As if woke capital hasn’t made life in America dangerous enough for those slightly to the left of center, popular internet review website Yelp has taken it upon itself to allow users to report “racist behavior” on the part of a business. Called the Business Accused of Racist Behavior Alert, Yelp’s own blog states that the process begins with a milder Public Attention Alert “to inform consumers if someone associated with the business was accused of, or the target of, racist behavior.” It only gets escalated to a BARBA (my term) when there is “resounding evidence” of “egregious, racist actions from a business owner of employee.” Such behavior includes overtly racist slurs or symbols.” Don’t fret, though: the alert “will always link to a news article from a credible media outlet so users can learn more.” Of course, to date there has been on definition of “racist,” “resounding evidence,” “egregious, racist actions,” or “credible media outlet.”
If this sounds like China’s dreaded social credit system, that’s because it’s functionally identical. Except here it’s not the government branding a wrong-thinking business with the scarlet letter R. It’s the private sector. One supposes that Silicon Valley’s tech fascists like to learn from the best.
Accusations of racism are serious business and can ruin one’s life. Or, if you’re a member of the wrong race who defends yourself against a member of the right race trying to kill you, can force you into suicide.
Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman is no stranger to race matters, stating his support for the fight “against injustice and racism” on May 31:
I am beyond outraged over the senseless killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and countless others. This needs to stop, now. I stand with those against injustice and racism.
Yelp’s official Twitter account did specifically name BLM that same day, just to allay anyone’s fears that Mr. Stoppelman was going all in with some discount black power organization.
In order to “stand … against injustice and racism,” on August 31, Yelp began several initiatives aimed at promoting black businesses. It also bragged about its donations to black-led and black-serving organizations. One of these was Black Futures Lab. Take a look Black Futures Lab’s Principal: Alicia Garza, one of the cofounders of Black Lives Matter.
So this is going to end well.
It’s no secret that Silicon Valley is doing all it can to make sure Donald Trump loses on November 3. They feel they did not do enough to prevent his victory in 2016, and they won’t make the same mistake this time. It is not only plausible, but nearly a mathematical certainty, that Yelp’s BARBA will be abused to accuse any Trump-supporting business owners of being “racist,” however this is defined. Given BLM’s close relationship with Antifa, an idea that is somehow capable of burning stuff to the ground, it’s not a stretch to see Yelp as another front in the radical Left’s war on everything that stands in its way. It’s like a doxxer’s wildest dream: see a business deemed “racist” on Yelp? Light up the Molotov cocktails, boys, we’re hitting the ’burbs tonight.
We’ve already seen plenty of riots since May, both politically and racially motivated, and both overwhelmingly one-way. If a business finds itself on the wrong end of Yelp’s BARBA system, whether it be for an actual offense, a personal grudge, or for political reasons, it could give rioters very specific targets for their particular brand of terror. Whether or not a business is pro-Trump could very well be irrelevant if those given carte blanche to loot and destroy decide that the local mom ’n’ pop corner store flagged by Yelp users has got to go.
Allowing anyone, private businesses or otherwise, to have this level of power over the political discourse is dangerous and counter to American tradition. It’s especially dangerous when such power can credibly lead to violence. It’s hard to think that Yelp doesn’t know what it’s doing here, especially in this political climate. Yelp’s new racism-tracking system is practically an invitation to violence.
Alexander Hellene is an attorney and novelist. He lives in New England with his wife and children.