PayPal’s war on free speech

By Rusere Shoniwa

You can find more of Rusere’s work at https://plagueonbothhouses.com 

On 8th September, PayPal cancelled its service to Left Lockdown Sceptics (LLS) citing the “nature of [its] activities”. In a similar move on 15th September, it shut down the accounts of The Daily Sceptic (DS), the Free Speech Union (FSU) and the personal account of Toby Young, founder of both.

This is nothing new but, in targeting the Free Speech Union, it’s a step change and a clear statement by a key financial services player of its intent to expand its role in the censorship of dissent from the prevailing official narrative. In protesting PayPal’s censorship move, Toby Young has analysed its policy of disallowing services to users engaged in “activities that promote hate, violence or racial intolerance” and concluded that there is no way he could possibly be in breach of this policy. Of course, neither LLS, DS, FSU nor Toby Young are guilty of the stated sins, the policing of which is well outside the bailiwick of a financial service provider. Their sin is to express disagreement with, to varying degrees, the official lockdown, ‘vaccine’, climate change and other orthodoxies, the policing of which should also be well outside the remit of a financial service provider.

Toby Young explained to GB News that he asked PayPal to set out exactly how he or his organisations had violated its rules. This is a futile request whose intended effect is to extract an act of supplication to reinforce PayPal’s humiliating display of brute force. PayPal is not an exemplar of democracy and nor is it operating in a democracy any longer, so it doesn’t think that it is obliged to explain its actions. Nor does it need to waste time and money on a Kafkaesque trial in which you are subjected to prolonged humiliation that will inevitably end in your head being placed on the chopping block.

The argument that a private corporation is free to provide services on whatever opaque anti-free speech terms it sees fit simply because it’s private doesn’t hold up to scrutiny on social ethics, legal grounds, or plain common decency. It especially doesn’t wash because financial services are a form of public utility. Banking, an essential service, is now governed by the whims of sociopaths who provide their services on condition that the public subserviently follows arbitrary rules designed to put duct-tape over our mouths.

They provide a service that we rely on to put bread on the table, so they wield enormous power – power that’s being abused with impunity to censure us for engaging in legal speech that threatens The System they manage and protect. And like all imbecilic bullies who think they are beyond challenge, they relish adding insult to injury by quipping that this thuggery is part of their “mission of building an economy that works for everyone.”

PayPal’s move is a precursor to the totalitarian endgame – total control of every single individual through the enforced provision of a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) linked to Digital IDs. At the moment, it is engaging in an inefficient form of censorship whereby it must waste resources to identify numerous organisations and individuals who offend The System’s sensitivities to the prevailing orthodoxy and then flick the service switch off for each offender. So the race is on for the The System to drag us all into a CBDC hell managed by artificial intelligence with an efficiency the previous century’s Nazis could only have dreamt of.

I deliberately refer to ‘The System’ and not PayPal because it should be clear to all of us that this action is not quirky behaviour limited to a few authoritarians occupying Board seats at PayPal. PayPal is merely an extension of the entire system being rolled out. Financial services behemoths are above the law, more so now than ever before. PayPal’s extrajudicial financial services sword is swung all around the globe. For example, there are 5.4 million Palestinians cut off from PayPal who would like the same opportunities to transact as are afforded to Israeli settlers. PayPal operates in Israeli settlements which are considered illegal under international law so its preferential treatment of illegal settlers over Palestinians is The System casting its powerful and illegitimate political vote.

I posted two tweets – one in support of LLS and one in support of The Daily Sceptic. In each tweet I stated that I had closed my PayPal account and encouraged those who value free speech to do the same. However, my support for Toby Young does not prevent me from airing my disagreement with a position he appears to have taken which suggests that the founder of the Free Speech Union might not wholeheartedly support free speech. It’s an important point, since how can we win the battle for free speech if those who claim to value it make statements that appear to suggest they are content for it to be parcelled out to some but not others?

Toby Young spoke publicly to several media outlets about this assault on free speech. In an interview he did with Mark Dolan of GB News, the free speech debate starts to go slightly awry when Mark Dolan compliments Toby on his publication’s thoroughness in always citing government approved data or peer reviewed science. To which Toby responds:

“That’s right. It’s not a conspiracy theory website. We bend over backwards not to publish any misinformation or disinformation. But as you know Mark, if you say something … that challenges progressive orthodoxy, it’s often described as a conspiracy theory or misinformation or disinformation because those have become euphemisms for ‘an opinion I disagree with.’ But you’re right we always cite sources; we link to the papers … we’re being treated as though we’re Alex Jones. Paypal has just redrawn the Overton Window.”

Mark Dolan wraps up the interview by emphasising Toby’s credentials as a former editor of the Spectator – one of the oldest political periodicals in the world. The message coming through loud and clear from this part of the exchange is that Toby has been a good scholar, not some rag tag “conspiracy theorist”. Why didn’t PayPal give him any marks for sticking to the old-school rule book in trying his best to be right? This really shouldn’t be happening to him. Well yes, clearly it shouldn’t, but not for the reasons they’re strongly hinting at – his status and his eschewing of ‘conspiracy theory’.

A free speech purist would also not seek to defend themselves by denying that they were peddling ‘misinformation or disinformation’. There can never be a universally accepted definition of ‘misinformation’ and ‘disinformation’ for the simple reason that these terms are defined by those in power seeking to silence opposition. A defence of free speech under the banner of avoiding ‘misinformation’ and ‘disinformation’ is actually a defence of some degree of censorship.

Small point on a misapplied analogy: totalitarians don’t need to climb through resized Overton Windows to get you. As far as they’re concerned, they own you and the house. They can smash through the front door, or they can just take the whole house if needs be.

Again, in an interview he did with Laura Dodsworth, Toby implies that the de-platforming of “other websites” had washed over him until it happened to him – a strange stance for the founder of the Free Speech Union to take:

“I have to admit, I was shocked. I’ve heard of other websites and individuals being de-platformed by PayPal, but the Daily Sceptic is, I thought, a lot more mainstream than them…”

Again, of course he is underserving of censorship but not for the reasons he’s hinting at – being respectably ‘mainstream’.

Toby makes another odd comment implying that he’s playing by some unspoken rules and is therefore undeserving of bad treatment. In reference to the demonetisation of some ‘left wing’ sites for their opposition to the war in Ukraine, he speculates on whether DS has been cancelled for similar reasons. If so, he complains:

“Seems a bit harsh, given that we’ve also published several articles defending Ukraine and its war effort and debunking some of the criticisms of the current Ukrainian regime.”

In other words, DS has been quite clever in playing a double game by both attacking and defending the war. He seems to be asking why he hasn’t been bullet-proofed against censorship for this artful approach. Putting aside the fact that there is really no way to defend the utter depravity of NATO’s position in this conflict, it’s not clear why he thinks his dual-play editorial line on the war deserves preferential treatment from the totalitarian censorship machine. In dealing with totalitarianism, the clue’s in the name – you’re either totally in line or you’re out of line.

The key point I’m trying to hammer home is that, in the battle between censorship and free speech, these arguments shouldn’t matter, so why play this odd game of pleading for clemency from unlawful censorship on the grounds that your material is somehow more respectable than the other guff that’s getting censored? This totally misses the fundamental point about free speech – being right, however that might be defined, is not supposed to be the ticket to free speech. The conclusion I can’t help reaching is that Toby thinks censorship is not something that should happen to him because he’s doing all the right things in playing by some unspoken rulebook.

Within the limits permitted by law, unless free speech fully incorporates the right of everyone to be wrong, it isn’t free speech. There are two main reasons for this. First, almost no debate terminates at a truth that remains immutable for all time. We edge closer to truth by discovering that yesterday’s assumptions were wrong. That’s why the essence of real science is about coming up with a hypothesis and then trying to disprove it. Second, the definition of right and wrong – ‘misinformation’ – is determined by whoever wields the most power at that time and in accordance with their capricious whims.

We’ve seen this played out in the totalitarianism of covid with its constantly shifting definitions and goalposts, not to mention the wholesale abuse of science to produce industrial-scale disinformation and misinformation while dishonestly pleading for the need to curb it.

As for Toby asserting that DS is “a lot more mainstream”, this might be a deliberate attempt to conflate mainstream with popular on the grounds that what is popular ought to be exempt from censorship. We all know that DS is not mainstream and being popular doesn’t grant you the ability to run the totalitarian censorship gauntlet and come out unscathed. A key take-home should be that tonight you may go to bed a proud radical mainstreamer but in the morning you may wake up to see the New Normal Reich dangling a guillotine above your head because you haven’t kept up with changing rules.

If Toby is genuinely surprised by this, then it might be because he hasn’t figured out how to reconcile his desire to be back in the mainstream fold with his new status as a member of the anti-totalitarian resistance movement. That’s because he may not yet be able to acknowledge that we are actually hurtling towards full-blown totalitarianism. And that’s because his establishment credentials require him to reflexively dismiss that prospect as ‘conspiracy’.   

PayPal has clearly demonstrated that any resistance to The System is not just heretical – it is an insurgency to be met with brute force. This ought to be a key realisation for Toby Young in the wake of his run-in with The System. PayPal’s censorship by demonetisation is as old as covid, but it feels like it’s only just become important because it’s happened to someone ‘important’. Toby has MPs who will speak up for him, and that’s very welcome. Bringing the matter to Parliament’s attention is long overdue. But free speech is properly protected only if we all have the right to be wrong. And like all human rights, the ultimate test of our sincerity is to apply it to those we dislike or disparage and not just those we believe are deserving of it. Would Toby Young defend the ‘conspiracy theorists’ he so often derides? If not, then the founder of the Free Speech Union doesn’t really understand free speech.

You can find more of Rusere’s work at https://plagueonbothhouses.com 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s