For decades the internet was a place where freedom of speech and expression was taken for granted. It was an open secret for a long time that pornography built the internet. You see, another open secret is that people like to see other people naked. And in the early and mid 90s most of the internet infrastructure was pioneered by developers who were trying to facilitate ways for people to see more naked people on the internet. Paywalls, media streaming, etc. are all products of this very same naughty, but simultaneously quite human, motivation. So it’s not the least bit jarring that it seems like on a daily basis I see indications of increased censorship of NSFW content in the online space. My favorite example is DeviantArt: a website where the censorship of, y’know, actual deviant artists increases in a direct correlation to the increase in DeviantArt’s ad revenue.
Take almost any major platform these days, and you’ll see either direct censorship in “community guidelines” or veiled threats of censorship to come. The pressure campaigns seem to manifest at the grassroots level, but at the end of the day it’s all about advertisers and corporate reputations. The technoligarchs facilitating the rise of this new puritanism aren’t true believers like the actual Puritans — who at the very least put their money where their mouth was and sailed thousands of miles to brave the frontiers of the new world in order to worship as they saw fit. No, these are hypocrites, Donny — the ones the Puritans were desperate to get away from.
You see, human history is filled to the brim with oligarchical nobility who preach one set of values in public (regularly enforcing them with violence), but who live private lives more debauched than you’ll find in most AVNs. How do I know the technoligarchs are as depraved as they come? Well, I have this strange habit of not letting the media I consume fall into a memory hole after the train leaves Narrative Station. Just before the pandemic hit, a series of major articles in Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone and The New York Times (among others) revealed that it’s an open secret in Silicon Valley that the mega-rich and powerful of the tech world regularly host drug fueled sex parties. These guys are still geeks like the rest of us, so it’s probably more like a Revenge of the Nerds hot tub fever dream than it is an Eyes Wide Shut masquerade ball. Here’s an excerpt from a Vanity Fair article about the drug fueled “cuddle puddles” as they’re sometimes referred to:
“It was in the middle of the Binary thing,” Jane Doe told me, referring to the scandal at the V.C. firm. “And it was all so ridiculous.” Doe found herself on the floor with two couples, including a male entrepreneur and his wife. The living room had been blanketed in plush white faux fur and pillows, where, as the evening wore on, several people lay down and started stroking one another, Doe said, in what became a sizable cuddle puddle. One venture capitalist, dressed up as a bunny (it’s unclear how this fit into the edge-of-the-earth theme), offered Jane Doe some powder in a plastic bag. It was Molly. “They said it will just make you feel relaxed, and you’re going to like being touched,” Doe recounted to me.”
Honestly, that sounds halfway like it would come straight out of the script of AVN, and the drug peddlers would probably be the bad guys the MC was fighting against in most of them.
And here’s another excerpt that really sums up the aforementioned hypocrisy:
“They don’t necessarily see themselves as predatory. When they look in the mirror, they see individuals setting a new paradigm of behavior by pushing the boundaries of social mores and values. “What’s making this possible is the same progressiveness and open-mindedness that allows us to be creative and disruptive about ideas,” Founder X told me. When I asked him about Jane Doe’s experience, he said, “This is a private party where powerful people want to get together and there are a lot of women and a lot of people who are fucked up. At any party, there can be a situation where people cross the line. Somebody fucked up, somebody crossed the line, but that’s not an indictment on the cuddle puddle; that’s an indictment on crossing the line. Doesn’t that happen everywhere?”
And he’s right about people fucking up — people fuck up all the time indeed. Like, for instance, when a picture of an underage girl is passed around internet forums or something downright illegal is posted on a media hosting site. It’s a fuck up and should be dealt with accordingly, but just like these rich dudes don’t want to be crucified for the occasional fuck-ups that happen at their sex parties, most reasonable people don’t want pencils to be outlawed because someone might draw something gross and illegal with one. The gross pencil sketch is not an indictment of the pencil, it’s an indictment on crossing the line.
Twitter co-founder Evan Williams had this to say about Silicon Valley’s sexcapades:
“This (Silicon Valley) is a strange place that has created incredible things in the world and therefore attracts these types of people and enables these types of people. How could it be anything but weird and dramatic and people on the edge, testing everything?” On the one hand, he said, “if you thought like everyone else, you can’t invent the future.”
You see, these tech entrepreneurs aren’t actually aghast at objectification of women in videos games, or lewd renders of gasp erect penises on DeviantArt or naughty Ren’Py games on itch.io — they’re aghast at what it might mean for their bottom lines if the mob of social media Karens their own companies have curated were to find out about the wrong-think their platforms enable. So, just like the Borgia pope who would excommunicate people for divorcing their spouses but whose own illegitimate sons held positions of authority — one a nobleman and the other a Cardinal — these new masters of the 21st century online Papacy aren’t really concerned with your freedoms, so long as they can have theirs.
One anonymous Silicon Valley venture capitalist described his teenage life in a way many readers may find familiar:
“…years of playing computer games and not going on a date until he was 20 years old. Now, to his amazement, he finds himself in a circle of trusted and adventurous tech friends with the money and resources to explore their every desire. After years of restriction and longing, he is living a fantasy, and his wife is right there along with him.”
He, like most of these guys, was one of us at one point, but now he doesn’t have to live out his fantasies in video games anymore. His bank account and circle of powerful, influential friends makes him your better. He’ll decide what you plebs get to see and experience on the peasant networks. It’s a matter of gentry and nobility, you see…
So, next time you see a story about OnlyFans pulling the plug on NSFW content or a lawyer decrying the unspeakably vulgar content in games like Sisterly Lust during a courtroom deposition, remember who these people really are: hypocrites of the ilk the world has seen since the very first time morality was ever used to bludgeon others into obedience.
Meet the New Papacy, Same as the Old Papacy