The Fog of Social Media Wars

When great dogs fight, the small dog gets a bone.

~ Melvin B. Tolson

The Pacific Plate and the North American Plate that meet at the San Andreas Fault slip an imperceptible 10 mm each year. Over the past 150 years it's caused four notable earthquakes. The plates below Silicon Valley's crust however, have slipped and shifted so rapidly these past 18 months that it's placed all of social media into a constant state of violent convulsions and jolting aftershocks.

Ever since the pandemic, or maybe it was the 2020 presidential election, I'm not sure, Twitter has taken on a habit of suspending accounts. Sometimes, as with Steve Kirsch's account, it's a long drawn out affair of suspending, then reactivating, then finally suspending once and for all. Sometimes, as with Richard Baris' account, it's suspended, then an outcry goes out on Twitter and the account reappears, seemingly for good. Usually it's quick and deft and final. Regardless, it's been happening, and it happens a lot. Politicians, doctors, pollsters, journalists, influencers with enormous followings, one day engaging with enormous audiences and shaping the conversation. The next day, “Poof.” Gone, in an instant.

Each disappearance creates a little ripple. People are left shocked. Many flock to alternative platforms, where the person has emerged to freely speak his or her mind. Others are left bewildered, not quite knowing where to focus their attention.

Have you noticed how those plugs people give at the end of interviews are getting longer these days? In addition to Twitter and Instagram handles and Facebook pages (presuming they still have them), people list off handles for Gab, Parler, Gettr and Telegram. And in the near future, they'll likely be telling people to follow them on Truth Social, Trump's up-and-coming social platform.

There's nothing subtle about the politics behind all this. Saying “Follow me on Twitter” says something unmistakably different these days from “Follow me on Gab.”

The emergence of these new social media platforms feels like the streaming wars of 2020, when Peacock, Quibi, AppleTV+, Disney+, and HBO Max made fighting debuts against the monolith Netflix, paying hefty sums for the rights to popular series like The Office and Friends in order to lure eyeballs to their services.

Only in this war, the battle is over influencers. Most recently, Gettr did backflips when Joe Rogan joined the platform after learning about it during his interview with Dr. Robert Malone. And for good reason: in the weeks that followed, over a million of Rogan's followers marched in lockstep behind him and signed up.

For those who say, “Who cares, I'm blissfully unaware of all of that nonsense,” I kind of get it. Social media does seem pretty vacuous. It's an overtly classist social system, where blue checks reign supreme, and those with fewer than a thousand followers swim around like little minnows in an ocean of blue whales and killer sharks.

And it's as temperamental as a wolf during a full moon. You'll be scrolling through your feed, reading mildly amusing memes and social criticism, then come across a red hot war zone, where armies of triggered ideologues thrash in zero sum game bloodbaths, using memes, gifs, and keyboards as artillery. The vitriol is enough to ruin your afternoon. And then with a few scrolls or clicks, you're back to reading silly jokes and cartoons.

Yet social media certainly is here to stay. More significantly, it's as close as we've got to a public forum. It's where celebrities and politicians go to make a statement or spill the beans. It's where networks pick up many of the stories they broadcast to the world. It's how a reality television host prevailed over a seasoned politician to secure the most powerful office in the world.

Whether we participate directly in it or not, social media profoundly affects all of our lives.

And all sorts of shifts and realignments are taking place here. Even though it's still the fog of war, here are a few things I've noticed transpiring over the past eighteen months or so.

Declining Empires and Emerging Fiefdoms

  • Twitter

Twitter has come a long ways since its hipster, libertarian-esque beginnings.

After its auspicious debut at the 2007 South by Southwest, where the four founders spent a scrappy $11K to position 140-character messages onto billboards in hallways throughout the festival, the microblogging service spread like wildfire.

Over the next decade, Twitter became a de facto international town square, where anyone could engage in discourse on any topic. In his book Things a Little Bird Told Me, co-creator Biz Stone writes with pride about how activists used Twitter to coordinate demonstrations in the Arab Spring that led to the deposition of leaders in four countries. 

Now, at about fifteen years old, Twitter is ranked the 4th most-visited site in the world, and has around 206 million active users, 75% of which are from outside the US. Much of its original funding came from Ev White, and it went public almost ten years ago.

And at this stage in the game it's fair to say that Twitter has sold out. It's de-platformed so many doctors, professionals and elected politicians for speaking against established narratives that it feels like a propaganda arm for those same sort of authoritarian powers that the protestors in the Arab Spring rose up against.

Among other topics, it routinely suspend accounts for tweeting about early treatment for covid-19, covid vaccine injury and 2020 election fraud, while at the same time permitting overt government propaganda, such as this tweet from the FDA saying that ivermectin is exclusively for horses.

Spending time on the platform feels parochial, like having a conversation with your prig grandmother. Certain topics are forbidden, and you know the position she takes on everything else before she opens her mouth. It's entirely lost the explosive creativity of its early days.

There's a twinge of dinosaur to saying you're on Twitter these days. It's like walking around with a flip phone. And a sense that you're party to something quite dreadful. It reminds me of the onlookers in the “Arrests” Chapter from Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago, watching person after person arrested and disappeared, then continuing with their daily lives like everything was hunky dory.

And now, like the Kuomintang fleeing China after their defeat in the Chinese Civil War, these silenced loudmouths, and the disillusioned, bored lot that remains, need to find a Taiwanese harbor to escape to.

More than a few strongholds have emerged to provide it.

  • Gab

The most interesting alternative social media platform I've come across is Gab. It's the brainchild of Andrew Torba, who also became disillusioned with big tech after spending six years in Silicon Valley, building a social media marketing startup.

Gab is emphatically Christian, and Torba pits it against what he says is a transhumanist agenda behind the big tech oligarchs to fundamentally alter what it means to be human.

Torba says he's committed to genuine free speech, and he welcomes anyone and everyone to his platform. For this, he's been vehemently censored and marginalized. Paypal, Visa and Mastercard all cut off services from him after a synagogue shooter posted anti-semitic rants onto his Gab feed. 

Torba clarifies his stance here:

There’s a difference between lawful First Amendment-protected speech and violence, which we have always had no tolerance for. I’m not going to censor lawful First Amendment-protected speech.

He assures all of us that similar censorship is coming our way if we don't play along with things like vaccine mandates, and his great ambition is to leverage his platform to establish a parallel society.

Torba launched Gab in 2016 in his home state of Pennsylvania, and four years later the company moved their entire platform to its own servers. This gives it huge editorial independence. It won't suffer the same fate as Parlor, who, relying on third-party hosting from Amazon, was shut down entirely following the January 6th debacle.

He's also built his own payment platform, Gabpay. And so his parallel economy really is off to an auspicious start. One of its groups is a NoVax Mandate Job Board.

Users mostly fund Gab's expenses, but it sells advertisements as well. According to Torba, the site has 15 million unique visitors each month, 80% of which come from within the US. So it's tiny compared to Twitter. But it's growing. It's gone from being the 2,088th globally-ranked website in Q3 of 2021, to 1,278th at the beginning of this year.

And Torba isn't afraid of a fight, even a petty one. In what he's characterizing as a defense of free speech, he's gone after the new social media company Gettr, claiming that as Miles Guo holds a senior position within the company, it must be in cahoots with the Chinese. Yet everyone knows Guo is the most outspoken critic of the CCP you'll find on the entire planet!

  • Gettr

Getter came onto the scene less than a year ago, on July 4th, 2021. Its advertisements summarize the conceit pretty well:

On Gettr you can express your political beliefs without fear of Silicon Valley liberals coming after you. Gettr is led by former Trump advisor Jason Miller who saw what big tech did to President Trump and decided to fight back....it's the home of prominent conservatives like Mike Pompeo, Marjorie Taylor Green and Steve Bannon....Join Gettr. It's time to cancel cancel culture.

Gettr works just like Twitter, albeit attracting a much more homogeneous audience, at this point anyhow. GNews, part of Guo Media, is active on the site, translating shows and videos to and from Mandarin, and so it makes sense that Miles Guo has some cachet in the company. Most recently, as mentioned, Joe Rogan joined to much fanfare (and a few days later said he wished he hadn't).

But people seem to be enjoying it. It's the only platform Steve Bannon says he uses. And Dr. Robert Malone joined Gettr after Twitter suspended him. “The thing about hitting yourself on the thumb with a hammer is that it feels so good when you stop,” he said on Bannon's War Room, regarding his relief to have found an alternate to Twitter.

Gettr has about 4 million users; this number increased from 2.2 million after Rogan's announcement that he'd joined.

Personally it doesn't enthuse me, though I can't pinpoint why. It may simply be social media overwhelm. And I wonder why Miller didn't band up with Trump and create a social media platform together? It seems that the two will compete for the same audience.

  • Telegram

Telegram was founded in 2013 by Russian-born brothers Nikolai and Pavel Durov.

It's really a messaging service like WhatsAp, except that it has a “channels” feature that allows you to follow content posted by an individual account. However, unlike Twitter, Gettr and Gab, you cannot see the content of someone you're not following.

Nonetheless, it's developed a reputation as a safe haven for anyone broadcasting non-narrative views. I've noticed that anyone who feels vulnerable on big tech platforms generally has a Telegram account to serve as a backup should they be suspended.

Hongkongers used Telegram to coordinate protests throughout the city in 2019, oftentimes sparring with the police, as in this photo at Polytechnic University in November.  

Telegram has five million users! making it the largest service I've mentioned, by far. But, as I mentioned, sending a message on Telegram doesn't mean it's visible to the world; it's only visible to members of that channel. Initial funding came exclusively from co-founder Pavel Durov. It just started selling ads in 2021. 

Notwithstanding its reputation as a stronghold for free speech, it's curious that Pavel Durov is a member of the Young Leaders of the World Economic Forum, as I'm inclined to think that WEF is Bad News Bears 2.0.

  • Truth Social

Trump's Truth Social is supposed to launch on President's Day, so just a few days from now. It feels late in coming, but maybe Trump just wanted us all to become pregnant with expectation.

Can it allure attention away from the platforms people have already fled to in the face of cancel culture, including Gab and Gettr and even Mike Lindell's Frank Speech?

In an interview last year, Sean Stone said that wherever Trump goes, his followers will flock to. I wonder if this will be the case. I'm more inclined to think it will be like one more fiefdom rivaling against competitors who attract similar audiences.

I was really struck, however, by Steve Kirsch linking to Truth Social in a recent post and writing “Coming soon, I hope.” 

It reflected anticipation I haven't sensed elsewhere, and came from a seemingly unlikely source—Kirsch was a big supporter of Democrats during Trump's presidency.

Does Truth Social merit this enthusiasm? We soon shall see.


And there's a bit of the rumbling I see going on in the social media landscape. But it's a huge simplification, as I'm leaving out so many players.

Is this the hour of the little guys? It seems unlikely any single platform will take a commanding lead in the battle for the public's attention. 

We've sadly lost any sense of a town square on social media, and instead we're siloed into echo chambers. Even more concerning is how these platforms present wildly disparate versions of the same story.

Waging the Narrative Battles

Over the last weekend of January, when the Canadian trucker convoy arrived in Ottawa demanding Trudeau repeal all covid mandates, we'd already seen numerous videos all over social media of people congregating at overpasses throughout Ontario, joyously waving Canadian flags and cheering the truckers on.

Canadians posted videos full of friendly people handing food to friendly truckers, including hours and hours of on the ground footage from Viva Frei.

Yet, from the morning after the truckers arrived, until now, nearly three weeks into the protests, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has persistently tweeted a different story, calling the truckers vandals and racists who steal from the homeless and engage in “illegal and dangerous activities.” On these grounds, he's refused to speak to any of them. He's just recently labeled them economic terrorists, invoking the Emergencies Act which orders banks to freeze the accounts of protestors.

I've been called a lot of things in my life but never what's come out of that man's mouth, says Convoy participant Mike Anderson on the 2/14 War Room Pandemic.

Anderson and other truckers continue to report that the event has been entirely peaceful, they're exercising their right to free speech, the streets of Ottawa are clean and what not.

This certainly isn't the only instance where we see the sparring factions of social media present opposite explanations of the same story.

  • A 40% Increase in Overall Deaths in 2022

In an even more alarming instance, we've been given two completely different explanations for the 40% increase in overall deaths during Q3 and Q4 of 2022.

Scott Davison, the CEO of the life insurance company OneAmerica, spoke at an online news conference during the last week of 2021, where he brought this issue to the public's attention:

We are seeing the highest death rates we've ever seen in the history of this business...the data is consistent across every player in the business. This is primarily working age people; 18-64....what we saw in just 3rd quarter and continue into 4th quarter is that death rates are up 40% over what they were pre-pandemic.

Just to give you an idea of how bad that is, a 3 sigma or one in 200-year catastrophe would be a 10% increase over pre-pandemic, so 40% is just unheard of.

What the data is showing us is that the deaths that are being reported as covid deaths greatly understate the actual death losses among working age people from the pandemic....we're also seeing an uptick in disability claims. At first it was short-term disability claims, and now we're seeing long-term disability.

This is a grave issue, literally. No media source has disputed these numbers, but rather the cause for this astronomical increase in deaths.

Let's first look at the timeline: Davison gave this talk in the last week of 2021. Substackers Steve KirschRobert Malone and Jessica Rose all reported on it the following week, citing vaccine injury as the probable cause.

And then on February 10th, six weeks after Davison's talk, Twitter acknowledged the story in its “What's Happening” column that reports current events. It's given this explanation:

Unsurprisingly, the comments to this announcement, on balance, agreed with this assessment 100%.  Note, however, that Davison actually said, "the deaths that are being reported as covid deaths greatly understate the actual death losses."  

And so we have Twitter saying that this astronomical increase in deaths is likely due to covid and deferred medical care, and all the people Twitter has de-platformed saying they're caused by the vaccine.

Both explanations cannot be the right one. It's like Chambers and Hess. Neither of those two men's testimonies could simultaneously be correct. So someone is lying. Big time.

Or, the truth could lie somewhere in between. Maybe the deaths are caused by something else; The Seattle Times recently reported that deaths due to despair outranked deaths due to covid in 2020. But the very disconcerting thing about Twitter's assessment is that they're insinuating the case is closed. Even when the Associated Press article they link to acknowledges it doesn't have concrete data around deaths at the end of 2021. So we're not likely to receive a more nuanced or updated explanation from Twitter.

And what is the consequence of people being siloed into their respective echo chambers, receiving completely different information and then running with it?

Considering the stakes in both these stories, I'd say the impact is huge.

Those who believe the truckers are fighting a noble, peaceful fight, and are having their rights trampled on by a tyrannical leader are at this moment actively engaged in alternate asset management plans. And those who believe the trucker convoys are fringe racists are threatening physical attacks on people who've funded the movement. 

With respect to the catastrophic deaths, those who believe they're due to vaccine injury are liable to take action against the government mandates, perhaps very much in line with those Torba advocates—by building parallel societies. Whereas those who believe the deaths are due to lingering effects from covid will double down on the vaccine mandates, believing they're the key to saving the human race.

It's created a chasm throughout society as wide as it is deep.

Surprising Alliances?

With all the shifting and new developments within social media, we're seeing what feels like strange alliances forming in these alternative spaces.

Here's how Andrew Torba described a Gab user in 2021:

A Conservative Christian with a family and interests in hunting, fishing, cars, camping, news, politics, rural living, homeschooling, privacy, free speech, cryptocurrency, guns, and cooking among others. 

But I'd wager he'll be providing a whole new description in the near future. “Right wing” and “left wing” don't characterize these social media platforms anymore, in any way they've been traditionally understood.

As Jordan Peterson recently tweeted:

I wasn't a conservative until liberals kowtowed to radicals.

Dr. Pierre Kory said during his interview on Dr. Bret Weinstein's Dark Horse podcast that he identifies as a liberal, yet since the pandemic he's largely spoken to conservative audiences.

Steve Kirsch seems to be in the same boat. He just had an interview with Charlie Kirk, has appeared on Steve Bannon's War Room several times, and as I mentioned wrote that he's hopeful about Trump's Truth Social platform.

Now I can't say this for certain, since Kirsch's Twitter account is suspended, but I'm willing to bet this guy didn't have many kind words for Trump between 2016 and 2020.

The Defeat the Mandates Rally, which was described as “perhaps the most politically diverse [group] to have ever gathered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial,” created accounts on Gab as well as Twitter. (Pretty sure its Twitter account was suspended, I can't find it anymore.) 

Before long, these alternative platforms will look pretty diverse. Essentially, they're becoming refuges for anyone and everyone who's either silenced or disgusted with the (let's just say it) fascist leanings of Twitter and big tech.

Taking Sides

And I believe I'll cut myself off right about here. Whew, I sure had a lot more to say on this topic than I realized when I started.

But even so, as I said, what I've covered is a simplification. I'm leaving out all sorts of big tech media players like Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, TickTock, and Snapchat; and emerging alternatives such as Parler, FrankSpeech, Cloudhub, Bitchute and Rumble.

What is your perception of the shifts taking place in social media? Where do you see the conversation happening nowadays? Do you ever struggle as to where to go to in order to know the story?


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