Dr. Michael Rectenwald was a professor at New York University and he jokingly describes himself as having been a lifelong Communist, “to the Left of the Bolsheviks” when he ran afoul of his wokester peers in academe. His bestselling book, ‘The Google Archipelago: The Digital Gulag and the Simulation of Freedom’ is about how Big Tech, influenced by Marxist and Postmodernist thought increasingly enables a toxic mix of censorship, surveillance, social engineering and ‘social justice’ policies that, in effect create a digital equivalent of the Soviet gulag. “We’re being surveilled upon, our opinions are being monitored and dissidents are being disappeared, just as they were during the Soviet Union. They’re being digitally erased or deleted…”
He joins The Epoch Times’ Jan Jekielek for what I feel is the most important interview I have covered in 9 years of publishing FKTV. I’ve transcribed some of the highlights below.
Dr. Michael Rectenwald: There’s this exclusive domination [on college campuses] of a particular ideological Leftism which is called “Social Justice”. It’s a misnomer, if you ask me but it’s a very rigid creed of identity politics and a kind of adherence to sort of inverse hierarchy, in order to debunk the so-called “oppressors” from the top and put them on the bottom. It is instituted at NYU and universities all across the country; 230 universities at least have instituted what they call “bias reporting” hotlines, in which students are encouraged to report the bias infractions of their professors or fellow students.
So – very much like Communist Soviet Union and Communist China – this kind of ideological policing that was going and that I found very disturbing and everybody was going along for the ride. The no-platforming of speakers, the way that the Left shut down any ideological diversity from appearing on campus at all; burning campuses down, like in Berkeley, when speakers were invited that they didn’t approve of.
Then, of course other things like trigger warnings on syllabi…it’s a slippery slope toward ideological conformity…For example, ‘Dante’s Inferno’ has been stricken from curricula because it has a depiction of Muhammad in one of the circles of Hell. This is one of the greatest books and one of the greatest poems in the Western canon and it’s a shame that the Western canon is being eradicated. Also, for example at the University of Pennsylvania, they took down from the [web] portal the picture of Shakespeare, because he’s a white male… a university in London struck all white philosophers from the philosophy curriculum…
I thought it was censorship. I thought it was ideological conformity being forced on professors and students, I thought it was a…narrowbanding of our intellectual capacities and as kind of an indoctrination of students, rather than teaching; rather than exposing students to diverse perspectives it was…funneling them into a particular perspective and that really disturbed me.
Jan Jekielek: Fascinating. How did the faculty respond to your complaints?
Dr. Michael Rectenwald: Well, I did an interview for a reporter for the Washington Square News, which is the student newspaper at NYU. Within two days of this interview appearing in their online and print edition, I was denounced by a committee calling themselves the “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Group”, which I’ve since dubbed the “Conformity, Inequity and Exclusion Group” because they demand ideological conformity. They attempt to exclude anyone who doesn’t conform and you’re certainly not considered a peer, if you have views that differ from theirs and then I was put on an immediate paid leave of absence, as well.
So I was basically banished from the University for a semester and punished with this ideological condemnation by an official committee of the university.
Jan Jekielek: So you were basically an early recipient of Cancel Culture.
Dr. Michael Rectenwald: Very much so. Before Cancel Culture existed, I was a victim of Cancel Culture…
The things I want to make clear is that these the Big Digital is not some politically neutral set of principles or companies Big Digital consists of a bunch of left-leaning authoritarians and they’re doing so they have the same ideological character in a softer sense of course as the CCP.
Jan Jekielek: OK, so that that’s a big thing to say. You’re gonna you’re gonna have to offer some pretty solid evidence here.
Dr. Michael Rectenwald: There’s a ton of evidence that shows that the Google stacks their search results in a Left-leaning way. All this has been shown by Dr. Robert Epstein and it was exposed by Project Veritas. Google has a worldview that’s reflected both in their algorithms; their outward-facing algorithms and their internal policies. Their internal policies show that they favor almost all kinds of Leftists views about identity. They’re very, very strong in encouraging transgenderism, they’re very strong in discouraging anything like traditional ideas about gender, they also have extremely Left-leaning views about the political economy. They have monopolistic ambitions, I think and they also have state functions. They are – first of all Google was started by funding from the CIA – and that’s not to prove that they have a state function but they also keep they continue to cooperate with the state…
So, they’re in violation of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996…there’s legislation that’s being offered up to redress that issue to make them adhere to that standard, so that they will then no longer be discriminatory…Information should not be discriminatory in terms of its delivery and so they’re NOT non-discriminatory; they’re NOT neutral, they are politically-biased to an extreme…
There’s been a tremendous consolidation of course–if media over the last 20 years there’s been all kinds of mergers and acquisitions that have reduced…the possibility of more viewpoints. So, we’ve had ideological sameness perpetrated through the media, as The Epoch Times knows, that the New York Times, The Washington Post – most of the major networks are all Left-leaning. They’re all biased and their reporting is almost editorial at this point. I mean, their news can’t be considered journalism, in effect. It can be considered Op-Ed but for the most part, it’s all been tilted. So, they are basically in the same ideological camp as the digital giants are – and the digital giants sort the news based on their ideological conformity, because they’re now the delivery mechanism for most of this, as you know.
Jan Jekielek: So that basically, you’re saying that if you want to be successful in the social media sphere, now you have to…
Dr. Michael Rectenwald: You have to conform to the digital giants’ proclivities ideologically to get noticed in their search results and also to be let through. For example, Facebook bars certain sources from their platforms entirely.
Jan Jekielek: So, you describe Russiagate as a first of a particular type of phenomenon and I’d like you to explore this, because I thought that was a fascinating perspective.
Dr. Michael Rectenwald: Yes, it’s the first, in the sense it’s the collaboration between Big Digital, the intelligence community and basically what is being referred to as the Deep State, in effect. This was a first-ever collaboration in which Big Digital colluded with with the mass media and also the intelligence agencies to provide a certain narrative and to ban other narratives from from being disseminated as broadly.
And the interesting thing about this is that one of the main companies that was deemed “anti-disinformation”, that exposed Russiagate supposedly is called NewKnowledge.com. There was never a greater misnomer than this company’s name, because they’re New Nescience – that is, non-knowledge. They are the opposite of knowledge. They are creating fabrications.
They were one of the main reporters to the US Intelligence Committee about Russiagate, about the bots, the Russian bots that had supposedly influenced the 2016 election. In the 2017 senatorial election of Roy Moore, where Moore ran for Alabama Senator; they produced Russian bots. They created Russian bots to support Roy Moore’s candidacy – to disqualify him – because he was “supported by the Kremlin”, supposedly. And then they dished that news out to the newspapers and to the media outlets, saying, “This is happening! There’s Russia Russian BOTS are supporting Roy Moore – Russian bots, which they created.
And this is supposedly the biggest anti-disinformation agency in the Internet, that’s how they bill themselves! So black is white. Everything is inverted and you know, this is Orwellian. Truth is falsity and falsity is true and so they got exposed by The New York Times and The Washington Post, an unbelievable breakthrough, journalistically, I mean because you would think that they would not cover this, because it is actually Democratic Party organs, those two papers, that’s pretty clear. But they did cover this and then Twitter knows about this – but they didn’t throw them off. They still have a Twitter account. The owner of the company, the main major funder of this company also has a Twitter account.
Then, when a Trump supporter said that in the 2020 election, he was going to create assets on Facebook and elsewhere to support Trump – false assets. He hadn’t done it, yet but he was banned from Twitter, just by virtue of telecasting what he was gonna do. So, it just shows you the disparity, the double standard is extreme. One does it, the other says they’re gonna do it. The one who does it doesn’t get thrown off the social media platform, the one that hasn’t done it yet is thrown off, by virtue of the fact that they’re they’re supporting Trump.
Jan Jekielek: So, you’re talking a lot about the Left in a way that clearly shows me you don’t see yourself as part of it. But at one point, you were.
Dr. Michael Rectenwald: I was a Left-Communist – Left of the Bolsheviks!
Jan Jekielek: How did that change?
Dr. Michael Rectenwald: When the left turned on me and drove me out, I saw their totalitarian impulses under the surface of this egalitarian rhetoric and that veneer that they cover all their philosophies under and I just saw that and I just saw the true face of this and then I started doing historical research. I read ‘The Black Book of Communism’ and I learned.
Jan Jekielek: I wish more people read ‘The Black Book of Communism’.
Dr. Michael Rectenwald: It’s just incredible, right? And it shows you that the most pernicious political ideology of the 20th century was not Nazism, it was actually Social Communism, in terms of sheer numbers. They killed 94 million people, counting China and the Soviet Union and Cambodia and so fort.
Jan Jekielek: Right, well you know, just as an aside, we had an article in The Epoch Times recently about how in the European Parliament, there was a motion, I believe that was passed that put Communism in the same realm of you know, egregious ideology as Nazism, National Socialism. It was described as a massive breakthrough, because it’s very curious that that everyone is really, really clear on how horrible National Socialism is, right or was and of course it was but there seems to be a much smaller group of people, much smaller and that is aware.
Dr. Michael Rectenwald: This is very, very much connected to academia. When I started doing research on the criminality of the political Left, I found a lot of things that were buried under carpets or disappeared. I couldn’t find, in academic scholarship the histories. They’re just eradicated. It’s incredible. I actually had to rely on non-academic sources to find the facts.
Jan Jekielek: Fascinating. I’ve heard about China, “The People’s Republic of Amnesia,” the inconvenient realities are are kinda disappeared or removed.
Dr. Michael Rectenwald: That’s happening in US scholarship and the Left-leaning character of academia is so profound, that they have disappeared the criminality of the political Left from all education. I mean that’s huge. So, you don’t learn about the crimes of Soviet Union or China. You don’t learn about this in the US educational system, for the most part. It’s disappeared.
Jan Jekielek: Fascinating and deeply disturbing. So, you know, as as I said, your book shocked me to the core and one of the reasons it did was with this kind of pervasive rise of Big Tech, in injecting itself into literally every aspect of life and even into thought and that’s only accelerating. I mean, this is just the beginning, on this curve, right? That could make one feel quite despondent about the future. What are your thoughts?
Dr. Michael Rectenwald: I have a great deal of faith in in in in people’s intelligence to see through ideology, because I was able to do so, myself. If I can see it, other people can see it and I know other people who do see it and I think that your Big Digital is going to be constructing very powerful narratives and we have to posit counter-narratives that are truth-based.
Jan Jekielek: Okay, truth. So, truth has been a casualty in all of this, right?
Dr. Michael Rectenwald: It’s been a casualty of the Postmodern academy and in the Postmodern intellectual realm, for the last 50 years. You can’t use the word “truth” in the university. You’re trained, very early on not to even talk about that and there’s no such thing. In Postmodernism, everything is local. Truths are only contingent upon the identity of the person who holds the view; everybody’s got their own truth, there’s no universal truth, there’s nothing that can be established as objective. Objectivity is, in fact a masculinist, white supremacist notion.
So, that has been a major casualty in the last 50 years of that intellectual life and it’s pervaded the entire culture, so that we have a “post-truth” culture, right?
Jan Jekielek: But yet, people seek it. I mean, that’s what you’re kind of arguing.
Dr. Michael Rectenwald: People have to start to believe in truth again and they have to start establishing a new metaphysics of truth, is what I argue in the book.
And that is going to be more and more necessary, as basically Big Digital sets up a simulation of reality, which they’re very capable of doing and then, reporting on that as the reality, right – and we see that going on right now in the political sphere.
Jan Jekielek: So essentially, you argue that this whole Russiagate is, pretty much that it’s a simulation. Similarly. very engrossing and you know pervasive.
Dr. Michael Rectenwald: It’s a simulated reality that becomes the the dominant narrative and that basically supplants truth and basically preempts its discovery and in its enunciation…
right yeah and we’re just, you know I just did had an interview earlier today talking about that new newest developments newest iterations of it yes
Jan Jekielek: Given that the education system is so saturated with this post-truth in education, post-truth reality. How is it that that we can get back to the truth?
Dr. Michael Rectenwald: Well, we have to have a tremendous amount of public intellectual criticism of the Academy, that has to continue and people have to defect, like I’ve done. I’m basically a defector, right?
I’m a dissident and a defector from the the academic union of ideological conformity and we need more of that. We need many more. There are not many in the United States. There’s several Canadian professors who have been dissident, who become dissident and I’m friends with all of them: Jordan Peterson and a whole slew of others, Phillip Saltzman and other dissident intellectuals that are speaking out against all this but we need more. We need more people to have the courage to stand up to this mob.
We have a soft Cultural Revolution going on in the United States and the West, in general we need people to stand up to this Cultural Revolution and just speak back to these new Red Guards.
Jan Jekielek: That’s very interesting, because of course, if you stood up to the Red Guards in China during the Cultural Revolution, you would be dead. Whereas, here you can be cancelled but you can still find some find friends and people and there’s people – I’ve met an incredible number of people in the most unexpected places, talking about the sorts of things you’re talking about.
Dr. Michael Rectenwald: Just like there are the islands of the Google archipelago, there are islands, like The Epoch Times, of intellectual and truth-, fact-based reporting and discovery that that exists and we have build on that.
Jan Jekielek: Wonderful. Well, it’s such a pleasure to have you here, Michael.
Dr. Michael Rectenwald: My pleasure, thank you.