The First Amendment is the bedrock of American liberty. Our citizens have the right, if not civic duty, to engage in open, dynamic discourse, and no government has the right to limit, suppress, censor or otherwise control it.
Yet as we dig deeper into discovery in our Big Tech censorship case — Missouri and Louisiana v. Biden — we uncover ever-more truly appalling abuses of power that President Joe Biden’s director of digital strategy, Rob Flaherty, admitted come from “the highest (and I mean highest) levels of the” White House.
Such evidence proves the Biden administration is leveraging its power to coerce social-media companies to suppress the speech of thousands, if not millions, of Americans who disagree with its political narratives.
Naturally, the First Amendment prohibits censorship. Yet the Biden team has worked to circumvent this fundamental constitutional protection by inducing, threatening and colluding with private companies to suppress speech. It’s illegal; but when Big Government enters into such a conspiracy with Big Business to violate your rights, it’s also known by another name: fascism.
While that word may conjure up images of World War II, we must remember the horrors of that conflict’s end have blinded us to the subtlety of the start. And who needs to burn books when you have algorithms?
Either way, totalitarianism cannot tolerate free thought or speech any more than a petulant Flaherty can tolerate a tech company showing even a moment’s hesitation at fulfilling Biden’s demands for increased censorship.
When Facebook didn’t answer one of his emails in a chain demanding the company take down a Tucker Carlson video, after it told him “it does not qualify for removal,” Flaherty sent a one-line followup: “These questions weren’t rhetorical.”
Both democracy and a constitutional republic require frequent and open debate to function and survive. When that exchange of ideas is silenced, we all become ignorant of the true nature of things — severely inhibiting our ability to self-govern. If we do not know what is actually happening, how can we possibly make informed decisions?
The trouble is totalitarianism requires a ruthless conformity and complete allegiance to the cause of the state without argument. That pattern of behavior, and utter contempt for our Constitution, is blatantly obvious in Flaherty’s hostile emails to Facebook, Twitter and Google.
“As we move away from a supply problem toward a demand problem,” Flaherty wrote to seven employees of YouTube parent Google in April 2021, “we remain concerned” YouTube “is ‘funneling’ people into hesitance and intensifying people’s hesitancy” about the vaccine.
“Needless to say,” he warned, “in a couple of weeks when we’re having trouble getting people to get vaccinated, we’ll be in the barrel together here.”
Flaherty knows what he’s doing is wrong: “We certainly recognize that removing content that is unfavorable to the cause of increasing vaccine adoption is not a realistic — or even good — solution.” But that never stops him or other Biden officials from coercing, conspiring and colluding with tech companies in illegal conduct.
He even uses some platforms to intimidate others, suggesting to Google he’s getting less pushback from other “platform partners” of “similar scale.” He concludes, “We speak with other platforms on a semi-regular basis. We’d love to get in this habit with you. Perhaps bi-weekly?”
Empirical truth is irrelevant. It’s a constant battle for the existence of the regime itself, and no obstacle is too trivial. If it is the enemy, it must be destroyed — from Facebook’s policies to “often true” content shared by anyone at all. If it goes against the political orthodoxy of the moment, it must be subjected to the cancel-culture campaign stemming directly from the White House.
No one is exempt, no matter political party or creed. This administration is determined to control all flow of information and keep the populace ignorant to any message outside its chosen narrative.
Tucker Carlson, who hosts one of the highest-rated prime-time cable-news programs, has been censored. Robert Kennedy Jr., a US attorney general’s son and a president’s nephew, has been censored. No one is too powerful, too connected or even too humble to be silenced.
The good news is our First Amendment is the barricade protecting us from this path of self-destruction. It is the vanguard against fascism and totalitarianism. This is why our lawsuit is so important: It ensures the line is held. It also reminds the world such dangerous threats to American liberty shall not be tolerated — not even if they come from Pennsylvania Avenue.
Jeff Landry (R) is Louisiana attorney general.
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