Two incidents in just the past week, though seemingly unconnected, demonstrated how ominous, and at times absurd, the leftist desire to control all information available to the public. The first involved a federal law enforcement agency encouraging a social media giant to clamp down on certain posts leading up to the 2020 election, while the second centered around a juvenile tantrum thrown by thin-skinned progressives who fear opposing points of view.
Neither episode speaks well of the state of free speech in America.
On the August 25th edition of Joe Rogan’s immensely popular podcast, Facebook founder and Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed the impetus for his platform’s squelching of the story of Hunter Biden’s laptop. He said the FBI had alerted Facebook to be wary of a burst of Russian propaganda in the weeks before the presidential election, so when the laptop story exploded, the platform reduced the number of users who could see the report.
Unable to quantify how many users were prevented from seeing the news, Mr. Zuckerberg did admit to Mr. Rogan that it was a “meaningful” number.
The world now knows, of course, that the laptop was always authentic, and linked Hunter Biden’s shady foreign influence-peddling with his father, now-President Joe Biden.
Part of Mr. Zuckerberg’s defense was that Twitter was worse by comparison, which is true. Twitter outright banned the sharing of the story and suspended the account of The New York Post, the paper which broke the story. In addition, virtually all mainstream corporate media outlets refused to report on the laptop, except for occasions when they parroted the lie that it was Russian disinformation.
Post-election polls have shown that a significant number of Mr. Biden voters in swing states would have changed their votes had they known about the laptop. There is no other way to describe this except as election interference, with the government and media working in coordination.
For nearly two years, leftists have excused this collusion by claiming that a private company can do what it wants and that the First Amendment only limits government actions to stifle free speech. But what’s the excuse when it becomes known that the government leaned on private companies in the first place?
The media, which would normally howl at government attempts to restrict free expression, shrugged over the revelation because they were involved in the scheme. This reaction just reinforces the common belief that the collective decision by the political media to suppress the Hunter Biden laptop story was the worst example of journalistic bias in decades.
Less important this week, but disturbing on its own, was the absolute nonsense that occurred at Podcast Movement, a gathering of podcasters that calls itself “the ultimate annual destination for diverse speakers,” among other things.
“Diverse” does not include conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, apparently.
Mr. Shapiro’s Daily Wire, a significant publisher of podcasting content, was a major sponsor of the event, so he stopped by the booth they had rented. It should be noted that Mr. Shapiro did not make public remarks.
A few leftist podcasters complained that just having Mr. Shapiro in their general vicinity made them feel “unsafe” because of his conservative views.
This is where Podcast Movement, which after all is committed to “diverse speakers,” would take a stand for free speech, right?
Podcast Movement issued what could be the most groveling, obsequious, and spineless apology in the storied history of leftist self-flagellation.
They confirmed that “Ben Shapiro briefly visited the PM22 expo near The Daily Wire booth” and took “full responsibility for the harm done by his presence.”
Yes, his “presence.”
“There’s no way around it,” they said, apologizing for accepting the Daily Wire’s sponsorship. “The weight of that decision is now painfully clear.”
It got worse.
“PM has made mistakes,” they continued. “The pain caused by this one will always stick with us.”
By the hyperbolic reaction, one might think that Mr. Shapiro had burst into the event and gone on a killing spree.
But the Daily Wire quickly released a video of Mr. Shapiro greeting visitors, shaking hands, and posing for pictures before quietly exiting the building with a small group.
The only “pain” here was experienced by sane people trying to understand why anyone would be so terrified of competing ideas. Inventing false “harms” and claiming victim status because an adversary is simply nearby, are the behaviors of people who intend to wipe out all true political discourse.
The real problem is that they’ve learned they can be successful, as anyone who follows the scourge of Cancel Culture can attest.
So, while the week gave us one very serious example of censorship and another dustup that was more ridiculous than anything else, they both point to one obvious conclusion: The right to free speech is in serious danger.
• Tim Murtaugh is a Washington Times columnist and the founder and principal of Line Drive Public Affairs, a communications consulting firm where he advises political candidates and corporate clients.