Trump, Twitter and Parliamentary Democracy | By Ernst Wolff
By Ernst Wolff.
The short messaging service Twitter and the social networks Facebook and Instagram blocked Donald Trump’s accounts at the end of last week, first temporarily and then permanently. The U.S. president was thus deprived of the opportunity to continue communicating directly with 88 million Twitter followers, 35 million Facebook subscribers and 25 million Instagram users. Twitter cited „the risk of further incitement to violence“ as the reason for the move. Facebook and Instagram CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook account, „The shocking events of the last 24 hours clearly demonstrate that President Donald Trump intends to use his remaining time in office to undermine the peaceful and lawful transition of power to his elected successor, Joe Biden.“
Many people have reacted positively to the decisions made by online social services. That’s hardly surprising, given the anger at the U.S. president. Under him, the U.S. has experienced the largest redistribution of wealth in its history, he has not drained the swamp in Washington, as announced in the election campaign, but has favored it for four years and abused the office of the president in the style of a monarch for his own enrichment. Nevertheless, it is by no means appropriate to celebrate the decision of the social networks. On the contrary, the censorship shows in a frightening way that democratic rights, such as that of free speech, are no longer granted or denied in our time by politics, but directly by digital companies and the major investors behind them.
A look at the shareholder structure of online services shows who these investors are: Twitter’s largest institutional shareholders are the asset management firms Vanguard, Morgan Stanley Investment Management and BlackRock, which together hold just over 21 percent of the shares. Facebook and Instagram are both part of multi-billionaire Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook empire. BlackRock and Vanguard also hold shares, but Zuckerberg can be considered the sole ruler with his nearly sixty percent of voting shares. Among the four largest shareholders of Amazon and Apple, who announced over the weekend that they would block Trump’s fallback portal Parler, are also BlackRock and Vanguard, as well as ultra-rich people like Jeff Bezos and Arthur Levinson.
Things aren’t much different behind the scenes at YouTube. The video portal, which has muzzled numerous critics of the pandemic measures in recent weeks, is part of Google’s parent company Alphabet, whose four largest shareholders include Vanguard and BlackRock, in addition to founders and multi-billionaires Larry Page and Sergey Brin. That a handful of ultra-rich shareholders can curtail the freedom of expression not only of the U.S. president, but of all of us, shows where the true center of power lies in our time. But it also shows the role of parliamentary democracy today: Elections, which fool people into believing that they can use their votes to influence the political shaping of society, have degenerated into a cover for the rule of forces that are beyond any control of the electorate.
Although parliamentary democracy has always been an instrument of rule by the rich and powerful since its inception, wealth and power were distributed among considerably more heads in the past than in our day. For this reason, the rulers were forced time and again to make concessions to the working population, which fought for its rights primarily through organization in trade unions and reformist parties. But that has changed over the past decades due to the enormous concentration of money and power. Fighting unions or parties that stand up for workers‘ rights no longer exist. Instead, there are hundreds of billionaires at the top of the digital-financial complex who can buy politicians, journalists, scientists and trade unionists at will or put them under pressure and make them compliant with their fortunes and the resulting power.
The fact that these ultra-rich and ultra-powerful people are now shedding all inhibitions and openly curtailing our rights in the style of fascist dictators has a simple reason: the pandemic measures pushed through by politicians with the help of corrupt journalists and even more corrupt scientists have given them the greatest increase in wealth and power of all time in the past ten months and made the world a place where the well-being of seven billion people is subordinated to the unrestrained greed of a tiny minority to an even greater extent than before.
Thanks to the author for the right to publish the article.
Image source: txking / shutterstock
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