.” Which means that their talk of “fake news” is actually fake news. Of course, the largest “fake news” item of all is that “objective” news sources aren’t biased in their coverage. They obviously are, and it’s why conservatives have warmed to President Trump’s labeling left-leaning outlets such as CNN “fake news” even if CNN isn’t actually reporting anything factually false but merely drawing convenient leftist inferences from overblown coverage of core facts. Read more at:

The Left hates the idea that anything they produce is termed as fake news but they seem all-too-willing to label conservatives. Of course, there is patently false news and it can properly be labeled as fake. But there is also an attempt to silence news which slants a certain way. Slate magazine rightly points out the difference. The problem is that the effort to stamp out fake news may quickly morph into the elimination of any speech contrary to the preferred narrative at the time. The danger is that money talks.Thus, this becomes a powerful method of economic warfare against political opposition. As a result, the media was quick to denounce what they deemed right-wing violence but virtually ignored the left-wing version.

Taking control in the media is not a new phenomenon. The Fairness Doctrine, for example, once codified certain perspectives in the media based on licensing of broadcast companies. Its legal basis dates back to 1927 with the Radio Act. By 1949, the FCC began interpreting that broadcasters would have to provide a certain fairness in their views. This became a pro-government view and later adopted a more leftist slant, silencing opposing views. In 1987, Congress required the FCC to look into the bias and the Commission scrapped the rule. Many believe that the elimination of this rule allowed conservative viewpoints to air more freely with the advent of conservative Talk Radio and the emergence of Rush Limbaugh. Recently, those on the left have begun pushing for a reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine. This seems unlikely with current Republican control of Congress and the White House but that could change in an election cycle.

Method #4: Controlling Entertainment

William Randolph Hearst once controlled American newspapers to a large extent and thus provided an outsized influence on American politics. But he was no match for Hollywood in 1941 when challenged by Hollywood’s boy wonder Orson Welles. Culturally, entertainment is perhaps more powerful than news media.

We have already written extensively on how China has been buying up Hollywood assets with an eye to cultural influence. Take a moment and reflect on these two earlier posts:

Is The Entertainment Industry a Modern Tool of Chinese Economic …

Apr 18, 2017 – Maybe the most famous movie theater in America is Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard. It stands as an icon of the film …

China’s Three Warfares Goes Further Than Anyone Can Imagine

May 31, 2014 – China waging ‘Three Warfares’ against United States in Asia, …. China has established a significant Hollywood presence and made a huge …

We have also discussed Turkish efforts in Hollywood to deny the Armenian Genocide:

None Dare Call It Genocide – Global Economic Warfare

Apr 21, 2017 – We recently explained Chinese influence in Hollywood and how this can be a form of economic warfare. The key point is that culture is …

The point is simple. If you control entertainment, you have tremendous influence. Now, we have absolute proof that both China and Turkey have used money to censor things they don’t like in Hollywood.

Over time, it is obvious that Hollywood has held a left-leaning bias. Ben Shapiro proved this when he went undercover researching his book, Primetime Propaganda. Even the media covering Hollywood carries a significant left-leaning bias. It has even crept into sports with ESPN displaying a severe liberal bias. Over time, these forms of entertainment have moved the American public into a more liberal direction, especially regarding social issues.

Entertainment can also demean conservatives. In fact, Tim Allen compares current Hollywood to 1930s Germany in regard to how it silences any opposition. Allen had a top-rated show that was inexplicably cancelled.

Method #5 Controlling Education

We have already discussed how China (and Nazi Germany before) made inroads into American Higher Education:

Soft Power, Higher Education, and Economic Warfare

 May 7, 2017 – There are many means of warfare although our nation seems intent on ignoring most of them. It wasn’t always so but sadly, as the Chinese …

We have also been aware of a left-leaning bias in most institutions of higher learning. It has even gotten to the point of the absurd as Dr. Everett Piper of Oklahoma Wesleyan has explained recently in his book, Not a Day Care. Rather than explaining this in detail, you can watch Dr. Piper give a presentation at the Family Research Counsel as shown on C-SPAN’s Book TV.

We have seen the shouting down of conservatives on campuses that once prided themselves on free speech. This is the stifling of ideas and is a very real means of economic warfare. If you can influence colleges through donations (as China has done), you can control permitted speech.

All of these are frightening forms of economic warfare waged against thought. In our next post we will continue the review.

Previous post:

Next post: