shopping & censorship

rec of the week

In “Twilight of the Ethical Consumer,” fashion journalist Elizabeth L. Cline critiques her life’s work, shifts her mission and clarifies the responsibilities of citizenship under neoliberalism.

With neat cameos by Rachel Carson and Ralph Nader, handy advice and a great little bibliography.

I loved this piece, which (swiftly and legibly) speaks for itself, but wanted to quibble with the brief implication that censorship of online content by corporations is an ethical outcome—that it’s somehow compatible with the checks on corporate power we urgently need.

The prerogative to “regulate” speech and expression—whether by facilitating groupthink or by implementing outright bans and legal actions—can only make big corporations richer, more impenetrable and more dangerous. These massive, rapacious entities should not be arbiters of anything, let alone civic discourse.

Though I share Cline’s desire to castrate the shit out of Big Tech, any kind of government pressure to expand corporate censorship horrifies me, both as a writer and as a leftist. That isn’t a popular stance right now; Democrats are largely applauding Internet censorship at the moment, under the false assumption that it’s only hobbling the right. But my instinct is that harsher censorship will do for QAnon and real progressives what Prohibition did for gangsters and social drinkers, respectively: empower the one and criminalize the other.

We don’t want an even darker, more underground far-right; nor can we afford an even weaker anti-corporate left. On the whole, Cline’s article helped me feel better equipped to support the latter. Hope you enjoy.