There’s a lot of rumbling about American polarization these days. Sometimes it takes the form of people advocating for a national divorce or dire warnings of a forthcoming civil war.

A national divorce seems impractical and America is too fat for a civil war. Better evidence that the country is already fracturing is the talk of the “parallel economy.” We’ve come a long way from the 2016 moment of self-awareness about needing to get out of our echo chambers. By 2020 it seemed everyone wanted their own. Now we’re redecorating the walls of the echo chambers....

There’s a lot of rumbling about American polarization these days. Sometimes it takes the form of people advocating for a national divorce or dire warnings of a forthcoming civil war.

A national divorce seems impractical and America is too fat for a civil war. Better evidence that the country is already fracturing is the talk of the “parallel economy.” We’ve come a long way from the 2016 moment of self-awareness about needing to get out of our echo chambers. By 2020 it seemed everyone wanted their own. Now we’re redecorating the walls of the echo chambers. Adding some throw pillows. But as corporations go woke and all-in on DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) and ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) and the Great Reset — an enormous market, consisting of average Americans, is being alienated or blatantly pushed out. While Big Tech and Big Government and Big Pharma increasingly operate in lockstep to censor any dissent, disagreement, skepticism or pushback, the free market is stepping up.

A recent ad for Jeremy’s Razors, the shaving company started by conservative website the Daily Wire, was explicit about its intentions. “Friends don’t let friends shave with woke razors,” their copy reads. It ends with a call to action: “We can’t build the parallel economy overnight — it’s going to take time. But with your commitment it will happen. And razors are just the start.” Shortly thereafter the Daily Wire announced a move to put $100 million into kids’ entertainment.

Peter Thiel seems to be singlehandedly funding the right-wing parallel economy — to the extent that pundits joke about clamoring for “Thiel bucks” while the gravy train keeps moving. Not only is the billionaire entrepreneur investing in politicians like J.D. Vance and Blake Masters, he’s backing a “femtech” corporation “28” and the video platform Rumble, to name a few ventures.

Rumble also acquired a stake in the aptly named payment processor Parallel Economy, and the company is building its own server. These guys are literally building their own internet and payment processors. But will it matter?

“Build your own Twitter,” left-wing activists and journalists sneered as high-profile trolls like Alex Jones and Milo Yiannopoulos were being banned from social media platforms. The right-wing social media site, Parler, did just that. They built their own network only to find themselves removed from the Apple and Google app stores and their hosting services canceled by Amazon Web Services in the aftermath of the January 6 storming of the Capitol. Even Angela Merkel thought Twitter had gone too far in banning Donald Trump. When the Germans are telling you to chill with the authoritarian behavior, it’s time to listen.

It’s not just provocateurs like Jones or Yiannopoulos. Or former presidents like Donald Trump. There are many voices being silenced and demonetized and you’ve probably never heard of them. It’s left-wing political commentators such as Lee Camp who had his entire life’s work disappeared off YouTube. Or a feminist such as Meghan Murphy who was permanently banned from Twitter for referring to Jessica Yaniv, a trans woman, as “him.” Or evolutionary biologist Colin Wright, who recently had his PayPal shut down and Etsy account suspended for violating Etsy’s policy against selling merchandise that “promotes, supports or glorifies hatred or violence towards protected groups.” His merchandise displayed the male and female symbols with the slogan, “Reality’s last stand.”

Perhaps the most chilling example of overreach occurred during the trucker protests in Canada, when Justin Trudeau froze activists’ bank accounts and blocked crowdfunding platforms supporting them. Trudeau also permitted financial institutions to cut off services to individual and business accounts which might have been participating in the blockades.

This cause should unite us. If there’s one thing we all have in common, it’s that folks from both the left and right are being deplatformed, censored and demonetized for “wrongthink.” When they say “build your own internet,” they don’t really mean it.

Long before conservatives were decrying Big Tech censorship, adult film stars like Cherie DeVille warned us that financial institutions, particularly the duopoly that is Visa and MasterCard, have too much power. DeVille has written extensively about the hoops her industry has had to jump through to remain one step ahead of the payment processors and why decrees made by companies like MasterCard should scare everyone.

Wake up, sheeple. The frog is boiled, tough and rubbery. It’s long past the moment when the average person has the luxury of remaining in the dark about what’s going on. The time will come when you want to buy a gun, or fund a protest, or speak your mind — and suddenly you might find out that not only are you booted from Twitter, but you can’t access your PayPal funds. On this issue, the porn stars were the Cassandras — and we failed to heed their warning.

We’ll have to wait and see if the Overton window shifts so far to the left and squeezes so many consumers out that the parallel economy becomes the mainstream — or will it shift just far enough that the people investing in it will reap the rewards of spending their Thiel bucks?

This article was originally published in The Spectator’s November 2022 World edition.