Attorney General Kris Mayes is fighting to continue government’s collusion with social media to control online speech.
Mayes joined a 21-state coalition of Democratic attorneys general to oppose a federal decision prohibiting federal officials from coordinating with social media companies to control speech. In a press release, the attorney general stated that control over free speech is paramount to public safety, implying that the government’s interest in maintaining this safety outweighed the constitutional right of speech.
“Social media companies and government officials must have open communication in order to ensure the safety of Americans online,” said Mayes. “A pillar of the U.S. government is to ensure the safety and wellbeing of its citizens. The lower court’s decision impedes on this protection and means federal, state and local officials cannot contact social media companies about dangerous online content.”
In an appeal led by New York, the 19 other attorneys general hail from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.
The coalition’s brief characterized speech control as “content moderation,” and argued that the federal government should maintain the ability to do so since it’s been doing it “[s]ince the advent of social media.”
“[I]n the experience of amici States, information-sharing and dialogue have not been coercive, but rather, helpful in ensuring that social media companies make fully informed decision about their own content moderation policies,” stated the brief.
The Louisiana Western District Court issued a preliminary injunction last month that barred the federal government from colluding with social media companies to regulate speech on their platforms.
Arizona leadership from both parties have either called for or participated in censorship.
Last March, Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer worked with the federal government on tactics to control online speech. Richer met with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Cybersecurity Advisory Committee (CSAC) Misinformation & Disinformation (MDM) Subcommittee, all under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Last September, Maricopa County rolled out a press pass program to control which outlets and reporters could gain access to government proceedings and property. Last November, the county launched a disinformation center and further limited press access. In April, Maricopa County paid a $175,000 settlement for denying press credentials to a reporter under their press pass program because his work didn’t constitute truth in their eyes.
This past March, Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) asked the Federal Reserve, Treasury Department, and the Federal Deposit and Information Corporation (FDIC) whether they could work with social media companies to censor information in order to prevent a run on the banks.
Gov. Katie Hobbs, while in her former capacity as secretary of state, used the Center for Internet Security (CIS) as a middle man of sorts to censor online speech. Although requests were made for an investigation into the relationship, the transition of power in the attorney general’s office effectively made those requests dead on arrival.
Arizona government workers have also been trained by the Aspen Institute: the liberal think tank behind the coordinated cover-up of the Hunter Biden laptop story. The institute launched its first Arizona-based leadership program last year with startup funding from Walmart.
A Pew Research poll released July 20 found that 70% of Democrats think the government should restrict what appears on social media, a dramatic change from five years ago when a majority of Democrats supported a free marketplace of ideas.
It’s no wonder, considering the drumbeat of warnings from leftist politicians and their liberal media allies about “disinformation” and “misinformation.”
But be warned: Democracy cannot survive for long if one of the nation’s two major political parties wants to put blinders on the public, limiting their access to information and canceling political opponents. That’s a rigged system. Ask the Iranians, Russians or Chinese.
A House hearing on July 20 held by the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government showed that the Biden administration is already censoring social media on a massive scale, putting blinders on all of us.
Hearing witness D. John Sauer, special assistant attorney general for Louisiana, described preliminary findings by a federal judge that Biden staff in the White House, the FBI, the Department of Health and Human Services, and almost every other executive department meet regularly with social media executives and pressure them to remove or demote criticisms of Biden economic and energy policies, Biden family members, and even items that depict the first lady in an unflattering way. According to Sauer, “millions of American voices” have been silenced in violation of the First Amendment.
Sauer cited some 18,000 communications from Team Biden to tech executives orchestrating a vast ongoing censorship operation.
Yet Democratic lawmakers were unfazed by this shocking evidence, and hardly questioned the witness. The U.S. Constitution and the future of our democracy be damned.
Rep. Stacey Plaskett laid out the Democratic Party’s distorted interpretation of the First Amendment, insisting that not all speech is constitutionally protected and offering hate speech as an example.
Plaskett and like-minded Dems need a refresher course on the Constitution and American history. The Supreme Court has ruled again and again that all speech, especially speech we like the least, is protected. That includes Nazi marches and cross burnings, as odious as these are. Who needs a constitutional amendment to protect speech everyone likes?
In 2017, the Court ruled unanimously in Matal v. Tam that the First Amendment requires “we protect the freedom to express ‘the thought that we hate,’” citing Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.’s dissent in the 1929 case United States v. Schwimmer.
Rep. Gerry Connolly aimed his wrath at witness Robert F. Kennedy Jr., whose views on vaccines and other pandemic policies were censored. Connolly said this censorship “was not big brother government trying to exercise its will on an innocent population. It was public health measures to protect lives.”
Connolly’s wrong. Censoring scientific debate was a lethal mistake. If competing scientific viewpoints, especially about masking and lockdowns, had been considered, harm to schoolchildren, business owners, and many others might have been prevented. Turns out, official government policy was based on “misinformation” and “disinformation.”
During the hearing, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, battered Kennedy with accusations of antisemitism and racism for his outrageous comments about the disparate impact of COVID on different ethnic groups. But when he tried to respond, she barked “reclaiming my time” and “ask the witness to stop talking.”
Whether you think RFK Jr. is loony or a viable presidential contender, as a witness he should have been treated with civility. Wasserman Schultz’s abuse is reminiscent of how Sen. Joseph McCarthy browbeat witnesses during the Army-McCarthy hearings in 1954. Those hearings ended abruptly when McCarthy was asked, “Have you no sense of decency?” Wasserman Schultz should have been confronted with the same question.
The attacks on RFK Jr. were a sideshow. The main event was the Democrats’ concocted defense of censorship. The Democrats’ own witness — civil rights attorney Maya Wiley — testified that “the ability of every person to have access to accurate and reliable information is a cornerstone of our democracy.”
Wiley’s slippery language is meant to evade the real issue: Who decides what is accurate and reliable?
Wiley was asked directly by Rep. Chris Stewart, “Do you trust the government to determine what facts and views the American people are exposed to?” She replied, “I think I’m struggling with the question.”
Tell Democrats the answer is a resounding “no.”
Trusting government to be your eyes and ears is crazy.
Betsy McCaughey is a contributor to The Daily Caller News Foundation and a former lieutenant governor of New York and chairman of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths. Follow her on Twitter @Betsy_McCaughey. To find out more about Betsy McCaughey and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
On Tuesday, a joint committee of the Arizona legislature launched an investigation into allegations of censorship at Arizona State University (ASU). Lawmakers issued a 60-day deadline to conduct the investigation.
The directive arose from the Joint Legislative Ad Hoc Committee on Freedom of Expression at Arizona’s Public Universities hearing concerning the T.W. Lewis Center, shuttered this year after the revocation of $400,000 in annual funding from its namesake, Tom Lewis, who cited “left-wing hostility and activism” as his reason for defunding the program.
Lewis’ contention arose from the efforts of 37 Barrett Honors College faculty members, who launched a coordinated campaign to prevent an event featuring prominent conservative speakers Dennis Prager and Charlie Kirk. Prager testified at Tuesday’s hearing; he also published an opinion piece on the event ahead of the hearing.
State Sens. Anthony Kern, co-chair (R-LD27), Frank Carroll (R-LD28), Sally Ann Gonzales (D-LD20), Christine Marsh (D-LD04), and J.D. Mesnard (R-LD13) served on the committee, as did State Reps. Quang Nguyen (R-LD01), Lorena Austin (R-LD09), Analise Ortiz (D-LD24), Beverly Pingerelli (D-LD28), and Austin Smith (R-LD29). Kern and Nguyen served as co-chairs.
“This is to get to the bottom of a state-funded university that is not meeting its obligation to freedom of expression and freedom of speech,” said Kern.
The center relied on an annual budget of around $1 million; ASU representatives explained that the center would live on through the classes taught, though the actual center itself and the executive director at its helm, Ann Atkinson, would be gone.
ASU Vice President of Legal Affairs Kim Demarchi explained that Lewis’ funding provided for career development and education. Demarchi testified that ASU considered what programs it could continue without Lewis’ funding, and declared that they could only sustain the faculty without Lewis’ funding. Demarchi also shared that the Barrett Honors faculty weren’t punished in any way for the letter or allegations of intimidation.
“It is possible it [their letter] has a chilling effect,” said Demarchi.
However, Demarchi clarified that a professor would have to explicitly threaten a student’s grade in order to be in violation of university policy.
Atkinson went public with the closure of the Lewis Center last month. (See the response from ASU). She toldAZ Free News that the university turned down alternative funding sources that would make up for the loss of Lewis’ funding necessary to keep the Lewis Center running.
Nguyen opened up the hearing by recounting his survival of Vietnam’s communist regime as a child, and comparing that regime’s hostility to free speech to the actions of Barrett Honors College faculty.
“My understanding is that there is an effort to prevent conservative voices from being heard,” said Nguyen. “I crossed 12,000 miles to look for freedom, to seek freedom.”
Nguyen expressed disappointment that none of the 37 faculty members that signed onto the letter showed up to testify in the hearing. He said if he accused someone, he would show up to testify.
Democratic members of the committee contended that the event occurred and therefore censorship hadn’t taken place. Kern said the occurrence of the event doesn’t resolve whether freedom of speech was truly permitted, citing the closure of the Lewis Center.
ASU Executive Vice Provost Pat Kenney emphasized the importance of freedom of expression as critical to a free nation. Nguyen asked whether Kenney read the Barrett letter, and agreed to it. Kenney said the letter was freedom of expression. He claimed the letter didn’t seek cancellation of the event.
“When faculty speak out on their own like that, they’re covered on the same topic we’re here about, which is free speech,” said Kenney.
ASU representatives claimed near the beginning of the hearing that Lewis and ASU President Michael Crow had discussed the withdrawal of funding. However, toward the end of the hearing Kern announced that he’d received information from a Lewis representative that the pair hadn’t discussed the funding, and accused ASU representatives of lying.
Ortiz called the anonymous complaints from students hypotheticals because no formal complaints were lodged. She also claimed that the hearing was merely an attempt to delegitimize public and higher education. Marsh claimed that lawmakers shouldn’t consider the claims of student fears of retaliation because the students should’ve gone to ASU directly.
Nguyen asked whether ASU would defend guest speakers, such as himself, if ASU faculty were to lodge claims of white nationalism. Kenney said that, in a personal capacity, ASU faculty were free to make their claims, but not if they spoke out on ASU’s behalf.
Atkinson contested with the characterization that the Barrett faculty spoke out in their personal capacity. She pointed out that Barrett faculty signed the letter in their capacity as ASU faculty, emailed her using their ASU emails, and sent communications to students about opposing the event using ASU technology.
Ortiz announced receipt of a letter from the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) on the outcome of the requested investigation into the incident, the results of which Kern and the rest of the committee appeared to not have been made aware, determining that no free speech violations took place at ASU.
Marsh speculated that the professors didn’t show up because they faced death threats, citing media attention and conservative speaker Charlie Kirk’s Professor Watchlist. Kern said that would be a “lame excuse.” He also pointed out that the professors launched a national campaign and initialized bringing themselves into a bigger spotlight.
“You’re making excuses where we don’t know that’s the case,” said Kern.
Atkinson said that she could provide “dozens, if not hundreds” of students that could testify to experiencing faculty intimidation. She also claimed that Williams told her to avoid booking speakers that were political.
“We allow the speaker but you have to take the consequences,” said Atkinson, reportedly quoting Williams.
Atkinson testified that TV screen ads were removed and flyers were torn down following the Barrett Honors faculty letter. She also said she shared the information for the person responsible on June 13, yet it appears ASU took no action. ASU said they weren’t aware of any advertising for the event pulled.
Additionally, Atkinson testified that Williams pressured her to postpone the event “indefinitely.” She noted that Williams interpreted ASU’s policy of not promoting political campaigns as not allowing political speech at all.
“We were in an environment telling us that this was ‘hate speech,’” said Atkinson.
Atkinson said she was directed by leadership ahead of the event to issue a preliminary warning that the event contained potentially dangerous speech.
Gonzales told Atkinson that hate speech doesn’t qualify as constitutionally protected speech. However, the rules attorney corrected her that the Supreme Court ruled hate speech as protected.
ASU professor Owen Anderson also testified. He said that he’s previously had to get the free speech rights organization Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIR) involved twice due to faculty attempts to suppress free speech. Anderson also said that faculty have attempted to restrict speech by adding anti-racism and DEI to policy on class content and annual reviews of professors.
“Insults abound, but rational dialogue is rare. What we need are administrators that call these faculty to higher conduct,” said Anderson.
In closing, Kern said he doesn’t trust ASU, the University of Arizona, or ABOR. He argued that ABOR hadn’t issued a real investigation and called their report “typical government fluff [and] garbage.” Kern also called for the firing of Barrett Honors College Dean Tara Williams.
America’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic was possibly the most consequential public policy blunder in our history.
The enormous costs included $5 trillion or so in unproductive federal spending, inflation, reduction in our standard of living, and permanent economic damage that will be felt for generations to come.
There was massive learning loss and the specter of loved ones dying alone. The incidence of depression and drug addiction skyrocketed. Businesses were shuttered while many Americans seemingly lost their work ethic.
What happened? The short answer is that we panicked and listen to “experts” who vowed we could halt this virus if we were willing to sacrifice enough.
At first, with imperfect information around a deadly new phenomenon, projecting a worst-case scenario and drastic measures to prevent it made sense. However, more data and experience with the virus soon tended to support a strategy of containment (“stop the spread”).
Still the decision makers at the World Health Organization (WHO) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), doubled down on their zero-COVID based recommendations. Lockdowns ensued. We scoffed at cost-benefit analysis. “If only one life…” and “in an abundance of caution…” became the guiding standards of policymaking.
The American people mostly went along with it. Why wouldn’t they? They were provided little awareness of alternate approaches.
Once the narrative had been established that eradication was the only permissible strategy, opposing viewpoints were excluded to a degree any Third World dictator would have envied.
Dissenters were shamed and censored. Professional reputations were attacked. Dr. Fauci informed us that “I am the science” and thus all who disagreed were “science deniers.”
Consider the case of Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a Professor of Health Policy at Stanford. He also directs Stanford’s Center for Demography and Economics of Health and Aging and is a research associate at the National Bureau of Economics Research. So, the doc isn’t exactly an empty suit. He was also a co-author of the Great Barrington Declaration (GBD), signed now by thousands of medical scientists and practitioners, which advocated for “focused protection” against COVID.
Since COVID is dangerous only to a relatively small proportion of the population, it was argued that the greatest efforts should be in protecting people most at risk, the chronically ill and elderly. This would focus resources where they do the most good, saving lives and money.
Agree or not, there is nothing looney about this notion that one-size-fits-all doesn’t make sense for COVID-19. It was mainstream common sense, advocated by highly qualified, non-political scientists.
Yet the blogosphere and leading scientific opinion channels exploded with vitriolic denunciations. The authors were accused of promoting infections among the young to achieve a cruel herd immunity strategy. The claimed the GBD was promoting a wholesale return to our pre-pandemic lives—that they were encouraging fringe groups who distrust health officials and prioritizing individual preference above public good.
None of it was true, but to the social media tyrants, that didn’t mean that Dr. Bhattacharya should be vigorously debated. It meant that he must be threatened and silenced.
We just recently learned that he was indeed censored and intentionally shadowbanned by Twitter. His account was tagged with a label of “Trends Blacklist.” He was censored before he tweeted a single message.
He had violated no rules. He spread no “misinformation.” He only defied the approved consensus. He was silenced by the mob at Twitter, none of whom had anything like his knowledge or experience.
The GBD authors were right, of course. None of the isolations, lockdowns, or school closures affected the eventual course of the virus. We received virtually no benefit from the massive self-inflicted harm.
It’s ironic in our supposedly modern, enlightened age that dogma won out over science. That is, we based our societal decisions on knowledge rooted in deemed authority, not the open inquiry of the scientific method.
We paid a big price for listening to the Fauci’s of the world with their refusal to balance benefit with cost. Dr. Fauci bragged of not caring about the cost of his demands.
They convinced our leaders to spend money we don’t have in a vain attempt to achieve the impossible.
Bad idea. We can’t afford to let it happen again.
Dr. Thomas Patterson, former Chairman of the Goldwater Institute, is a retired emergency physician. He served as an Arizona State senator for 10 years in the 1990s, and as Majority Leader from 93-96. He is the author of Arizona’s original charter schools bill.