This is an article about censorship – particularly, in this latest instance, involving (unfortunately) the very platform I am publishing on right now: and whether it will continue to be as safe or as accommodating a space for blogs like this one as it has been until now.
But first, I’m putting up this notification – because I suspect there’s a real chance this website/blog could get taken down at any time.
I’m creating a back-up blog of all of this site’s archived content. I’ll explain why in the article below. But should The Burning Blogger of Bedlam be swept up in a censorship purge that appears to be occurring, I will activate the other site and begin publishing my current/future articles over there, at least as a temporary solution to what is – presumably – going to be an ongoing problem.
So any readers, subscribers or friends who want to continue with me – or continue following my articles – will have to go that site and subscribe over there in the event of *this site* disappearing.
However, I can’t make that site ‘active’ yet – because it’ll create duplicated-content problems while this WordPress site is still running. So that site will not be going live until it becomes necessary (i.e: if or when this site goes down).
Should this website suddenly cease to exist, the new (temporary) site will be under the name ‘Bedlam is Burning’: copy this link and keep it somewhere – ‘bedlamisburning.blogspot.com’ (https://bedlamisburning.blogspot.com/).
That site isn’t active yet – so it’s an empty link at the moment. The reason I’m notifying everyone here and now is simply because – as several other bloggers have recently discovered – your site can disappear in an instant, leaving you no time to communicate with your readers or subscribers.
Also that site-title may change, so it might also work to just type ‘Bedlam is Burning’ or even ‘Burning Blogger of Bedlam’ into a search-engine.
Why am I taking this measure? Well, because it’s looking like a censorship purge is happening: and right now it is difficult to tell how widespread that purge might end up being or how much it might expand in the future.
Yes, even WordPress – that last bastion of free speech when it comes to big platforms – appears to have been unceremoniously taking down a number of blogs: and these all appear to be blogs in the ‘conspiracy theory’ realm.
I’ve never actually considered this site a ‘conspiracy theory’ site (and also half of the content in my overall archive is about music, film, history or even comic books): but that won’t necessarily protect me if – or when – someone includes me on the delete list.
My first alarm bell was when ‘Jay’s Analysis’ – a very popular blog – went offline and never reappeared a few weeks ago. My second alarm bell was about a week and a half ago when I first read about certain other take-downs. And my third alarm bell was discovering that the Willy Loman blog – or ‘American Everyman‘ – had been ‘disappeared’ all of a sudden.
From Tech Crunch, a fortnight ago: ‘WordPress.com has taken down a handful of blogs, according to several complaints from affected blog owners and readers who claim the sites were removed from WordPress.com, despite not being in violation of the company’s Terms of Service. Some site owners also said they were not notified of the shutdown in advance and have lost their work…‘
These removals, it is reported, were due to a new policy that forbids bloggers from publishing “unauthorised, identifying images of minors”.
However, all of the sites taken down also appear to fall into the nebulous category of ‘conspiracy theorist’ blogs. From what I can tell, these take-downs have all centered – in this instance – on ‘Sandy Hook’ related content.
One of the latest of these blogs to be unceremoniously deleted from existence is, as I said, the ‘American Everyman‘ blog. This is a quality blog I have been following for years: however, it is no longer there.
Fellow W/P blogger, Wall of Controversy, wrote up a shocked piece a couple of days ago on this subject of American Everyman vanishing from WordPress. ‘The internet purge has begun in earnest — the last days of American Everyman’, he writes, warning that ‘his site is just one of a number of relatively small sites that WordPress has recently taken down, and doubtless this purge is set to continue…’
Wall of Controversy is right to question, as he does in the piece, whether his site could be next too.
That’s kind of the point: any W/P blogger who’s paying attention is going to feel uneasy. What’s the line and how can you be sure if you’ve crossed it or not? What could be an offense and what would be okay?
A fortnight or so ago, it was ‘Fellowship of the Minds’. The link between American Everyman and Fellowship of the Minds is clearly that they both feature a lot of content on false-flags and conspiracies, and also probably that they both had content on Sandy Hook.
I can’t remember for certain if American Everyman did have any “unauthorised, identifying images of minors”: but given how vast his archive of content was, he probably did have some pieces on Sandy Hook. Fellowship of the Minds – an extreme right-wing blog, unlike American Everyman – definitely did have Sandy Hook stuff up. The Sandy Hook controversy is also a main catalyst for why Alex Jones has been in a lot of trouble – so the best advice for now seems to be to stay clear of Sandy Hook entirely.
For the moment, Sandy Hook seems to be the catalyst: but that could presumably change or expand to other things at any time.
I’ve never covered Sandy Hook – just like I’ve never touched ‘Pizza Gate’ or any number of other popular subjects. But I’m probably justified in suspecting my blog/website could be targeted at any stage.
In laying out the justification for the take-downs, Tech Crunch notes (and the bold text is my highlighting): ‘While some of the affected sites – which include some extreme right blogs and those floating conspiracy theories – had already been flagged for other violations, many were hosting Sandy Hook conspiracy theories and other “false flag” content…’
Well, I’m clearly not extreme right or even mild right (or any kind of right) – but if “floating conspiracy theories” and “other false flag content” is a potential offense worthy of a take-down, then it might only be a matter of time before I wake up one day and find my site (with its archive of articles on false-flag terrorism) completely missing.
And so might anyone else who ever explores those subjects. Or at least that’s the implication.
Note that Scott Creighton, who wrote the American Everyman site, received NO notification from WordPress that his site was being removed, received no explanation for it, and was presumably therefore given no option or chance to retrieve his content before the site was terminated. And yet, as he says, he was in violation of NO WordPress terms.
After a number of years of building up an archive, building up a readership and a community, his site was just suddenly gone.
On American Everyman in particular, the same Tech Crunch article notes; ‘his site hosted 9/11 “truther” content and claimed that Sandy Hook was a staged event. These are generally repugnant points of view to a large swath of people,’; but the same article adds ‘but he’s correct in saying they weren’t views that WordPress.com had prohibited…’
Surely, if WordPress was updating its terms or policies in this regard, it could’ve sent out a warning or update to users/bloggers?
At the very least, shouldn’t Scott have been notified in advance?
Or couldn’t he have been asked to *remove* the specific content, images or articles that were deemed to be an offense?
Why has this started to happen?
It seems to have been pushed by the New York Times, which published an article on the 13th of this month (a few days before the FotM take- down), in which it specifically condemned WordPress and Automattic for allowing ‘conspiracy theorists’ to keep their content on its platform.
Again, specifically they were focusing on the Sandy Hook business; but of course there is a broader implication beyond just that specific subject. The piece, titled ‘This Company Keeps Lies About Sandy Hook on the Web’, went out of its way to demonise WordPress/Automattic for its lack of censorship.
Almost without doubt, WordPress/Automattic felt pressured into doing something – probably against its own better judgement, as WordPress has otherwise for years been a bastion of free speech and a staunch defender of its users’ rights.
Presumably – and I’m just guessing – some kind of broad search for Sandy Hook related content on WordPress was carried out and a bunch of blogs that had any offending material in its archives were summarily removed (even if the vast majority of those content archives were otherwise not related to that subject).
That’s Sandy Hook today. Tomorrow it could be something else – 9/11 perhaps. Because it seems odd to me that Sandy Hook would be the only issue – and that other conspiracy claims about other events will go unpenalised.
Hell, the way this pantomime with Jeremy Corbyn is going in the UK, sooner or later it could be something as simple as using certain words in any way perceived to be derogotary (that political idealogy, for example, that begins with the letter ‘Z’ seems to be a hot topic now bordering on a taboo).
The fact now is simply that WordPress has opened the door to being pressured by external parties (often with vested interests) into taking down any content or content-producer who someone deems to have been offensive or responsible for ‘fake news’.
Perhaps they can close that door again. Perhaps they won’t go crazy with indiscriminate purges of sites or authors. But in taking down these sites – especially something like ‘American Everyman’ – in so uncommunicative a manner, WordPress/Automattic without doubt will have lost the trust of many of its users.
Sarah Gooding examined this fast-developing subject a couple of weeks ago at WP Tavern, arguing that the new/updated policy (which was not forwarded to WordPress bloggers or users, but quietly altered) allowed WordPress/Automattic to engage in censorship in a way that could be passed off as something other than censorship.
She continued, ‘As it is a private company, Automattic’s terms of service do not have to reflect the full freedom of speech allowed by the law. However, the company has always upheld its reputation in the past as an uncompromising defender of its users when presented with requests for censorship.’
She is right too that WordPress has always been a defender of its users’ right to produce whatever content they wanted to.
I’ve always respected WordPress a great deal: and trusted it as a platform, which is one of the reasons I chose it in the beginning. It has always seemed like a proper ‘safe space’ for honest discussion, debate, true non-compromised journalism, diversity of opinion and perspective.
And yes, that sometimes includes or means some very fringe or extreme stuff – but that’s human life. Human life has fringes and extremes.
It is doing its image and reputation a lot of damage right now: and I hope that – as unlikely as it is – someone high up in the WP/Automattic decision-making realms is actually reading this and is reminded of the value of the platform being trusted by its users.
WordPress, for me anyway, has always been a great home – and I would feel better about the situation if I could think that the platform might choose to care more about its users and its oft-stated principles than about what some overpaid hack is saying over at the New York Times.
Anyway, to recap: should you be looking for ‘The Burning Blogger of Bedlam’ one day and find that “this page no longer exists”, use the other web-address I’ve provided here to find my relocated blog.
Or if the specific address doesn’t work (it might change between now and then), try typing ‘Bedlam is Burning’ or even ‘Burning Blogger of Bedlam’ into a search-engine and something should come up.
No fucking way do I want to randomly find one afternoon that seven years of work has simply been deleted – without any notification or explanation. Read WoC‘s article on the ‘American Everyman’ take-down to see some of how Scott Creighton reacted to his site’s deletion: years’ worth of work suddenly removed, without any advance warning and without any real right of reply.
If this website doesn’t get ‘disappeared’ any time soon, then I guess it’s business as usual and I’ll (probably) keep posting here. To be honest, another reason I’m not activating the other site preemptively is because it’s just too much work that I don’t have time for right now – to re-format and reorganise that much content is just not something I have energy for right now.
It would only be a temporary solution anyway – as I’m sure Blogger/Blogspot (owned by Google) will simply conduct its own purges (and it is actually less trusted than WordPress anyway) – but it’s just a brief emergency measure until I can work out a better, longer-term plan.
Also, as I’m sure Scott Creighton would attest, even relocating a blog is only a partially effective measure – as you’ll inevitably lose a ton of subscribers and readers and will have to start over again, as well as lose all of the intricate modifications, formatting and customisation I’ve fine-tuned over seven years. I’ll also lose a lot of the inter-connectedness I’ve forged with other WordPress users and/or fellow bloggers, whereby our respective blogs are basically interactive.
It takes a lot of time to establish a reasonably ‘successful’ blog: it takes some years to build up readership, reputation, rapport, and all of that other stuff. It isn’t something you can just magically reproduce.
I would advise other W/P authors/bloggers to also back-up their content asap: unless you blog mostly just about kittens and puppies, in which case you’re probably fine.
I want to finish again with Sarah Gooding’s article from a couple of weeks ago at WP Tavern, because some of what she wrote is exactly right.
She criticises the external influences who forced WordPress’s hand: ‘Calling out a free speech platform like WordPress.com, without any distinction for its vital role in enabling journalists across the globe, is a coercive attempt to exact a desired result. What WordPress.com has done is groundbreaking in democratizing publishing and enabling bloggers to break news on their own sites…’
She continues, ‘The New York Times raking WordPress.com over the coals for its refusal to censor its users is an egregious double standard. A publication cannot call for free speech for itself while eating up the rights of everyone else they don’t agree with. Principles aren’t principles if they only serve you when they are convenient… Forcing the censorship of offensive speech may feel like swift justice in the short term, but it weakens the fabric of a free society…’
I still respect WordPress a great deal: and believe that the platform had to be coerced into taking the actions it recently took.
But give it a while longer and I’m not sure there’ll be anywhere left on the Internet that hasn’t been massively censored and brought under control. Years from now, I wonder if typing something like ‘9/11 theories’ into a search-engine will yield *anything* other than the official, government-approved version of events.
In the meantime, I’ll continue publishing articles here anyway. But it’s difficult to do it comfortably or enthusiastically anymore when you sense the Sword of Damocles might be poised over your head.