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Thou shalt not (censor)
More on the genius of Judge Terry Doughty's decision yesterday in the Missouri v Biden social media censorship case
Imagine if we learned Biden Administration officials had secretly jawboned the New York Times on trans issues. Or told baseball teams they should fly pride flags - or face antitrust hearings. Or complained to the History Channel over a documentary depicting the discovery of crude oil positively.
The First Amendment concerns would be obvious. We’d all wonder why government officials thought they could tell private companies what opinions and news to carry.
The American government is hugely powerful. Not even the biggest company can ignore a call from the White House. If the executive branch has something to say, it should do so with press conferences and open advertising - not secretly threaten the media to carry its water.
Yet when it comes to social media companies, the left has forgotten this simple fact. Instead it claims a new age of information warfare demands that the Constitution be set aside - as if propaganda campaigns haven’t always been a feature of mass media. It has forgotten the importance of an open marketplace for ideas and debate.
(THE MARKETPLACE FOR IDEAS IS OPEN. SHOP HERE!)
Now, in a lawsuit brought by two states against the federal government over social media censorship, a judge has reminded the left - and all of us - of what the First Amendment means and why it matters.
And he’s done so in the simplest, most profound possible way.
Yesterday, Judge Terry Doughty of the Western District of Louisiana issued a preliminary injunction that - in essence - tells the White House and much of the executive branch to stop bothering social media companies over opinions and reporting and other content they carry.
Judge Doughty’s ruling doesn’t violate the federal government’s own First Amendemnt rights to speak.
It doesn’t say the White House can’t use Facebook or Twitter. it doesn’t say the White House can’t express its own views on vaccines or Russia or other issues as forcefully as it likes. It doesn’t say that law enforcement agencies can’t go after child pornography or terrorist threats on social media.
What it says is government must end its aggressive and growing censorship and quasi-censorship complex - and whose reach and power Judge Doughty details in the 155-page memorandum supporting the injunction.
What is says is that if speech is legal and protected by the First Amendment, social media platforms have the right to carry it, and the federal government must stop telling them not to do so. (Whether social media platforms - especially the biggest ones - must carry that speech is a separate and much more complicated question, but that is NOT the issue here.)
(Hey, all you government officials telling us what we can and can’t think, stop, okay? Just stop.)
Doesn’t matter if the speech is true or half-true or false. Doesn’t matter if it’s anti-mRNA or pro, anti-lockdown or pro-, anti-Russia or anti-Ukraine, pro-Israel or pro-Palestine. Doesn’t matter if it says that Hunter Biden is the world’s worst crackhead or only in the top three, doesn’t matter if it says Uncle Joe pooped himself when he met the Pope (yes, this rumor was around for a while).
If an American says it on a social media site, and it’s legal, IT IS NOT THE BUSINESS OF THE WHITE HOUSE OR FBI OR ANYONE ELSE IN THE GOVERNMENT TO TRY TO SUPPRESS IT.
The government should stay away from telling media outlets what they can and cannot run - whether those media outlets are newspapers, cable companies, or anything else, including social media sites.
This genius of this vision it that is simple, clear, easy to understand, and obviously should apply equally whether Democrats or Republicans are in power.
Maybe I’m too hopeful, but I think that within a few months public opinion even on the left will have shifted hard against these unconstitutional efforts. I’m hopeful we will shake our heads over the fact that senior federal and law enforcement officials ever thought they could tell social media companies what opinions to carry.
I’m hopeful we will look at this censorship episode like World War 2 interment camps for Japanese-Americans - as a terrible, unconstitutional, never-to-be-repeated mistake.
And if we do, the power and clarity of Judge Doughty’s opinion will deserve a lot of the credit.