Is TikTok Censoring Appalachian Progressives?

02/01/2022

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We’re joined by John Russell of the Holler Ohio Valley to talk TikTok censorship and a story he recently pitched to the Hill.

You can follow John on TikTok and subscribe to his newsletter, “The Holler.”

Want other content about Ohio from us? Check out our interview with congressman and current U.S. Senate candidate Tim Ryan.

Opening monologue: Baby Dog Bette blast botched and Green M&Ms

Chuck Corra: All right, ladies and gentlemen, gender non-binary folks worldwide, and especially in Appalachia, natives, ex-pats sympathizers, and haters. Thank you for lending us your ears today. I’m Chuck Corp as always. I’m joined by big John Eisner. It’s been a while since we last got on here and in that time much has happened as you know, the governor of West Virginia, Jim justice wielded his dog’s butt like an iron claymore in the house of delegates as he attempted to slay the beast that is Bette Midler.

The gree M&M has ditched her high heels for flats, pissing off many incels who claim the war on men has reached new heights while wondering aloud what candy they’re now going to view as a sex object. But John, there is some good news in this world. Do you want to take a guess at what that might be?

Big John Isner: Well, I know it’s not the green M&Ms because she was three inches. And now she’s lower because she has flats. I’m very upset. 

The symbol of oppression….I guess. (via Michael Hanscom on Flickr)

Chuck Corra: Yeah. Never buying M&M’s ever again. I need, I need some hot candy. [these parts are obviously sarcams]

Big John Isner: So now we’re just parading out M&M’s who care about comfort over style? I think, not. 

Chuck Corra: And Minnie Mouse. You’re about Minnie mouse. She’s in a pantsuit. 

Big John Isner: I was in Orlando. I know. I, I was looking for, 

Chuck Corra: I’m disgusted by this PC bullshit. Cancel the cancel culture. Who has it not affected? We’ve got Disney. We’ve got Mars candy. What’s going to be next. I don’t know. Roto-Rooter. Who knows.

Big John Isner: you can’t call it that? Nope. Can’t call it.

Chuck Corra: Okay. That’s fair. Well, I’m never, I’m never going to leave my house then. But good news. Good news to take guests. Take stab at it for me. 

Intro 1: Appalachian Joe Burrow gets Bengals to the big dance

Big John Isner: The good news is the Bengals are going to Super Bowl.

Chuck Corra: 33 years in the making. Did you believe it when it happened? 

Big John Isner: No, I was, I was fi I was flying back from Orlando while the game was on. And so I couldn’t see the score and we landed and it was the start of the fourth quarter tied, 21-21. And then it went to overtime. I was like, I can’t handle this.

And so like, I’m stopping through at every bar in the airport, like watching TV as we like to go down the entire airport, 

Chuck Corra: it was a nail-biter. I think that was the only football game I ever kind of watched fully the whole year. Cause you know, I’m not a big sports guy, but I have been a casual Bengals fan. I was going to tweet about the NFL overtime rule but there was a favorable outcome for the Bunglers so that’s all that matters.

Big John Isner: The overtime rule didn’t matter. 

Chuck Corra: I know. So it doesn’t matter at least for them.

Big John Isner: I want to make sure everybody knows. I drove through Athens after they won and I can confirm that it was still standing. 

Chuck Corra: What time? Approximately? What time of day? 

Big John Isner: Well, it’d been probably an hour and hour 40 minutes. Well, an hour and a half after the game.

Chuck Corra: Okay. Okay. Reference to Athens because Joe Burrow, the quarterback is from Athens. He’s an Appalachian.

Intro 2: Maus book banning in Tennessee

But on to the next brief topic before we get into the main show. Did you see this whole thing about book banning?

Big John Isner: Oh God. 

Chuck Corra: I thought we were over. I don’t mean I’m an I’m ignorant. I thought we were overbooked banning a long time ago, but I guess not, 

Big John Isner: I, I made one joke before burning, hillbilly Elegy and people were like, how can you do this? Even if you don’t like it, people are banning books, I was just trying to burn one.

Chuck Corra: Well, I thought so. I thought the outrage directed that initially, like at the time was kind of overblown, but now I’m like, okay, like I can kind of get it because there really is this just outrage and assault on books, which okay. Lets, let’s put it into context because I think, do you know much about this?

I don’t know if you saw anything about it. The book, Maus. 

Big John Isner: I did look into it. I’m not, I’ve not educated myself enough probably, but I did look into it.

Chuck Corra: Same. I had never actually heard of it before. It’s a book it’s a graphic novel. In fact about the Holocaust written or written drawn, whatever, in this perspective of, I guess, mice like they’re animals or are creatures instead of people and the graphic novel I assume to kind of like lessen the impact of teaching kids about the Holocaust.

I read Night by Elie Wiesel in school, so I didn’t read the mouse, but from all accounts from anybody I’ve talked to knows about it, it says it’s a great, incredible book. It’s good at teaching about the Holocaust in a way that kids could understand without sugarcoating it without you know, blind spots to the horror that really happened, but not according to the McMinn county school board, John, they thought because there was some nudity and some cussing in it that it was inappropriate for 12 to 14-year-olds.

I believe 

Big John Isner: incorrect. Just, I love when, when people are too scared and too cowardly to tell you the real reason why they dislike something. So they find like these little nooks and crannies within them and say, oh, that’s actually why when we all really know what the issues are. 

Chuck Corra: It’s true. And it’s not like my understanding is it was I’m assuming breasts, boobs, tits, whatever you wanna call them.

Okay. So let me just back up, because John put yourself in the position of a school board member for a minute. All right. So let’s assume that you know, it’s inappropriate because of the nudity, right? So so, okay. A mouse with tits is essentially what we’re talking about here. A mouse with boobs, a mouse, not even a person, a mouse getting marched to a gas chamber at some point.

So if we put a shirt on them, it’s fine. Is that the message we’re sending? 

Big John Isner: Yeah. Jesus. We’re okay with everything else. It’s just really the TEDS. 

Chuck Corra: Oh my. Yeah. But women’s breasts in this country have been just maligned and, and discriminated against. I’ve always been for free. Because look, if you got like dudes do it all the time.

I think this is an example of inequality in our country. I won’t go off on that, but I think this is ridiculous. And I have two theories. I, this is puritanical bullshit because like some deeply ingrained religious BS about nudity and profanity or its veiled antisemitism.

Big John Isner: I think it’s the second one. There are plenty of things in, in educational books that show boobs, like there, for instance, when you look at like history or geography books in like junior high, and it shows like pictures from like, for instance, like African tribes, right. They don’t blur that out. Like it’s they show you what is really happening.

Yeah. That’s okay. We’re, we’re fine with that. What job you should be because it’s the real thing. 

Chuck Corra: Thanks for the human body. It is the human body. 50% of the population has it, 

Big John Isner: but we have a problem with a mouse. 

Chuck Corra: Listen, how many mice in this country are walking around the streets in clothing? How many do you think in McMinn County, Tennessee? If they’re going to live up to their word, they need to start putting those mice in prison.

Big John Isner: Good point. All right. Lock them 

Chuck Corra: up, lock it, lock them up. Lock, lock them up. Where’s the exterminator man. 

Big John Isner: Can we just talk about how this country has also really treated mice badly? Yes. 

Chuck Corra: I mean, look now I think for a while there, and I don’t know what the facts are by this.

I believe that they were blamed for the plague really or rats or mice. I might’ve been rats. 

Big John Isner: They’re pretty close. Right? 

Chuck Corra: There is some ecologist or somebody is going to really get onto me about this. For all intents and purposes. They’re not that far apart. 

Big John Isner: Is it like bourbon where like all bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon.

So in this case, it’s like all mice are rats, but not all rats or mice. 

Chuck Corra: According to the first article that came up on Google, rats and mice are both rodents, but the biggest differences in their size, rats are larger and heavier. 

Big John Isner: I am a scientist. 

Chuck Corra: Do you, are there you go? Well, you’re political scientists.

We knew that. So we just didn’t know that extended to 

Big John Isner: rodents. I’m going to be starting my fellowship soon. 

Chuck Corra: Yeah. You’re very prestigious rat fellowship. Yep. It’s I do think they were blamed for the plague. So maybe that’s where that comes from, but I don’t know. I do think that women have it worse off than mice in many respects.

So I will, I will 

Big John Isner: agree. 

Chuck Corra: So cussing and boobs. We’ve got a censored, I guess, according to that, I think it’s avail to antisemitism. I think that if you’re willing to show the horrors of the Holocaust, but you draw the line of boobs I think that’s a standard that doesn’t really hold up to the, the bullshit test I’m with 

Big John Isner: you.

I’m a hundred percent with you. 

Chuck Corra: So in this, in this situation, what would you what would you do if you were a parent of a student at McMahon county, but first off, 

Big John Isner: learn more about the book to be honest. Cause I don’t know enough, but if it was really a historical book that that really showed what was going on, I should I go to one of those meetings?

Chuck Corra: Raise hell yeah. Raise hell praise Dali. There you go. There you go. I mean, I’d seen Dolly before it. I think, I think imagination library can hand these out. Oh, that’d be cool. What is cool though? I will say before we wrap this up, is that that book is now on the best seller list. I’ve read. Oh, that’s that’s happened.

So that’s great. 

Big John Isner: Has it ever been, or is this like the first time? 

Chuck Corra: I’m not sure. I, it wasn’t at the time that this, all this happened though, is my understanding. So brought it back up a little, a little bit of Streisand effect that that’s the second time lead mentioned it in the show. Wow. There you go. Yeah, so I think I’m pro-letting kids read books.

Chuck Corra: Author Art Spiegelman. I had to look it up. And, and just, let’s just be clear here. When did you start cussing? Like for real, for real? 

Big John Isner: Oh shoot. When I was about eight or nine. I was really young. My whole, my whole, all my siblings. 

Chuck Corra: Let’s not pretend to middle schoolers. Aren’t cursing like sailors that not all of them have a smartphone for example. And I pointed this out earlier in the video.

Kids are drawing dicks all the time. You talking, like you’re worried about like hand-drawn mouse boobs when they’re dicks. Literally, I guarantee any, any middle school in that county is dicks drawn all over the locker room. 

Big John Isner: I can’t tell you on a calculator where the addition sign is, but I could tell you what, 8 0, 0 8 5 means 

Chuck Corra: you could do that.

I mean, you can do that in your sleep. You have muscle memory 

Big John Isner: fried Muslim. It’s like riding a bike. 

Chuck Corra: Yeah. I mean, and, and every kid knows where swiped 

Big John Isner: calculators 

Chuck Corra: are banned in my office. Eight

that’s. My calculators are paying to my office. Yeah. Well, cause too many people were, were doing eight equals equals equals equals capital D and oh, that’s good, that’s a classic. That’s a classic kid nowadays. They have the eggplant emoji. So you don’t even need that. It’s worse. 

Big John Isner: That’s the, that’s the other thing we’re going to do.

We’re going to ban this book, but these kids are gonna go home and have access to whatever they want on the internet. And we’re going to pretend. Like, they’re just ignoring everything else, but they’re like, you know, the worst thing they’re doing is playing on Miniclip.

Chuck Corra: Absolutely.

Interview: John Russell on TikTok censoring progressive creators

Chuck Corra: First of all, you mentioned you’re from, are you from Bridgeport, Ohio, or is that what you’re, where you are? Right. 

John Russell: I am from Wellsville, Ohio. It is 45 minutes up the river from Bridgeport, Ohio Wellsville town of 3,500 people is nobody knows where it is, but I always put it on the map with this. If you know where Fiestaware is made right across the river in West Virginia Newell West Virginia, but that is right across the river from where I grew up, which is Wellsville East Liverpool. 

Chuck Corra: Okay. Oh, okay. East Liverpool, I believe I know east Liverpool because it always showed up on my TV for two-hour delays or for school closures when we got snow. 

John Russell: Exactly. That’s kind of how you find out every other town in Ohio valley buddies, Liverpool 10, 15,000 people Wellsville 3,500 folks left there 10 years ago, came back and were outside of wheeling now, but barely in Ohio. 

Chuck Corra: Got it. Got it. Well, I know we have a lot to talk about you have some really interesting reporting that you’ve been doing, but I did want to ask you a little bit about your background.

John Russell: long time listener. First-time caller to Appodlachia. Hi listeners.

So I grew up on a farm in Wellsville. That’s where kind of where the farming comes in. Both my grandparents were dairy farmers. I did an Ag degree and came back to Ohio, but it was central Ohio. My brother bought some land there right outside of Columbus. And for about seven years, I did production agriculture on that.

I grew everything you could find in the grocery store, produce style sold the farmer’s markets, wholesale markets pro tip for listening public out there. If you’re going to try to sell it an honest prototype. You will not beat them on price. So I learned that the hard way. Yeah. So agriculture and politics, I’ve always kind of been a through-line in my life and there’s not a lot of agriculture agriculturally based Democrats out there.

And that’s kinda what I fell into. So you mentioned the run for office there. I’ve always lived in rural areas. Nobody was going to run for a state house seat in central Ohio is very rural in 2016. So I bought an old Schwinn bike from the seventies and wrote it down dirt roads in Knox county and ended up knocking on 16,000 doors.

Personally, it’s still getting crushed. I hate it, but I admire the, I admire the dedication. The grit that’s 16,000 doors is, not an easy thing to do for any. 

Yeah. Yeah. You know, I’m an old soul at heart. I’ve always had a pair of made American-made New Balances wear out a couple of those. But you know, we should talk about that at some point, but you’re running for those local offices, you know?

Cause that’s, even if people are doing that kind of really good work and getting crushed, I think it’s really under-examined to make a good effort in those rural districts where it seems pretty hopeless. Like if you’re bringing out one, two, 3000 new voters, that’s still, and you know, everybody does that across the state.

That’s still really impactful. Absolutely. One of the reasons why I wanted to do that. So that was 2016 and then I kind of ended up accidentally running for Congress. If you can wrap your head around 

Chuck Corra: that. Why not just throw the hat in the ring? Well, 

John Russell: what happened here was. Yeah, I got a good name from working really hard for that district. Then a lot of other people were really taking this organization beyond what it was at the start. We started an indivisible group after 2016 and pro trivia for any other listening audience that remembers this, the Republicans at the time were going to repeal the affordable care act. And they Della delegated a schlub in chief, Pat Teaberry, a Republican from central Ohio to do that.

We started an Indivisible group and were a real pain in the ass there. But we did a number of these town halls. One of them got a thousand people out. It ended up on MSNBC and we really put pressure on this guy.

Pat then stepped down, which created one of five special elections across the country in 2018, that we’re going to be the first elections after the Trump years. And so at that point, I had a farm in the district. I put a lot, a lot of work for the state rep. I know had a role in starting and growing that indivisible group threw my hat in the ring into the primary and was the, was kind of the rural progressive candidate.

There was, was endorsed by Justice Democrats. But the same fate still got crushed. But you know, it’s worth it, to try sometimes. 

Chuck Corra: Yeah, it is. It’s important to run in those areas if, for nothing else to start building, building some infrastructure for Progressives there. I only say that because it’s hard, it’s hard work and nobody wants to do it because the likelihood of winning is so low, but it’s so.

John Russell: It is. And, you know, we got to rebuild this infrastructure, the these, these parties in our infrastructure that have died off over the years, and it really starts with that, you know? So if you’re interested in that, 

Chuck Corra: So I think transitioning because I know you know, one of the reasons why you’re here is because of a wonderful app that nobody seems to understand tick-tock except you understand it pretty well.

You’ve, you’ve garnered a pretty good following on there. And one thing that you and I talked about offline was a recent story. I think that you pitched to a couple of outlets about censorship, particularly progressive voices. So I want to give the mic over to you to kind of explain a little bit about that and what’s happening.

John Russell: Yeah. You know, TikTok, we all love it. It’s fun. It sucks up a lot of hours of your day, but it’s, you know, we have progressives have this problem. We, we write about it, we hand ring about it all the time, we don’t have a media network that’s really, to scale, to counter what the right has been working on, investing billions on.

Yeah, for literally half a century, I mean, 50 years, it really recognized the power and built it. And that’s what we’re up against. You know, a point I want to make here is for our part of the country Appalachia and for, you know, even more, specific to where I am, Ohio sixth congressional district, which is Eastern Ohio.

 The sixth congressional was as blue, 15 years ago as it is red today. And today it’s one of them is the congressional district has had the biggest swing to conservatives of anyone in the country. Jesus. That happened over 15 years and it happened because of the media landscape. So what tools do we have to fight back against this?

Well, what the point I made in this pitch is, you know, the left doesn’t really have a media network, but what we do have is all these little creators that have the credibility of their own. There are people in the recovery community, there are black lives matter activists, creators of color. There are straight-up rednecks like you and me out there putting out a progressive message.

That’s much needed. There are all these little islands all over the country that are getting progressive messaging out. And some, a lot of that is happening on TikTok. Now, what’s happening. What’s interesting is the right is on TikTok as well. And you will have videos that have straight-up misinformation on TikTok too.

You’ll have videos from the far right. That is either explicitly violent or have. Allusions to violence. You’ll have, you know, cops in official uniform wearing three percenters gear stuff like that. Garnering millions of views. And then on the other side, you’ll have creators of color being taken down for really light things.

You’ll have people laying out very factual accounts of the CIA and intervening in south American countries and you’ll have that taken down. There are people who have just kind of funnily embarrassed a brand’s accounts of a large corporation you know, you’ll have folks doing that and they’re getting taken down.

You will also have critiques of our system, whether that’s like people can’t afford healthcare without it. Or the Sacklers are paying a fine, which amounts to the cost of doing business and avoiding jail time, despite mocking everybody who got addicted to opioids, and you make content on that and that gets taken down.

So what I did was line up those examples and pitch a news outlet on it. And they took the story that ran on the hill. That was Ryan grim, that participated. 

Chuck Corra: Yeah. And I, I watched that it was a really good I think rundown of all these examples, which I personally, like, I didn’t even know about, I, I don’t get on TikTok a lot.

I mean, I post occasionally for our account. That’s pretty much it. And I didn’t realize that there was like, but I do get on there occasionally and I get way more right-wing stuff than I do. Progressive. What’s been sort of the official company line reason for why some of these posts have been taken down.

Has it just been like you’re formulaic, you violated X terms of agreements, or what is it? 

John Russell: This is one of the biggest points. When you get taken down, you really don’t get a good answer. TikTok, a fun fact about it. It’s the world’s most popular web domain its past Google and Facebook. Really? Yeah.

That’s wild. People are on ticks off. People are on tick-tock that you wouldn’t think are on TikTok. I mean, I work at a bar. I live above a bar in Bridgeport that I work at a couple of the customers. They’re not your typical resistance liberal crowd as mentioned as I’m ticked up and they’re like, oh yeah, let me follow you.

You know, everybody’s on tip time. 

Chuck Corra: That’ll be 

John Russell: interesting. Yeah, it should be interesting. Yeah. If I go missing, let me know. But the point is TikTok. Doesn’t give you a good reason when they decide to take your videos down. And it’s not really clear the reasons why they’re taken down in the first place and an important thing that leads to.

You know, some of the creators we brought together for this piece, have, you know, a couple of hundred thousand followers on TikTok. They do political education. It leads to self-censorship. If you’re trying to educate folks on, you know, American interventionism you and your videos were taken down, then you’re kind of left to wonder, okay, what word was it that I said, right.

 That I can scrub out of there and repost this and have it still fly. And that leads people to do all kinds of crazy things. You know, there’s, there’s, there are people misspelling words in the captions and, and replacing words that you don’t think you can say with other silly stuff. So, but that’s kind of a double whammy of TikTok.

Doesn’t take it down initially. Then you have a lot of creators, especially when they get larger and this becomes something that they can actually do and make money on not wanting to touch subjects. We really all could benefit from learning 

Chuck Corra: about yeah. Yeah. Cause it’s when it’s your sole source of livelihood or one of your biggest sources of livelihood, which it is for many people.

That it becomes a financial and wellbeing liability to do that. And if you’re, I guess if you don’t know why they’re taking it down then that’s even scarier. That’s very, to me that’s very strange because TikTok as a platform is clouded and so much mystery from everything to like the algorithm for how the, for you page functions.

 Which nobody knows anybody, except I guess the developers to something like this, which is very bizarre. And look, I, everybody, I think makes jokes about, about conservatives being censored on like Twitter and stuff like that, which they’re not really. And they say this from a different platform that they’re not being censored from and everything, but for something like this, I mean, like there’s a lot of creators on TikTok that aren’t present or don’t have a big following on other platforms because it’s so I don’t want to say easy, but there’s such a great potential for somebody to really gain a following.

 On TikTok versus other platforms. I mean, Daniel Kirk, who we had on our show last year, being a great example, which I think you had mentioned also kind of fell victim to this sort of censorship. 

John Russell: Yeah. You know, I’ll let Danielle talk about it, but we did reach out to her for the story and it’s kind of the same deal, you know, once you pass a certain level of followers on tick-tock, you have a little bit of influence and then your videos start getting taken down.

You start to think, well, you know, all the good that I can do with these followers might be jeopardized. If I say something that TikTok, which by the way, is owned by a hostile foreign government. 

Chuck Corra: Yeah. Right. There you go. There there’s that little thing. Yeah. Yeah. 

John Russell: Not to mention that. But you know, you start to ask yourself I can educate with this platform.

I can do a lot of good things with it, but am I going to jeopardize that by touching something that might run afoul of the community guidelines, which we don’t even know what those, those are and seem to be applied differently, you know, A lot of there’s all these examples we lined up of creators kind of on the left who are having things taken down pretty consistently.

So, you know, you have a population of people who could be learning about the kinds of things they’re educating on. Not learning about those things because they’re taken down yet on the other side of tick-tock far right. Kind of extremism as the lab to go very, very viral. Are there examples of the right being censored?

Yes. But they, those fall into the larger question of how much influence do we want the world’s most popular web platform to have over public debate in education? Because right now it doesn’t seem like there that’s like a fair or good thing. 

Chuck Corra: It’s, it’s kind of scary to think about because at least with Google, you have to do, some sort of navigating yourself in order to reach different.

Ideas or different types of content, whereas on TikTok, which is equally as popular, more popular than Google. Now, in some instances, you’re served that up through the algorithm. And so it is really troubling, especially when you think about progressive voices being minimally minimized and especially Appalachian ones, because I think, especially at Daniel, Kirk, yourself, so many others, you know, like the tire well-read trio some much of I think.

A new perception about Appalachia and about the south and about just quote-unquote, read parts of the country, in general, are now being sort of reshaped or more nuanced attitude because of voices like yours. Like Danielle’s like Trae Crowder, you know, who, who have you. And so that to me is what stuck out about this story, because so much of that like hinges on that you mentioned earlier that progresses don’t really, there’s not really a media ecosystem infrastructure that supports that kind of waste now.

 And it reminded me, I think you mentioned this the other day about air America, which most people listening to this probably have no idea what, what that was, which is telling about its success. But it was like a left-leaning radio network that. Shit the bed bit, the dust, however, you want to put it.

 But there isn’t that. And I think that this is another threat to what little voice progressives in our region have. 

John Russell: It’s a great point. And I, I would say it’s not even a little voice. I mean, you know, my, my account is just shy of 70,000 followers on there. You know Trey’s is much, much bigger.

J

There are upper other Appalachian solidarity, alternative crowds that have bigger platforms in mind, but just with the 70,000, that’ll get between a hundred and 150,000 views on the page every week. Of the kind of message that progressives need to put out there and not to mention the fact that when you, or my account or Danielle’s or anybody else sticks their hand up and says, Hey you’re not alone out here in the vast sea of what is to be read.

There are many of us and we are willing to educate and organize and do the things necessary to make the kind of, to make apple watch it. What we know it can be. There are lots of folks out there and there is a potential, you know, I think they should all. Organize it and funded. I mean, certainly progressive organizations spend a lot of money on things that don’t really pan out.

I think they should sustain these creators who are kind of making a left and media network without anybody’s help. 

Chuck Corra: Yeah. It’d be nice to get some money, especially political money diverted towards that. You know, rather than going into like a Nancy Pelosi administered super packer, some shit like that.

Yeah. I 

John Russell: mean, here’s a great point. We spent a billion dollars on five Senate candidates in the Midwest, all of them lost and you know, their organizations go away when that happens or they spawn these little packs that are hard to measure what they actually do. So we should put a lot more money into the people who are actually carrying the message from Appalachia right 

Chuck Corra: now.

And I think, I think that. The part of this problem is, you know, we’re all beholden to big tech at some point. And to some extent, I’m wondering though, like what has been, is there any effort to try to get a response from TikTok or to try to figure this out or do something about this censorship issue?

I mean, because, and I guess like part of the problem is it’s a, it’s a Chinese owned and operated company, which means the US laws, I think seldom touch it. So there are problems there, but I mean, is there anything people are trying to do, to figure this out, to try to combat this, to try to solve this problem?

John Russell: I’m sure there are, I don’t know every instance of it, but I think putting it on the record was an important part of adding it to this discussion because it doesn’t just apply to tic-tac. I mean Back to our region of the country. You know, West Virginia was a union Democrat state for a long, long time.

 The Ohio River valley, as, as blew 15 years ago, as it is red today, all of those things are influenced by what happens in the media. And how, you know, new social media is regulated is going to influence the voting behavior of those regions in the future. So I think doing something about it, it starts to put it on the record.

Chuck Corra: Yeah. I completely agree. I think that’s a really smart strategy because, you know, there are limited things that people can really do about TikTok and how they run their operations there because something like this is happening. And look, this has happened with conservatives. It’s usually about things that they’re saying that are racist and should probably get them to the platform.

Let’s but let’s set that aside. You mentioned something like bringing more awareness to this and putting people on different platforms. I think that that’s a good, a good idea. And I think that more progressive voices, particularly from epilepsy would be benefited from that. Is that been kind of like your goal with this?

Like what, what’s your goal in general with what you’re doing? Cause I know like we can kind of move into like your type of work now with the holler and everything that you’re doing on TikTok and with your newsletter and that type of thing. 

John Russell: Yeah. Then, the holler is what I call my newsletter and you know, that comes out weekly.

It’s probably gonna move the bi-weekly, but we do, we do politics for rednecks and hippies. It’s from Appalachia it’s for every part of the country. That’s like Appalachia has our kind of problems. I think that media in general has been a little too cautious. And when. To objectivity, quote-unquote, I’m doing air quotes.

And when we have a political situation right now you know, where one party kind of wants to nix the whole democracy thing, that whole thing. Yeah. That whole thing. And the other party is having trouble tiring and shoes. There needs to be a very pro-working-class media and that doesn’t, that’s, that’s, that’s nonpartisan issue to me if you’re, oh, there’s two Johnson.

 To me, if you have to work for a living, you are working class. And that puts a lot of people with all kinds of different politics in the same boat. But one of the things that the holler does, you know, w we’ll do a lot of political education about the welfare. We had a video that got 10 million views and was written up in the international press weirdly.

 That was simply taking graph paper. Right here. I always have my tools close at hand on graph paper. Like you remember from your Appalachian math class, love graph, paper, love graph paper, but one of our biggest videos was we just made each of those little squares on their $5 billion. And we said down here, $0, and up here is Jeff Bezos.

The world’s richest man. And what it showed was the 1% was not even detectable. There was no difference between where the 1% started in zero on the scale of the wealth of billionaires today. Jesus. So we’ll do political education like that. And then the other thing the holler does or will travel out in cover strikes, union organizing, especially in Appalachia, special nettles is still on strike and your listeners have been really great.

You guys have been really great about lifting that up and you know, we’ll go out there and cover things that the working class is doing for itself to try and elevate those and get more folks to do it because ultimately to solve these problems, it’s going to require a lot of people with different politics, but the same class coming together, realizing they’re in the same boat organizing and doing something about it.

That’s the whole goal of my newsletter in the holler 

Big John Isner: people are going to, let’s say people on the right are going to kind of laugh at the idea that the left is beating stop. You know, there’ll be sense. What is, I guess, the easy way to it is. What’s the proof behind it. We, well, what’s happened in, in terms of you know, what are you seeing over a lot of cricketers, 

John Russell: not just yourself.

Yeah. We were able to align up a couple of big accounts. One of them was a public defender. He was talking about a person that was held 10 years beyond their sentence. And that was taken down by TikTok for talking about dangerous individuals. We have you know, with, with black and BIPOC creators there are many, many examples, but if you do if you’re talking about any kind of organizing nonblack lives matter, that is automatic.

Plenty of BIPOC creators will cite the number of times they’d been taken down for talking about black lives matter. We had another creator. This was, these are just three examples that we brought forward to talk about this on the show, what they’re innumerable.

A lot of people reached out. We had another creator who does a series called economics for the people that’s Cod Burbank. And also, I should just shout these creators out to Alex Clavier who post as at LOLoveruled, he’s a public defender, a great guy, Jessica Burbank at Cobb Burbank and Aaron Chambers at Rin star.

Jessica Burbank does economics with people and also talks about American intervention in the south, in South American countries. All of these things were taken down. Along those lines, that’s just a scratched the surface and, you know, to close out that point, it is true that creators on the. Or being censored now, is there a difference between something that gets censored for far-right violence versus factual education about American intervention in South America?

I think there is a difference, but the thing that unites the left and right here who are being taken down is this question, how much power do we want the world’s largest web platform to have over public debate in our country, especially with politics as they are today. And that seems like a big one.

Big John Isner: That’s understandable. Yeah. I mean, I think it’s ridiculous that it happening, but I always kind of go back to my thought and this is just my personal thought when this was happening in survives. The first thing I said was, you know, Twitter is a private company that you can do these things. So I’m, I’m still torn.

Like it’s. But technically, you know, are we really into a constitutional issue, or are we just more in a kind of moral issue when it comes to the overall theme? The internet is now. So that’s where I still struggle with it, because what you’re saying is true, there is a huge difference between fear-mongering and trying to educate people.

Right? The weird part is, you know, are we going to be on a slippery slope? If we start to say they can’t do it on the left and then they start just bringing everybody back on the right. 

John Russell: That sucks. Yeah. Yeah.

Big time. I, I think it’s a true thought, but I think the larger point behind that. Just a regulation of internet companies in general, if you know, violence that starts on Facebook or these platforms has spilled out into the real world. You know, every local up here in the Ohio valley, every local paper has died off and it’s been replaced by a Facebook group where I watch sweet little old ladies who cut the crust off of my peanut butter and jellies growing up being radicalized in a Facebook group of 5,000 people in a town that nobody could name that’s happening all across the country.

And I think more than just how many times are creators in the left being taken down versus creators on the right? I think we all have to ask what is the regulatory burden that these companies should operate in. And since these companies have so. Influence over our government. I think they’ve been allowed to get a free pass on.

 Even when we know that the YouTube algorithm is radicalizing people and putting them into a pipeline Facebook is doing the same thing. And it ends in things like insurrection. Then, the regulation has to, it seems like it could be better than right 

Chuck Corra: now. Non-existent I would agree. I think something that doesn’t get talked about enough, and I think that many people are afraid to touch in some respects is just how necessary it is to regulate.

Tech companies in general, because they govern so much of our lives. Even if we don’t want to admit it or realize that we’re using their products constantly every day. They’re not like other companies and our regulatory regime, like our, I don’t want to say regime that’s our, our regulatory framework doesn’t even address that.

I mean, the last time that the laws and regulations were updated for the internet, my God, like how long ago was that in a comprehensive fashion 

John Russell: AOL was coming to you in the mail on CDs, 

Chuck Corra: chewed. You remember that? I saved so many of them. Yeah, 

John Russell: absolutely. They’re my coasters. Now my coffee coasters. 

Chuck Corra: Those are a, I mean, those are, those are a Relic.

You could probably fetch a good, good bit of money for those nights. NFT 

John Russell: is 

Chuck Corra: Yes, absolutely that, but in the shape of a gorilla and 

Big John Isner: sell it though, that Microsoft case still, still killing the guy who sold all this. Those CDs. 

John Russell: So my retirement plan is actually a closet full of beanie babies and AOL CDs. 

Chuck Corra: Mine is just a picture of my closet of beanie babies.

Cause I’m going to make it into an NFT. 

Big John Isner: Has an NFP. That’s pretty good. Something that you said right there, John two, it kinda not, not calling you John. Number two, I just met John, but it’s not exactly sound like a big old douche thing to say. I want to address that before that Steve fault that you mentioned there to think is interesting because you’re, when you’re talking about these things shutting down like newspapers, even small local news channels, you’re starting to now get into the constitutionality of the freedom of press on these types of things on TikTok

Talk on Twitter, you know, how much are we going to. That to be up. I mean, it’s interesting because we already say like the private companies, you know, they technically don’t have to always abide a hundred percent by the first amendment, but I’d be interested because I mean, we’ve always held in the country that one of the most cherished things is the press and you’re right.

These things are closing down. So is this going to now constitute essentially them publishing work? I think that’s a great, great 

John Russell: point. I also think that’s a great point. I mean, that’s not one that I’ve heard made a lot but absolutely belongs in this discussion and, you know, kind of fits under the larger thing of the world has changed.

The Internet’s been around for what? 30 years. I don’t know if I’m going to be off base here, but it’s not. Not alone. It’s not, it’s not a long time. It’s completely reshaped this landscape in ways that we haven’t been able to respond to through elected government and part of that is because of the stranglehold that these large companies have over elected representatives.

Chuck, you were talking about a point that fits into this being a private company. One of the videos I had taken down that still has not been restored was a message that I made for conservative voters. And the point I was making is private companies and private wealth has become everything that they were taught to fear about government you in your pocket right now, you have a tracking device that knows everybody that, you know, it knows where you go.

It knows what you write it. You’re your phone is tracking you constantly, if you have an Alexa, sorry to say that on the podcast, and now it’s going to order diapers or whatever you have your Alexa program to do. If you have an Alexa in your house, that’s a listening device. You can see, anytime you mentioned Google there, this is a record that you can look up.

Google listens to what you’re talking about. We’ve all had the experience of looking at an Instagram ad and all of a sudden you know, I’m getting ads for incredibly manly leather wallets that are you know, my kind of spending the point is like these private companies they are everything that we’ve kind of feared government would be in there unaccountable to the public, despite having the most power over our lives right now.

Chuck Corra: Yeah. It’s it is a bigger problem than I think people. A realize and be are willing to admit 

John Russell: to. And I said all that and it got taken down. I’m surprised I haven’t had a bag put over my head just saying, 

Chuck Corra: now listen. If a, if, if this episode ends up just disappearing out of nowhere, you’ll know why. And it’s not because we look like several of our episodes have disappeared out of nowhere, but, but those were when we had old microphones and weren’t very good at this.

So a little bit different. Yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s a complicated thing and, and TikTok being owned by China’s a whole different animal in and of itself. No matter what there has to be some sort of policy solution towards TikTok and just Big Tech in general, even if it’s a foreign-based company like TikTok that’s operating in the United States because this is, I can’t stress it enough, like how much these companies control our lives and how little the government fingerprint or footprint or clause or whatever the fuck you want to call it is.

And it’s, it is just unbelievable. And I, and I have a feeling that, that there’s a lot of irreparable harm this priority to be done. I don’t want to go into this doom and gloom loop, so I won’t, but I do think it’s a problem. I think what you’re doing is really important, really smart. Your TikTok is great.

John Russell: I think when you say these things, you know, people can hear them and be like, oh, okay, we’ll then stop using Amazon, or whatever. I don’t think we have to do that. Look, I love the convenience of Amazon – I wish they would unionize. But it shouldn’t be “we can’t have our cake and eat it too” here if we just act through our representatives and have some sensible regulation on it.

But to date, that’s kind of been avoided 

Big John Isner: Yeah. When people say that my first thought is, okay, I’ll stop doing it. It changes nothing, but if you hold the other side accountable, it changes everything. So the whole idea of like, just quit, you know, quit doing hex literally means unperson stops Amazon it’s unperson deletes fake talk and it does nothing.

It makes you feel good and makes you morally feel good, but it doesn’t do anything. But when you’re out there using those platforms to essentially educate people about them, that’s a bit different. 

John Russell: Yeah, that’s also kind of a part of what these companies do. You know,, they make it seem like D happens with climate change all the time.

You know, oil companies. They’re like, ah, alright, we’ll use it. Useless single-use plastic or single straws. No, it’s on you, to stop doing that while meanwhile, you know, we’re accountable for nearly all the emissions, that’s just the same story, different tune. With these, with these tech companies, they need to, they, they put, they shaped the landscape.

We all operate in and it needs to be a better one. That’s a little bit more fair and transparent. 

Chuck Corra: Yeah. Yeah, I think the best thing you can do is to trigger a little bit of a Streisand effect with any of these sensor things where, you know, you make a big enough deal about it, that censoring, it only causes more of that to reach more people which hopefully is what, what ended up happening.

 Well, this has been a really interesting discussion. I really appreciate you coming on and talking with us about this. I really appreciate the work you’re doing with the holler. Should definitely have you back on some time to talk about local races, local elections, running, and local races. We touched on that before John got here.

 But yeah, appreciate what you’re doing and keep it up and you’re welcome back anytime. 

John Russell: Yeah, thanks, guys. A huge fan of the show. Great listeners. I know there are a lot of other hollers out there. So shout out to them. It was kind of, a naming thing. We’re all doing our, our, our good work but check it out@theholler.co that’s in the Ohio valley.

And I’m posting that, Hey, John Russell on TikTok, and I really appreciate you guys having me.

Beef with the Johnny Knoxville of Beef

Chuck Corra: All right. They call them the Johnny Knoxville of beef because he’d get brain damage from being a jackass, just to come out on top of a beef.

Beef was big. John, if you bothered by 

Big John Isner: buy back about the drill, a boy, big Johnston 

Chuck Corra: Fisher brother rules. This big deal. That’s a mouthful, but it doesn’t matter. Still, y’all want 

Big John Isner: some D for big John, but at the same time, don’t you be for big John trying to be the man in his time, open up. Why didn’t we kill his 

Chuck Corra: guy before big John Egypt before John, John.

Big John Isner: Anyway, this beef, I was I was debating on doing this. Okay. I’m not gonna lie because I think it’s going to be a controversial beef. Oh, man. This is going to get a little maybe personal versus maybe. I don’t know. So I have noticed here recently, Chuck, and I think you have to, but we’ve not mentioned it on the podcast, but it’s beef time.

So let’s do it. There’s this weird movement to use Twitter, to no longer educate people, but to attempt to find people being ignorant. And when I say attempt, I mean to look through every single word of a tweet and try to find something within that tweet to mean something else. But I don’t understand this need to try to prove either one that you’re smart or two that you’re this social justice martyr.

That’s going to change things on Twitter with your 327 followers as you continually attack people. Because look, I got to tell you something, Chuck, no matter what if you’re one of those people who are coming. Constantly and people, maybe you don’t like them, right. But you follow him just to, just to get a, you know, a glimpse and hopes that you find something out about them that you can use against them.

That one, that sad and to your, just doing the exact same thing that we’ve already mentioned, doesn’t work. So when you go and attack people constantly, you don’t really prove a point and two, you actually drive people away from whatever cause you’re trying to bring them to. So for instance, if you’re attacking people constantly for, let’s say what really identifies as Appalachia, people are gonna think you’re a Dick and they’re not going to give a crap about what you say anymore, because they’re just going to say, oh, there he is again on, you know, on another soapbox.

It’s this constant need, you know, for instance, I did a tweet. And this is what brought this up. There’ve been other tweets. I did a tweet that said, Joe, it’s only January, but Joe 

Chuck Corra: burrow. Fuck it. I fucking knew you were going to do. 

Big John Isner: I did a tweet said Joe burrow is going to be Appalachian of the year. It was obviously like this very joking celebratory thing, right.

And immediately, which we could have literally put this thing on a timer and known that this was going to happen immediately. I get responses of wow. Another, you know, a white guy that plays football. That’s who you’re going to pick as if I was handing him the award. So as he was accepting the AFC offensive player of the year, he was also accepting the Appalachia Appalachia in the year as if it was doing it.

He was doing it at the same time or that I was going to present it at the next super bowl. 

Chuck Corra: Spray tend to two awards are not on the same level that and the highest. And then our Appalachians a year, they’re all the same, same level though. 

Big John Isner: That’s not even the only thing. I mean, it happens all the time and, and I don’t know the need for it.

I think you, you catch more bees with honey. That’s what I always think. But right now it’s the continuation of, if I tell. If I say things that are the most outrageous things, or I can, I can try and set this person up. That’s how I’m going to win. And all it does is make people want to ignore you. And I look, people can take that for what it is.

I just found it to be super annoying. And this it’s happened over time, but this one really true. 

Chuck Corra: I don’t know. It’s always, you like, it always happens to you. I never had any, which just like, I don’t get it. Maybe I’m just like, it doesn’t even happen. My office controversial. No, 

Big John Isner: it doesn’t even happen on my controversial tweets.

It happens on something random, like a joke about Joe burrow and they’re like, oh, white guy, 

Chuck Corra: but I know what you mean. I do think that there is, I think Twitter in itself kind of encourages a culture of, let me see if I could dunk on someone. Yes. And. I’m not going to pretend it’s not tempting sometime.

And you know what, I’m not gonna pretend I don’t do it sometimes with JD Vance. I do, because one, he’s an easy target too. He’s an asshole, but sure. I feel like that’s also a difference between that and like him saying something racist or something, and you being like, oh, drove borough, which also let’s not downplay the fact that Joe burrow, well, like not like the social justice champion has done a lot for the community of Athens.

Like 

Big John Isner: thank you. The guy used his Heisman acceptance speech to talk about food insecurity and Athens, 

Chuck Corra: which is awesome. Like, and I, and I feel, I hope that I hope that more attention gets paid to the food bank. Now that he’s a, in the super bowl too. But I do, I just think like, man, I don’t know, just let people have their moments.

Just like, let’s just, we’ll be happy. Yeah. I don’t know, man, like. 

Big John Isner: The main point of this Chuck. And I think that you agree is that people just got to just relax. Not everything is like this over, not everything needs to be this overdramatized breakdown of every word of every tweet where you try to find this complex, meaning it just, it’s not needed.

Appodlachia is a product of 18 Husky media. The show is produced by Chuck Corra. None of the views expressed on this show are a reflection of either Chuck or big John’s employers and they never will be.

If you’re this far in the transcript, congrats! This is where I add extra words for SEO purposes! TikTok! We put TikTok in as the focus keyphrase – TikTok is a focus keyphrase? Go figure! I honestly don’t really like TikTok but it can be helpful to reach people on TikTok. Have you noticed how many times I have to include the phrase TikTok? It is ridiculous.

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