Shellenberger: Why The Media Is Attacking Free Speech
Governments around the world are cracking down on free speech. What they are demanding includes the ability to read private encrypted text messages and invade homes in search of wrongspeech. Their demands thus go far beyond what the Censorship Industrial Complex was able to get away with over the last six years.
And things are getting worse. Last week, the European Union announced it would punish Twitter for withdrawing from its supposedly “voluntary” censorship laws. “Twitter leaves EU voluntary code of practice against disinformation,” said the EU’s top censor, Thierry Breton, “You can run, but you can’t hide. Beyond voluntary commitments, fighting disinformation will be a legal obligation under [the Digital Services Act] DSA as of August 25. Our teams will be ready for enforcement.”
Politico begs to differ. The Censorship Industrial Complex, it wrote last week, is an “unproven conspiracy theory that a group of left-leaning academics, think tanks, tech workers and government employees coordinated to silence right-wing voters ahead of nationwide votes. To be clear (looking at you, Twitter Files), none of this has been proved, and there’s evidence that right-leaning voices have a larger, not smaller, presence online compared with those on the left.”
But it’s not unproven. In fact, the existence, funding, and actions of the Censorship Industrial Complex are extremely well-documented at this point. Across thousands of pages of Attorneys’ General lawsuits, thousands of pages of Congressional reports and testimony, and hundreds of pages of Twitter and Facebook files themselves, it’s clear that here was a highly coordinated campaign by top White House officials, government agencies, and government-funded contractors to demand Twitter, Facebook, and other social media companies censor, in their own words, “often-true” content, including about drug side effects, both to prevent the public from seeing it but also to spread misinformation on behalf of a political agenda.
Politico did not, notably, provide any source or link to support its claim that “there’s evidence that right-leaning voices have a larger, not smaller, presence online compared with those on the left.” The reason might be that such “evidence” is a single highly selective study attempting to generalize about the whole of the social media experience through the lens of an outdated and simplistic Left-Right framework.
Emails from pro-censorship journalists to Twitter demanding the de-plaforming of another reporter, Alex Berenson.
The picture many of us have of journalists is Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman in “All The President’s Men,” or the journalists in “Spotlight,” “She Said,” and “The Post.” They are dogged seekers of the truth, determined to overcome any obstacle in their way of discovering it and reporting it to the world. They advocate giving voice to the voiceless and uncovering secretive and dangerous abuses of power by everyone from senior government officials to powerful corporate executives to religious leaders.
But the real-world behavior of many journalists today at top news media companies is the exact opposite. They plot secretly with the Aspen Institute, each other, and social media executives about how to kill stories damaging to the president. And they help former CIA Directors and “Fellows” spread ridiculous conspiracy theories, including that Russians stole the 2016 election, controlled Donald Trump through a video of prostitutes urinating on him, and had somehow stolen Hunter Biden’s laptop.
Rather than quote from different sides, these journalists denounce their enemies. They dismissed as “racist” and as a “debunked conspiracy theory” that COVID-19 might have escaped from a Chinese lab while insisting that it was somehow less racist and far-fetched to believe the virus traveled 1,000 miles from the countryside before sickening someone at a “live wet market.” And they demanded that Twitter de-platform disfavored voices like Twitter Files reporter Alex Berenson.
Why do so many journalists participate in the war on free speech, including the freest social media platform, Twitter? Last summer, Berenson released documents showing reporters from CNN and Axios, urging Twitter to suspend Berenson for criticizing vaccines. “It’s like librarians burning books,” he told Public yesterday. “Why are journalists attacking journalists?”
The picture we had of mainstream news reporters speaking truth to power is no longer accurate. More frequently than not, reporters from those same institutions speak power against the truth. The evidence for the Censorship Industrial Complex is abundant, and they know it because they are part of it. The media’s problem is not that the censorship conspiracy is unproven. It’s that we proved it.
As such, Public is happy to announce a gathering of free speech leaders, journalists, and attorneys from around the world in London on July 22 – 23. At 7 pm on July 22, Matt Taibbi, Russell Brand, and I will speak on stage at Central Hall Westminster in London.
The next day, a small group of free speech leaders from around the world will gather to form an anti-censorship alliance aimed at defunding and dismantling the Censorship Industrial Complex, fighting new government censorship efforts, and pushing for First Amendment-level free speech protections worldwide. Email us to find out more information and get involved.
It’s time for freedom lovers to go on the offense. The problem isn’t that America is too free with its First Amendment free speech protections. It’s that other countries are too censorious. People around the world would love to enjoy the freedoms we take for granted in America, which is a big reason so many people want to live here. We are confident that when the peoples of the world, or their representatives, are forced to vote on free speech, they will tend toward the First Amendment, away from the totalitarian speech restrictions being pushed globally.
Governments are cracking down, but we are fighting back. The regime media won’t cover the news, so we will. After all the Congressional histrionics and media denials have passed, a worldwide grassroots citizen’s free speech and anti-censorship resistance movement will be left in their wake. It is notable that the main U.S. censorship groups, which are now being sued, are trying to deny that they were, in fact, censoring anyone.
But such lies are belied by their allies in the EU and elsewhere in the world trying to expand their censorship powers. In cracking down on speech, governments display their own lack of trust in the people, an attitude that will be increasingly reciprocated.