N.Y. Post: More nails in the coffin of Biden’s censorship regime

New York Post, December 1, 2023

More nails in the coffin of Biden’s censorship regime

James Bovard

With each passing month, we are getting closer to the Custer’s Last Stand for federal censors. But will free speech triumph in time to prevent the feds from secretly rigging the 2024 presidential election?

At a House Weaponization Subcommittee hearing Thursday, Twitter Files reporters Matt Taibbi and Michael Shellenberger returned to reveal the latest censorious outrages.

When Taibbi first testified before the committee in March, congressional Democrats denounced him as a “so-called journalist,” a hypocrite, a profiteer and Twitter owner Elon Musk’s lackey.

Virgin Islands Delegate Stacey Plaskett, the ranking Democrat, threatened Taibbi with perjury charges and a five-year prison sentence after she claimed he had made a minor misstatement in his testimony.

The Federal Trade Commission demanded, as The Post noted, “all internal communications by, from or about Musk — and telling him to name reporters he’s shared info with” — as if exposing White House misconduct were a federal crime.

But Team Biden was not so lucky in court.

On July 4, federal Judge Terry Doughty, ruling in Missouri v. Biden, condemned the Biden administration for potentially “the most massive attack against free speech in United States history.”

A federal appeals court ratified that verdict in September, slamming the White House and federal agencies for actions “suppressing millions of protected free speech postings by American citizens” — especially conservatives.

Federal agencies pirouetted as a “Ministry of Truth,” according to federal judges who have castigated Biden censorship abuses. How far did the censorship go?

On Tuesday, the House subcommittee posted online a spreadsheet listing thousands of specific targets of federal contractors. There was pervasive suppression of any complaints about election fraud before the 2020 election, thereby subverting Americans’ awareness of problems with mail-in ballots and polling booths.

Nothing was too petty to suppress. One of the issues flagged for targeting was “TikTok trend to raise middle fingers to vaccine.” So federal censors were obliged to counterpunch any obscene hand gesture in the world?

Shellenberger testified that the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and its nonprofit partners had targeted political jokes, hyperbole and specific viewpoints for social-media companies to suppress.

He also stressed that “cognitive security” is a key goal for disinformation researchers. This parallels federal agencies’ interventions to protect “cognitive infrastructure.” And the most important cognitive fix is to train Americans to never doubt Uncle Sam.  Shellenberger urged Congress to abolish CISA.

But congressional Democrats Thursday had a two-word refutation of all the censorship abuses: DONALD TRUMP! The specter of Trump’s re-election miraculously expunges all Biden sins. Plaskett also pointed out that any purported censorship was irrelevant compared with the Internal Revenue Service’s high rate of audits of people of color.

New York Rep. Dan Goldman, the supposed knockout champion on the Democratic side, uncorked the wackiest censorship refutation.  In October 2020, the FBI and other agencies colluded with social-media companies to suppress the New York Post story on Hunter Biden’s laptop. Goldman astounded the audience on Capitol Hill by insisting that laptop was a fake — despite it being validated by the FBI even before The Post exposé.

Congressional investigators and journalists are hot on the trail for more outrages. The House Judiciary Committee issued subpoenas Thursday for former Biden White House staffers Andrew Slavitt and Rob Flaherty, two key censorship policymakers. Whistleblowers are also dishing more dirt than almost anyone expected to find behind closed doors.

The Supreme Court will hear Missouri v. Biden, potentially the biggest First Amendment ruling since the 1971 Pentagon Papers case. But federal censors and federal censorship contractors could enjoy free rein until (and perhaps after) the court settles the matter.

The federal appeals court issued an injunction prohibiting federal officials from acting “to coerce or significantly encourage social-media companies to remove, delete, suppress, or reduce, including through altering their algorithms, posted social-media content containing protected free speech.”

But the Supreme Court issued a stay on that injunction, tacitly trusting officials to voluntarily restrain themselves. Justice Samuel Alito vehemently dissented, warning it could be seen as “giving the Government a green light to use heavy-handed tactics to skew the presentation of views” on social media, which “increasingly dominates the dissemination of news.”

Will the federal war on disinformation again become a war on democracy? Nullifying freedom of speech turns citizens into political pawns who can be sacrificed as their rulers please. Unless Congress and the Supreme Court have the gumption to end the federal censorship regime, the First Amendment should be replaced by a simple disclaimer: “For Your Own Good.”

James Bovard is author of the forthcoming “Last Rights: The Death of American Liberty.”


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