Just when you thought the Hunter Biden scandals had died in darkness, The Washington Post published more than 6,300 words on March 30 admitting that a notable fraction of his laptop contents was authentic.
Why now? Why not last year? Why did liberal outlets act like everyone expressing concern about Biden was a Trump-adoring kook? We reported at NewsBusters that the broadcast network morning and evening newscasts went 260 days without mentioning Biden. (And it was more like 11 months of silence at ABC.) These were the same networks that frantically obsessed over one brief and failed meeting Donald Trump Jr. hosted in Trump Tower in 2016 to discuss negative information on Hillary Clinton.
The one consistent thread in the liberal media’s approach was the notion that all attempts to dig up negative information on Democrats during a campaign are a scandal. But all attempts to dig up negative information on Republicans during a campaign are always the best and the brightest journalism one could find.
Suddenly, the Post reported that Steve Bannon associate Jack Maxey had given the Post a hard drive from Biden’s laptop contents in June of last year. Maxey told the London Daily Mail that the Post accidentally deleted it, and he provided it again in October of 2021. So, it looks like they weren’t overly eager to confirm the documents, certainly not in the way they confirmed the Donald Trump “Access Hollywood” tape contents in one afternoon.
The Post is also very late to acknowledge the truth in a report from Republican Sens. Charles Grassley and Ron Johnson in 2020 on the Biden family’s secretive deals in Communist China. We’re now told that “a Washington Post review confirmed many of the key details and found additional documents showing Biden family interactions with Chinese executives.”
Over the course of 14 months, the Chinese energy conglomerate CEFC China Energy and its executives paid $4.8 million to entities controlled by Hunter Biden and his uncle, James Biden. How many news anchors have talked about James Biden?
This bundle included a $1 million retainer for Hunter Biden to represent Patrick Ho, a shady CEFC official who was under investigation for a multimillion-dollar scheme to bribe leaders from Chad and Uganda. Ho was later convicted, but the Post reported that Hunter Biden “appeared to have little role representing Ho in the federal case.” So, why the million bucks?
But back in September of 2020, the Post sounded like a partisan bulletin board on this report. It began one story by reporting Grassley and Johnson “revived attacks” on Joe Biden’s son and “argued his position with a Ukrainian energy company was ‘problematic,’ but the report did not show that it influenced the then-vice president’s behavior or changed the Obama administration’s policy toward Ukraine.”
They don’t use this “no proof” standard as they obsess over every leak from the Jan. 6 congressional kangaroo court. The Post sounds like a prosecutor when they report on Trump scandals, and they have routinely sounded like defense lawyers on the Biden family buck-raking.
The obvious gossip about why the Post and the New York Times would suddenly accept and confirm the reality of Hunter Biden’s laptop is because they’ve heard that the Justice Department has confirmed its reality, and they don’t want to look ridiculous if federal charges are lobbed in the probe of Hunter Biden’s finances. But maybe, just maybe, these papers ought to grant the New York Post some respect for what they reported as reality in real time.
A closer look at The New York Times’ reporting on Hunter Biden shows Biden’s team may be laying the groundwork ahead of an even bigger story.
Last Wednesday, The New York Times reported on the continuing criminal investigation into Hunter Biden, and in doing so finally acknowledged the emails recovered from the laptop abandoned at a Delaware repair shop were authentic. Since then, much of the media’s coverage has focused on the corrupt press’ burying of the laptop scandal The New York Post broke shortly before the 2020 election.
There is much more to be gleaned from the Times’s article, though, including these four takeaways.
The first key takeaway from The New York Times article concerns what it means for the scandals spawned by the October 2020 release of the emails and text messages contained on Hunter Biden’s MacBook. The supposed standard-bearers of journalism ignored those scandals for the last year-and-a-half by framing the material “Russian disinformation.”
Now that the Times has acknowledged that the Biden-related emails and other documents recovered from the abandoned laptop are authentic, that means the scandals they exposed are also legitimate. As summarized at The Federalist here, there are eight Joe Biden scandals that deserve investigation.
Beyond what Wednesday’s article on Hunter Biden means more broadly related to the scandals exposed by the abandoned MacBook, the substance of the Times’s coverage suggests a huge story about the president’s son is about to break. Here, it is helpful to remember that the Times is the newspaper of record for stories needed to soften the landing for Democrats embroiled in scandal. In this case, the tells are all there that the Times is offering an assist to the Bidens by getting ahead of the story to come.
Just as Press Secretary Jen Psaki smooths her copper coif before dropping a doozy, the Times alerts observant readers to the real story when it identifies its source for information harmful to a Democrat as a “person familiar with the investigation.” The Times used that technique ten times in its coverage of the Hunter Biden case.
Another sure give-away is the Times’s burying of the lede. That is an understatement of what the Old Grey Lady did when it titled its coverage of the investigation into Hunter Biden as “Hunter Biden Paid Tax Bill, but Broad Federal Investigation Continues.” The article then opened with:
In the year after he disclosed a federal investigation into his ‘tax affairs’ in late 2020, President Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, paid off a significant tax liability, even as a grand jury continued to gather evidence in a wide-ranging examination of his international business dealings, according to people familiar with the case.
With a proper title, such as, “Prosecutors Find Evidence Hunter Profited by Selling Access to Vice-President Father,” serious reporting would open by alerting the audience to damning evidence accumulated by federal prosecutors that suggests Hunter Biden criminally profited from his dad’s position as Barack Obama’s vice president.
The Times’s tactic of preemptively providing defenses to hypothetical criminal charges should also alert readers to the inevitability of an indictment against Hunter. For more on the preemptive defense of Hunter see point 4 below.
So, what might those inevitable charges be? Of course, it is impossible to know for sure unless and until an indictment drops, but it is inconceivable that the Times would air the Biden family’s dirty laundry unless the reporters believed the entire household hamper was soon to be dumped in the middle of town.
Revisiting the Times’s article from last week, then, with the premise that the reporting seeks to “get ahead of the story,” suggests federal prosecutors may have some serious charges in mind for the president’s son. Tax evasion seems the most likely charge Hunter will face, given that the Times reported that the president’s son paid more than $1 million in tax liability while spinning any such criminal offense as Hunter’s mere “failure to pay all his taxes.”
A second charge floated by the Times concerns violations of “the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, which requires disclosure to the Justice Department of lobbying or public relations assistance on behalf of foreign clients.” Here, the Times’ efforts to frame Hunter’s potential violations of FARA as unintentional — and thus not criminal — suggests the Delaware U.S. attorney has a solid FARA case in the works.
The Times’s coverage, however, indicates federal prosecutors are looking at much more serious charges related to payments Hunter Biden received from the Ukrainian energy company Burisma, as well his financial interests in Kazakhstan and China. Publicly available evidence already suggests Hunter Biden profited from these, and potentially other foreign interests, by selling access to his father when the elder Biden was vice president, which the Times casts as possibly allowing for a “money laundering” charge against Hunter.
In last week’s article, the Times reveals that prosecutors have accumulated significantly more evidence suggesting Hunter profited from these relationships, with prosecutors allegedly investigating “payments and gifts Mr. Biden or his associates had received from foreign interests, including a vehicle paid for using funds from a company associated with a Kazakh oligarch and a diamond from a Chinese energy tycoon.” The Times also reported that prosecutors have “sought documents related to corporate entities through which Mr. Biden and his associates conducted business with interests around the world.”
The Times further revealed that federal prosecutors have “issued scores of subpoenas,” related to “Hunter Biden’s foreign work and for bank accounts linked to him and his associates.” They even traveled to Little Rock, Arkansas, according to The Times, to interview Ms. Lunden Alexis Roberts, who sued Hunter for paternity payments, questioning her about Hunter’s business dealings. As for the emails recovered from the abandoned MacBook, federal investigators have authenticated those as well.
All of these details the Times reported in its article purportedly focused on the tax case against Hunter Biden. Other than the details confirmed by Roberts’s lawyer, the information came principally from “people familiar with the investigation,” which means one of two things: someone with the prosecutor’s office talked, or someone connected with Hunter Biden did.
History provides a pretty good hint of the answer — and its reason: Hunter Biden’s team likely gave the Times the heads-up to the case being crafted against the president’s son to allow the liberal mainstay to massage a narrative before any potential charges became public. Given the details shared with the Times by people familiar with the investigation, then regurgitated by the Times for the public, it seems some pretty serious charges may be in store for Hunter.
As noted above, the Times’ preemptive countering of several hypothetical criminal charges indicates the leftist paper’s coverage of the Hunter Biden case seeks not to inform the public but to form a gentle narrative on which the president’s son can land when the expected indictment drops. Here it is not merely the many defenses the Times lays out, but the entirety of the article that also downplays the potential charges and paints the most sympathetic scenario possible for Hunter Biden.
Consider, for instance, the Times’s framing of Hunter Biden and his apparent pay-to-play scheme. “Hunter Biden is a Yale-educated lawyer,” the article notes early on, claiming that the “broader investigation” stems “from work he did around the world” that “intersected with his father’s public service.”
It seems unlikely, though, that prosecutors are investigating “work” Hunter Biden did around the world, although not as unlikely as the claim that President Biden’s lifelong political career parlayed to his family’s financial advantage is “public service.”
The Times also succeeded in presenting the Hunter Biden-Burisma scandal as one really about Trump, writing: “Hunter Biden’s work for Burisma Holdings, the Ukrainian energy company, became a flashpoint in his father’s race in 2020 against President Donald J. Trump and helped set off the events that led to Mr. Trump’s first impeachment.”
Apparently, the Times will need another year or two before it can also acknowledge Donald Trump’s concern about Biden family corruption in Ukrainian was legitimate and that Trump’s impeachment was pure politics.
Then there was the Times’s reference to Hunter’s “serious drug addiction and other problems during the period” the potentially illegal conduct took place. Add to those facts that Hunter was also “dealing with the illness and death of his brother Beau,” and the Times seems to suggest these sad circumstances mitigate the seriousness of any forthcoming charges.
The remainder of the article presents various counters to the charges, such as that Hunter repaid the back taxes by taking out a loan — oh, the horror. The Times then pretends paying the government back lessens the import of a tax evasion case.
On a potential FARA charge, the Times suggests Hunter attempted to comply with the law and that any violation was unintentional, meaning at best he should be held only civilly responsible. And on the most serious charge floated by the Times, money laundering, the paper presents that case as connected to the FARA charge, suggesting it would be inappropriate to charge the president’s son with money laundering if he is innocent of violating FARA.
Until the Delaware U.S. attorney announces charges, if any, against Hunter Biden, it is impossible to know the criminal jeopardy the president’s son may face. But, given that when the Times reports on stories harmful to Democratic interests it proves prescient, odds are good that some serious charges are in the works.
Earlier this week, Twitter locked the account of The Babylon Bee, a right-leaning parody site, after it awarded Rachel Levine, a transgender Biden administration official, the title of “man of the year” in reaction to USA Today naming Levine one of its “women of the year” last week. This is just the most recent example in a long train of Big Tech censorship actions.
Taking a stand against Big Tech censorship, the state of Texas passed an anti-discrimination social media law (HB 20) last September. It seeks to limit Big Tech companies’ power to silence viewpoints they don’t like.
The law does so by prohibiting social media platforms with more than 50 million active monthly users in the United States from censoring users or their expressions based on the viewpoint expressed. Along with explicitly prohibiting viewpoint discrimination by social-media companies, the law enables censored users to seek declaratory and injunctive relief in court.
Texas’ law was cause for hope for many nationwide who want the giant social media platforms to be held accountable for their suppression of free speech. Unfortunately, Judge Robert Pitman, an Obama appointee, in early December enjoined the Texas non-discrimination social media law from going into effect.
But those who want a fair and democratic public discourse need not despair yet. That lower court decision was appealed, and soon the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit will hear oral arguments on this appeal.
A wide range of distinguished amici have argued to the court that it should uphold the Texas statute and thereby protect Americans from censorship. The briefs include a profound story by David Mamet, an eminent doctor’s account of how even privatized suppression threatens science, and an exploration of the thought of John Stuart Mill by Columbia students against censorship.
What may need more explanation here is why the protection against tech censorship does not intrude on the tech company’s own free speech. As argued in an amicus brief filed by the Center for Renewing America and the Claremont Institute’s Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, there are good First Amendment reasons for upholding the Texas law and reversing Judge Pitman’s flawed and biased order.
First, the appellate court should correctly recognize that the First Amendment applies differently to speakers than to those who host or transmit speech. While the government forcing a person or group to speak a particular message raises First Amendment concerns, regulating the terms under which entities host or transmit others’ speech complies with the Constitution.
For instance, for centuries courts have required common carriers, industries that play a central role in economic, social, and political life, such as telephones, utilities, and airlines, to treat customers without discrimination. The numerous legal requirements have never raised First Amendment concerns. HB 20’s protection of Texans against social media’s discriminatory viewpoint censorship falls within this general rule, allowing for government regulation of hosting or transmitting speech to ensure such channels of communication are open to all comers.
Pitman’s opinion errs by treating social media’s discriminatory censorship as “editorial discretion” that expresses a coherent “message” worthy of First Amendment protection like a newspaper op-ed page or a parade.
Unlike a newspaper editor or parade organizer, however, social media companies do not review all content they host; they review only a tiny fraction. A newspaper op-ed page or parade expresses the judgment of its editors and organizers with every article or marcher it includes, as well as with the newspaper or parade as a whole. By necessity, a newspaper or parade, given its limited size, exercises powerful editorial control over its content.
In contrast, a social media firm is a passive conduit. It rarely edits, and its infinite bandwidth gives it no need to edit. Moreover, platforms cannot express themselves in the billions of posts they cannot review. Nor can the platforms’ stealthy, inconsistent, and often hidden acts of content moderation constitute a coherent “message,” let alone an expression worthy of First Amendment protection.
Finally, non-discrimination requirements to refrain from discriminatory censorship of others do not burden the platform’s own speech because social media platforms are free to tweet or post as much as they’d like.
Secondly, the court should recognize that Texas can lawfully regulate social media because the platforms are common carriers. For centuries, common carrier laws have required certain industries that hold themselves out to the public to serve all without discrimination. Communications networks have always operated under these non-discrimination requirements. The Texas social media law simply applies these historical precedents to the modern public square: social media platforms.
Pitman ignores the centuries of cases in which courts and regulatory agencies imposed non-discrimination requirements on railroads, telephones, and internet firms and simply asserts that “this Court starts from the premise that social media platforms are not common carriers.”
The opinion justifies this finding with no precedent, but with circular reasoning that because social media companies currently discriminate, they cannot be regulated as common carriers. By Pitman’s reasoning, then, if a telephone company started to discriminate, the state of Texas could no longer regulate it as a common carrier.
Undermining the power of the state to regulate is indeed a strange move for liberals like Pitman, who generally welcome government power into every aspect of our lives. Pitman’s ruling reveals the left’s disturbing protectiveness of Big Tech and a preference for a public discourse controlled by content moderators.
Furthermore, in recognizing Big Tech’s deplatforming and censoring as a First Amendment-protected exercise of “editorial discretion,” the lower court is jeopardizing the bodies of civil rights and common carriage law by essentially asserting that discrimination is expression worthy of First Amendment protection.
Pitman and others on the left incorrectly view the First Amendment’s free speech guarantees as protecting Big Tech’s censorship, rather than preserving Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’s famous concept of the vigorous marketplace of ideas.
It is long past time for states to impose non-discrimination requirements on Big Tech and to hold these companies accountable for their viewpoint censorship. The Fifth Circuit should recognize the substantial government interest in doing so and reverse the lower court’s error-ridden decision. The Texas law would serve the nation as a model for restoring our cherished principles of free speech.
‘Simply put we deserve better than woke monopolists and their liberal lapdogs deciding what we can discuss.’
Some things never change. The corrupt media peddles false narratives, Big Tech censors conservatives for “disinformation,” and Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley absolutely takes them to town for it.
That’s what happened during a floor speech on Thursday when the Iowa lawmaker tore into tech companies and the corporate media for colluding to censor conservative viewpoints, especially those that threaten Democrat narratives such as the Russia collusion hoax. Grassley was personally irked after Facebook flagged one of his posts linking to a Fox News article as “false information.”
It was an article about new allegations against the Hillary Clinton campaign and its associates that were brought to light in Special Counsel John Durham’s Feb. 11 federal court filing. It cited Durham’s filing directly, as well as a former chief congressional investigator who became acutely knowledgeable about the situation while working on the Trump-Russia probe for the House Intelligence Committee under California Republican Rep. Devin Nunes.
“Why does Facebook and one of its third-party fact-checker partners get to make the decision that this news article is considered false information?” Grassley asked. “That decision should be made by the American people who should be able to view that content and decide for themselves. It shouldn’t be decided by our Big Tech overlords who seem to only find fault with content that is conservative or goes against the liberal narrative.”
Though useful idiots will retort that Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and the like don’t single out conservatives for censorship, the evidence suggests otherwise. Just this week, Twitter allowed the private information of people who had donated to the Canadian Freedom Convoy to spread on its site after a leftist hacked GiveSendGo and doxxed them. Yet Twitter cited its hacked materials policy as the justification for censoring the bombshell Hunter Biden laptop story right before the 2020 election, despite no evidence of hacking.
As Grassley mentioned, these are also the same tech and media companies that amplified the Steele dossier and broader fake Russia collusion narrative for years, and that are now “doing the bidding for the Clinton camp.”
“Why are they so afraid of reporting that exposes the Russia collusion hoax?” Grassley asked the question to which we already know the answer. It’s the massive hoax they staked their reputations and careers on and which has since unraveled piece by piece.
“This wouldn’t be an issue today if more journalists did their job of being the police of our society and reported on all investigations not just ones that appeal to a certain political party,” Grassley said. “What kind of message does this censorship send to a reporter who does take on the new allegations against the Clinton campaign and its associates and its labeled disinformation?”
It’s time to rethink Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, Grassley prescribed, referring to the provision that grants tech monopolies immunity regarding its users’ content. Big Tech has weaponized the provision, however, using it in its ideological purges of what it calls “misinformation” and “dangerous” content.
“It has become increasingly clear that these dominant platforms controlling discussion and dialogue are more beholden to cancel culture and not to the fundamental free speech principles that this country was founded upon,” Grassley said. “…Simply put we deserve better than woke monopolists and their liberal lapdogs deciding what we can discuss.”
… and the fact-checkers actually are
The Biden administration thinks you, the American people, are stupid. That much is clear given its response this week to a Washington Free Beacon report exposing the administration’s plan to “fund the distribution of crack pipes to drug addicts as part of its plan to advance ‘racial equity.'”
Despite confirming the details of reporter Patrick Hauf’s story, the Department of Health and Human Services subsequently determined—more than 24 hours after publication—that the story was “blatant misinformation.” A spokesperson offered no evidence to support this claim. Asked for clarification, the spokesperson responded 10 hours later to denounce once again the report as “misleading and misinformed” but offered no evidence as justification.
Media “fact-checkers” willingly repurposed the administration’s talking points in an attempt to discredit our reporting. Not surprisingly, the result was an incoherent mess. Snopes, for example, said our story was “mostly false” because crack pipes were “just one of around 20 components of the grant program.” (We know, because we listed several others in the report, such as “syringes, vaccinations, disease screenings, condoms, and fentanyl strips.”) Not a single word contradicted what the Free Beacon reported.
Another “independent” “fact-check” by a website called Lead Stories (we’ve never heard of it, either) resulted in Facebook censoring the report for containing “false information.” The site was co-founded by a former CNN journalist and a Colorado personal injury attorney who has donated thousands of dollars to Democrats and zero dollars to Republicans, so it must be a reliable source.
Both fact checks have been updated after the administration announced on Wednesday that “no federal funding will be used” to distribute crack pipes to underserved communities in an effort to promote racial equity. White House press secretary Jen Psaki insisted that crack pipes “were never a part” of the “safe smoking kits” described in government documents. She blamed “inaccurate reporting” for the confusion.
The Drug Policy Alliance was also confused, and understandably so. The group’s executive director, Kassandra Frederique, accused the administration of “backtracking” and expressed disappointment that “they will no longer allow federal funding to go towards putting pipes in safer smoking supplies.”https://3675ec6066ba5383f948888a8eac51e0.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
Got that? The administration “will no longer” provide free crack pipes that “were never a part” of the taxpayer-funded smoking kits. Because the right-wing media are publishing “inaccurate reporting” and spreading “blatant disinformation.” It’s almost as if the White House is full of shit and thinks you’re stupid. (Fact check: They are and they do.)
That’s the only reasonable conclusion. The administration’s story is utter nonsense. Existing harm reduction programs across the country include pipes in the smoking kits they give to crack addicts. Take, for example, a program from California’s Department of Public Health, which openly advertises glass pipes. Other programs in cities such as Annapolis, Md., New Haven, Conn., and Seattle, Wash., all include crack pipes in their smoking kits.
These are exactly the sort of cities the administration was targeting when it announced the funding opportunity, and there is nothing in the announcement that tells these communities they would have to modify the contents of their smoking kits to qualify for funding. In fact, the HHS spokesman told the Free Beacon that the department does not specify what is in the kits, leaving that detail to program participants at the local level.
Even after the White House denial that crack pipes will be funded, the administration still won’t say it never planned to include them. “The department did not respond when asked by the New York Times if glass pipes were ever allowable under the grant provisions,” the paper wrote on Thursday evening.https://3675ec6066ba5383f948888a8eac51e0.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
Like most Democratic institutions, the Biden administration has a habit of dismissing inconvenient stories as “misinformation” without actually refuting them. Administration officials tend to lash out at anyone who questions their authority or expresses an ounce of skepticism. Last week, for example, journalists who requested evidence to back up the administration’s claims regarding a military strike in Syria or the situation in Ukraine were accused of siding with the enemy.
It makes sense that the Biden administration would be especially sensitive when it comes to inconvenient stories about crack pipes. But that doesn’t excuse the blatant misinformation or their shockingly low opinion of the American public’s intelligence. You deserve better and, at least according to the supporters of this administration’s original plan, so do America’s crackheads.
Advocacy groups point to Gigi Sohn's conflicts of interest, attacks on conservative networks
A conservative coalition is calling for senators to reject President Joe Biden’s nomination of Gigi Sohn to the Federal Communications Commission, citing her criticism of conservative networks and alleged conflicts of interest with businesses she would oversee as an FCC commissioner.
In a letter sent on Monday to Senate Commerce Committee chairwoman Maria Cantwell (D., Wash.) and ranking member Roger Wicker (R., Miss.), the coalition of 13 advocacy groups raised alarm over Sohn’s involvement with Locast, a now-defunct nonprofit streaming service that major broadcast networks sued for illegally streaming their content. The Washington Free Beacon reported last week that Locast skirted a hefty $32 million payout to the networks just one day after Biden announced Sohn—one of the company’s three directors—as his FCC pick. Following Sohn’s nomination, Locast settled with the networks for just $700,000.
Wicker last week said Locast’s settlement raised concerns over Sohn’s “future financial liability to a number of companies regulated by the FCC.” The conservative coalition agreed, arguing Sohn’s “sweetheart settlement” with networks she would regulate on the FCC marks a “pattern of questionable ethics.”
“We agree with [Wicker’s] concern regarding Sohn’s involvement with Locast streaming services, and the possibility of her future financial liability to several companies regulated by the FCC,” said the coalition, which includes free market advocates and fiscal conservative groups such as the Center for a Free Economy and the Institute for Liberty. “Even the National Association of Broadcasters publicly noted, ‘the ethics agreement that Ms. Sohn submitted to the Senate currently does not adequately address the inherent conflict presented by her recent leadership position at Locast and her potential role as an FCC commissioner.’”
The conservative groups also slammed Sohn for her incendiary remarks targeting conservative networks.
“Sohn has repeatedly called on the shuttering of conservative networks, going as far as calling Fox News, ‘state-sponsored propaganda,’” the coalition said. “Then as the New York Post faced suspension for their reporting on Hunter Biden, she publicly claimed, ‘anti-conservative bias on online platforms … is a bunch of BS.’ This is not how our nation’s top regulatory officials should conduct themselves.”
The coalition argued Sohn’s comments and her connection to the Locast settlement suggest she would not be an impartial commissioner on the powerful agency overseeing communications.
“The FCC is the enforcer of American media and allowing someone with extreme public biases and conflicts of interest to oversee this vital agency is a threat to our country’s basic principles of freedom,” the conservative groups said. “Americans deserve better.”
Sohn’s confirmation would give Democrats a 3-2 majority in the FCC, which could swing a vote on net neutrality, the Internet regulations that Trump administration FCC chair Ajit Pai repealed in 2017 and which Democrats have vowed to restore.
To corrupt media, Democrats, and Big Tech, anyone who protested the 2020 election is no different than the fools who stormed the U.S. Capitol.
n the one-year anniversary of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, the corporate media is working overtime to convince the American public that Republicans as a whole stormed the nation’s beacon of democracy at the beginning of 2021 and have waged a war on all that is good and decent. While lunatics and fools did invade the Capitol last January, tens of thousands of Americans peacefully assembled to demand answers from the government about what they believed to be the sloppiest election in which they’ve ever voted.
Political violence should always be condemned, but a majority of the people present in Washington, D.C., and on the Capitol grounds on Jan. 6 weren’t violent. Yes, hundreds of people stormed the U.S. Capitol in a riot, but tens of thousands of people of all ages, races, backgrounds, and lifestyles gathered together that day at the Save America Rally to protest the Democrats’ sleazy election manipulation and hear from President Donald Trump.
Crowds began to form early at the White House Ellipse where Trump was scheduled to speak beginning at noon. After hours of waiting in the cold, Trump supporters finally heard from the president, who encouraged them to head to Capitol grounds and “peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.” Following Trump’s urgings, tens of thousands of people slowly and peacefully marched to the Capitol grounds to rally at multiple planned events, all of which were permitted through the proper, official channels. Many of the peaceful protesters were unaware until the end of the day of the vandalizing and looting that had occurred inside the Capitol.
As multiple reports suggest, violence was not even considered by the vast majority of the rally attendees who simply wanted answers about what they saw as the messiest election in their lifetimes. Multiple states had used COVID-19 as an excuse to loosen absentee voting protocols, opening up a window for bad actors to push their preferred candidates to the top.
In Pennsylvania, the Democrat Party circumvented the state legislature and instead used the leftist courts to make six changes to the state’s Election Code ahead of the 2020 election. These changes included expanding mail-in voting and drop-boxes and relaxing verification standards for absentee ballots. Some key states and counties even accepted money from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg through shady election-manipulating organizations designed to increase Democratic voter turnout.
These voters became even angrier when they realized how corporate media and Big Tech worked together to suppress stories that should have tarnished Joe Biden’s reputation and therefore his chances in the election. Whether the Democrats and their media cronies agree, these voters had every right to be upset and express their frustration peacefully at the feet of the government, legislators, and the system that they felt had betrayed them.
The idea that everyone who was at the Capitol grounds that day is an insurrectionist is patently and deliberately false. Yet the same corporate media outlets, Big Tech oligarchs, and Democrats who defended the arson, looting, and crime associated with the political riots after George Floyd’s death as “fiery but mostly peaceful” branded nearly everyone within a 10-mile radius of the Capitol an insurrectionist. These institutions gladly overlooked the numerous accounts of peaceful assembly, to wrongly conflate the rioters with protesters. Anyone who protested the election was no different than the horned-hat guy and the other fools willing to vandalize the U.S. Capitol.
The mischaracterizations didn’t stop in January of last year. For urging their state legislatures to listen to and take action regarding their grievances, Republicans as a whole are still being smeared by The New York Times for engaging in a so-called “bloodless, legalized form” of the Capitol riot. Just because of how they vote, Republicans are shunned for using the legal, rightful means presented before them to enact change that ensures safe and secure elections.
It is a familiar tactic often employed by the anti-Trump crowd, who use everything in their power, including political censorship, to disparage and tear down the reputations of conservatives and the former president. They think that by tarring all Republicans as Jan. 6 insurrectionists, they can prevent future GOP victories, and therefore prevent Republicans from taking action to ensure that the sloppiness of 2020 is never repeated.
The corrupt media’s attempt to frame their failings as mere confirmation bias holds no truer than the Russia-collusion hoax they peddled for five years.
Soon after Special Counsel John Durham indicted Igor Danchenko, the “Primary Sub-Source” of the Steele dossier, on five counts of lying to the FBI, the press paused to feign a moment of public introspection. The corrupt media’s attempt to frame their failings as mere confirmation bias, however, holds no truer than the Russia-collusion hoax they peddled for five years.
The proof of this reality is seen in the prostitute sex tapes: the non-existent “golden showers” one and the verifiable, but ignored, Hunter Biden videos.
The first step of what appeared, at least momentarily, to be the kick-off of a mea culpa parade came earlier this month when the Washington Post amended large segments of two articles covering the Russia-collusion storyline, one from March 2017 and the second from February 2019.
Both articles had named Sergei Millian, a Belarusian-American businessman, as the individual identified as “Source D” in the Steele dossier. While Millian had long denied speaking with Danchenko or having any role in the dossier, it was only after Durham charged the Russian-born Danchenko and former Brookings Institute employee with lying about receiving a telephone call from Millian that the Post and other media outlets removed the claims.
Then, last week, The New York Times ran a “guest essay” by professor of journalism and former Columbia Journalism School dean Bill Grueskin, headlined, “How Did So Much of the Media Get the Steele Dossier So Wrong?”
To Grueskin the problem was multi-pronged. Grueskin’s prologue to why “so many were taken in so easily” was simple: The dossier seemed to confirm what they already suspected—a corruption of Donald Trump that spanned “from dodgy real estate negotiations to a sordid hotel-room tryst, all tied together by the president-elect’s obeisance to President Vladimir Putin of Russia.”
From there, Grueskin listed the problems, which amazingly all belonged to Trump. Trump “had long curried Mr. Putin’s favor” and “he and his family were eager to do business in Russia.” Then there was Trump’s choice of Paul Manafort as his campaign chair that “reinforced the idea that he was in the thrall of Russia.”
Adding to the perfect storm that explained the press failures, Grueskin posited that “journalists also had to deal with the fact that many of the denials came from confirmed liars.” Further complicating the matter, Grueskin wrote, was that “some reporters simply didn’t like or trust Mr. Trump, and didn’t want to appear to be on his side.”
Here, Grueskin quoted from former Times reporter Barry Meier’s book “Spooked”: “Plenty of reporters were skeptical of the dossier, but they hesitated to dismiss it, because they didn’t want to look like they were carrying water for Trump or his cronies.”
Bunk. The corrupt media did not fall for the Russia collusion hoax. They were part of it.
How else to explain the scathing email Jake Tapper sent BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith after the latter published the dossier? “I think your move makes the story less serious and credible[.] I think you damaged its impact,” the CNN anchor wrote.
On that point at least, Tapper was correct. The actual dossier—as opposed to select excerpts or word-smithed summaries pushed by the anti-Trump press—“was a laughably fake document.” When the public saw the “source,” they didn’t buy it, and, really, neither did the press.
For all corporate media’s ex post facto efforts to rationalize why they “fell” for the dossier, only one holds true: They didn’t like Trump, personally or politically.
Now, Joe Biden, they like. So when weeks before the November 2020 election, when The New York Post published multiple stories revealing damaging information recovered from an abandoned laptop bearing a Biden Foundation sticker, social media silenced the story and corporate media spun it as Russia disinformation.
The same folks who supposedly bought anonymous claims that Trump had paid prostitutes to pee on a bed the Obamas had once slept in found the actual videos of Hunter Biden with prostitutes unbelievable. Likewise, we are to believe Trump’s supposed shady business deals made the dossier plausible to the press, while unworthy of the media’s trust were genuine emails discussing a 10 percent cut reserved for the “Big Guy” as part of a Biden family deal being plotted with a Chinese energy giant.
And we are to suppose that the press that pushed the Russia collusion hoax did so hesitantly and out of a desire not “to carry water” for Trump and his cronies, all while they carried Biden over the finish line, where he now sits as the commander-in-chief across the virtual table from China’s Xi Jinping.
Sure, now the corporate media is expending some effort to report on Hunter Biden’s partnership in 2016 with a Chinese state-backed company that gave the communist organization ownership of an African cobalt mine. That profitable investment by the younger Biden gave China control over much of the world’s production of cobalt—an essential element for electric car batteries. With the Biden administration’s latest spending proposal earmarking billions for promoting electric vehicles, we now see reporters beginning to probe whether the president’s son remains a financial beneficiary of that deal.
But that the corrupt media turned a blind eye to the evidence of a China-Biden scandal in 2020 lays bare the lie that journalists fell for the dossier and the Russia-collusion conspiracy theory because of a confirmation bias. There was no confirmation bias in play—it was collusion, pure and simple.
Just when we thought it was safe, COVID is back. The delta variant is sweeping through the unvaccinated portion of the population, sending people to the hospital at an alarming rate. Government experts are once again talking openly about the need for masking protocols and the possibility of additional lockdowns just as the U.S. economy is starting to get back on its feet.
It’s clear America never really understood the disease, how it moved through the population, and why so many people died from it. It’s true the government’s response through two administrations have been uneven, sometimes swinging widely from one extreme to the other on important questions but the real blame for the public’s lack of comprehension of the dangers we face lies those to whom we look to explain what is going and why.
The surge in the number of people testing possible for the delta variant is once again dominating the national conversation as is the number of those people who end up hospitalized. Left out of the conversation is how this same variant appears to be considerably less lethal than the iteration of the disease believed by many to have originated in Wuhan, China.
You might think “More People Infected Yet Far Fewer Are Dying” would be a welcome headline. Most of us have yet to see it or anything like it. Whether that’s by design or another clue that the reporters and the experts who they interview about COVID aren’t as up to speed on what’s going on as they appear to be is something that itself probably needs to be investigated. Misinformation has been a problem throughout America’s COVID crisis and has led people to make all sorts of unwise decisions – the worst of which is probably the decision not to take the vaccine when there’s no valid medical or religious reason for abstaining.
As bad as that is, the push to have everyone take the vaccine regardless of the possible consequences does a near equal disservice to the American public. The failure of the “talking heads” to address various concerns people may have about the various vaccines while cheerleading for everyone to get vaccinated doesn’t help get people over their fears, real or imagined.
The root cause for all this is the public’s distrust of the media, which has been growing by leaps and bounds on both sides of the ideological aisle for more than a decade. Reporters promoting an agenda inside their reporting have shaken the average news consumer’s confidence they can be trusted to a significant degree. And when the coverage turns to “life and death” issues like the pandemic, that mistrust can produce fatal results.
A poll released Monday by Rasmussen Reports suggests it is the media rather than policymakers who are responsible for the COVID confusion. “Only 42 percent of Americans rate the media’s coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic excellent or good, and many have concerns about the accuracy of reporting on vaccine safety,” the pollster said. In a time of true crisis, a number that low should have news executives and network heads hanging their heads in shame.
Polls are not definitive but the trends they reflect tell us a great deal. According to Rasmussen Reports, the latest numbers are down from where they were in December 2020, when fully half the country said the coverage of the pandemic was “excellent or good.”
At the same time, the lack of confidence in COVID reporting may also be responsible for the spread of misinformation about the vaccine and the virus. “The number of Americans who think the media are exaggerating the COVID-19 threat has increased since December,” the polling firm reported, with the numbers now “dead even – 44 percent believe the media are exaggerating the coronavirus threat and the same percentage don’t think so.”
The poll found the distrust of the media to be generalized. “Among those who think the media are exaggerating the COVID-19 threat,” the polling firm found, “59 percent also don’t believe the media are accurately reporting about vaccine safety. By comparison, among those who don’t believe the media have exaggerated the coronavirus threat, 67 percent think the media are reporting accurately about the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.”
The fact younger Americans are choosing to reject the vaccine, something policymakers say is a significant factor in the way the number of confirmed cases of COVID-Delta has spiked over recent weeks, also appears correlated to attitudes about the media. In the poll, 48 percent of those under age 40 said they believed “the COVID-19 threat is exaggerated by the media,” while just 34 percent of those aged 65 and older said it was. Additionally, 38 percent of those participating in the survey said they thought “the media aren’t reporting accurately about the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines,” which probably explains a lot about why so many Americans have chosen not to be vaccinated.
The survey of 1,000 U.S. American Adults was conducted on July 21-22, 2021, by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence.
An overwhelming number of Americans likely to vote in the November 2022 election said they were troubled to one degree or another by the problem of “fake news,” a survey released Friday said, likely prompting them to view the information they are getting from traditional media outlets with a degree of distrust.
The poll conducted by the firm Rasmussen Reports found a vast majority of the 1,000 likely voters questioned – 83 percent – called “fake news” was a serious problem. A clear majority – 55 percent – defined it as “very serious.”
“Only 37 percent of voters say they trust the political news they’re getting, while 43 percent say they don’t trust political news,” the polling firm reported, calling it a “slight improvement” since April 2021 when a similar survey found only 33 percent of respondents said they “trusted political news.” That same poll had 54 percent of those participating saying they thought “most reporters, when they write or talk about President Joe Biden, are trying to help the president pass his agenda.”
Distrust of media, the poll showed, is widespread across all demographic categories, with 54 percent of whites, 56 percent of black voters, and 60 percent described as “other minorities” believing “fake news” is a “very serious problem in the media.”
Alarming as those numbers might be, even more shocking – but perhaps not unsurprising – is the number of respondents in agreement with the characterization of the media as “truly the enemy of the people,” an accusation made by former President Donald J. Trump that was widely criticized even by some journalists who are not considered members of the media elite.
The Rasmussen Reports survey found a majority of those surveyed – 58 percent — saying they agreed “at least somewhat” with Trump’s description including 56 percent of whites, 63 percent of blacks, and 60 percent of other minorities considered likely to vote in the next election.
“As might be expected, Republicans are more likely to agree with Trump’s description,” the firm said of its findings while cautioning that “37 percent of Democrats and 61 percent of voters not affiliated with either major party also at least somewhat agree.”
The poll finds members of the GOP also more likely to identify “fake news” as a problem but, incredibly, 74 percent of Democrats and 82 percent of unaffiliated voters also thought it was “at least a somewhat serious problem in the media.”
The numbers concerning Democrats and independents are surprising considering that, as Rasmussen Reports found, it’s President Joe Biden’s strongest supporters who “have more trust” in the media than those who are not satisfied with the direction his presidency is taking.
“Among voters who strongly approve of Biden’s job performance as president, 72 percent trust the political news they’re getting,” Rasmussen Reports said. “By contrast, among voters who strongly disapprove of Biden’s performance, 74 percent don’t trust the political news they’re getting.”
By resisting censorship from the government, corporations, or cancel mobs, we reaffirm the value of the freedoms won and cherished in centuries past.
As I wrote in a preceding essay, the First Amendment was written to limit the government’s power. In the 18th century, only the state was conceived as possibly wielding the power to keep free people from speaking their minds. Thus, if maintaining a free people requires free speech, it followed that the government must be kept from controlling speech. For a long time, no more was necessary, but that would change.
As the United States grew in population and prosperity, there was very little agitation against business. There did not need to be. Most businesses were small affairs, owned by one man or one family, employing a handful of workers. Relations between labor and management were dealt with between individuals.
n 1854, Abraham Lincoln summarized this small-scale economy, speaking of a system in which a man “may look forward and hope to be a hired laborer this year and the next, work for himself afterward, and finally to hire men to work for him! That is the true system.”
Yet as corporations grew in size and power, that “true system” changed. Instead of one apprentice negotiating with an owner, a company that employed thousands would tell workers what they would get: take it or leave it.
In response, workers began to join together in trade unions, leveling the playing field, although diminishing their own independence. The balance between workers and management was restored, but the growing power of corporations still overpowered that of individual consumers.
Antitrust and utility laws were the response, but none of this much affected the realm of free speech. There was no news monopoly — newspapers were more plentiful than today — and restrictions on the new technology of radio came from the government, not the station owners. The biggest threat to the practice of free speech remained the state.
Although the two streams of jurisprudence here — anti-monopoly and free speech — did not much overlap in the early twentieth century, some of the same great thinkers were doing work in both. Foremost among these was Louis Brandeis, who joined the Supreme Court in 1916.
Brandeis was a progressive who saw Big Government and Big Business as equally threatening to the average American. Although he focused more on the growth of corporate power in his days as a private lawyer, Brandeis saw the danger in the government becoming too powerful. His solution was to resist consolidation in both regards — keep businesses small and local, and the government could stay small, too.
In regards to free speech, Brandeis also led the resistance to censorship, although often unsuccessfully. While American citizens were the freest in the world in their right to speak and publish, limits remained.
The so-called “Red Scare” that followed communist revolutions in Europe led governments to clamp down on people’s right to advocate socialist ideas in America. In Whitney v. California in 1924, the Supreme Court heard a challenge to one such law. Brandeis was in the minority, but Whitney soon became one of the rare cases more famous for the dissent than for the opinion of the court. Brandeis wrote:
Those who won our independence believed that the final end of the State was to make men free to develop their faculties; and that in its government the deliberative forces should prevail over the arbitrary. They valued liberty both as an end and as a means. They believed liberty to be the secret of happiness and courage to be the secret of liberty. They believed that freedom to think as you will and to speak as you think are means indispensable to the discovery and spread of political truth; that without free speech and assembly discussion would be futile; that with them, discussion affords ordinarily adequate protection against the dissemination of noxious doctrine; that the greatest menace to freedom is an inert people; that public discussion is a political duty; and that this should be a fundamental principle of the American government.
Brandeis’s words remain one of the great summaries of the custom and law of free speech in America and follows the line of thinking started by Milton and Locke. In 1969, the Supreme Court adopted Brandeis’s ideas and overturned Whitney.
Since then, the government’s attempts to restrict free speech have mostly been rebuffed. Some efforts, like the censorship at issue in the 2010 case of Citizens United v. FEC, nearly succeeded, but most failed and failed quickly. The struggle for free speech in law trends toward greater liberty.
Today, however, something novel is happening in America: private actors have become a greater threat to free speech than the government is. Part of that comes from a laudable achievement — we have tamed free speech’s historical foe, the state. But part also comes from the rise of new means of communication that not only displace the old but are uniquely susceptible to monopolization in a way the old media were not.
That means that for the first time, corporate power might be a greater threat to our rights — especially our right to free speech — than the power wielded by the state. This accounts in part for the recent resurgence in antitrust advocacy.
Not long ago, there was considerable diversity not only in the sources of news and entertainment but also in the distribution of such things. Not only have the sources of news been subject to consolidation, but they have become separated from the methods by which they reach us. This vertical dis-integration might be seen as an antitrust success, except that the distribution methods are even more consolidated than the news sources.
The “distribution sources” in question are the social media giants of Facebook and Twitter, along with less powerful players in the field like Reddit and LinkedIn. Instagram and WhatsApp are also cited as delivery methods for news, but it does little good to mention them since they are both owned by Facebook. Consolidation across Silicon Valley has narrowed the real players in Big Tech to about half a dozen: Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft among them.
As far as free speech is concerned, some of these players are more dangerous than others, but the interaction among them is also a problem. Six big technological competitors might look like a healthy industry, but it is an illusion. While they clash at times, these Big Six have divided up the tech world much as the 19th-century colonial powers divided up the globe. Spheres of influence are mutually respected and the political aims of each align with the others.
First, the social media giants established monopolies in their respective fields. As companies grow in power, they exert control over their marketplaces. They evaded detection in doing so because their monopolies are different from those of the past.
What they monopolize is not a commercial product like Standard Oil’s monopoly on kerosene. Their monopoly is on access to a thing they created and that, outside of their network, cannot exist. As I wrote in the Washington Examiner last year:
There is no place to tweet except Twitter; there is no way to create Facebook posts outside Facebook. If Facebook or Twitter delete your posts or restrict your account, that network is closed to you, and each is a network that increasingly dominates the exchange of ideas. Even beyond the market for news and commentary, access to social media for businesses (especially Facebook) can be a make-or-break proposition.
The monopoly is on each social media company’s network, and the danger is in our increasing reliance on those networks to convey ideas. By 2019, a majority of Americans said they often or sometimes got their news over social media, and the number increases every year.
Unlike old-fashioned monopolies, social media companies use their power not only to exclude competitors but also to exclude customers with whom they disagree. AT&T wanted to control all telephony, but at least they only wanted your money. Facebook and Twitter also want to limit what you say, the equivalent of a telephone operator breaking in to shut down phone calls that their bosses find distasteful.
The Department of Justice shattered AT&T’s monopoly in the 1980s, breaking the company into several “Baby Bells.” The result was cheaper, better telephone service for everyone.
But that precise solution will not work for social media. No one is concerned about the price of a service that is given away for free, and the quality of the apps was never the problem. This network, and equal access to it, is the issue. Destroying that network would make service worse, not better. Moreover, it misses the point.
The intersection of monopoly power with free speech is something new. Even beyond the threat of exclusion from a social media company’s network, the collusion among the networks further stifles free expression. Consider the treatment of a rival social network.
In reaction to Twitter shutting down accounts with whose content it disagreed, two entrepreneurs launched an alternative site, Gab, in 2016. It went public in 2017 and seemed to offer the traditional alternative for dissatisfaction with a business: taking your business elsewhere. If the dispute with Twitter had been a traditional one, such as price or quality, that would have solved the problem.
But the nature of Twitter’s monopoly worked against Gab. Twitter users who had not been banned were reluctant to leave the network, because as unhappy as they were with it, it still offered the best forum for reaching a mass audience. Some maintained accounts at both sites, but only the banned — those who had no other option — were active users at Gab. Google decided it was a hate forum and removed it from their Play Store. Apple had never allowed it in the first place.
Gab was then restricted only to people extremely motivated to seek it out, and it became a deeply unpleasant echo chamber. When it emerged that the perpetrator of the 2018 mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue was an active Gab user, the site was forever known as the home of murderous extremists. The providers that hosted them terminated their arrangements, forcing it further underground. The same process played out with Parler in 2020, and it will play out again for the next would-be Twitter competitor.
Mainstream opinion is unbothered. Few had heard of Gab or Parler, which they could not find in their phone’s app stores, and many who were aware of it associated it with Nazis. Shutting them down was good riddance to bad rubbish.
Those few who raised free speech concerns were told to read the law, as though that is all there is to our ancient liberty. Recent episodes of tech censorship have involved a larger combination of tech companies and taken in a larger swath of users — including a former American president.
The drive to stifle speech is not limited to social media. Other tech monopolies have flexed their muscles. Amazon, which controls a majority of book sales in the United States, has started deciding which kinds of books it will allow. Anything that explores sexual orientation or gender dysphoria as mental illnesses is now forbidden. Tweets and Facebook posts on the subject are also likely to be censored if they voice the “wrong” opinions.
If free speech is necessary to enable individuals to discover virtue and choose their leaders, then monopoly censorship is just as harmful as government censorship. Even beyond the specific harm of stifling free expression, it does harm to the idea of free speech itself.
Legalistic denials from Big Tech supporters — “it’s not censorship if it’s not the government!” — miss the point. By allowing continued monopolies over segments of the public square and acquiescing in a restriction of free thought there, we erode the principle of free speech while piously upholding the laws that do nothing against this new threat.
As long as people believe in free speech, it will endure. According to a 2020 poll by Pew, a majority of Americans see the social media threat for what it is: censorship. That is good news. People are not distracted by the distinction of government and non-government; they see a powerful force trying to muzzle them and do not like it. The people understand that this right belongs to them and will resist anyone who tries to take it away.
The bad news is that such sentiments are declining. Americans, especially the young, increasingly are intolerant of speech that they hate. Instead of the liberty and courage that Brandeis extolled, they seek to decide public questions with private force. Milton and Locke would recognize the methods from their own times, although the actors and questions debated have changed.
That same 2020 Pew poll showed a majority of Democrats endorsing social media companies’ labeling of “inaccurate” tweets and posts. Polling by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) that same year finds that significant percentages of college students support suppressing unpopular speech through heckler’s veto (27 percent) or blocking entry to an event (11 percent). Only 4 percent of those surveyed claimed that it was acceptable to use violence to suppress offensive speech, but that is still too many.
We all have reason to doubt the accuracy of polling after the failures of the last few years, but there can be no doubt that the principle of free expression is under renewed threat. Looking at that threat requires reacquainting ourselves with the history of free speech and monopolies. Our forefathers fought censorship and fought monopolistic abuses, but political battles are rarely won for all time. These two are back, joined up in novel fashion, but no different than what came before.
The lessons of Milton, Locke, Bastiat, Lincoln, and Brandeis must guide a new generation to protect our ancient freedoms. If we fail, those freedoms will fade from memory and their protection in law will fade with them. We may vote for legislators, but few of us will ever directly influence the words of a law.
In the custom that underpins the law, though, we all have a role to play. By resisting censorship from the government, corporations, or cancel mobs, we remind the world of the value of the freedoms won and cherished in centuries past, and further reinforce them for the challenges to yet come.
The folks who came up with the term “fake news” – no one has ever claimed credit for it – probably rue the day they did. Originally the term was going to be used to discredit anything that appeared in an outlet that wasn’t part of the media elite which contradicted the dominant liberal narrative or painted progressives and their policies in an unfavorable light.
Oh, for the schemes of mice and men, as Robert Burns put it.
Before those behind this grand experiment in thought control could get all the fact-checkers, news outlets, and academics ready to make it work, Donald Trump appeared on the scene and expropriated the term. In the blink of an eye, what was supposed to be an ad hominem attack on Fox News and other conservative outlets came to be synonymous with liberal media distortions of the day’s news.
Now, say published reports, it appears “fake news” is a real thing and, just as the liberals alleged, there are a couple of Murdochs behind it all. Only it’s not Rupert. It’s his younger son from his first marriage James who, along with his wife Kathryn reportedly made significant contributions to a political action committee linked to a genuinely fake news operation allied with the Democrats.
The younger Murdoch, who at one time occupied senior management positions in companies owned by his father as well as a member of the News Corp. board of directors, severed his ties with the family business several years ago, allegedly over concerns of information bias. How odd it is then that he and his wife are now linked to a $500,000 contribution to Pacronym, a super PAC that, according to its website is “affiliated with ACRONYM” – a group that Federal Elections Commission records indicate funded a pseudo-news outlet called “Courier Newsroom,” which circulated Democratic Party and anti-Trump propaganda disguised as legitimate reporting.
The “Courier Newsroom” operated what one newspaper called a network of “impostor news outlets” in electorally critical states such as Arizona, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. Democratic Party talking points and candidate press releases were rewritten by the outlets and uploaded to the web as though they were legitimate news stories. It was essentially a political operation, National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Michael McAdams told National Review last October, “funded by a host of liberal billionaire donors” and “poster child for House Democrats’ complete and total hypocrisy when it comes to dark money and fake news.”
It’s a remarkable turn of events given the younger Murdoch’s outrage, purportedly shared by his wife, at the way so-called disinformation propagated by media outlets like those controlled by News Corp. created an atmosphere leading to events like Trump’s 2016 election, the contest of his 2020 loss, and the disturbance at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 – which led directly to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., launching an effort to impeach the 45th president of the United States for a second time and have him removed from office before the end of his term.
“Spreading disinformation — whether about the election, public health or climate change — has real-world consequences,” the younger Murdochs recently said to the Financial Times. “Many media property owners have as much responsibility as the elected officials who know the truth but instead choose to propagate lies. We hope the awful scenes we have all been seeing (at the U.S. Capitol) will finally convince those enablers to repudiate the toxic politics they have promoted once and forever.”
One is tempted to shout “physician heal thyself’ at James and Kathryn Murdoch but it would likely do little good. Whether the contempt he’s shown for honest reporting through this and potential other contributions – neither are talking about how they’ve been spending their political money – is driven by a familial dispute, ideological concerns, or the kind of liberal social consciousness commonly found among the members of the second and third-generation descendants of those who built great companies of tremendous value is not important; sad perhaps, but not a critical component of a drama that some might say has hints of Shakespeare about it.
What truly matters is the shameful way the younger Murdochs have allegedly used resources at their disposal thanks to their father’s success to distort both the news and the political process.
Thanks to the technological advances that have made the Internet the main source of news about global current, it is easier than it once was to pull the wool over the eyes of the people. And, because P.T. Barnum’s still not been proved wrong, information that appears on the web that looks real is too often mistaken as being real.
James Murdoch and his billionaire cohorts who allegedly funded it all and the political operatives who came up with the idea for who knows how many pseudo-news platforms ought to be ashamed of their actions. They cheapened the process and the news business, a vocation some of us still consider to be an honorable profession.
In a blistering dissent, Judge Laurence Silberman said The New York Times and Washington Post are 'Democratic Party broadsheets.'
The control of major media by one political party is a dangerous threat to the country, a federal judge warned in a blistering dissent that called for courts to revisit libel laws that generally protect the press from being held liable for their reporting.
“It should be borne in mind that the first step taken by any potential authoritarian or dictatorial regime is to gain control of communications, particularly the delivery of news,” wrote Judge Laurence Silberman of the D.C. Circuit for the Court of Appeals. “It is fair to conclude, therefore, that one-party control of the press and media is a threat to a viable democracy.”
Silberman argued that it’s time for courts to revisit New York Times v. Sullivan, which has shaped press law in favor of media outlets for more than five decades. The New York Times and the Washington Post “are virtually Democratic Party broadsheets. And the news section of The Wall Street Journal leans in the same direction,” Judge Silberman wrote in his March 19 dissent.
He said that orientation also controls the Associated Press and most large papers in the country, including the Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, and Boston Globe. “Nearly all television—network and cable—is a Democratic Party trumpet,” Judge Silberman added.
Silicon Valley also has “enormous influence” over the distribution of news and it “similarly filters news delivery in ways favorable to the Democratic Party,” wrote Judge Silberman, highlighting the shocking suppression of stories about Joe Biden and his family when he was running for president.
In that case, Twitter and Facebook censored media outlets that reported accurately about the Biden family’s dealing with foreign entities. Twitter suspended users, including sitting White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, for merely sharing accurate information, and prevented people from sharing the information privately on its platform. Facebook said it would censor coverage of the Biden family corruption pending a “fact-check,” an unprecedented privilege given to Biden in the closing days of one of the closest presidential elections in history.
Only a few major media outlets are not controlled by the left, Silberman noted, citing Fox News, where this reporter is a contributor, the New York Post, and The Wall Street Journal. “It should be sobering for those concerned about news bias that these institutions are controlled by a single man and his son. Will a lone holdout remain in what is otherwise a frighteningly orthodox media culture? After all, there are serious efforts to muzzle Fox News,” he wrote. CNN hosts and other leftist activsts are currently on a campaign to deplatform their rival.
“Admittedly, a number of Fox’s commentators lean as far to the right as the commentators and reporters of the mainstream outlets lean to the left,” Silberman wrote in a footnote, in a dig at reporters inserting their extreme partisan views into news stories.
A New York Supreme Court judge last week ruled against The New York Times’ effort to get a defamation suit against it dismissed. The Times had said that its reporters were inserting opinion into news stories, and that opinions are not actionable for defamation. The argument didn’t hold sway with the judge, who critiqued the blending of news and opinion in purported news stories.
Another footnote critiqued the tepid response of some to “big tech’s behavior” censoring conservative speech. Silberman called repression of political speech in large institutions with market power “fundamentally un-American.”
“Some emphasize these companies are private and therefore not subject to the First Amendment. Yet—even if correct— it is not an adequate excuse for big tech’s bias. The First Amendment is more than just a legal provision: It embodies the most important value of American Democracy. Repression of political speech by large institutions with market power therefore is—I say this advisedly—fundamentally un-American,” Silberman wrote.
He then cited Tim Groseclose’s book, “Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind,” which empirically argued that media bias even a decade ago gave Democrat candidates an 8-10 point advantage. “And now, a decade after this book’s publication, the press and media do not even pretend to be neutral news services.” Silberman noted.
“The First Amendment guarantees a free press to foster a vibrant trade in ideas. But a biased press can distort the marketplace. And when the media has proven its willingness—if not eagerness—to so distort, it is a profound mistake to stand by unjustified legal rules that serve only to enhance the press’ power,” Silberman concluded.
The movie that couldn’t be made from the story that couldn’t be told (because of mainstream and social media suppression ahead of the November 2020 election) is soon coming to a theater near you. Filmmakers Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney have announced they’ll begin shooting the Hunter Biden story – in all its embarrassing glory – sometime in the summer of 2021.
The film, tentatively titled “My Son Hunter” will, the website says, “tell the story of the Biden Family Corruption through the eyes of Hunter Biden. You will be shocked by what you see on screen. You may think you know the story, but the truth is more damning than you could ever imagine!”
In interviews about the project, McAleer and McElhinney have said they intend to examine the life and exploits of President Joe Biden’s son younger son Hunter by focusing on “established facts” rather than speculation or conspiracy theories of the kind that circulated widely in the months leading up to the last election.
“Somebody has to tell this story, so we decided to make this movie,” McAleer told Fox News. “People need to know this story. It’s about some of the most powerful people in the country. Nobody knows it. But it’s shocking.”
The younger Biden’s life and business dealings were subjected to much speculation during the fall campaign. Allegations that he acted as a go-between or bagman for his father while the elder Biden was Vice President of the United States were seized upon by supporters of then-President Donald Trump who used them to try and blacken his opponent’s reputation.
The allegations were given a momentous push forward after stories began to circulate that a laptop had been located in a Delaware repair shop containing salacious material that might confirm some or all of the stories about financial misdeeds and international corruption that were being spread about the younger Biden’s activities Those stories, which were eventually published in the New York Post, were later suppressed by social media outlets including Twitter which took the then-extraordinary step of suspending the paper’s account to keep the story from spreading.
McAleer and McElhinney are hoping, they said, to raise $2.5 million over the next 60 days to fund the project but show little concern they will be unable to do it. A previous crowdfunding effort of theirs raised more than $2.3 million which they used to make an eponymous film about Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell that was released to theaters in October 2018.
Hunter Biden, who has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, is under investigation by the federal government over tax matters as well as his business dealings in China and Ukraine. Overseeing the inquiry is David Weiss, a Trump-era appointee to the position of United States Attorney for Delaware who was asked to stay on in his current role in early February after almost all other U.S. Attorneys were asked by the Biden Administration to submit their resignations by the end of the month.
“This is an incredibly fascinating story,” McElhinney said. “It’s ‘Austin Powers’ meets ‘King Lear’ with a dash of ‘House of Cards.’ The story is so compelling that viewers on both sides of the aisle will find it incredibly entertaining.”
No casting choices have been announced and the script, McAleer said, was still in production. Filming is expected to begin in the summer of 2021, somewhere in Eastern Europe.
About a month ago, news consumers were belatedly informed that New York governor Andrew Cuomo was not a pandemic hero, the Lincoln Project was not filled with noble Republican idealists who were effectively persuading conservatives to stop supporting Donald Trump, and progressive policies were not helping the least fortunate in California. This week, the media belatedly recognize that the evidence for soaring hate crimes against Asian Americans is much less reliable than initially reported, that the survey data reveal that liberal perceptions of police shootings are wildly at odds with the verifiable facts, and that recent headlines exaggerated the conclusions of a CDC report on government mask mandates.
Some days I feel as if I might as well rename this newsletter, “Here’s what the data actually say . . .”
A Lot of What the Media Told You Was Wrong, Part One
The New York Times, February 27: “Hate crimes involving Asian-American victims soared in New York City last year. Officials are grappling with the problem even as new incidents occur.”
USA Today: “Hate crimes against Asian Americans are on the rise.”
Jay Caspian Kang, writing in the New York Times op-ed page, Sunday:
There are claims of a huge national spike in anti-Asian hate crimes, but they largely relyon self-reported data from organizations like Stop AAPI Hate that popped up after the start of the pandemic. These resources are valuable, but they also use as their comparison point spotty and famously unreliable official hate crime statistics from law enforcement. If we cannot really tell how many hate crimes took place before, can we really argue that there has been a surge?
There have also been reports that suggest that these attacks be placed within the context of rising crime nationwide, especially in large cities. What initially appears to be a crime wave targeting Asians might just be a few data points in a more raceless story.
There have also been condemnations of Donald Trump and how his repeated use of the phrase “China virus” to describe the coronavirus and his invocation of white supremacy might be responsible. But how does that explain the attacks by Black people? Were they also acting as Mr. Trump’s white supremacist henchmen? Do we really believe that there is some coordinated plan by Black people to brutalize Asian-Americans?
It is also worth noting that a report that generated the frightening headline, “Hate Crimes Targeting Asian Americans Spiked by 150% in Major US Cities” showed wildly different circumstances in different cities. The report identified 122 incidents of anti-Asian-American hate crimes in 16 of the country’s most populous cities in 2020. Almost a quarter of them, 28, occurred in New York City. The top four cities — New York, Los Angeles, Boston, and Seattle — were the location for 57 percent of all cases in the study. In Cincinnati, the number of hate crimes targeting Asian Americans increased from zero in 2019 to one in 2020, and San Diego had the same figures. Chicago stayed level with two each year. Denver and Houston increased from zero to three. Washington, D.C., declined from six to three.
Every crime is worthy of investigation and prosecution, and even one case of someone being targeted for a crime because of their race, religion, or heritage is one too many. But in this situation, it appears that the existing spotty statistics are being shoehorned into place to support a narrative of a worsening crisis. The headline “Hate Crimes Targeting Asian Americans Spike in a Few US Cities, Rare in Others” wouldn’t attract quite so much attention.
Of course, the only way society can investigate and prosecute hate crimes is with an effective police force, and there’s not exactly a broad political consensus in support of the police now, is there?
A Lot of What the Media Told You Was Wrong, Part Two
That deep political division about the quality of American policing stems from wildly disparate beliefs about what the police do.All Our Opinion in Your Inbox
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The Civil Unrest and Presidential Election Study (CUPES) survey, completed last month, asked 980 adults two questions. The first was, “If you had to guess, how many unarmed Black men were killed by police in 2019?” Options ranged from “about 10” to “more than 10,000” The second question was “If you had to guess, in 2019 what percentage of people killed by police were Black?” Respondents could choose any number from 0 to 100.
According to the Washington Post database, regarded by Nature magazine as the “most complete database” of its kind, 13 unarmed black men were fatally shot by police in 2019. According to a second database called “Mapping Police Violence,” compiled by data scientists and activists, 27 unarmed black men were killed by police (by any means) in 2019.
The CUPES survey found that “over half (53.5 percent) of those reporting ‘very liberal’ political views estimated that 1,000 or more unarmed black men were killed,” and 26.6 percent of those identifying as “liberal” believed it was “about 1,000.” Fourteen percent of those identifying as “very liberal” believed “about 10,000” unarmed black men were killed, and almost 8 percent of those identifying as “very liberal” believed that more black men were killed by police in 2019.
The study noted that, according to peer-reviewed research, 26.7 percent of the victims of police-shooting fatalities between 2015 and 2020, were black. Another source, BBC News’s “Reality Check Team,” reported that in 2019 specifically, 23.4 percent of the victims of police-shooting fatalities were black.
The second question found similar results. “Those who reported being ‘liberal’ or ‘very liberal’ were particularly inaccurate” in their guesses of what percentage of people killed by police were black, “estimating the proportion to be 56 percent and 60 percent, respectively.”
If you walked around believing that 1,000 or 10,000 or even more unarmed black men were killed by police each year, with minimal if any consequences, you would probably distrust the police and want to see them abolished or defunded or, at minimum, torn down and rebuilt from the ground up with a completely different culture.
A Lot of What the Media Told You Was Wrong, Part Three
Before we go any further, I’m pro-wearing masks. I don’t think they provide perfect protection. I think KN95s are more effective than cloth masks, and cloth masks are better than nothing. I think wearing your mask on your chin is ridiculous. And while we’re still collecting data, the evidence we have is that full vaccination makes people much less likely to spread the virus — so there is little reason for groups of vaccinated people to wear masks around one another. And if you’re going to go into a restaurant, it’s best to try to maintain that six-foot distance between you and members of your household and everyone else, particularly when unmasked and eating.
You probably saw the headline, “CDC study finds in-person dining bans and wearing masks make a difference.”
The CDC compared county-level data on mask mandates and restaurant re-openings with county-level changes in COVID-19 case- and death-growth rates relative to the mandate-implementation and reopening dates. When you dig deep into the actual CDC report, you find:
During March 1–December 31, 2020, state-issued mask mandates applied in 2,313 (73.6 percent) of the 3,142 U.S. counties. Mask mandates were associated with a 0.5 percentage point decrease (p = 0.02) in daily COVID-19 case growth rates 1–20 days after implementation and decreases of 1.1, 1.5, 1.7, and 1.8 percentage points 21–40, 41–60, 61–80, and 81–100 days, respectively, after implementation (p<0.01 for all) (Table 1) (Figure). Mask mandates were associated with a 0.7 percentage point decrease (p = 0.03) in daily COVID-19 death growth rates 1–20 days after implementation and decreases of 1.0, 1.4, 1.6, and 1.9 percentage points 21–40, 41–60, 61–80, and 81–100 days, respectively, after implementation (p<0.01 for all).
Notice the decrease was in the case- and death-growth rate, not the number of overall cases or deaths. And the difference in that rate of growth of both cases and deaths added up to less than 2 percent over a three-month period. That’s not nothing; we obviously want to prevent every death that we can. But that’s also not a particularly dramatic difference.
A mask mandate may mitigate the death toll in a state, but not by much. The state that ranks the worst in COVID deaths per million residents is New Jersey, with 2,654, as of this writing. New Jersey was the first state to require masks at all businesses starting April 10, 2020, and outdoors in circumstances where social distancing is not possible since July 8, 2020. More than 90 percent of the state’s 23,557 deaths occurred since the former mandate was implemented.
The second state to enact a mask order was New York, which enacted a mask requirement April 15, 2020, and that state ranks second worst in COVID deaths per million residents, at 2,497. The states that rank at the bottom in deaths per million residents are Hawaii (mask requirement), Vermont (mask requirement), and Alaska (no mask requirement).