Oh-oh: WordPress Deplatforms The Conservative Treehouse Blog

dead canary

I don’t understand this development at all. Perhaps I should say that I hope I don’t understand it. The move feels like another canary dying in the Free Speech mine.

A week after the 2020 Presidential election, The Conservative Treehouse received this from WordPress, which, as you know, hosts Ethics Alarms:

…”given the incompatibility between your site’s content and our terms, you need to find a new hosting provider and must migrate the site by Wednesday, December 2nd.

What’s going on here? This is the blog’s interpretation :

It means CTH is being kicked-off the WordPress website hosting platform because the content of our research and discussion does not align with the ideology of those who define what is acceptable speech and what is not.

What was our violation?  After ten years of brutally honest discussion, opinion, deep research and crowdsourcing work -with undeniable citations on the events we outline- there is no cited violation of any term of service because CTH has never violated one.

The WordPress company is not explaining the reason for deplatforming because there is no justifiable reason for it.  At the same time, they are bold in their position. Perhaps this is the most alarming part; and everyone should pay attention. They don’t care.

Truthful assembly is now the risk.  CTH is now too big; with a site reach of 500,000 to a million unique readers each day; and with well over 200,000 subscribers; our assembly is too large, too influential, and presents a risk… we guard the flickering flame.

The Conservative Treehouse is a professionally operated blog. I don’t visit it often; the tone is too ideologically rigid for me, and the lionizing of the late Andrew Breitbart, who proudly engaged in unethical journalism, signals to me that ethics is not high on the blog’s priority of values.

However, unless there is something more behind this event, it is ominous.

Free speech is under attack, and the attack will intensify with the election of Joe Biden, because Democrats and progressives are leading the assault. Glenn Greenwald, now self-exiled from his own organization because it attempted to censor him, sounds another alarm here. Triggered by the tweet of an ACLU lawyer who advocated the banning of a book with which he disagreed, Greenwald writes in part, in “The Ongoing Death of Free Speech” (there is much more, and you should read it all):

Most of this censorious mentality stems from the warped proposition that ideas with which one disagrees are not just misguided but “dangerous” and even “fatal.” We so often hear now that views disliked by some people put them “in danger” and “literally kill.” Recall the creepily unified script of New York Times reporters in response to the Tom Cotton op-ed that resulted in the firing of Op-Ed Page Editor James Bennet for the crime of publishing it: “Running this puts Black @NYTimes staff in danger,” they intoned. …That speech is “dangerous” and “incites violence” and therefore must be stifled has been the cry of censors for centuries. It is the claim used to try to silence Communists during the Cold War, Muslims during the War on Terror, and pro-Palestinian activists now. …this same pro-censorship mentality is finding expression not only in calls for the state and Silicon Valley giants to suppress speech deemed upsetting and dangerous (censorship that will inevitably fall harshly if not disproportionately on leftists and the marginalized), but also disguising itself under the deceitful banner of Human Resources workplace complaints and union activism. An overlooked section of a Ben Smith column in The New York Times from June described how The Intercept Union’s “Diversity Committee” explicitly demanded curbs on free speech whenever, in their unilateral estimation, such free expression conflicted with political activism they value more — a call that is now commonplace on campuses, in corporate offices, and in newsrooms across the country:It is true that workplace censorship does not implicate state censorship, just as it is true that increasing calls for Silicon Valley to exert greater control over our discourse does not implicate the First Amendment (although it might if, as seems likely soon, a Biden/Harris presidential administration pressures tech giants to suppress their critics’ speech).

But it takes little imagination to see that there are other forms of censorship besides state censorship. Corporate censorship is one; workplace and cultural censorship are others. Free speech is a constitutional and legal doctrine, but it’s also a cultural norm and societal value. That has been true ever since the Enlightenment, at least.

Those who doubt the existence of private-sector censorship should imagine a scenario in which Facebook, Google and Twitter all unite tomorrow to announce:

"Henceforth, no criticisms of the Republican Party or GOP politicians shall be permitted on our platforms; criticisms of Democrats will still be permitted and spread through heightened algorithms, no matter how harsh or angry." 

Few would doubt that free speech values would be severely implicated by such a united policy change from tech giants — regardless of whether one agrees with the recent report from the Democratic-led House Subcommittee concluding that Facebook and Google are classic monopolies.

That censorship occurs not only by state action but also cultural and societal coercion has often been explicitly stated by the ACLU itself. That’s why the civil liberties group has referred to Facebook’s banning of offensive speech as “censorship”…

And, unless there is something we don’t know, WordPress kicking CTH off its platform without a satisfactory explanation is also censorship. It is also very disturbing that the action occurred after the apparent election of Joe Biden. Increased hostility to free speech and expression was among the un-American and totalitarian attitudes that voters endorsed, knowingly or not, when they voted for the Democratic ticket.

33 thoughts on “Oh-oh: WordPress Deplatforms The Conservative Treehouse Blog

  1. First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist.

    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Trade Unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me.
    Martin Niemöller

    • Ironically, the left has put out several recent recent memes to the effect of “First they came for the Muslims, and we said “Not this time, motherf***ers!”” I think it’s time we on the right embraced the “resistance” idea ourselves. When that convoy of pickup trucks manned by large, beefy, bearded white men in camo pants, boots, trucker hats, and shirts that say things like “Oath Keepers” all armed with assault rifles, shows up and says “get in, we’re going to go do some patriot stuff, no time to explain,” maybe we better consider getting in.

        • I just got a DSA FAL, but I don’t have any .308 ammo…Am I at risk of eternal damnation? Can I bum some from my son or a SiL and be safe? What if they refuse? Religious debates sometimes confuse me.

          • Buying a firearm in a new cartridge in a time of no ammo is not wise. See if you can bum some off relatives, then report to Paul Harrell and sacrifice a High Point or a pigeon (you be the judge) for your sins.

            • I always figured having more gun with a greater diversity of calibers and ammo types is better. Especially in an ammo drought.

              Whenever you happen to come across an odd box at the store, if you have a wide selection of firearms, odds are any box you come across will work for you.

            • …sacrifice a High Point or a pigeon (you be the judge) for your sins.

              Some people might be ashamed to admit to owning a Hi-Point, but I do have a 9mm carbine that I got for cheap years ago. If anything should break, I think I could replace about half its parts with bits from the Home Depot hardware isle. Still, with the run on firearms these days, it’s probably worth more than your average pigeon right now.

              Actually, I only bought the FAL because a son-in-law mentioned he had just posted it for sale to make room in his gun safe. I figured we should just keep it in the family, so he gave the “Most Favored Father-in-Law” price.

          • Well, you otta get a 5.56 as well, because they’re both common NATO rounds. Having both will leave you much more likely to stay in the fight if ammo from one is scarce. I’d do it quick, too, now that this prick is all but elected. 80% is the way to go; no paper trail.

  2. In a world where arguments are reduced to slogans and soundbites, in which we have become increasingly incapable of answering challenges with a cogent defense, the only option available to challenge those who disagree with us is to silence them.

    I haven’t commented much on these attacks on free speech, in part because I entirely agree with the analysis such as Jack provides on Ethics Alarms and don’t have much to add, and in part because I have trouble believing that speaking about it will make any difference. My wife occasionally responds to people on Facebook and will ask my help in crafting and editing her replies, but I keep expressing my opinion that making those replies is futile. They will not listen. And as one acquaintance showed, if you counter them too much, they throw a tantrum and unfriend you.

    Yet I know deep down that I struggle with a personal cowardice that doesn’t want to fight the battles or face the wrath that needs to be faced. The only way these censorious entities win is if we refuse to fight. It may be that WordPress is taking a tactic that it threatens to deplatform, but once a site demands proof of violation of terms of service and threatens legal action, WordPress will back down. It may be counting on plenty of sites to be cowed and never offer any significant challenge. And so, by being silent, many blogs might end up complicit in their own demise. I hope Conservative Treehouse fights back and is successful. I certainly hope that if WordPress ever came for Ethics Alarms, that everyone here would give battle.

    I hope I would have the courage to engage the fight.

    • Ryan WordPress has been doing this for a while. Most haven’t noticed because it’s been a lot of trans-critical sites. Since those blogs have been run in particular by women, some have wondered if it’s old fashioned misogyny at play. But I suspect it’s mostly the politics of higher ups in big tech trying to ensure The Agenda is adhered to.

      What I wonder with this encroaching new world censored order, is, what is the responsibility of those who abhor a platform censoring certain users but continue to use it? Does some of the power big tech companies have to keep doing this come from those who complain but keep freely giving them their time, money, and data? Is the excuse, “there’s nowhere else to publish these thoughts” really valid?

      Don’t these users, as you said, end up “complicit in their own demise”?

        • Mrs. Q,

          I wasn’t so aware of WordPress engaging in the censoring, but it doesn’t surprise me. But in recent years I’ve watched as more and more groups have come under fire. The ones I heard about most (not surprisingly) were Catholic organizations like the Ruth Institute that were labelled by the SPLC, and they faced not just website platforming issues, but issues with credit card companies who would no longer allow payments to a “hate group”.

          What I wonder with this encroaching new world censored order, is, what is the responsibility of those who abhor a platform censoring certain users but continue to use it?

          That has been a challenging question, and Catholics debate quite a bit about it. There are some who hold that any investment in the social media is a waste of time, and we should be fighting our reliance on it. There are others who have striven to embrace social media, and some very prominent figures, like Bishop Robert Barron, have taken to the social media and have even delivered talks to Google and Facebook. The mentality here is that we should become all things to all people so that by all means we might save some.

          Personally, I think conservative voices should be present on Facebook, on WordPress, on Twitter, and others because otherwise we (as an entire society) face a slow, inevitable retreat from all public interaction. Also personally, I’m daunted by the effort and the willingness to suffer incredible amounts of hatred, vitriol, accusations, and the like. But it needs to be braved because opposing opinions need to be heard, if only so they can be evaluated and countered with sound arguments. 1 Cor 11:19 comes to mind. But there is a certain sense of being in the midst of adversaries and trying to change the culture from within. If Facebook is such an echo-chamber of progressive thought, then that is exactly where a divisive voice needs to be heard. Even if everyone jeers that voice down, at least some heard it and maybe will question.

          What happens when the conservative blogs leave WordPress? What happens when conservatives flock to alternatives to Facebook, Google, and Twitter? Will they manage to build up and support competition to Facebook, Google, et al, or will their sites remain small, isolated, considered nothing more than fringe groups that should not be heeded because they are not among the “legitimate” sites?

          It extends far further than this, though. Should conservative professors continue at these liberal universities? Should researchers who have findings that do not support the current agenda no longer try to publish their articles in mainstream journals? Should Catholics continue to fight to provide services for foster care, or work in hospitals that provide abortions, contraceptives, trans-affirming surgeries, and euthanasia? Once the progressive narrative has set in and become the standard, are we expected to retreat, until we’re isolated in our homes, never daring to whisper a breath of dissent?

          Prudential judgment always has to enter the picture. Leaving a platform because of objection over the policies is legitimate. Sticking around to be a voice of protest is legitimate. But leaving out of fear, or staying out of inertia or convenience is probably questionable.

          Is the excuse, “there’s nowhere else to publish these thoughts” really valid?

          There are definitely other places to publish your thoughts, but are you intending to write down your thoughts, or are you wanting to be heard? It is similar to the debate about using Microsoft Word or OpenOffice Writer. Do you just want a word processing program so you can write, or do you actually want to share your document with others? If you want to share, you have to convince those you want to share with to download and install OpenOffice. Or you have to hope that OpenOffice will continue to allow you to save your files in the .doc or .docx format. And you have to hope that OpenOffice will stick around for the long haul.

          If I leave Facebook, can I convince enough friends and family to, if not join the exodus, then at least buy into the new social media site, that will require them to learn new ways of doing things that are maybe not as well supported as Facebook? On the other hand, could the alternative ever grow if I’m not willing to buy into it? How much time and energy do I have to devote to this change? What if this alternative goes belly-up after a year and I have to find yet another platform?

          But at some point in time, we do have to stand up and be willing to step out of the boat into turbulent waters and trust, despite all the worldly evidence otherwise, everything will be all right.

          • When the Conservatives are hounded or removed from the platforms, Conservative platforms will sprout up to host them. Only those hosts need *physical* hardware upon which to host and need *physical* access to internet to even publish.

            So the next phase of deplatforming will be when Internet Service Providers no longer host those Conservative websites. And, since we know that big business (especially big Tech business) is in bed with the Democrat Party in an almost semi-fascist incestuous relationship, that those providers will get away with it.

            So there will be some intrepid Conservative startup to provide access to the actual physical hardware that links the world together to host those providers.

            Until the owners of the hardware decide to deny access to them.

            This will be a slow and quiet process to shut out conservative voices. But it’s coming.

          • Ryan I really appreciate your taking the time to share your considerations. You hit on that eternal conundrum….do I try to work within the established system and change it or do I start (or move on to) another, hopefully better, system?

            I’m not on social media (since 2013) and left WordPress in protest of those blogs I mentioned being censored. However I love to write and besides the wonderful opportunity Jack has given me to write here, I also have many other topics I want to wax philosophical on. I considered getting back on WordPress but waited because their actions made me think I’d have to walk on e-eggshells and just didn’t want to.

            Glenn Greenwald inspired me to try out Substack. So far I like it as both an alternative to the quick dopamine hits from social media, and the potential censorship of WordPress. But it’s a silicon valley owned enterprise so it wouldn’t surprise me if Substack went to “the dark side” eventually too.

            Anyway, I think you’re right, different options will work for different people. Some have the stomach to fight from within so they’re heard and others need to try something else. As you said, everything will be alright in one way or another, but we cannot stand by and let our lives be dictated to by technocrats either.

    • “I certainly hope that if WordPress ever came for Ethics Alarms, that everyone here would give battle”
      Oh, you can bet your ass that I would ! I would be writing them, calling them, and if they were anywhere within about a 500-mile radius, visiting them, demanding to speak to upper-management.

  3. The left has been saying they don’t agree with free speech for years. They have been saying they want to remake our country for years. Of course they agree with this. Some people voting for these things might not agree with it, but the talking heads on TV and the people marching in the streets absolutely do.

    This is where people get the idea that they might rig an election. They are totalitarians. Is there anything they wouldn’t do?

    Not that I have seen.

    This is where some of us get the idea that civil war might be coming. They act like that is what they want.

    • I believe it is all but inevitable. Had Trump been elected, the Left would have been absolutely batshit,and eventually their antics would have woken up the actual warriors of this country. Now that Harris has won (let’s face it; she’s going to be wearing the pants in this arrangement at some point), the Left is going to be turning the screws like never before, disposing with much of the Bill of Rights, keeping the lock-down going until the economy completely collapses, which will wake up the actual warriors of this country. Well, I guess it’s time to “embrace the suck”, and get this over with so our little ones aren’t fighting this ugly fight.

  4. Here is the driving force mindset behind the political left right now; if you do not actively and very publicly support the political left and the social justice movement with some kind of virtue signaling then…

    Think I’m kidding?

    Shutting down Conservative blogs!

    Censoring Conservatives on Twitter and Facebook!

    Hiding Conservative websites in Google searches!

    News media calling elections for Biden before States do and then claim that anyone that disagrees with them is trying to steal the election!

    College campus’ refusing to allow Conservative speakers.

    Conservative protesters are attacked in the streets and in restaurants.

    Heck even Wisconsin students unanimously vote to remove Lincoln statue as “Racist” because they say that Lincoln was “Not Pro-Black”. They want to literally tear down a statue of President Lincoln, the President of the United States that fought a bloody Civil War to obliterated slavery in the United States and smear that honored President with he’s “Not Pro-Black” and should be canceled?

    Conservatives are being singled out and blamed for the spread of COVID-19.

    Look at how Conservatives are being treated across the board from the political left; anything coming from Conservatives is automatically smeared as conspiracy theories, lies, misrepresentations, corruption, collusion, obstruction of justice, illegitimate, illegal, racist, etc, etc, etc.

    The list goes on and on.

    The political left has become the bigots* that they were once opposed to.

    This kind of irrational thinking is no longer isolated in little pockets, it’s a cancer infesting everything in our society. These stupid people are out of their damn minds and they think they are right and they have mobs of people behind them telling them that they are right!!!

    I’m meandering around that ledge again.

    *Bigot: a person who is intolerant toward those holding different opinions.

    • I’ve been trying to get off the ledge for over a week. Focus on hobbies, non-political TV, friends, my dog and my family.

      The dog helps. She doesn’t care about anything but treats and playing.

      Everything else is infested with politics. You cannot get away from it.

  5. Again, any individual’s content in their speech either wins by convincing people, or loses by not convincing people. If a particular worldview can’t win in the great debate, too bad. But when that particular worldview feels like it has to cheat by gaining the power to completely shut out other ideas, then that worldview is dangerous and should be opposed on principle…even if it’s own ideas are somehow better for society.

    That being said, platforms have a personal right to decide that some speech doesn’t “convince them”. But, they are ethically estopped from refusing to host ideas they disagree with, because they’ve taken on the greater societal duty of being a forum of speech and therefore they, even while private entities, are ethically assuming the same restrictions of the 1st Amendment that the government is compelled by.

    If they do not take on this obligation, then they are inimical to the Republic.

  6. In 1992 pre Twitter and Facebook, Nat Hentoff wrote a book “Free Speech for Me–But Not for Thee: How the American Left and Right Relentlessly Censor Each Other”. I wish he were here to revise it in light of the huge increase in the power of the left to censor the right given the left’s domination of social media and the MSM. The left argues that this is not really censorship because it is not done by the government but even the ACLU, which seems to be shifting away from being the bulwark for free speech it once was, has expressed concern regarding attacks on online speech rights.

    If Biden is elected, then it appears the government itself will lead the attack on free speech. According to the National Review, Biden has appointed Rick Stengel to be his transition team member to the U. S. Agency for Global Media. In 2019 Stengel said, “But as a government official traveling around the world championing the virtues of free speech, I came to see how our First Amendment standard is an outlier. Even the most sophisticated Arab diplomats that I dealt with did not understand why the First Amendment allows someone to burn a Koran. Why, they asked me, would you ever want to protect that?” With Stengel and his ilk “championing” free speech, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

  7. WordPress have an ethical obligation, though not a legal one, to provide a reasonable and rational excuse for their actions.

    Not just a marginally plausible one either, but one that a reasonable observer could consider well evidenced and justified.

    Ideally, one where a reasonable observer not just could, but would so consider it.

  8. I was just wondering myself what was going to be worthy of censorship. I presume size of the following figures in a lot even more than content. Mine is not large. Nice post.

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