The Reactionary Politics of Silicon Valley

August 4, 2022 Updated: August 4, 2022

Commentary

For a while, the internet was an unambiguously revolutionary phenomenon. Everyone could broadcast truth to the world. But as the internet became ubiquitous, and with the more recent impact of social media and broadband, what had been a revolution is becoming a coopted new manifestation of establishment power.

The modern internet is a propagandist’s dream. Perpetual internet access to an infinite audience and infinite content has altered the human psyche, making it easier than ever to manipulate the beliefs and passions of entire populations. Control of this interaction by a small handful of mega corporations in Silicon Valley has given those companies almost indescribable power.

The ironic surprise in all this is how Silicon Valley’s tech companies have used their power. They have embraced a reactionary politics, reflected in who they promote and who they erase, as well as what online behaviors they reward and where they direct the herd.

To understand why Silicon Valley’s big tech companies have become reactionaries, one must understand how the American Left—which includes the overwhelming majority of big tech company employees and founders—has over the past 10-20 years moved from opposing corporate globalization to fully endorsing it. This shift, gradual but steady, came into the open with the election of Donald Trump in 2016.

The Populist Uprising Against Globalism

Donald Trump’s heresy was to focus on the negative impact globalism was having on Americans. He catalyzed a revolution by challenging what had become truisms for the establishment: trade deficits don’t matter or can actually be beneficial, free trade is always good, and mass immigration always helps more than it harms.

Trump clarified the debate over globalization by forcing the progressive Left to reveal its true colors. It became clear that the Left’s primary concern was how corporate globalization affected nations in the developing world, and it exposed their indifference, even hostility, toward the workers in their own nations.

You can make a moral case that globalization should harm workers in developed nations by characterizing their standard of living as ecologically unsustainable and built on the legacy of colonial exploitation. You can therefore rationalize the harm globalization inflicts on developed nations as an altruistic necessity. You can also embrace globalization on those terms because it does the bidding—and attracts the generosity—of wealthy elites and multinational corporations who are most enriched by “free” trade and open borders.

America’s progressive Left did both. They’ve disguised the agenda that disenfranchises American citizens within their own nation by attacking “white privilege” and by accusing their opponents of being racists and deniers of climate change. They’ve come to accept the premises of the free-trade economists they’d once despised, with the transformative caveat that climate activism and all that it entails—namely, the mass redistribution of wealth—will mitigate the impacts of globalism on developing nations.

It’s all ridiculous. Climate activism may redistribute wealth, but climate activism also requires the abolition of cheap conventional energy which remains the primary means by which individuals and nations escape poverty. But this paradox, if anything, leaves intact and strengthens the core agenda of globalists: eliminate nations and empower multinational corporations and transnational bureaucracies.

The Silicon Valley, a progressive stronghold which by 2019 had a tech workforce reaching an incredible 75 percent foreign-born, epitomizes a culture where globalism is perceived not just as inevitable, but already here. In lockstep with the tech monopolies, fully embracing globalism in all its woke and green ramifications, is every other major corporation in America, every elite academic institution, every influential entertainer, every so-called mainstream media property.

Globalism Is Not the Revolution. It Is the Establishment.

Globalism, with its epicenter shifted into the heart of the Silicon Valley, is the governing ideology of what is now a sprawling empire, wielding economic and cultural power rarely seen in the history of the world. And in the face of a growing populist insurgency from Colombo to Amsterdam to Ottawa, they are the reactionaries. Everyone in the world who questions the flawed diktats of globalism, whether they are right-of-center or left-of-center, are the true revolutionaries of this era. If you examine the list of online voices that have been silenced, regardless of anything else, the common thread are ideas that question the globalist agenda. The narratives of globalism skeptics are dangerous to the reactionary empire. Skeptics are the revolutionaries.

But what if the majority of ordinary people just want to hear the other side for a change, on the issues surrounding environmentalism, energy, land use, infrastructure, multiculturalism, immigration, race, feminism, gender equity, and social justice? What if they sometimes find an unrepentant critic of identity politics to be a breath of fresh air? What if they believe there should be a robust and honest debate over globalism, or globalism’s enabling sibling—the so-called climate emergency?

What if it isn’t even globalism itself that should be most questioned, but merely some of its misanthropic and counterproductive premises?

It is reasonable—or it should be reasonable—to expect a nation to defend its culture, its language, and its borders, to care for its citizens, to respect its traditions. To accept someone as an American citizen, what constitutes an acceptable range of behaviors and beliefs? What are reasonable terms for inclusion in the American family?

This is one of the most important questions of our time: If globalism, pushed by every major institution in America, is determined to erase national identities, then what sort of pushback can preserve nations and cultures in a way where the solution isn’t worse than the problem? What does it mean to be a citizen of a nation? Can nationalism be inclusive without becoming meaningless? Can nationalism be compassionate, offering a better model for the evolution of “global civilization,” and still be authentic nationalism? Is there a version of economic nationalism that nonetheless nurtures global prosperity?

One thing ought to be certain: Denying skeptics of globalism the ability to voice their observations and opinions online is a dangerous mistake, because the concerns voiced by globalism skeptics can often rely on hard facts and sound logic, no matter whether they are expressed with grace or with fury. For the reactionaries of Silicon Valley to silence them defers a much-needed debate about globalism and its consequences, at a time when current globalist policies are becoming increasingly unsustainable.

You can’t demand a 50 percent reduction in the use of fossil fuel, oppose nuclear power, and expect “renewables” to provide sufficient energy to power civilization, when worldwide energy production will have to double merely to provide every person living on earth half the energy that Americans currently consume. You can’t have mass immigration into the U.S. at the same time as environmentalist laws make it impossible to build adequate housing and infrastructure to accommodate them. You can’t have mass immigration while at the same time expanding a welfare state.

And you certainly can’t have mass immigration at the same time as the unionized public education system, dominated by leftists, teaches immigrant children that they have arrived in a hostile, racist nation. Unless you’re prepared to throw away all pretense of a meritocracy in American society, you can’t demand perfectly proportional representation of all ethnic groups in every facet of American life, from wealth and income to geographic distribution to hiring, promoting, college admissions, and contract awards.

All of these things are socially and economically unsustainable; all of them weaken America and every other nation where they are enforced. To implement them requires the soft tyranny of Pavlovian conditioning, backed up by an authoritarian state. Small wonder that dissident glitches in the online matrix become barely remembered rumors and vague caricatures once some reactionary zealot, working for a California tech giant, erases their life’s work with a click.

Such are the shortsighted reactionary politics of Silicon Valley, the citadel of globalism. Their progressive dreams have merged into the broader agenda of a multinational corporate establishment that progressives once opposed with all their strength. Their revolutionary posturing is a comforting illusion, but they are only fooling themselves as they drive us into an untenable future.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Edward Ring
Edward Ring is a contributing editor and senior fellow with the California Policy Center, which he co-founded in 2013 and served as its first president. He is also a senior fellow with the Center for American Greatness. Ring is the author of two books: “Fixing California: Abundance, Pragmatism, Optimism” (2021) and “The Abundance Choice: Our Fight for More Water in California” (2022).