Jesse Jackson can't swim*
*Don't shoot me, it's the punchline to an old (and not racist) joke
When he was running for President, Jesse Jackson used to say that if he walked on water, the next day’s headlines would proclaim “Jesse Can’t Swim.”
I’m starting to understand how he felt.
(Email chain among Twitter employees, March 14 and 15, 2021, before the White House began applying months of public and private pressure to force the company to ban my account: “He avoids making demonstrably false or misleading claims about COVID-19 vaccines.”)
(Yes, this is a new document from Berenson v. Twitter. Also, what’s blocked in blue is also very interesting - more to come on that.)
(72-HOUR PAYWALLED CONTENT BELOW):
I expected in April the elite media would ignore federal district Judge William Alsup’s ruling refusing to dismiss my lawsuit against Twitter over my ban from the platform.
I expected in July it would ignore my return to Twitter - though my reinstatement marked the first time (as far as anyone knows) that a lawsuit forced any social media company to reinstate a banned user.
Now, thanks to documents from Berenson v. Twitter, I have proven - at a minimum - that last year the White House targeted me for my journalism (one man’s “misinformation” is another’s “reporting”). I have explained I intend to sue the White House for using Twitter to suppress my Constitutional rights.
I can’t think of a more important press freedom and First Amendment case since the Pentagon Papers 50 years ago. (Maybe you can.)
If you’ve forgotten, the Pentagon Papers were a classified government history of the Vietnam War which Daniel Ellsberg, a RAND Corporation analyst, leaked to the New York Times and Washington Post in 1971.
The Nixon Administration tried to keep the Times and Post from publishing articles based on the Pentagon Papers. The papers sued. And on June 30, 1971, in a 6-3 decision in New York Times Co. v United States, the Supreme Court ruled they had the right to publish.
In one opinion, Justice Hugo Black proclaimed the importance of the First Amendment and a free media in ringing tones:
The Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government's power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government… Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government.
Berenson v. Biden could give New York Times Co. v United States a run for its money as a landmark case.
First, years before the Times and Post published them, public opinion had turned decisively against the Vietnam War. By 1971, the war was winding down, albeit slowly, and they contained little information that was not already known.
In contrast, the debate about the value of mRNA vaccines and other Covid rages on. And last August, when Twitter banned me, the federal government was about to begin an unprecedented effort to force unvaccinated adults to get the shots or lose their jobs.
Second, the Biden Administration’s effort to persuade or force Twitter to ban me goes past prior restraint on a single article or series, no matter how important. The White House wanted to block my access to Twitter, what was by far my largest and most important outlet for journalism. It as if Nixon had tried to shut the entire New York Times, not just keep it from writing about Ellsberg’s leak.
Third, although I am back on Twitter, the company’s censorship is only worsening, in seeming violation of the California Constitution and possibly the (badly misinterpreted) Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act. Twitter is banning accounts of all sizes that are doing nothing but raising detailed and fact-based questions about the risks of the mRNA vaccines.
The bans are egregious and contrary to Twitter’s terms of service, but barring a successful lawsuit they appear likely to continue.
Yet - except for the Wall Street Journal’s opinion page - the elite media has essentially ignored not just my promise of a lawsuit against the Biden Administration but the documents I’ve already posted. (Thank you, WSJ op-ed page editors, for confirming this stuff actually matters; you are all that stands in the way of truly epic gaslighting.)
At this point, the silence has gone past simple story selection.
The question is why. How can the media not recognize the issues at play here?
Part of the reason is that these people don’t like me. I worked at the Times for a decade; people like me are supposed to regret leaving the paper, it is supposed to be the pinnacle of our careers. Instead my Substack has been successful financially, and I have a big audience here and now, once again, on Twitter.
And though I am not conservative, not really, I am well outside the liberal orthodoxy. Plus I’m obnoxious, with my BULLETINS FROM DR ANTHONY FAUCI and the rest. Back in April 2020, a Times reporter called me an “asshole” on Twitter, and I suspect that consensus holds. I don’t have too many friends left at the paper. In fact, if I have any at all, they’ve been very quiet.
But the real issue is much bigger than me.
Think about what the Pentagon Papers fight was really over: whether elite news organizations would have the chance to publish an elite document - a 47-volume history of a war that was nearly over - prepared by the government itself.
(Ben Bradlee and Kay Graham of the Washington Post, the ultimate insider outsiders, or vice-versa)
I don’t doubt the stakes were high and that the editors of the Times and Post were worried about their legal liability, but the case was basically a fight between insiders and semi-insiders.
I’m not an insider. Or a semi-insider. Maybe I was a semi-insider once, but not anymore. Nor are most of the people who’ve used Twitter and Substack over the last two years to break news about lab leaks and the failure of mitigation measures and now vaccines.
The press was to serve the governed, not the governors.
But what happens when the press becomes the governor, or allies with it so closely that the distinction is meaningless?
The Substack writer known as Eugyppius has brilliantly explained how academics have lost their ability to gatekeep - and the frustration that causes them. Something similar has happened in journalism. This is not to say that the Times, especially, does not remain highly powerful, but these elite outlets can no longer control the conversation. (Twitter is larger than all of them, which is why Twitter and keeping Twitter free matters so much.)
Their loss of power chafes the people who work for them. They are reacting the only way they can, by becoming more and more partisan and ideological, even if they now have to ignore stories that matter directly to them to do so.
So be it.
Let them ignore me. I have the Stack and Twitter, I have the documents, and I have all the legal help I need. I am free and unrestrained, as Justice Black wrote, and with your help I will continue to expose all the deception I can. Nobody’s happier than a reporter with subpoena power.
Wish me luck.