Government Censorship: A Conspiracy Theory?

Lately Democrats have fallen into the habit of labeling all facts they would rather not talk about as “conspiracy theories.” They must think it works. Yesterday, Matt Taibbi and Michael Shellenberger testified before Jim Jordan’s Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government. Matt recorded the experience, which he describes as “surreal,” at Racket News.

Representative Dan Goldman is the Democrats’ attack dog on the subcommittee. Goldman hasn’t given up on the idea that the documents on Hunter Biden’s laptop were “Russian disinformation”:

GOLDMAN: You are aware, of course, that the laptop, so to speak, was actually, that was published in the New York Post, was actually a hard drive that the New York Post admitted here was not authenticated as real. It was not the laptop, the FBI had. You’re aware of that, right?

SHELLENBERGER: It was the same contents.

GOLDMAN: How do you know?

SHELLENBERGER: (scrunching face, incredulous) Because it is the same!

GOLDMAN: You would’ve to authenticate it to know it was the same contents.

Of course, the documents have been authenticated by just about everyone, including the FBI, and never denied by Hunter himself.

SHELLENBERGER: Are you suggesting the New York Post participated in a conspiracy to construct the contents of the Hunter Biden laptop?

GOLDMAN: No, sir. The problem is that hard drives can be manipulated by Rudy Giuliani or Russia.

Right. One sad feature of our current public life is that there is little downside to lying. Liberals construct a narrative that may be utterly unsupported by any evidence and easily refuted by well-known facts. Nevertheless, their attitude is: that’s our story and we’re sticking to it.

On to the conspiracy theory. The Democrats’ witness was former Mike Pence staffer Olivia Troye. In her opening statement, she said:

Instead of continuing to spread conspiracy theories about government censorship, this Committee should instead focus on the very real and dangerous threat posed by the leading Republican candidate…

Trump! Trump! Trump! The universal rejoinder. But just moments later, Troye–apparently in a moment of sanity–denied saying any such thing:

BISHOP: Are you aware of [the Missouri v. Biden case] that and does it affect your view that all of this is a figment of our imagination?

TROYE: I am aware of the decision. I also want to clarify, I have not actually have never said that this is a conspiracy. You’ve not heard that comment from me.

Substantively, the Democrats’ most cogent point was that most of the social media posts that were flagged by government agencies were not censored:

GOLDMAN: I’m sure you are aware… the social media platforms to whom they flagged potentially problematic tweets took action on only 35% of them and only 13% of them were removed…

JORDAN: Mr. Shellenberger, is 13% censorship still censorship?

SHELLENBERGER: Absolutely… 35% of the URLs that were spread to [Stanford’s Election Integrity Partnership] were labeled, removed, or soft-blocked… all forms of censorship.

GOLDMAN: But 65% were not! So how can the government be so coercive?

SHELLENBERGER: Does the First Amendment say the government can censor 35%?

The Democrats’ point, no doubt, is that if the platforms usually don’t act on the government’s suggestions, what we are seeing here is not government censorship but independent decision-making by a private party, to which the First Amendment does not apply. I doubt that is a winning argument, but it likely will be a focus of ongoing litigation over the federal government’s efforts to censor social media.

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