The Disingenuousness of Government Censorship

The Supreme Court is hearing a case centered on, among other speech-related matters, whether the Federal government illegally—unconstitutionally—pressured social media companies to suppress or delete altogether posts of which the government disapproves regarding Wuhan Virus vaccines.

The government’s arguments in the case are telling.

US Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar…likened the government’s interactions with social-media companies to Ronald Reagan’s urging the media to help combat drug abuse, George W Bush’s inveighing against pornography, and Theodore Roosevelt’s denunciation of muckraking journalists.

This is one of the government’s disingenuousnesses. All of Reagan’s, Bush the Younger’s, and Roosevelt’s inveighing were publicly done. Us ordinary Americans knew what those Presidents were telling “the media” what they wanted them to do, and we knew it as soon as they spoke. The Biden administration, on the other hand, pressured today’s social media outlets behind the scenes, in secret. For instance,

When Hank Aaron died in 2021, Robert F Kennedy, Jr, suggested in a tweet that the baseball legend’s death was caused by a Covid vaccine.
The next day, a White House employee asked Twitter, now known as X, to take down Kennedy’s post. “Wondering if we can get moving on the process for having it removed ASAP,” the White House’s Covid-19 digital director wrote to two Twitter employees.
The social-media platform did so.

Here’s another of the Biden administration’s disingenuousnesses, if not an example of its outright cynicism, this one regarding the 5th Circuit’s ruling forbidding officials including the president’s counsel, press secretary, director of digital strategy, and other White House staffers from coercing, “significantly encouraging,” or supervising content moderation.

The Biden administration appealed that ruling to the Supreme Court. It warned that the restrictions would prevent the government from talking to tech companies about matters of national security and public safety, as well as urging them to protect teens from the harmful effects of social media.

Nonsense. The appellate court’s bar in no way prevented or prevents anyone in the Biden administration from talking to tech companies or anyone else about anything at all. Those officials just have to do it publicly—like those prior Presidents had done, and in the same vein those prior Presidents had—and they aren’t allowed to attempt to apply pressure to comply.

Prelogar does have an argument, of sorts.

The government is entitled to speak for itself by sharing information, urging action, and participating in debate over issues of great concern to the public[.]

Absolutely, the government is so allowed. However, government—in the present case, the Biden administration—is not speaking for itself when it moves to suppress the speech of others who disagree with the administration position.

Nor is the Biden administration “urging action” regarding the subject of a debate when it is urging suppression of views that run counter to the administration’s position.

Nor is the Biden administration participating in debate over issues of great concern to the public when it acts to suppress the speech of others, which also is of concern to the public, thereby barring the public from participating in what the Biden administration wants to be a one-sided debate.

The Biden administration should exercise its “entitlement” to speak for itself by answering disagreeing comments in the commentary with its own—public—comments saying why those disagreeing comments seem erroneous; asserting what the administration believes to be accurate information; and explaining in concrete, measurable terms why it believes its own claims to be the more accurate.

There are no alternatives in a nation that believes free speech to be a fundamental right intrinsic in each of us citizens.

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