The Center for Countering Digital Hate is Dumb
A closer look at the propaganda outfit at the centre of the pressure campaign against Substack.
Meet Imran Ahmed. He runs an organisation called the Center for Countering Digital Hate, which is devoted to complaining that there are people on the internet who have different opinions about things than he does. Because Ahmed has no following, his main tactic is feeding his “research” to sympathetic media organisations, in the hope they’ll run his lame prefabricated stories. In this, Ahmed and CCDH are no different from thousands of other political pressure groups that help journalists coordinate activist reporting.
Ahmed has spent the last few months peddling hit pieces on people he calls “antivaxxers,” and yesterday he got Dan Milmo, the Guardian’s dim “global technology editor,” to recycle his fears that “Anti-vaxxers” are “making ‘at least $2.5m’ a year from publishing on Substack,” or perhaps even as much as $12.5 million dollars. Ahmed actually has no idea; he is just playing with his calculator, here. It’s pretty clear that Ahmed’s anxieties are involved in the coordinated media campaign to get Substack to deplatform prominent dissident writers like Alex Berenson, Robert Malone and Steve Kirsch.
Everything suggests Ahmed started out as an anti-racism campaigner, before Corona fried his brain. Now his main thing is screeching about vaccines. This has precious little to do with hate, so Ahmed has made a late-stage course correction and decided that his Center for Countering Digital Hate is also a Center for Countering “misinformation.”
Poor Ahmed is always trying to maintain the waning attention of his readers. That’s why he must print all of his most central words in bold.
His website has a page where he highlights “Selected Broadcast Interviews,” most of which happened so long ago they’ve disappeared from the internet:
Elsewhere, in a section entitled Our People, where you might expect to see CCDH staff photos and biographies, you instead find – and I swear this is real – nothing but eight different photos of Ahmed himself:
Our eightfold Ahmed also has a YouTube channel, where he posts scintillating videos like this to his 100 subscribers:
Ahmed spends a lot of time throwing things at the wall and hoping something will stick, and his website is a graveyard of advocacy campaigns with awkward names that you never heard of: From No Yellow Cards to Hatebook to Toxic Ten to Stop the Sex Offender Schools, he’s forever trying to get people to sign petitions against the limited collection of ideological crimes that left-liberals worry about: Climate-change denialism, vaccination exhaustion, racism and misogyny.
Ahmed’s latest talking point is that there is an “Anti-Vaxx Industry,” which consists of a few people who think for themselves and notice things on the internet, sometimes in return for donations:
Anti-vaxxers represent an industry with annual revenues of at least $36 million, based on a limited view of their finances based on self-reported filings and publicly available revenue estimates for 22 organisations belonging to twelve of the industry’s biggest earners. This anti-vaxx industry employs at least 266 people.
Ahmed is obviously writing for leftist audiences, who will be most comfortable assuming that their ideological opponents are motivated by profit. It is, however, the vaccinators of the world who are making all of the money here. The putative revenues which Ahmed assigns to the “Anti-Vaxx Industry” amount to less than 0.23% of the 2021 earnings of BioNTech. And as long as we are talking about industries, and setting such low bars for the definition of them, would it not be fair to say that Ahmed is himself part of some kind of progressive advocacy industry? That big red “Donate” button plastered all over his website takes you directly to a page that solicits one-time or monthly donations in suggested amounts ranging from $25 to $250 dollars.
Although Ahmed is a laughable untalented copywriter, major press outlets routinely carry his stories. You can find them in the New Yorker, Nature, and Rolling Stone. He even crops up in a few places you wouldn’t expect, like this weird Vogue profile of Selena Gomez:
For the past few years, Gomez has been criticizing social-media companies for the way their platforms intensify despair and aggression; more recently, she’s castigated Facebook for allowing COVID-19 misinformation to spread. “She comes to this work ready to learn and eager to use her platform to dismantle misinformation,” says Abrams, whom Gomez supported in her fight for an accurate 2020 census. “Selena reached out through her manager last fall, wanting to understand why exactly things were going so wrong and what specific things she could do to make things better,” Imran Ahmed, the CEO of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, tells me. In September, with the CCDH’s guidance, Gomez wrote an email to Sheryl Sandberg, pointing out Facebook ads containing lies about election fraud and Facebook groups that were openly preparing for civil war. On the night of the riot, Gomez tweeted, “Today is the result of allowing people with hate in their hearts to use platforms that should be used to bring people together and allow people to build community.” Sandberg, Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey, Sundar Pichai, and Susan Wojcicki, she wrote, had all “failed the American people.”
“As soon as I saw the way she communicates,” Ahmed says, “I understood why her brand is so, so powerful. There’s just this goodness to her. She’s very moral. And she gives these issues a broad appeal beyond any individual political party. As you can tell, she’s not a party-political person. She’s someone who really believes in people.” Gomez had cried, she tells me, when she saw the pictures of the Capitol riot. “It felt like someone was pissing all over our history. It’s just anarchy. There’s been a complete division,” she says mournfully.
There are larger conclusions to draw from these bizarre paragraphs, wherein Ahmed confesses to ventriloquising shallow celebrities to yell at Silicon Valley executives for allowing political dissidents on their websites – but I will leave those to you.
The Ahmeds of the world could very easily put the “Anti-Vaxx Industry” out of business. Instead of having a sad on the internet, establishment media outlets could simply publish a wider range of opinion. The last two years have seen unprecedented disruptions to civilian life, the crash development and heedless promotion of experimental new pharmaceuticals, and their heavy-handed, coercive imposition upon millions who don’t want them. It is totally reasonable to have a problem with what is happening here, and a lot of people would feel better about their scientists, their governments, and their media, if they abandoned their relentless, dishonest and condescending messaging campaigns and started treating their citizens like adults who are entitled to informed consent.
And this is isn’t just about Corona, or the vaccines. Go look at the major blogs on Substack. Most of them provide content and opinions that are excluded from the press — not because this content is weird or arcane or unpopular, but because the press has decided that their real job is opinion manipulation. I’m not going to get rich off of Substack, but it’s entirely down to their insistence on lying to everybody all the time that somebody like me can gather enough followers to have a hope of doing this full-time.
Ahmed is also very worked up about the sanctity and inviolability of expert opinion, and here too I have advice. If the virologists and the epidemiologists and the immunologists don’t want their theories and research to be matters of public discussion, they need to stop interfering in public life. Once virological and epidemiolgoical and immunological theses become the basis of nationwide house arrests and medical coercion, the public acquires a direct interest in these theses. They are no longer matters for a closed, abstruse gaggle of shadowy experts. Don’t like that? Then stop advising governments on lockdowns and vaccination policy, and public interest in antibodies, t-cells, aerosolised transmission, masks, and vaccine efficacy will evaporate. These people are free, at literally any moment, to end most public discussions over vaccination:
“We’re sorry we freaked out. We recognise the vaccines aren’t the way out of this. If you’re at risk of severe outcome from Corona infection, you should talk to your doctor and see if the vaccines are right for you.”
Then they can shut up, and I can start writing about climate change, the anti-terror establishment, Byzantium, ritual magic in the ancient world, and early modern witchcraft.