Leftists Argue Government Censorship is the Highest Form of Speech
By Daniel Greenfield – July 10, 2023
When Judge Terry Doughty issued an injunction in Missouri v. Biden that banned the government from “specifically flagging content or posts on social-media platforms and/or forwarding such to social-media companies urging, encouraging, pressuring, or inducing in any manner for removal, deletion, suppression”, all hell broke loose.
Evelyn Douek, a Stanford law professor, formerly of the Knight First Amendment Institute, warned that preventing the government from colluding with corporations to censor citizens would have a “chilling effect on communication between the government and platforms.”
In traditional free speech jurisprudence, ‘chilling effects’ were inflicted by the government, but Douek is worried that free speech might have a chilling effect on government censorship. After advocating, in cases like Lamont v. Postmaster General, that any interference with speech, no matter how odious including, in the aforementioned Supreme Court case, asking recipients of Communist propaganda to affirmatively agree to receive it, entailed a ‘chilling effect’, liberals don’t want to chill the censors, instead they’re worried that civil rights will chill censorship.
Even though it’s the height of summer, chilling effects on censorship were on display.
Liberals who might have once worried about free speech now fret that the government will be inhibited from censoring free speech. According to CNN, “Legal experts say that the order is overly broad and scholars on online misinformation warned that it could have a chilling effect on the government’s efforts to curtail lies about public health emergencies and elections.”
Nina Jankowicz, Biden’s former disinformation czar, popped up to argue that,”it’ll have a chilling effect on government and academia, ensuring that officials and researchers think twice before trying to counter those spreading conspiracies and false information.”
The axis of concern had shifted from worrying that government action would inhibit free speech to agonizing that judicial interference would prevent the government from inhibiting free speech.
The existence of ‘chilling effects’ in free speech cases testified to the degree to which we protected free speech from even the faintest tinge of indirect discouragement. Now, lefty academics and experts want to not only reverse the polarities of free speech, but they are just as worried that any protection for free speech will interfere with government censorship.
Its new victims are not civilians who engage in political speech, but government censors.
To justify this inversion of civil rights, they have also inverted the concept of censorship so that the true form of free speech is to prevent others from speaking.
According to Leah Litman, a law professor at the University of Michigan, preventing the government from censoring citizens was… censorship.
Litman told NPR that the injunction “literally prevents the federal government from sending emails to social media companies about their content moderation policies or having meetings with social media companies about taking down speech and posts. And so that prevents speech, really important speech, from ever happening.”
The most important speech is government speech that suppresses the speech of the public.
If government censorship is speech, then any interference with government censorship is a violation of free speech. And the government must be allowed to censor everyone lest its really important speech be restrained from taking place. And then where would we be, except free?
Judge Terry Doughty was attacked by pro-censorship leftists for invoking George Orwell’s 1984 and yet that same faction insists on ‘literally’ arguing that censorship is speech.
Crying censorship has become the last resort of censors who demand the right to censor.
When Gov. Ron DeSantis and other governors signed laws barring Big Tech monopolies from deplatforming candidates for public office, the Computer and Communications Industry Association, whose members include Amazon, Google and Facebook, sued in the name of free speech.
“We are bringing this suit to safeguard the industry’s free speech,” CCIA boss Matt Schruers claimed. “A digital service that declines to host harmful content is exercising its own First Amendment rights.”
“Section 7 does not chill speech; if anything, it chills censorship,” the Fifth Circuit court replied.
“We reject the Platforms’ efforts to reframe their censorship as speech. It is undisputed that the Platforms want to eliminate speech—not promote or protect it. And no amount of doctrinal gymnastics can turn the First Amendment’s protections for free speech into protections for free censoring.” But that hasn’t stopped the totalitarian gymnastics from going forward.
After arguing that censorship by some of the biggest companies in the world was really speech, lefty legal scholars are arguing that government censorship is free speech, and that when judges prevent the government from censoring, the government’s speech is being violated.
The official Biden administration position is that it is entitled to censor in the event of emergencies.
“We’re not going to apologize for promoting responsible actions to protect public health, safety and security when confronted by challenges like a deadly pandemic or foreign attacks on our elections,” Sharon Yang, a White House spokeswoman, argued.
These deadly challenges and foreign attacks included a video mocking Jill Biden and a Twitter account impersonating Biden’s granddaughter. Biden officials insisted on having these and many other posts, accounts and materials that they disliked taken down.
Emergencies have never been anything other than an excuse for a broad censorship scheme.
Liberals have abandoned even the pretense of caring about free speech. Laurence Tribe, a lefty constitutional law professor, co-authored an op-ed complaining that the injunction “seems to maintain that the government cannot even politely ask companies not to publish verifiable misinformation.”
What would Tribe’s view be on the Nixon administration “politely” asking the media not to spread lies about the Vietnam War, the Reagan administration “politely” asking the media not to lie about the War on Drugs, and the Bush administration “politely” asking the media not to lie about the War on Terror? Any such suggestions, no matter how mild, were greeted with rabid rage.
“The First Amendment certainly doesn’t prevent them from merely asking,” Tribe contends, and preventing the government from doing so “would turn the Constitution’s protection of free expression in an open society into an obstacle course for some of the most valuable exchanges of information and ideas we can imagine.” The most valuable exchanges of ideas apparently involve asking social media monopolies to take down content mocking the president.
Lefty legal scholars keep arguing that government censorship is the highest form of speech.
After abandoning free speech, lefty legal scholars now celebrate the virtues of censorship in the glowing language once used for promoting reverence for a free exchange of ideas. Forget an open society, a truly valuable exchange of ideas consists of government officials telling huge corporations whom to censor this morning.
None of this is remarkable when you go back to the origins of lefty support for free speech.
In 1934, Roger Nash Baldwin, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the ACLU, quite clearly explained why he was fighting for civil liberties. “I champion civil liberty as the best of the non-violent means of building the power on which worker’s rule must be based. If I aid the reactionaries to get free speech now and then, if I go outside the class struggle to fight against censorship, it is only because those liberties help to create a more hospitable atmosphere for working class liberties. The class struggle is the central conflict of the world; all others are incidental. When that power of the working class is once achieved, as it has been only in the Soviet Union, I am for maintaining it by any means whatever.”
The American Left believes it has gained enough power that it no longer sees any value in maintaining protections for free speech, at least at a federal level, and has publicly switched its enthusiasm from speech to censorship. It now lovingly speaks of the valuable “speech” of government censors and of the ‘chilling effects’ of extremist judges who interfere with them.
There are still select conservative enclaves where the Left pretends to care about free speech. Should parents persuade a middle school library to pull a work of hard core LGBTQ pornography off the shelves, the Left will describe this as an attack on the First Amendment. But otherwise, freedom of speech has been buried in the same unmarked grave as freedom of religion with the bulk of the First Amendment soon set to join the Second Amendment.
Censorship is becoming speech and speech is becoming censorship. The real threat to civil liberties comes from people interfering with the speech of censors telling them to “shut up”.
In a world where governments have rights and people have none, the right to censor is the only right. And if they disagree with you, liberals will fight to the death for the right of the government to silence you.