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January 27, 2021

‘Journalists’: The New Censors

Those who were once the guardians of free speech have now become its mortal enemies.

Certainly the most reliable thing about mainstream media actors is their unalloyed leftism. We as conservatives know that they’re going to be against us at every turn, even reporting in bad faith in order to score points or protect their fellow progressives. But just below that knee-jerk hatred for everything right of center, we’ve also counted on them to be First Amendment absolutists — which is to say, defenders of free speech at all costs.

We can hear them now: Suckerrrrrs!

As John Tierney writes in City Journal, “After the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol … progressive journalists … identified a new root cause of mob violence: free speech. They’ve cheered the social-media purge of conservatives and urged further censorship of ‘violent rhetoric’ and ‘disinformation.’ It’s a remarkably self-destructive move for a profession dependent on freedom of speech, but the journalists now dominating newsrooms aren’t thinking long-term — and can’t imagine being censored themselves. The traditional liberal devotion to the First Amendment seems hopelessly antiquated to young progressives convinced that they’re on the right side of history.”

Speaking of history, leftists were always in favor of free speech before they were against it. Their favorite free speech cliché, in fact, goes back more than a century: I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

It’s a beautiful quote, both pithy and principled, and often falsely attributed to Voltaire, who himself was a strong civil libertarian. And though we’re not certain where the quote was born, we do know where it died: on our nation’s college campuses. Was it mere coincidence that this was where the one-time radicals of the ‘60s had become the tenured professors of the '80s? And might it be that these leftists now found free expression to be both inconvenient and unnecessary, since they already enjoyed academic freedom? In its place, our universities ushered in political correctness and promptly reversed the First Amendment gains made by the Free Speech Movement begun at Cal-Berkeley in 1965. It was a violent death.

Think about it: When was the last time you heard a leftist say he’d defend to the death your right to speak? These days, it’s laughable to imagine a leftist being willing to die for any cause, much less a noble one like free speech.

Over at Tablet, Armin Rosen goes on a bit of an archeological dig himself, although only back to late 2019. That was when a self-congratulatory paean to the once-respectable profession of journalism, a building called The Newseum, shut its doors for good. Imagine that: A museum whose raison d'etre was to give us the warm fuzzies about the mainstream media couldn’t pay the rent. We’d have thought George Soros or some other anti-American leftist (but we repeat ourselves) would’ve coughed up the cabbage just to stave off the embarrassment. To his credit, though, Soros got rich by breaking the Bank of England, not throwing good money after nauseatingly bad.

Alas, not even an endorsement from Time magazine, which named The Newseum one of the “world’s greatest places,” could save it.

“The museum was an anachronism in more ways than one,” writes Rosen. “The idea that journalists themselves look upon the constitutional right to free expression with quasi-religious awe is nearly as quaint as the idea the media could be the basis for a major D.C. tourist attraction. A publicly beloved press that earnestly believes in free speech now feels like it belongs to some fictive era of good feelings.”

As our Nate Jackson pointed out recently, the American people distrust the media now more than ever. And why shouldn’t we?

“In recent years,” Rosen continues, “the United States has seen more severe acts of political violence and deadlier riots than the events at the Capitol — but American guarantees of free speech apparently should not survive the shocking image of Nancy Pelosi’s office being ransacked. The notion that free expression is sedition’s handmaiden or that the prevention of treason should be a higher goal than the open exchange or exposure of allegedly dangerous arguments are not controversial views anymore; they pop up frequently … in The Washington Post and The New York Times.”

Rosen goes on to list a rogues’ gallery of speech suppressors from the world of journalism, from Trump haters like Max Boot to Pulitzer Prize-winning J-school deans like Steve Coll to publishers like CNN, The Washington Post, and Pro Publica. All of them are rotten. And cowardly.

But whether Big Media is censoring us of its own volition or taking its cues from Big Tech hardly matters. When a former Facebook exec says, “We have to turn down the capability of these conservative influencers to reach these huge audiences,” it’s pretty clear that they’re rooting each other on, and it’s pretty clear why.

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