“You are now my Enemy—and I am Yours.”
In the mid-18th century, a secretive political group began spreading dangerous conspiracy theories throughout Britain’s colonies. British subjects had long enjoyed the freedom of expression, but these radicals abused novel communication platforms to churn out seditious literature not often grounded in fact, even resorting to threats and violence that endangered those around them.
According to their wild theories, a series of modest taxes levied by Parliament actually represented an incremental process to strip away their rights. They had no evidence to back their claims. After they arranged one of the costliest acts of vandalism in the history of the Empire, Parliament very reasonably invoked a state of emergency to protect the public. Yet, characteristically, rather than raising their objections through proper legal channels, these extremists co-signed a document penned by one of their most wily and manipulative agitators, falsely claiming to speak for all the colonists in declaring themselves above the law.
In a helpful rebuttal, Governor Thomas Hutchinson thoroughly debunked the document, outlining the many “false and frivolous” claims in this “list of imaginary grievances,” its signatories relying on spurious overtures to “what they called the natural rights of mankind” to evade substantive argument. Hutchinson noted the signers’ racism, “depriving more than a hundred thousand Africans of their rights to liberty,” discrediting their appeals to so-called “natural rights,” as well as “the absurdity of making the governed to be governors,” a laughable contradiction. Moreover, the document was misleading. “The real design was to reconcile the people of America to that Independence.” The signers even referred to their sovereign as a “tyrant,” a profanity for which “indignant resentment must seize the breast of every loyal subject.” The Empire had always been about saving lives, after all—even if it occasionally fell a bit short.
In this story, most readers now recognize the birth of the world’s oldest democracy and the modern constitutional republic. But perhaps those who presently govern the mega-platforms collectively referred to as “Big Tech,” on which most online discourse now takes place, take it as a warning of what can go wrong if citizens are permitted to freely express their beliefs.
As strangely low an ethical standard as it was, the days of “Don’t be evil” appear to have been left far behind. Big Tech platforms now routinely side with raw state and corporate power, showing a disregard bordering on outright disdain for the rights and welfare of the human beings whom their actions affect. The recent history of Big Tech is a history of repeated usurpations, all demonstrating as their direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over the people.