- Lawyer/blogger Ken White, in his new incarnation of Popehat, has a useful, informative but misguided post about the misunderstanding of the law as it applied to Twitter and Facebook manipulating the news to push Joe Biden over the finish line. Yes, it’s true: there is nothing illegal or unconstitutional about the social media platforms choosing to censor communications they don’t like, even if its objective is to “rig”—in President Trump’s term—the election. It is still, however, wrong. Ken is usually a bit more nuanced in recognizing the critical law vs ethics problem. Okay, I got it” members of Congress and conservative pundits arguing that Section 230 requires social media platforms to be fair and unbiased are wrong. They, are, however 100% right that the current conduct of those platforms threatens to undermine democracy. You can’t, as one of the links White points readers to does, call Section 230 “the internet’s First Amendment” and then complain that politicians think the law ought to prevent partisan censorship.
Boy, I sure hope Trump Derangement hasn’t gotten Ken too…
- Imagine if the Hillary Clinton server story was buried by the news media the way it is trying to run out the clock on the Joe Biden/Hunter Biden influence peddling story. That tells you just how far the news media has deteriorated in four years (and also how much more certain journalists were that Hillary would win no matter what they reported).
I’ll wait to see what kind of coverage the story gets on the CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox Sunday shows, but even if it is adequately covered, those programs have a relatively select viewership. By past standards, the Hunter Biden emails should be front page, above the fold material, and yet only a conservative New York City tabloid and its ilk are making it so.
And one more time, this should not be pigeon-holed as a “conservative” lament. All Americans of any ideological persuasion should fear and loathe the news media trying to slam its heavy fist on the electoral scales this way. Why don’t they? Are that many citizens really willing to see elections “rigged” if their favorite party wins? If so, theRepublic is lost no matter what happens in 2020.
- Megan McArdle, in her Washington Post column, “How Twitter and Facebook’s attempt to squelch a dubious Biden story backfired” writes, “I aspire to expedite [Trump’s] exit from the national stage by every legal means.” In other word, to hell with right and wrong, if it’s legal, it’s ethical. Well, thanks is owed to the Post journalist/pundit for another unmasking, I suppose. This is Rationalization #4, named in the honor of someone McArdle is very familiar with, former Democratic D.C. Mayor and convicted felon Marion Barry:
#4. Marion Barry’s Misdirection, or “If it isn’t illegal, it’s ethical”: The late D.C. Mayor and lovable rogue Marion Barry earned himself a place in the Ethics Distortion Hall of Fame with his defense of his giving his blatantly unqualified girlfriend a high-paying job with the DC government. Barry declared that since there was no law against using the public payroll as his own private gift service, there was nothing unethical about it. Once the law was passed (because of him), he then agreed that what he did would be wrong the next time he did it. Ethics is far broader than law, which is a system of behavior enforced by the state with penalties for violations. Ethics is good conduct as determined by the values and customs of society. Professions promulgate codes of ethics precisely because the law cannot proscribe all inappropriate or harmful behavior. Much that is unethical is not illegal….but that is just the factual error in this rationalization. The greater problem with it is that it omits the concept of ethics at all…”
Fascinating, isn’t it? The same people who are shaking their metaphorical fists at the skies because Mitch McConnell is going through with a completely legal and Constitutional effort to put a President’s nominee on the Supreme Court sanctifies her—and that of the “resistance” that she represents—approved methods of removing that President using the low bar of “legal.” Yup, it is legal for journalists to deceive and manipulate the public for their own agenda. Now they are openly doing so, and aren’t even ashamed of themselves.
- As is often the case, Professor Turley has this episode figured out, and correctly assesses its seriousness. He writes in part,
“Chinese citizens watched President Xi Jinping deliver an important speech this week not far from Hong Kong….Xi apparently is ill, and every time he went into coughing spasms, China’s state media cut away so that he would be shown only in perfect health. Xi’s coughs came to mind as Twitter and Facebook prevented Americans from being able to read the New York Post’s explosive allegations of influence-peddling by Hunter Biden. The articles cited material reportedly recovered from a laptop; it purportedly showed requests for Hunter Biden to use his influence on his father, then-Vice President Joe Biden, as well as embarrassing photos of Hunter Biden….
There are ample reasons to question whether this material was the product of a foreign intelligence operation, which the FBI apparently is investigating. Yet…Hunter Biden has yet to deny these were his laptop, his emails, his images. If thousands of emails and images were fabricated, then serious crimes were committed. But if the emails and images are genuine, then the Bidens appear to have lied for years as a raw influence-peddling scheme worth millions stretched from China to Ukraine to Russia. Moreover, these countries likely have had the compromising information all along while the Bidens – and the media – were denying reports of illicit activities.
Either way, this was major news. The response of Twitter and Facebook, however, was to shut it all down. Major media companies also imposed a virtual blackout on the allegations. It didn’t matter that thousands of emails were available for review or that the Bidens did not directly address the material. It was all declared to be fake news.The tech companies’ actions are an outrageous example of open censorship and bias. It shows how private companies effectively can become state media working for one party. This, of course, was more serious than deleting coughs, but it was based on the same excuse of “protecting” the public from distractions or distortions.
… Academics have lined up to support calls for censorship, too. Recently, Harvard law professor Jack Goldsmith and University of Arizona law professor Andrew Keane Woods called for Chinese-style internet censorship and declared that “in the great debate of the past two decades about freedom versus control of the network, China was largely right and the United States was largely wrong.”
It turns out traditional notions of journalism and a free press are outdated, too, and China again appears to be the model for the future. Recently, Stanford communications Professor Emeritus Ted Glasser publicly denounced the notion of objectivity in journalism as too constraining for reporters seeking “social justice.”
…Such views make Twitter and Facebook’s censorship of the Post not simply justified but commendable – regardless of whether the alleged Biden material proves to be authentic. As Twitter buckled under criticism of its actions, it shifted its rationale from combating fake news to barring hacked or stolen information. (Putting aside that the information allegedly came from a laptop, not hacking, this rule would block the public from reviewing any story based on, say, whistleblowers revealing nonpublic information, from the Pentagon Papers to Watergate. Moreover, Twitter seemingly had no qualms about publishing thousands of stories based on the same type of information about the Trump family or campaign.)
…we are seeing a rejection of journalistic objectivity in favor of activism. The New York Times apologized for publishing a column by a conservative U.S. senator on using national guardsmen to quell rioting – yet it later published a column by a Chinese official called “Beijing’s enforcer” who is crushing protests in Hong Kong. The media spent years publishing every wacky theory of alleged Trump-Russia collusion; thousands of articles detailed allegations from the Steele dossier, which has been not only discredited but also shown to be based on material from a known Russian agent. When the Steele dossier was revealed, many of us agreed on the need to investigate because, even if it was the work of foreign intelligence, the underlying kompromat could be true. Today, in contrast, the media is not only dismissing the need to investigate the Biden emails, but ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos didn’t ask Biden about the allegations during a two-hour town hall event on Thursday…”
[I apologize to the professor and The Hill, where his article is posted, for such an extended quote, and hope readers will click on the link to read what I omitted. I feel Turley’s analysis is crucial, and thus should have as wide readership as possible. If you choose to share his views, please use the Hill link.]