This week, Democratic Reps. Anna Eshoo of California and Jerry McNerny of New Jersey sent a series of letters to America’s largest communications corporations: AT&T, Alphabet Inc., Cox Communications, Dish Network, Comcast, Apple, Amazon and others. Their letters demanded answers from these corporations on one simple topic: Why would these platforms continue to allow the dissemination of “misinformation” from conservative outlets?
“Our country’s public discourse is plagued by misinformation, disinformation, conspiracy theories, and lies,” the House Democrats wrote. “These phenomena undergird the radicalization of seditious individuals who committed acts of insurrection on January 6th, and it contributes to a growing distrust of public health measures necessary to crush the pandemic. ... Are you planning to continue carrying Fox News, Newsmax, and OANN?”
The overt move by members of the government to cudgel private corporations into silencing unpopular viewpoints clearly violated First Amendment principles. The Constitution clearly provides that Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech or the press. Democrats have now hit upon a convenient workaround where they bully private actors into doing their censorious bidding.
This clever gambit is rooted in the conflation between “disinformation” and “misinformation” promulgated by the establishment media since 2016.
After the 2016 election, the media went berserk with the theory that Hillary Clinton had lost the election thanks only to Russian interference. “Russian disinformation”—meaning false information promulgated by a foreign government for the purpose of interfering in domestic politics—had twisted the election. Now, even disinformation promulgated on American soil is protected by the First Amendment. But it soon became clear that the authoritarian left wasn’t interested merely in active disinformation springing from foreign sources. It was troubled by any narrative or information that contradicted its point of view. This information could quickly and easily be labeled “misinformation.”
And “misinformation,” it said, had to be policed.
Why, precisely, wouldn’t the answer to misinformation be factual rebuttal? Because, the authoritarian left argued, misinformation led to “incitement.” Now, there is a legal standard for “incitement”—and it’s a high bar to reach. But the authoritarian left has broadened out the meaning of incitement to include any verbiage that elicits strong emotions—so long as conservatives are responsible for such verbiage. Thus it’s possible incitement to call people by their biological pronouns but perfectly innocent fun to wink and nod at widespread looting and rioting.
The answer to “misinformation” and “incitement,” however, can’t lie within government. So Democrats have turned toward hijacking the private instruments of informational dissemination, all in the name of reestablishing an informational monopoly the left lost with the death of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 and with a monopoly that collapsed completely with the rise of the open internet.
And corporations are going along with all of this. This week, Amazon banned a book on transgender people, “When Harry Became Sally,” presumably because it took a non-woke line on the subject. Coca-Cola is now apparently indoctrinating its employees into the cult of Robin DiAngelo “anti-racism.” Facebook and Twitter and Google are all preparing new measures aimed at cracking down on “misinformation”—opaque guidelines and nonrigorous standards that will surely cut in favor of the same establishment media now pushing censorship—and the Democrats they support.
The establishment media are fond of saying that we’re experiencing a crisis of authoritarianism in America; they point to the criminal acts of Jan. 6 and suggest that right-wing authoritarianism threatens democracy itself. The far greater threat to democracy, however, lies with an authoritarian left that is now ascendant in virtually every powerful institution in America.