The following is a rough transcript which has not been revised by The Jim Rutt Show or by Bret Weinstein. Please check with us before using any quotations from this transcript. Thank you.
Jim: Today’s guest is Bret Weinstein, evolutionary theorist, professor in exile. Co-host along with Heather Heying of the DarkHorse podcast and last, but certainly not least one of the startup crew of the Game B movement. Welcome, Bret.
Bret: Hey Jim, how are you doing my friend?
Jim: I am doing pretty good. It’s good to have you back on the show. It really is. A lot going on in the world, a lot to talk about.
Bret: I have noticed.
Jim: For the last four years, it felt to me like I was in one of those alternate branches of the metaverse and one of those Forking universe stories. Very weird.
Bret: Forking universe.
Jim: The multi-verse theory. In fact, actually in my podcast tomorrow, we’re going to get pretty deeply into quantum interpretations and what have you. I’ve been reading up on it. If I nerd out in that direction, that’s why.
Bret: That’s the reason. All right. I’m prepared.
Jim: All right. Today we agreed that we’re going to mostly talk about the Unity 2020 effort that you put together as an alternative to the Dem-Republican political duopoly. But before we go there, let’s chat a little bit about your very recent banning from Facebook. What the fuck? What was that all about? What have you learned?
Bret: Yeah, it was fascinating. Your listeners will not, for the most part, know anything about my history on Facebook. I was a fairly regular user for quite a few years and then after the Evergreen meltdown, I more or less had to walk away from Facebook because it became such a toxic environment. I am a very occasional user of the platform and in fact, I don’t think I have used it in the last several weeks. If I logged on it would have been once and I’m not sure that I posted anything.
Bret: In spite of my lack of activity, I was evicted from the platform, which I discovered when a friend posted a link in a private discussion to something that someone else had placed on Facebook. I clicked the link and a warning popped up that said that my account had been… I’ve forgotten the exact language, but effectively deleted that a review had already been conducted that I had somehow violated the community guidelines in no way that was specified and that the decision could not be reversed.
Jim: Yeah, I got it right here. Let me read it for you, because when I saw that, when you posted it over on Twitter, I said, “This is a delectable combination of both Orwellian and Kafkaesque.” Quite excellent from Facebook. “You cannot use Facebook because your account or activity on it didn’t follow our community standards.” Which you and I both know is about 75 pages of gobbledygook. “We’ve already reviewed this decision and it cannot be reversed.” That’s what it said
Bret: “Cannot be reversed, has already been reviewed.” That’s very striking. Now my sense is, if I was a normal user of Facebook, then I would have engaged in some activity and I would have been left scratching my head trying to wonder where it is that I tripped over one of the community guideline or another. But given that I wasn’t using the platform at all, it was pretty clear that this was somehow either a massive error, which is incompatible with their claim to have reviewed it and the decision being irreversible.
Bret: Or that this was personal about something that Facebook didn’t like about me and that it had decided not to wait for me to do anything it could portray as a violation of a community guideline and toss me off just based on the incompatibility of my character with their platform or something like that.
Jim: Of course, there’s the third possibility I was thinking about this one is, it could have been an algorithm run amok but the message, “We have already reviewed this decision and it cannot be reversed.” Does not sound like the thing even the chuckleheads at Facebook would have given to an algorithm, basically a death sentence with no appeal based on an algorithmic checkbox, but with those chuckleheads you never know. Yes, it could also have been a conscious decision, but there’s a third one also.
Jim: Maybe this is my Occam’s razor one. I don’t know. I’d love to know what you think about or what you’ve heard, if anything, from them. That is a disgruntled employee, somewhere in the bowels of Facebook who happened to have the power to do this. Didn’t like you for one reason or another, typically about your political views and decided to blink you. That’s the third possibility I would put out there.
Bret: Yeah. I think it’s going to be somewhere in that neighborhood, but I don’t see any reason to imagine that Facebook was not on the whole comfortable with the behavior of its employee. I should say I have received no communication whatsoever about what Facebook imagines took place that would have justified this. The only communication I’ve had was a reply to my tweet announcing that I had been evicted from Facebook, a tweet that was very widely circulated. It ended up with, I don’t know, 56,000 likes.
Bret: My eviction was noticed by a lot of people including some very prominent ones and as the likes and retweets of that communication mounted, a Facebook Comms employee named Liz Shepherd in the replies said that I had triggered a system designed to detect inauthentic behavior and that my account had been restored and they regretted the error, which is of course inconsistent with what they had initially said, which is that a review had been conducted and this was irreversible.
Bret: Now, oddly, or maybe not so oddly, clicking on the profile of Liz Shepherd on Twitter reveals that she was formerly with the Democrats and Nancy Pelosi. My sense is that somehow my activities, probably my anti-duopoly activities with Unity 2020 were regarded as heresy somewhere inside of Facebook and that this action was either punitive or that they were booting me because they didn’t want me saying inconvenient things in some future context, like perhaps after the election.
Jim: But still you have not received anything official. Just as far as with respect to official communications, you were found guilty executed, or condemned to be executed with no appeal. Then you were released with no explanation.
Bret: I prefer to think that I was executed and that I rose from the dead, but-
Jim: Three days later the groundhog dug its way out of the ground.
Bret: Wasn’t quite three days, but I’ll take it.
Jim: Yeah. As I say, this is the perfect hell broth of Orwell and Kafka. They don’t tell you what’s going on. They do what they want for probably strategic reasons, but who the hell knows. Very, very scary that we have allowed our public square to be controlled by people like this.
Bret: It’s terrifying, because at some level we don’t have an alternative public square where we can take our business, so we are condemned to discuss the matters of the day on these platforms and they have effectively infinite discretion with which to decide who can speak, what to amplify and all sorts of other things. I think it is clearly the case that as we become more deranged, that the ghost in the machine is these platforms.
Jim: Yeah. It is very, very scary. Particularly those of us who can think through what the evolution of a network looks like when somebody can modulate the propagation on the network at their will.
Bret: Yes, absolutely. It’s basically like the control that a magician has over what the audience can see, except in this case, the audience doesn’t know that they’re attending a magic show.
Jim: Exactly. The recent film, Social Dilemma on Netflix with our friend Tristan Harris laid out a fair amount of that, but they didn’t quite go into this level of malice, essentially. They were more looking at the implications of the business model. Trying to addict people to dopamine, serotonin response cycles for the purposes of selling predictive advertising which is bad enough. But to the degree that these platforms are intentionally distorting discourse, particularly in your case.
Jim: I was one of those people who came to your aid. I think I got about, I don’t know, 30,000 reads on my various rants on the topic and we were all saying, “Wait a minute, of all people, Bret? Talk about good faith discourse. You may like him or not like him, agree or disagree, but he’s, without a doubt, a solid, good faith discourse kind of guy. This is not good at all.”
Bret: Yes. Now there’s a question about whether attacking me in this way with that being my reputation, amongst many people on frankly, all sides of the political discussion, whether or not the spectacular overreach actually in the end has made those of us who wish to see open discussion on these platforms a bit stronger, because it has complicated their story that what they’re really doing is eliminating people who are beyond the pale.
Jim: Yeah. No, I think if indeed this was a act of malice, then that is absolutely true. And some significant chance that it was, particularly the nature of that message. “We have already reviewed this decision and it can’t be reversed.” That does not sound like an automated bot. Anyone who would give that much discretion to a bot, that’s not good on its own self.
Bret: Yes. Now, my guess actually would be, it was interesting, there was one action I could take on that warning message and it involved downloading what Facebook called my information, which is to say information that Facebook had collected on me. It was alarming, no surprise really, but to actually be faced with what Facebook has accumulated in terms of who I’ve interacted with, what I’ve liked, when I’ve logged in, all of these things. It’s quite clear and obvious that Facebook has more information than the stuff that was in the PDF file they gave me.
Bret: The fact I believe is that Facebook A, couldn’t possibly have mistaken me for a bot or anything other than a person. My account was so long standing and behaved so much like an actual human being that there’s no way. It would have to be an amazingly stupid algorithm that you would never actually empower in the world to evict people if it mistook my account, but what they would have known is that my hesitancy to use Facebook in the last several years is extreme enough that there’s a good chance that I wasn’t going to log in and discover that I had been booted until after the election.
Bret: I wonder if they were not expecting that this would be discovered at some later date and that the accident of my having been directed to a link by a friend basically brought this into the public sphere early.
Jim: That’s interesting. I had not contemplated that. They’re trying to disable the counterweight essentially in advance, preemptively.
Bret: Yes, and we know actually, a material that emerged yesterday, I believe suggests that Facebook is already building a mechanism it says for addressing post-election violence, which they consider likely. And I also think post-election violence is likely, but the question is, what exactly is Facebook planning to do? It is planning presumably to control our discussion with each other in a situation in which an election results in a contested outcome and at some level, who the hell are they?
Bret: But given that they seem to think that they are entitled to modulate our discussions with each other on the essential matters of our governance, I can imagine that they would view me as very inconvenient to any narrative that they want to portray because I am a liberal and a radical as I’ve described myself and yet I’m not in any way ready to tolerate the influence peddling of the DNC.
Jim: Yeah. It’s certainly possible. Though I will say, that’s the thing we have to be careful about is that it’s very tempting to ascribe behavior to malice when fairly often it’s incompetence. I can give you a personal example that has to do with Facebook. Very occasionally I’ll try to do, they call a boost on one of my podcast episodes. I post a story about each episode in a very standard format on The Jim Rutt Show Facebook page and a few other places.
Jim: Maybe every few months, there’s one that I think has enough profile that it’s worth throwing 50 bucks on and see what happens. And if it works, I’ll throw another 50. The most recent one I did was with former secretary of defense, William Perry, about his establishmentarian character you could possibly get and he’s co-author on his new book, The Button, a very serious establishmentarian discussion of nuclear policy, nuclear arms control, and control of our nuclear weapons, and guess what, the ad was rejected.
Jim: I appealed and they rejected it again. What the fuck?
Bret: Well, let me ask you a question. I understand and agree that sometimes ineptitude creates something that you would be tempted to dismiss as malice, but it isn’t. In that case, I don’t know how… Why are you sure that the rejection of that ad was incompetence when Twitter and Facebook and Google are not just establishment, but they’re also highly partisan.
Jim: Well, again, William Perry secretary of defense under Clinton, the basic tenor of the book is at least partially motivated by a distrust of the psychological stability of Trump. If this has any partisan valence, which it does, maybe a little bit, it points blue, but in a very establishmentarian blue church way. I don’t know. Anyway, it is not the first time. I had another one Jill Tarter, the world’s leading authority on search for extraterrestrial intelligence. The ad for her episode was also bounced. And I go, “What?”
Jim: At that point, I was running a few more ads on Facebook and I had my ad team intervene. They got it turned around and they said, it was a stupid ads algorithm that somehow decided it was inappropriate. Okay. Search for extraterrestrial intelligence and nuclear arms policy. Those seem like really bad things to be talking about with two of the world’s leading experts on them. Right?
Bret: You never know what the algorithms are worried about. It’s possible that the aliens could be under age.
Jim: Well, actually the other thing is the aliens could have already infiltrated Facebook and they don’t want anyone talking about [inaudible 00:16:59].
Bret: Yeah. A live possibility.
Jim: Anyways, let’s keep that in a liminal state that yes, it could be malice and I think something about the wording of that message makes me think, “Okay.” But these guys are chuckleheads and they fuck up all the time.
Bret: Yeah. Although there’s something very odd about the one and only communication indicating what took place coming from somebody who is so closely associated with the DNC.
Jim: Yeah. That’s weird too. And also, the course of the high hilarity that they did it on Twitter.
Bret: Yes. Well, of course. Yeah. Twitter in a reply.
Jim: In a reply to Twitter and they have your email. Part of signing up for Facebook, is you give them your email. They could have easily emailed you something, but somebody pops into a reply on a stream on Twitter. Of course, it is very odd. Very odd, but let’s leave it at that. We could talk about the foibles of Facebook and why it’s terrible and why frankly, many of us are starting to build alternatives on other platforms, and there are many, many community type platforms out there where you can set up your own environment, and many of us are doing that right now.
Jim: Unfortunately, that may have an even worse effect, which is, at least originally Facebook was an open public square where people from all sectors could come together and compare and contrast their ideas. If this breakup occurs and those who are serious about talking about ideas retreat to our own private enclaves, the filter bubble effect will actually get worse.
Bret: Yes. I agree with that.
Jim: I think these people are stupid as shit if that’s what they’re trying to do. They certainly are. They’re bouncing people for point of view all the time. As much as I think, QAnon or a bunch of mental defectives, people want to… Frankly, I don’t think it’s any crazier than the Catholicism I was raised with. To tell you the truth, about equally absurd. Well, I would say the Catholicism was a little bit more absurd but if we to champion Catholicism or QAnon in the public square, why not?
Bret: Well, not only why not? I think all thinking Americans understand that whatever you may want to censor the instinct to do it is worse than the problem you’re trying to cure.
Jim: Yeah, and we know, again, every example from history, it never stops with, “Okay. Nazis bad.” Yes. We both agree with Nazis bad. Kill fucking Nazis with bombs. Okay. Were there actual German Nazis? 1933 to 1945, all for killing them. We’ll censor actual Nazis, the few that are still alive. All right. We can agree on that. That’s the slippery slope. It used to be the liberals. I’m sure you remember, the ACLU actually famously fought for the right of Nazis, real American Nazis, at least the match through Skokie of the community and Illinois.
Jim: They had a large population of Holocaust survivors in it, distasteful as fuck, but we used to think that was part of what America stood for.
Bret: Yes. It must be distasteful as the majority of the speech we would like to ban is there’s no good way of being surgical about it, so we dare not.
Jim: Yeah. And somebody, someone famous, I think I can’t remember who. Of course, it’s easy to defend speech we agree with. The principles about speech we violently disagree with.
Jim: All right. Let’s move on to Unity 2020. First, what was your motivation? And then, at the highest level, what was Unity 2020?
Bret: All right. The motivation for Unity 2020, which started out under a different name, but was the recognition that once again, our political apparatus had delivered us an election in which no good choices were available. Every single person was going to be forced into engaging in some kind of harmful vote or refusal to vote, and that this was an unacceptable position to be in and there’s no reason that it should be the natural state in a functioning democratic republic and therefore we needed to break out of the cycle that has increasingly caused this to be the default.
Jim: Well, let’s stop here and make clear this, specifically the choice that was bad you launched at about the time. It became clear that the democratic nominee was going to be Joe Biden and the Republican nominee was going to be Donald Trump.
Bret: Yes. That’s no choice at all. The plan that I announced was a plan in which we would draft two individuals. They would have to meet three characteristics. They would have to be courageous, capable, and patriotic, and of course would have to meet the constitutional requirements for holding the office. We would draft them under an agreement to govern jointly by consensus. They would run on a ticket. The top position. The presidency would be established by a coin flip… After we had drafted them.
Bret: But in advance of them arriving on the ballot, they would flip the coin and decide who was going to run for the presidential slot. After four years, the positions would reverse and the person who had inhabited the role of the presidency would run for the vice presidency and vice versa. This could continue until one person had inhabited the presidency twice and was therefore ineligible for a third term, at which point they would be replaced by someone suitable. I’m not sure if I said that these two individuals one would come from the left and one would come from the right.
Bret: And the idea was this would mean everybody would know that their interests were going to be represented in the room where the discussion of what policy was to be pursued was taking place. That was the plan. It garnered a large number of volunteers who were very enthusiastic about the plan and a fair amount of interest amongst people who recognized that there was something wrong with the major party offerings. It did not however, garner the groundswell that would have allowed us to draft these candidates.
Bret: We did go through a nomination process and we arrived at a ticket. The ticket was Tulsi Gabbard and Dan Crenshaw. What would have put us in the running was enough of a groundswell that we could have drafted those two people, but that groundswell did not arrive as much as people were very interested in Unity 2020, there just simply wasn’t enough visible enthusiasm to go through that process.
Jim: Got it. Now, you told me about it and we talked about it when you were first getting ready to launch it and I then hopped on the internet and I remember you and I originally got together back in the days of the old Emancipation Party, and this was a precursor to Game B and it’s still up though our very interesting reforms and proposals at emancipationparty.org. At that time, I was the one who was in charge of learning about ballot access and all the things you needed to do, how to deal with the federal elections commission, etc.
Jim: My take at the time was, “Bret, this is a really clever idea. I love it a lot, but there is no fucking way you’re going to get on the ballot of very many states starting around April. The first deadlines are coming up in May and the big ones are coming really soon thereafter. I don’t see how you’re going to do it.” What was your approach to getting ballot access?
Bret: Well, we very quickly looked at the question about access and you’re right, there was going to be no way to go through the front door and get ourselves on the ballots of enough states to compete in an election. However, there was another mechanism which was the partnering with third parties that had ballot access. It could have been, let’s say the Libertarian Party, which has access in all 50 states. It could have been the Green Party, which had access in almost all of the states, or it could have been a combination of regional parties.
Bret: The problem was this required a recognition on the part of third parties that we were in an emergency situation in which the particular ideologies that they represented were a secondary consideration to challenging the catastrophe that duopoly had set us up for. We did have interesting discussions back channel with highly placed people in a number of third parties, including the major ones.
Bret: However, the problem game theoretically, and this could be argued as totally foreseeable, is that in the case where the duopoly has screwed up and has delivered a completely non-viable election, the third parties, which ordinarily are not competitive, see the possibility that this time might be different. Now, what we tried to explain, and again, backchannel, this was received well was that there was actually some very good reasons that a third party that was interested in long-term having its ideological position advanced would be interested in partnering with the Unity movement short term.
Bret: If sufficient success at the ballot box can be attained federal funds, go to the party that has attained that success in the next election, so there was potentially a lot of money for Greens or Libertarians or both that wish to partner with us. What’s more, the challenge to the duopoly where it’s successful would have allowed us to pursue rank choice voting, which would of course, empower third parties in future elections to advance their agendas.
Bret: In the end, the public groundswell was too small and that meant that the third parties that held the ballot access that they could have shared with us, we’re not interested and I think understandably so.
Jim: Yeah. That makes sense. It was an interesting concept, but it had an awful lot of had to work and the key one was the groundswell, which just didn’t happen.
Bret: Yeah. No, I do in retrospect, think that there is a better way of conceiving the problem, but I’m not frankly sure that we didn’t have to go through this exercise in order to figure out where we were and what was too far outside the Overton window for the American public to register it, even in a situation in which it was widely understood that we were in a no win situation.
Jim: Of course the other one, and this is the deep problem of the first past opposed systems, which we have in the United States and the UK, etc., which is from a game theoretical perspective for the strategic voter it tends to, under most situations collapsed to a duopoly for good reason. That is, of course, the lesser of two evils phenomenon. I see this Unity 2020 thing go, “Yeah. If everything was perfect, I would definitely rather have Tulsi Gabbard and Dan Crenshaw than the other two alternatives.” But if I’m a Democrat, I’ll say, “I sure as shit don’t want Donald Trump.”
Jim: And if I’m a Republican, I’ll say, “I sure as shit don’t want Joe Biden.” I am not going to take that risk that they end up splitting the vote and putting in somebody who I think is much worse. It’s the old saying that, “The difference between good and better is a lot less than between good and worse.” The famous lesser of two evils conundrum is I think a real powerful game theoretical trap and you have to somehow get over a credibility probability threshold before people back away from that attractor.
Bret: Well, I think unfortunately people have accepted it and they have forgotten to think about the logic that actually undergirds it. In general, the lesser of two evils paradox may govern the thinking of a strategic voter, but the first thing to recognize is that elections are not one-off events. They are iterated, and that changes the game theory dramatically. In effect, a party that is counting on well, in my case, the democratic party, which has long counted on people to the left of the mainstream and the democratic party to fall in line when it comes to the election.
Bret: That, that party therefore has no reason to cater to the interest of those who have nowhere to go because of the lesser evil problem and therefore the way to get your interests dealt with is not to fall in line. From the point of view of multiple elections taken together, there’s a good reason to ignore the lesser evil paradox. It’s also true though, that the Republican party was the beneficiary of the collapse of a previous party to the extent that we have a duopoly with two dysfunctional corrupt parties, and one is looking for a way out.
Bret: The answer may involve the birth of one or more new parties that actually give a damn about our interests.
Jim: Yeah. That I agree with for sure, but the space of operating within the game theoretical constraints of our constitution make it very difficult though, as you point out, it’s not impossible. The wigs were the party that were replaced by the Republicans and there was a fluttery period in there where there were the Free Soilers who essentially turned into the Republicans. There were times in the past where third parties particularly the Progressives in the late 19th century and then oddly the Socialists for a time in the 20s got some significant numbers of votes, but didn’t come close to that tipping point. It’s possible, but just fucking hard.
Bret: Well, it’s hard for only one reason and that has to do with the willingness of voters to suspend disbelief in a new direction. I would argue that there’s an awful lot buried here under the stone that says lesser of two evils. One thing is that voters, when they engage in voting in a presidential election are already engaged in the suspension of disbelief. That is to say the chances that your vote will actually alter who takes the office are vanishingly close to zero, and yet people will spend significant time and effort to cast that vote.
Bret: We need them to. The democracy depends on people suspending their disbelief and behaving as if their vote matters because the collection of votes does then reflect the will of the people to some extent. The fact that suspension of disbelief is already a part of voting means that the possibility exists to extend it to this other question and in this case, one of the things we discovered in the Unity movement was that our movement was attractive. We structured it by proposing a draft of one person from the left and one person from the right.
Bret: We attempted to steer the middle course and to draw equally from both sides so as not to spoil the election and our internal data of people volunteering reflected exactly this. There was a tiny bias in favor of us, appealing to people who would otherwise have voted for Donald Trump, but in general, it was very evenly split. But what surprised us was that a quarter of our volunteers were actually drawn from people who weren’t planning to vote at all. What this tells us, something I’ve long been saying is that those who don’t vote really come in two very different styles.
Bret: One style is apathetic, and they’re just not paying attention. The other style is disaffected. These are people who potentially could vote, but are so fed up with the process that takes advantage of them that they don’t. And if those people were to tune back into the process and vote against the duopoly, they are effectively free agents. Their voting for something hopeful does not actually empower the greater evil because they weren’t voting in the first place. If those people were to return in large numbers, then they would be the most powerful political force in the country.
Bret: The problem is there are many of these very standard arguments that cause people to basically choose what to do in an election as a result of a kind of autopilot. It’s unfortunately heading us into an election that many people regard as in danger of breaking out into violence.
Jim: Yeah. It’s very interesting you pointed out the non-voters. I funded a study of non-voters during and after the 2012 election. Ellen Shearer, one of the world’s authorities on the non-voter phenomenon, and she actually divided non-voters into five or six different classes. But roughly you are correct. At the highest level, you can say there’s a large number of apathetics, but then there are others who are either discouraged by non-alignment for a very long time with the parties, or that just don’t find what they want on offer from either of the parties.
Jim: The non-voters of even the two more activists’ categories are larger than the registered members of either the big parties, the Republicans, or the Democrats.
Bret: Absolutely. Any election cycle that they wished to announce themselves as sick of this shit, they could do it, and the hope with Unity 2020 was that it would catalyze that. The discovery was that people are so… Basically they do not reopen the decision-making process that led them to their choice in the past and it’s going to take something to wake them up, apparently something more frightening than a contest between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, which I do find troubling.
Jim: Well, of course, I think you and I also found when we worked on the Emancipation party that getting people to change their political framing is really slow work and trying to do it in three months, just isn’t going to happen. At least, that was my take when I heard the Unity 2020 proposal. Thought about a little bit in my research. If someone asked me to put money on it, I would’ve put law hoards on it.
Jim: However, if we had more time, you take at least four-year timeframe and don’t wimp out like we did with the Emancipation Party, I still regret the fact and I know you believe the same thing that we should have stuck with the party side of it, in addition to the game, be part of it. We didn’t, for better and probably for worse. But if one were to start now, right after the election and attempt to build a political movement.
Jim: Probably that means a political party or something very much like a political party and attempt to find a way to mobilize these many tens of millions of non-voters as well as to pull people away from the two extremes. There’s probably an opportunity there, but it doesn’t happen in three months. It doesn’t happen in a year. It doesn’t happen in two years, even four years might be a push, but if you get it done in eight years, that might be enough.
Bret: Yeah. If we’re still intact in eight years, which is the reason I can do the logic too and the likelihood of changing the way American politics works in three months was long odds as you say. On the other hand, as somebody with a fair amount of experience in emergency situations, one does very different things in an emergency. Sometimes one does things that under ordinary circumstances they wouldn’t contemplate. Unity 2020 was the response to the perception that some of us have that this election is actually a very serious emergency and that we may not get another shot at this.
Bret: It doesn’t mean I think it’s more likely than not that we won’t get another shot, but it means the chances of a catastrophe flowing from frankly, the victory of either Trump or Biden is so substantial that some of us felt we had to make an attempt.
Jim: Yeah. That wasn’t at all opposed to the attempt. I agree with you. There is some chance that this will end badly for the country. I don’t believe as direly as that. It’s more likely than not or anything like that, but it is worth a relatively low cost and as you also pointed out, much was learned from this process, which we’ll talk about in a little bit. My own view, on this is that there is a definite availability there. If one can gradually build people’s confidence and I roughly look at what’s wrong with the world in two ways.
Jim: On one side, we have maybe 25% of the voters who I call troglodytes. These are the people actually like Trump. Not voting for him, essentially cynically, because he’ll give them tax breaks or reduce government regulation. But 25% of people who think Trump is actually a good person to be president of United States scares the fuck out of me. The light came on for me in the first debate. I don’t know why I didn’t see it earlier, but Trump is a pre-modern person. He doesn’t understand logic. He doesn’t understand reason.
Jim: He doesn’t even understand continuity or thought. He would’ve made a good dramanic tribal leader in 750 AD, in the aftermath of the fall of the Roman Empire or something, but certainly a completely horrible choice to be a president of a modern and maybe even now post-modern country who is nothing at all in alignment with our enlightenment values. On the other hand, we have the somewhat smaller, but perhaps even more dangerous, 15% of the population, which we can now call the wokes who seem to have had their brains captured by a disease manufactured on college campuses.
Jim: And this is one of the strangest phenomenon it’s happened in my lifetime, in the political sphere that this self-contained ideological nonsense has captured the minds of a lot of reasonably bright people and further they have essentially clubbed together and have grabbed many of the choke points of our civilization, if not by actually real achievement or distinction. Rather, by grabbing those choke points, like the media, corporate, HR departments, etc.
Jim: And so if you take 15% wokes, 25% troglodytes, that leaves 60% of the voter base that’s open for something I’ve just tentatively sketched in this morning I call the sensible party. That’s not a bad place to start.
Bret: Yeah, absolutely. Now, I will say, I think it is just very difficult to predict what the net effect is of either Trump being reelected or Joe Biden being elected in light of what he stands for and the necessity to do something different. Or I’ve said coalition of the reasonable. You have a different formulation, but the fact is we are going to have to do something that we are not expected to do. We are going to have to do something that we are being told is impossible, like a third party or a movement that persuades a great many people to return to the electorate.
Bret: It’s unclear what it’s going to be, but it has to be something. And the fact that the democratic party is effectively running the same playbook that it did so disastrously in 2016 with an even less inspiring candidate from most people’s perspective is shocking. In fact, the thing that is most troubling to me in this electoral cycle, is that people who see Trump as the only issue until he’s out of office are not livid with the democratic party for paving the way for him to get there, which it did.
Jim: Yeah. They certainly did the worst possible job in 2016 as you and I both agreed and I certainly not only supported but I actually campaign for [00:43:25] Bernie in 2016. I was actually working in the operation.
Bret: But not only did they run a terrible campaign with a terrible candidate, but they actually chose Trump. They wanted him as the opponent and so they advanced his candidacy through surrogates in the press in the Republican field because he was their desired opponent.
Jim: Yeah. They thought anybody could beat that clown. I think that was the Hillary theory.
Bret: That was the Hillary theory. He was the Pied Piper candidate. Having discovered that these people are actually cynical enough to put the country at risk of a Trump presidency means that we should be banging down the door of the DNC and saying, “How could you do this to us again? How could you give us…?” In this case, if these people were really believers in what they tell us that Trump is this tremendous existential threat with frankly he is, but if they really believed that themselves.
Bret: Then they would have put their own corruption and ideology aside and figure it out what person who was anywhere near the democratic slate of beliefs was in the best position to defeat him in an election. Instead, they gave us an empty shirt.
Jim: Yeah. Actually I voted for Pete Buttigieg in the primary. Not a perfect candidate in my mind, a little too close to the banks for my taste, but very bright, young, time for generational change. Not captured by the woke. At least he wasn’t then, I don’t know what’s happened subsequently. A person who could think, who wasn’t afraid of science, not a bad choice, but I think Joe was my fifth choice and I ended up supporting him against Bernie because the 2020 Bernie was not the 2016 Bernie by any means.
Jim: But it’s not great though I will say, Biden is not as talented or as high a quality an intellect as Hillary Clinton, but on the other hand, he doesn’t have her negatives. He’s not ensnarled in her networks of soft corruption and globalists elites and this kind of thing. I think Joe probably got a fair good chance to win.
Bret: Well, I don’t know if he’s going to win. I will say what we are learning about the corruption of the Bidens reflects exactly my concern, which was that the DNC is an influence pedaling operation that has controlled the party. And that Biden was the candidate effectively chosen by the DNC because he will change nothing and he will leave their racket intact. What we are discovering from the Hunter Biden laptop is that this is just literally the case influence peddling is what they do and the fact that Joe may seem affable is no reason that he should inhabit the presidency and the democratic party should be absolutely ashamed of having rallied around him.
Jim: Yeah. It’s not a wonderful choice. However, I will also say that the reality of Trump has turned out, I believe to be a lot worse than the concept of Trump. A lot of people I knew voted for Trump in 2016 on the ground. Let’s stick a wooden stick in the spokes of the American shit show and let’s just show these two corrupt parties that we’re going to vote for this ridiculous outsider who’s going to shake things up.
Jim: And some of his rhetoric actually sounds okay, but the reality of Trump, as not only truly psychologically disturbed individual, but also grossly incompetent on the one most important challenge of his presidency, the COVID epidemic I suspect has changed the dynamics of the playing field enough that it would seem to me rather unlikely that he’ll slip in again.
Bret: Well, we’ll see. The problem is I am now hearing lots of people who would never have contemplated a vote for Trump on the basis that he really is psychologically unfit for the office who are voting for him on the basis that they see no other structure that will hold against the woke revolution. And I must say, as somebody living in Portland where my city government and state government have both failed to hold the line of both surrendered on the question of the rule of law, I don’t know what happens if Biden is elected.
Bret: If it’s Biden and he doesn’t bring the federal government in to reestablish the rule of law, what happens to Portland?
Jim: Anybody with any fucking brains gets the hell out.
Bret: Well, here’s the problem is that what you have just said is that there is a rational argument for somebody who either lives in Portland, which is a small number of us, or gives a shit about people who live in Portland, which presumably is a large number. There is a rational argument for voting for Trump. Now, I wish I didn’t have to say this. I didn’t vote for Trump and I wouldn’t vote for Trump. I have already voted and I did not cast my vote that direction, but I’m not at all comfortable with all of the people who are saying, “Actually, Trump is so terrible. You have an obligation to vote for Biden.”
Bret: When in fact, you and I both know that to do so is to put people living in major American cities on the West Coast, in jeopardy, that there is no one who will stand up for the rule of law.
Jim: That’s a reasonable point and it does disturb me. I will admit there were a couple of times over the summer where that twin said, “God damn it. As much as I hate that motherfucker, I could, I suppose, imagine voting for Trump.” But no, no, no, no, no, no. Common sense came in and the guy is psychologically disturbed in a very deep, deep level. As I said, the light finally came on. He’s actually a pre-modern person. He does not live in our times, actually he’s a thuggish tribal leader essentially, and he’s pretty good at it.
Jim: And he’s incompetent, he’s a buffoon on top of it all, which is probably the thing that saved our country.
Bret: There’s no difficulty finding arguments against a vote for Trump. The problem is that the democratic party did the one thing they needed not to do, which is to create a scenario so frightening that people who would never think to vote for Trump are contemplating it.
Jim: The wokes have made the problem more difficult. Soft, corrupt, DNC type Democrat, I’ll take one of those every day over Trump. We’ve lived with soft corrupt Democrats since at least 1960 when they get into office. They always steal a little bit and hey, that’s the price of our less than perfect democracy, but it isn’t world threatening bad. The wokes have raised the stakes. There is no doubt. If it hadn’t been for this woke thing any Democrat would have won by 20 points probably.
Bret: Yeah. It’s not just the wokes though, it’s the combination of the VP choice of Kamala Harris, which is very frightening in conjunction with the works and the hazard that the VP choice may be the most important decision that Biden makes because his advancing decrepitude makes it highly likely that she will attain the office.
Jim: At least fairly likely. I will say at least a couple of my friends who were lifelong Republicans who were considering holding their nose and voting for Biden, the selection of Harris turned that off. That’s also part of the consolation. There’s no doubt about that.
Bret: Just, for anybody who’s listening, I’m told by the person manning my public facing email, that I’m getting lots of irate email equally divided between people who think I’m shielding for Trump and people who think I’m cryptically suffering from the worst case of Trump derangement syndrome they’ve ever seen and the answer is your mind is making it hard for you to figure out which side I’m on, because I’m fed up with this. I dislike the generating function that has put us in this stupid predicament when there was no reason we had to be there.
Bret: We actually had good people running. We had good people running and we could elect them, but what we have is a system that kills those things off in the primaries so that the American public always loses the election.
Jim: Usually, though not always. Obama was a pretty good candidate. John McCain for his flaws was not a bad candidate.
Bret: Obama was a brilliant orator. I really like him as an orator. He was a terrible president.
Jim: He did a reasonable job of managing the financial crisis, which was the one thing he had to do in his administration. The one thing Trump had to do was manage COVID and he totally failed at it. Obama was way too cautious for my mind as Ron Paul, his chief of staff who got pissed and quit said, “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste. Could have used the financial crisis in 2008 as an opportunity to move America towards a more equal, more just society in a sensible sane way, but he didn’t. Unfortunately, he capitulated to the bankers. I knew the game was over when he appointed Geithner and Summers as his secretary of treasure and his head of his economic council.”
Jim: He was going to play it safe and go with the economic status quo.
Bret: There you go. The data on what he actually did at a policy level suggests that he managed the financial crisis reasonably well, but that was accidental from the point of view of the American public, that what he was really doing was managing the financial crisis well for the real constituents of the duopoly. And it happened that the American public’s interests were well enough aligned that we had the economy preserved at some level.
Bret: But that was the self-interest of the banks kicking in and the public was not well-served by it, which of course woke a lot of people up to what was going on, caused the Occupy movement, the Tea Party movement in the beginning, and in any case, I-
Jim: And Game B for that matter, right?
Jim: I think came from that.
Bret: I think we all saw the beast clearly for the first time, but in any case, I do think the answer is we always lose the election. Sometimes we lose it worse, sometimes we lose it better, but the fact that we always lose it because somebody else has dibs on power is troubling and it’s time we did something about it.
Jim: All right. Let’s talk about that. What can be done? Let’s assume it’s the day after the election, and there’s a group of us who share your distaste for the shit show that we have year, after year, after year. And yet we’re smart folks, we understand game theory, we understand evolution, we understand networked evolution. How can we traverse these famous traps of difficulty of launching a third party, or at least a third political movement that acts a lot like a party and somehow become credible over the next four to eight years?
Bret: Well, I think those of us who are trying to build something that captures the imagination are in an unfortunate learning process. We are discovering what flies and what doesn’t fly, which actually has very little to do with what would work if only people would sign up for it. In other words, there’s a bottleneck that comes through what people can imagine and what they can’t. I think the key recognition is that A, you’ve got code running in your mind that is not there for your wellbeing. It’s there to preserve something that does not wish to be displaced and that our survival depends on us displacing.
Bret: Finding that malware is vital and that malware lives in certain places. It lives in the argument that you must vote for the lesser evil, it lives in the argument that to vote for something other than the major party offerings is throwing away your vote, that a protest vote is pointless. These things are wrong. The reason that they’re wrong is not obvious, but what you know, going into it is if everybody does what the autopilot says they must do, if everybody evaluates each decision locally to that decision, we keep ending up in the same puzzle and the magnitude of the hazard grows over time.
Bret: That’s going to be a disaster sooner or later. If Trump scares the hell out of you and you think, “My God, how could this person have ended up in such a powerful position?” You ain’t seen nothing yet. It’s going to get worse. That’s guaranteed, unless we figure out how to confront the problem. What that means is, something that you do not expect, something that sounds wrong is going to have to carry the day. Now, what does that going to look like? There are a lot of ways we could come at that problem.
Bret: I would say step one is the recognition that elections sit in a game theoretic landscape, but it is not a one-off game. It is always an iterated game, and if you are voting as almost every American does on the basis that this is an isolated election, you’re probably doing yourself and those you care about harm. That the right way to think about elections is iterated. Therefore, at the point that it turns out that the duopoly robs you of a reasonable choice, voting against it, so that it increases the likelihood that in the next election, you will not be faced with that predicament. That’s the right thing to do.
Jim: But we know, heck, you’re a professional professor of this trying to teach people evolutionary game theory is not easy.
Bret: Yeah, and I don’t really believe that that’s the way it’s going to work. What I came to understand in the process of seeing what happened with Unity 2020 and I must say we haven’t even gotten to talking about what Twitter did.
Jim: We will talk about that before we go.
Bret: What I came to realize is that the problem was the idea that a groundswell could arise directly. The way that a groundswell would happen is that one has to reach a small number of highly imaginative, influential people and that they are the ones who really need to understand enough game theory or something very like it in order to be persuaded that enough is enough and it is the time to do something counterintuitive. That the problem is trying to reach people directly. Everybody is embedded in network of a social network.
Bret: I don’t mean a platform, I mean, an actual group of people that they care about, and those people all hold these stifling beliefs, that one must vote for the lesser evil, or you’re being stupid. That a protest vote is a waste and that the thing that is going to cause that dynamic to break is people who are smart, who are articulate, who are patient, who are trusted to stand up and say, “You know what, we can’t keep doing this.” And I think approaching those people and getting them on board over time is really the key to the groundswell that is going to be necessary one way or the other.
Jim: It’s a start, but here, let me throw it back at you what we’ve seen over the history the last several years. We’ve got a pretty good network now, pretty smart people. The Game B, Emancipation Party, your podcast, Rebel Wisdom. There’s hundreds of thousands of people now who are I think aware of the issues and are thinking about them, but there’s also actual hard game theory problems that, as we’ve talked about and there’s actual real organizing that has to be done. Real work. Hard work, extremely hard work.
Jim: I’ve known a number of people who’ve been involved, Libertarian Party, and the number of years they had to spend until they got the capacity to get on 50 state ballots, election after election, it took them many years and it still takes them a few million dollars every year to make that happen. There’s a shit ton of hard work.
Bret: Before you go on, let me just say, of course it does. The duopoly has set up rules to prevent it from being challenged and one of the things that one has to recognize is that to the extent that you think that the game is to win against Goliath by Goliath’s own rules, you are very likely never to get that. What one has to figure out is how you escape those rules and play some game in which Goliath is not the dominant player.
Jim: Yeah. Or attack at the cracks, at least the start. Again, your knowledge of evolution, you know there’s little niches where new things start, and one I would like to throw out for your consideration is a surprising number of particularly state legislative races aren’t actually contested. Only one of the major parties actually runs a candidate, and this is what I was about to say previously, with all these, couple hundred thousand smart people that we network with, being smart and publishing smart essays on Medium and such and cool videos on Rebel Wisdom and things aren’t enough.
Jim: They’ve got to move ideas to action and actually getting some people elected, a small number to state legislatures on a solid, honest, acceptable party for the American people might be a way to work that crack, to establish the niche, to show that this is not craziness, that it can be done.
Bret: I see it. I’m not sure I actually see the pathway from electing a small number of people at the state level. I just don’t think we have time to go this route. I will say one of the things that I think the Unity movement did exactly right, and that would be essential for any effort going forward is the discovery that the nation is in need of and ready for a non-ideological movement. And that, to the extent that many of our fellow travelers fly under the banner of Libertarian or Green or whatever it may be that they are actually shooting themselves in the foot.
Bret: And that what needs to be done is whatever your ideology is more important than that is the elimination of the corruption that has broken our electoral system, and that you can be at opposite ends of the spectrum with somebody and you can team up on the idea of restoring the democratic republic to functional status, because you believe that if the democratic republic were functioning, that your ideologies would win out. And frankly, all of us probably ought to recognize that to the extent that we have ideological beliefs, some of them are probably accurate.
Bret: Many of them are probably not. Then what you really want is for a meritocratic evaluation of what the best ideas are and an eclectic slate of policy proposals, and the way we’re going to get there is to get the corruption out of the way.
Jim: Yeah. I’m a little skeptical on again, mobilizing tens of millions of Americans with process.
Bret: Well, that’s not what I’m saying. For one thing I would say, you say having people present on Rebel Wisdom or write Medium essays or whatever it is, isn’t enough. And I fully agree, but what you didn’t say is that the answer to the problem is narrative rather than analytical. That the analytics have to be right, but that what really persuades people is a story that they find compelling and this is one of the things that those of us who are in a position to get the game theory right very frequently don’t get, because we do tend to be quite analytical and we think that the right argument should persuade people.
Bret: In the end, the right argument effectively is the foundation of a compelling story and it is the compelling story that will allow the movement to be viable.
Jim: I agree and in fact, I quote you on this actually, I thought it was the most perceptive analysis of the failure mode of our old Emancipation Party, which I don’t know if you recall saying this, but I do, which is, “We had too many Thomas Jeffersons and not enough Ben Franklin.”
Bret: I do remember saying that.
Jim: That stuck with me, like a kick in the balls. Yes. That’s what we did.
Bret: Yes. No, Benjamin Franklin, he definitely captured the imagination in a particular way and yes, we need more of them.
Jim: We need storytellers. Interesting. Yeah. Well, I’m very interested in seeing what you do. I’m a little skeptical on that a new party or a new something like a party can be mostly process oriented. I do believe we’re going to have to stick some flags in the ground on some of the big issues of the day, but they don’t have to be in the conventional fashion. Another one that strike me as I was just fooling around with the Nolan graph, the two axis system. It struck me that there’s, perhaps an interesting and curious space that’s not being occupied at all, which is an odd hybrid of both less government and more equality.
Bret: Spell that out a little bit.
Jim: Yeah. For instance, one of the things that at least strikes me as clearly wrong with our society is that ever-growing inequality at exponential rates, right through the financial crisis, accelerating through the Obama administration, getting worse under Trump, etc. And that drives the left at some level, but also, it drove the Trump voters, at least a lot of the ones that I’ve talked to and there has been, since 1980, a general distaste for bureaucracy and government and more programs as the answer to every problem. Roughly speaking, I crafted a concept which I call parametric social democracy.
Jim: You’re going to say, “What the hell is that? That’s definitely a Thomas Jefferson thing, not a Ben Franklin thing.” Yeah, well, turn that over to somebody else, come up with a better name, but the idea is to take a relatively small number of parameters that make a big impact in the world, but don’t require a large government bureaucracy to do. Now. I’ll just run through a quick list of them. Fully portable educational vouchers. We don’t necessarily need to be spending any more money on education. We actually spend more money on education than most advanced countries do and get a lot worse results.
Jim: But if we had all that money turned into personal vouchers for every student, there would be a tremendous ability for private innovation to create better schools and to fund homeschooling etc., for those who wanted to use public schools, they could but they wouldn’t be these relatively low efficient politically captured institutions that we have today. For healthcare, Medicare for everybody. All the plumbing’s there, the hard part of changing medical reimbursement is the computer part of it. The coding, the processing.
Jim: And actually Medicare is pretty efficient, about 8% of its benefits go for admin versus 25 or 30% for the healthcare company. A parametric social democracy means of dealing with healthcare, Medicare for everybody. Climate change. Do we need this vast jobs program and infinite levels of bizarre regulation that makes it impossible to do everything? There’s one very obvious answer to how to start the ball rolling, at least on climate change and that’s a carbon tax that’s relatively hefty.
Jim: Maybe $50 a ton today, but escalating over the next 20 years to $200 a ton, and then stay stationary until we get to negative carbon. Here’s the key, rather than having that be another source of money for the government, it should be recycled to the populace per capita. And you think about the people that say, “Wait a minute, wouldn’t that mean there’s no incentive?” Wrong. Every time you make an incentive, a decision to purchase something that’s carbon containing, you pay the price.
Jim: If you spend your money on something else, you don’t pay the price, you get the same dividend back from the recycling of the proceeds per capita. So if you were spending less carbon than average, you make money off the tax. Only people that are spending more carbon per capita are actually paying that tax and yet every single decision about carbon is fully impacted by the power of the tax. So obvious to me as the way to go and yet neither party has embraced it.
Bret: Yeah, but why? Why Jim? You know the answer.
Jim: Taxes for the Republicans, they know they can’t have the tax laws.
Bret: No, it’s the corruption.
Jim: The energy companies have corrupted both parties, no doubt about that.
Bret: Right. The energy companies and the healthcare companies and they are the reason that the inequality that you point to is growing exponentially. This is all downstream of a system that basically creates advantage for those who have political power. It’s a cycle. The money on money returns, as you say.
Jim: Yeah, the classic… And the last one, of course, which exemplifies this is a UBI, universal basic income, which, hey, we invented it, people. We call it the citizenship wage in 2013. It could be funded by the combination of a VAT tax, a wealth tax and the elimination of the other welfare systems. But of course, huge vested interest opposed to it. But if we had a party that was not captured, I don’t think we’d build a party that was captured. Would we now, Bret? No.
Bret: No. Certainly not
Jim: And that, we would say from day one, we are here for the American people and we can get more quality and less government by powerful parametric changes in how we operate our system. And because we’re not corrupt, we’re going to push these things, even though it gores the bowl of some rich and powerful vested interests.
Bret: Yeah. Now the question is, do you need to divorce these particular policy objectives from a force that unites us all to oust the duopoly? Or could you conceivably do what I think you’re suggesting, which is that you make those one effort? My guess is if you make them one effort you’ll lose.
Jim: There is a problem, which is that our current tribal alignments will continue to attract people because of disagreements with some of the things in the package.
Jim: However, I’m not sure, I think we’d have to focus group at polling do it, etc. I have more confidence in that, frankly, though, than a pure process approach or we’re going to be for good government rank choice or range choice voting, maybe liquid democracy and some improvements in how our Congress is administrated. I can see people’s eyeballs rolling back pretty quickly if we tried to peddle that as the core of the opportunity.
Bret: Well, I see there is another possibility. I would argue that we actually have discovered the best possible state for our system. We’ve spelled it out. We’ve never come close to attaining it, but we know what it contains and what we are fiercely divided over to the extent that our disagreements are not about corruption, but they’re about honest different perspectives.
Bret: What we are actually divided over is how close we are to the objective, what remedies would be worth their cost and hazard to get us closer to the objective and that in effect, if we spelled out the things that we actually agree on, decent people all agree that opportunity ought to be broadly distributed and that there ought to be no bias in the market that favors one group over another.
Bret: If we spelled out the meta level of what the goal that you ought to unite all Americans is, and we spelled out that the primary obstacle to it was the corruption of our system, but we left the ideological aspects aside so that people could battle that out later when the system was free of corruption enough that those discussions could be had in an honest context, that we might have the best of both worlds.
Jim: That’s interesting. I think I like that. We’d have to see if one could craft a list of such values that was rich enough to not be banal and yet at the same time, wasn’t overly determining and tilting the party to the red or the blue.
Bret: My thought is that actually, and I must say, I’ve lived now for a number of years as neither fish nor fowl. I’m a liberal, but I’m embraced more frequently over on the conservative side. I’ve spent a lot of time talking to people and my sense is that actually that picture of what decent Americans really want is readily paintable and it resonates very, very well. And that people actually are relieved to discover that they don’t really differ over the things they thought they might’ve deferred over because when it comes down to it, the only people who oppose these things are those who are rent seeking on the basis that they don’t exist.
Jim: That’s a very interesting idea. I think that’s worth pursuing. I can see that it avoids a trap that comes from being specific on the policy details, and it might just be strong enough to get the ball rolling.
Jim: Particularly if there’s a strong emphasis on process as well, because people say, “All right, how are we going to get to this promised land? This promised land sounds pretty good. Why is corruption keeping us from getting to the promised land? And what are you talking about with respect for process reforms to get us there?” Then it gives a motivation for the process reforms.
Bret: Yes, exactly.
Jim: I like this. This is good. This is good. All right. Let’s turn to the final topic before we wrap up and I spring a surprise on you which is, do talk a little bit about this really disturbing event where just as Unity 2020 started to get some real attention, Twitter decided to ban your hashtag, even ban links to your site. Tell us what happened there and about when.
Bret: It was the final night of the Republican National Convention as Donald Trump was collecting his nomination. We attempted to boost a hashtag, #JustSayNoToDonaldAndJoe. And we did this, we discussed that we would do it and also, the entire Unity movement is composed of volunteers and people advanced that hashtag on Twitter. What happened was, actually, it did trend during the final night of the Republican convention and the next thing we knew, our account, the only official account of the movement @articlesofunity was suspended.
Bret: Again, no explanation. Backchannel discussion, actually with Jack of Twitter, revealed that we were accused of having registered a large number, I believe he said 50 accounts for the express purpose of amplifying the hashtag falsely. Now, this shocked us because we had not registered any accounts for that purpose. People were using their own accounts for it. We were using our official account for it. What we discovered in an extensive internal investigation that we conducted was that there was no truth whatsoever to what Twitter was saying.
Bret: What there was, were a large number… I won’t say a large number, maybe it’s a dozen or slightly more than that dedicated accounts that were opposed to the Unity movement who reported us claiming that we were violating terms of service, which we weren’t. The shocking thing though, is that not only did Twitter suspend us and accuse us privately and unofficially of behavior that we didn’t engage in, but the account remains suspended to this day. There has been no opportunity to appeal. There has been no official explanation.
Bret: There has been no ability to look at whatever evidence Twitter thinks it has. The account is just simply dead. What’s more, during this episode, Twitter created some kind of algorithm that spotted the posting of a link to our website and prevented the tweet from going. In other words, the link declared the website dangerous or in some danger of doing harm and prevented a person from tweeting those links. Jack privately admitted that this was unacceptable and that was reversed, but to this day, if you attempt to link to our website in a Twitter DM, you as the person, DM-ing, the link will see it as normal.
Bret: The person that you send the link to will see a warning instead that will hide the website and declare it suspicious and possibly harmful. Twitter has pulled out the big guns to oppose the Unity movement on the basis, it seems of false accusations from people who dislike the Unity movement and with no evidence of wrongdoing. We know that there was none because we went through the effort of doing a thorough investigation, but as one discovers with these platforms, once they decide you’re guilty of something, there’s just simply no opportunity for redress.
Jim: Yeah. This strikes me as a considerably more disturbing pattern than you getting booted off Facebook and then brought back quickly. This is even more deeply Orwellian and Kafkaesque.
Bret: Yeah. It’s quite clear what it is and the very fact that the movement that they opposed is one that is challenging the duopoly, it’s obviously motivated by proper patriotic democratic values. The audacity to challenge such a movement, even if you think it’s wrong headed. This is the United States. We are allowed to challenge perceived corruption in our governmental structure. In fact, it’s our patriotic duty to do it if we see it and to have Twitter decide that we don’t have the right to do that on their platform is really jaw-dropping.
Jim: Yeah, and for people out there go to articlesofunity.org, you can see what horrible thing this is that got banned. There’s too much Thomas Jefferson, not enough Ben Franklin, but it’s certainly not very inflammatory at all. Your ninth grade civics teacher would have approved. What the fuck, right?
Jim: It’s very disturbing, and then combine this with the Facebook episode and it was interesting when we were at the Game B crew were out there campaigning for the reversal of this decision. We turned up dozens of people that this had happened to on Facebook, where they were just banned, given some oracular reason, “Read our 72 pages worth of rules and you can figure it out.” And told they had no right to appeal. And unfortunately, they didn’t have a large mob that could be stirred up on their behalf and they were just fine.
Bret: Yeah. I agree. Many of them contacted me and said this, and I’m not really in a position. I don’t even know what to do with it because I, of course can’t evaluate whether they were tossed off for some reason or not. But yes, this appears to have happened to a large number of people. I’m in the lucky position of being able to create enough noise and my friends create enough noise to get it reversed, but it’s very clearly a hazard to regular folks and we ought to be quite alarmed at it.
Jim: It seems like this is an excellent process proposal for what comes next politically, to essentially find some means by which due process and transparency must be given in these things.
Bret: Yeah. One of two things has to be true either there has to be a public on-ramp to the internet so that we can have platforms in which this is not a possibility because we do have free speech protections or protections that are up to date for the 21st century have to be generated and they have to apply to these platforms because at the moment we have the founders’ worst nightmare of a situation in which we cannot openly discuss the political situation of the day. And it’s unfolding because we are now in a position of discussing these things in a technological venue that the founders couldn’t possibly foresee.
Jim: And yet clearly fits the role of the public square.
Bret: It’s the public square. It’s the public square to the 10th power, but we have to address this. One way or the other, there has to be a public square in which our rights to discuss things are guaranteed.
Jim: I would suggest that would be one of the core things that ought to be on this new political movement saying, here’s what needs to be fixed. And whether we go and actually say how, that would be another question but at a minimum, we should lay out the problem very clearly, because unfortunately, as you were trying to do with the Unity 2020 movement, this is an issue that affects both the right and the left. These guys go after all kinds of people they don’t like. If this faction on the left they don’t like, they go after them, people on the right, they go after them, people in the middle like you, they go after them.
Jim: While probably there’s a political bias in it, I would suspect there is at least, in reality, they’re also hammering all kinds of people. Some of it more or less randomly anybody. I guess it’s not really random, was anyone who challenges the status quo, these would become a force for the status quo, which is remarkably annoying since these were revolutionary upstarts, not that long ago in Silicon Valley that were trying to change the world.
Bret: 100% agree.
Jim: But now they’ve been captured by making the big mistake they go in public and going to Davos and places. I was invited at Davos once. I told them to go fuck themselves. I wasn’t going to go hang out with them motherfuckers, but these guys, they go to Davos and they have sold out. Whether it’s via building a competitor, which is unfortunately from a network effects perspective, difficult, but, and again, not impossible, probably easier than starting a third party or via government regulation, we must have an honest public square. There can be little doubt about that in my mind.
Bret: Yes. I couldn’t agree more.
Jim: Alrighty. Well, we’re coming up on our 90-minute time here, and I’m going to tell you the little surprise that I created for you, which is last week, actually, right as you got banned by Facebook, I went on GoDaddy and registered bretweinstein2024.org.
Bret: Well, let’s hope we live that long.
Jim: Whenever you want it, let me know and I’ll transfer it to you.
Bret: All right. Well, thanks so much, Jim. That’s really awesome.
Bret: You’re not trying to get me killed. Are you?
Jim: Hell no. But if anybody kills Bret, I will track you down and kill you, you mother fucker. And anyone who listens to my show knows that I’m capable of doing it.
Bret: Now we’re talking.
Jim: Yeah. Thanks, Bret, for a great conversation. Hey, let’s get to work right after November 3rd. This is really important stuff.
Bret: Let’s do it. I’ll bring a shovel.
Production services and audio editing by Jared Janes Consulting, Music by Tom Muller at modernspacemusic.com.