New York Post, June 8, 2023
by James Bovard
Democracy Dies in Darkness” is the pious masthead motto The Washington Post adopted in the Trump era. But in the Biden era, the Post sees censorship as the salvation of self-government.
Censorship requires secrecy to work its magic, though. Folks get ornery about wearing a government blindfold, the same way malcontents yelped about wearing face masks. Republican congressmen and activist groups are shamelessly yanking at the curtain hiding the censorship-industrial complex.
Washington Post readers were invited Tuesday to a 1,700-word pity party for federal censorship contractors. Federal agencies have launched crusades in recent years to suppress “disinformation” on the Internet. They mostly rely on “censorship by surrogate” because the First Amendment’s freedom-of-speech provision makes it legally dicey to directly muzzle Americans.
And fearing legal trouble from the feds if they didn’t cooperate, social-media companies kowtowed to the surrogates.
During the 2020 election season, contractors composing the Election Integrity Project filed endless objections to Americans’ online posts with social-media firms.
The project spurred crackdowns that affected “millions of individual Facebook posts, YouTube videos, TikToks, and tweets” thanks to “huge regulatory pressure from government,” according to former State Department official Mike Benz.
But it wasn’t censorship — it was simply “content removals,” The Washington Post says. The paper portrays Republicans and legal activists as troublemakers for seeking the specific charges on wrongthink social-media posts a Stanford University contractor filed with Twitter and other companies. Stanford is refusing to comply with a congressional subpoena for that data.
“Disinformation” is often simply the lag time between the pronouncement and the debunking of government falsehoods. The WaPo lauded contractors for targeting “conspiracy theories about coronavirus vaccines.” But perhaps millions of tweets and other posts were suppressed for “disinformation” for claiming vaccines fail to prevent COVID transmission — a supposedly heinous lie that turned out to be true after the federal coverup collapsed.
Nor does the Post mention that a federal contractor pressured social-media companies to suppress “stories of true vaccine side effects” and “true posts which could fuel [vaccine] hesitancy,” as Matt Taibbi revealed in the Twitter Files.
The paper wailed about critics uncorking a “deluge of bad information about disinformation researchers.” One professor lamented that “there’s a lot of bad actors who are using freedom of information requests to harass academics working at public universities.” But there is no “Doing God’s work” exemption for the Freedom of Information Act.
Federal agencies have stonewalled FOIA requests, but the Twitter Files, lawsuits and targeting federal grant recipients have begun to expose the sordid machinations.
The article treats fears of federal censorship as a deranged conspiracy theory. But the paper has almost completely ignored recent revelations the State Department pressured Twitter to suspend more than 300,000 accounts (often on ludicrous pretexts) and the Biden White House pressured Facebook to suppress any posts critical of COVID vaccines. And what about the FBI’s strong-arm tactics to suppress the Hunter Biden laptop story before the 2020 election?
Does the paper fear that the right people will no longer be able to censor? When Elon Musk bought Twitter and announced plans to restore some banned accounts, Washington Post diva Taylor Lorenz howled that Musk was “opening the gates of hell.” Lorenz did not disclose that she had filed a “near constant stream of complaints, asking Twitter to take down and suspend accounts,” as Paul Thacker reported last month for the Twitter Files. Lorenz even swayed Twitter to suspend the account of Stanford professor (and sometime New York Post contributor) Jay Bhattacharya.
But the mainstream media have less interest in exposing federal censorship than a 1920s Mississippi sheriff had in solving a Klan lynching.
Fixating on the supposedly bad motives of Republicans absolves the government and all its tools. As long as federal marshals don’t handcuff the CEOs of social-media companies, censorship apologists can pretend no threats were used. Instead, the controversy becomes another Washington morality play in which the government is always the good guy.
The media are as mesmerized by the Disinformation Peril as they were by Russiagate, the grand delusion of the Trump era. Pundits know disinformation is a grave peril because the government tells them so — making it a Beltway Revealed Truth.
As Tuesday’s article warned, “Disinformation is rising ahead of the 2024 election.” But the hysteria over disinformation tacitly presumes nobody ever lied before the invention of the Internet.
Will The Washington Post propose to formally replace the First Amendment with a simple censorship-friendly disclaimer: “For your own good”? Unfortunately, any such revision would be done clandestinely, and Americans wouldn’t learn about the alteration until long after the next election.
James Bovard is the author of 10 books and a Brownstone Institute fellow.