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The Twitter Files: Just the Beginning

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From the Brownstone Institute

BY Jeffrey A. TuckerJEFFREY A. TUCKER  

Bari Weiss, who left the New York Times in protest against the culture of that paper, had been given access to another tranche of inside information about the operation of Twitter before Elon Musk took over. She found vast confirmation of what we’ve suspected for years now: the platform was censoring people who objected to lockdowns and vaccine mandates among the whole litany of coercion and compulsion that swept the world from March 2020.

The first person highlighted here is Stanford’s Jay Bhattacharya, who only joined the platform in the summer of 2021. During this entire time, Twitter spokespeople had said repeatedly that it did not shadowban but of course all of us knew otherwise.

It turns out that the company had an elaborate system for deboosting, shadowbanning, trending topic bans, search bans, and other fancy tricks all designed to minimize as much as possible the reach of a person’s account.

You can see some of the controls imposed from the admin panel. He was treated lightly compared with others. More than 10,000 were banned.

She goes on to give other examples among which there are surely thousands and I’m all-but apodictically certain that I have been among them. After Elon took over, my own accounts have seen tremendous increase in reach, follows, and so on.

There is a lawsuit pending as brought by the Attorneys General of Missouri and Louisiana that accuses the Biden administration (and really the whole administrative state as it pertains to communication and information) of violating the First Amendment by colluding with Big Tech companies. There are already hundreds of pages here to document this but Elon’s releases only further entrench the point. It is now so incredibly obvious that this is exactly what was going on.

Now we know how Elon could fire 3 out of 4 workers there and the platform would work better than ever. These people were not working for the platform. They were working against it. And to what end? To keep the schools closed. To force people to get the jabs. To keep the travel restrictions in place. To keep people in masks and living in terror of a virus. This all really happened.

What pertains to Twitter is surely true at Google (therefore YouTube), Facebook (therefore Instagram), Microsoft (therefore LinkedIn), and even Amazon (many great books were blocked from publication and distribution). At this point, one would have to be completely blind about the reality of what we’ve dealt with for almost three years: in the name of virus control, the country, its laws and traditions, its liberties and rights, were taken over by a junta with different ideas.

Tellingly, one of Musk’s tasks has been to ferret out the spooks on the staff. Jim Baker of the FBI seems to have been involved in vetting the first release of information from the Twitter files, so he too was thrown out, presumably clearing the path for more information to be released.

Some of the commentary I’m seeing this morning is trying to characterize this whole sorry situation as the censoring of “conservatives.” That is completely incorrect. It was fundamentally about objecting to Covid controls (which were pushed by vast numbers on the left and right, among whom Mike Pence). The dissidents from despotism include many people from all over the political spectrum and many who have no political bent at all but merely have a penchant for truth-telling.

(As an aside, I’m completely weary of bogus media-monitoring services describing Brownstone as conservative or right of center. This is ridiculous, for more than half our writers, or more, have a tradition of being on the left. For my own part, I was among the first to warn of what a Trump presidency could become. This was back in 2015. This was followed by a full book exposing the statism of the right.)

What shakes me every time I think about it is this: we only know the inner workings of Twitter because Elon had the idea of buying the company for $44 billion. And that sale went through because stockholders approved it and funding sources backed him. Twitter is now among the only top venues in the technology space that is not curating information flows according to the priorities of the national security state. Think about that.

Just how close did we come to losing every bit of free speech? Very. And the battle is very much alive. As I finished writing this column, I received the following from LinkedIn concerning a Brownstone article from yesterday. Now we know for sure what motivates this kind of thing and it is not customers, stockholders, and information freedom. It is about service to government and the deep state in particular.

Every time these releases come out, we think that is surely the worst of it. But it always gets worse.

The FTX scandal is deeply related here and we know very little about where some $10 billion of its fraudulently acquired funds went. We are starting to trace the networks, however, and they flow through many nonprofits, scientists, and universities that mysteriously went silent from March 2020 onward. In this case “effective altruism” really meant totalitarian control of the whole of society.

For years now, many of us thought perhaps we were the crazy ones. Why are so many top voices and once-respected institutions wholly signed up to go along with the destruction of freedom and the social order in the name of a completely unworkable plan to manage a virus by crushing liberty? How the heck did this come to be?

We are gradually learning: it was about power and money.

And yet we also have before us some examples of how to beat the hegemon. Bhattacharya, Musk, and so many others show the path. It is a path of moral courage. Do what’s right. Don’t play along. Tell the truth and fight for it. All the power and money in the world cannot stand up against that seemingly simple approach.

Sadly, such moral courage is too rare. Far too rare.

We’ve all been personally devastated to see so many friends, colleagues, institutions, and once-trusted venues completely fail over three years of hell. Whole networks went silent, even those that claim to support liberty. At the same time, we should be inspired by the few examples of courage too and the difference it makes.

Brownstone is pledged to getting to the bottom of this disaster one way or another, and highlighting and supporting the best researchers, writers, and professional voices who can assist in the great effort before us: finding the truth and pointing a way out of this astonishing morass. I will end with a simple word of profound thanks to readers and supporters. We need you now more than ever. The whole world needs you.

As Ludwig von Mises wrote in 1922:

Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders; no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards de­struction. Therefore everyone, in his own interests, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle. No one can stand aside with unconcern: the interests of everyone hang on the result. Whether he chooses or not, every man is drawn into the great historical struggle, the decisive battle into which our epoch has plunged us. ~ Ludwig von Mises

Author

  • Jeffrey A. Tucker

    Jeffrey A. Tucker, Founder and President of the Brownstone Institute, is an economist and author. He has written 10 books, including Liberty or Lockdown, and thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press. He writes a daily column on economics at The Epoch Times, and speaks widely on topics of economics, technology, social philosophy, and culture.

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Brownstone Institute

Justices’ Grave Error in Murthy v. Missouri

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From the Brownstone Institute

BY Aaron KheriatyAARON KHERIATY 

Along with my co-plaintiffs, I was at the Supreme Court last week for oral arguments in our Murthy v. Missouri case, in which we are challenging the federal government’s alleged censorship on social media. The Supreme Court will likely rule in June whether to uphold, modify, or strike down the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals’ injunction against five federal agencies, in what, the district court judge wrote, “arguably involves the most massive attack against free speech in United States’ history.”

At the hearing, Justice Samuel Alito pointed out that emails between the White House and Facebook “showed constant pestering of Facebook.” He went on to comment, “I cannot imagine federal officials taking this approach to the print media…It’s treating these platforms like subordinates.” He then asked the government’s attorney, “Would you treat the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal this way? Do you think the print media considers themselves ‘partners’ with government? I can’t imagine the federal government doing that to them.”

The government’s attorney had to admit, “The anger is unusual” — referring to White House official Rob Flaherty literally cursing at a Facebook executive and berating him for not taking action quickly enough to comply with the government’s censorship demands.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh followed up, asking, “On the anger point, do you think federal government officials regularly call up journalists and berate them?” It’s worth recalling that Kavanaugh worked as a White House attorney before he was appointed to the court, as did Justices John Roberts and Elena Kagan. No doubt there were times they dialed a journalist or editor to try to convince them to change a story, clarify a factual assertion, or even hold or quash the publication of a piece. Kavanaugh admitted, “It’s not unusual for the government to claim national security or wartime necessity to suppress a story.”

Perhaps colorful language is sometimes used in these conversations, as Kavanaugh himself hinted. Kagan concurred: “Like Justice Kavanaugh, I have had some experience encouraging the press to suppress its own speech…This happens literally thousands of times a day in the federal government.” With a wink to the other former executive branch attorneys on the bench, Roberts quipped, “I have no experience coercing anyone,” which generated a rare chuckle from the bench and audience.

This analogy to government interactions with print media, however, does not hold in the case of the government’s relationship with social mediaThere are several crucial differences that profoundly change the power dynamic of those interactions in ways directly relevant to our case. These differences facilitate, in Alito’s words, the government treating the platforms like subordinates in ways that would be impossible with print media.

Behind the Scenes

First, when a government official contacts a newspaper, he is talking directly to the journalist or editor — the person whose speech he is trying to alter or curtail. The writer or editor has the freedom to say, “I see your point, so I’ll hold my story for one week to allow the CIA time to get their spies out of Afghanistan.” But the speaker also has the freedom to say, “Nice try, but I’m not persuaded I got the facts wrong on this, so I’m running the story.” The publisher here has the power, and there is little the government can do to threaten that power.

By contrast, with requests or demands for social media censorship, the government was never talking with the person whose speech was censored, but with a third party operating entirely behind the scenes. As my co-plaintiff, the eminent epidemiologist Dr. Martin Kulldorff, quipped, “I would have been happy to get a call from a government official and hear about why I should take down a post or change my views on the scientific evidence.”

Power Dynamic

Additionally, there is little the government can do to destroy the business model and cripple the New York Times or Wall Street Journal, and the journalists and editors know this. If the government pushes too hard, it will also be front page news the next day: “Government Trying to Bully The Post to Censor Our Breaking Story,” with the lede, “Naturally, we told them to go pound sand.”

But the power dynamic is entirely different with Facebook, Google, and X (formerly Twitter): The government does have a sword of Damocles to hang over the head of noncompliant social media companies if they refuse to censor — in fact, several swords, including the threat to remove Section 230 liability protections, which Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has accurately called an “existential threat” to their business, or threats to break up their monopolies. As the record in our lawsuit shows, the government explicitly made just such threats, even publicly on several occasions, in direct connection to their censorship demands.

Furthermore, unlike the major tech companies, newspapers or magazines do not have massive government contracts that might disappear if they refuse to comply. When the FBI or Department of Homeland Security calls Facebook or X with censorship demands, the corporate executives know that a weaponized agency has the power to launch frivolous but onerous investigations at any time. It thus becomes virtually impossible for social media companies to tell the government to take a hike — indeed, they may have a fiduciary duty to shareholders not to incur serious risks by resisting government pressure.

The text of the First Amendment doesn’t say the government shall not “prevent” or “forbid” free speech; it says the government shall not “abridge” free speech — i.e., shall not do anything to lesson a citizen’s ability to speak or diminish one’s potential reach. A sensible and clear injunction would simply state, “Government shall not request that social media companies remove or suppress legal speech.”

But if the justices want to distinguish between persuasion and coercion in the injunction, they need to appreciate that social media companies operate in a very different relationship with government than traditional print media. These asymmetrical power dynamics create a relationship ripe for unconstitutional government coercion.

Republished from The Federalist

Author

  • Aaron Kheriaty

    Aaron Kheriaty, Senior Brownstone Institute Counselor, is a Scholar at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, DC. He is a former Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California at Irvine School of Medicine, where he was the director of Medical Ethics.

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Caitlin & Zach: Now Comes The Complicated Part

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The Caitlin Clark numbers that the TV networks were focussed on in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Final on Sunday were not her statistics in the Iowa loss to South Carolina.  (For those counting such things they were under 32.5 Points (-110), Under 9.5 Assists (+100), Under 5.5 3PM (+105). )

No, the numbers the influencers were looking for were the TV rating she and her Iowa teammates chalked up in the 87-75 defeat to the Gamecocks. The Iowa vs LSU Elite Eight game became the “most-watched college basketball game ever on ESPN platforms” with 12.3 million viewers, That was followed by last Thursday’s semifinal win over UConn that smashed the previous record with a 14.1 rating. What would Sunday deliver?

For programmers who’ve searched for a star to sell women’s hoops to a broader market, Clark seems a Godsend. She scored more points this season (1,234) than Iowa football scored during her time as a Hawkeye (1,028). Leading to this from LeBron James: “@KingJames If you don’t rock with Caitlin Clark game you’re just a FLAT OUT HATER!!!!! Stay far away from them people!! PLEASE.”

But there was also the humble Caitlin Clark from the minutes after losing on Sunday: “People will probably remember our two Final Fours and things like that. But people aren’t gonna remember every single win or every single loss. I think they’re just gonna remember the moments that they shared at one of our games. Or watching on TV. Or how excited their young daughter or son got about watching women’s basketball. I think that’s pretty cool. Those are the things that mean the most to me.”

The satirical site @TheBabylonBee cheekily summed it up. “Caitlin Clark Canonized As Saint After Performing Miracle Of Making Women’s Basketball Watchable.” Indeed there are some who believe that it’s Clark, not the moon, causing the eclipse on Monday.

But there is truth to the claim to Clark as a saviour. As we have written on multiple occasions, women’s sports has been in search of a marketable messiah to change it from ESPN liberal hype to mainstream. For too many in the audience— including women— the image of these sports has become too political. As the gender revolt took hold, fans were turned off by the strident lesbian soccer player  Megan Rapinoe and WNBA star Britney Griner who turned every game into a referendum on the latest #LGBTQ talking points.

There was a resistance to their defiance and the craven submission of corporate voices infatuated by DEI praise. To some, players on opposing hockey teams marrying each other was jarring. But Clark seems to be breaking the mold. The advertising world will beat a path to her door despite the second consecutive defeat in the Women’s Final. She’ll be honoured with woman athlete of the year and more. When she’s drafted into the WNBA there will be editorials suggesting the future has arrived.

The most interesting reaction may come from the women already in the WNBA. The intrusion of a white, conservative, straight Christian woman in their midst won’t sit well in a league where women of that description have been made to feel unwelcome in many dressing rooms. She’ll need a tough hide to survive the resentment of other players who see themselves as the stars and Clark as a product of white privilege.

Although his challenge is not quite as daunting as Clark’s, Canadian Zach Edey faces a similar challenge as he moves past Monday night’s mens’ final where he and his Purdue teammates go up against the mighty UConn Huskies. The 7-foot-4 product of Leaside High School in Toronto has won the NCAA mens player of the year in consecutive seasons as the Boilermakers’ top scorer and rebounder.

Edey is the tallest player in NCAA history and combined with his stunning statistics you’d think the imposing product of a Chinese mother and a white father might be going Top 3 in the NBA draft in June. His ball handling and footwork are remarkable for a man that large. His defensive impact is off the charts.

Yet Edey is being talked down by the scouts who insist that his skill set will not fit in the modern run-n-gun NBA. Where once a presence like Edey in the low post would be a huge asset, teams today want even their big men to shoot threes and perform away from the basket. The assets he possesses are seen as drawbacks causing him to fall into the second round of the draft— or further.

Edey will also face the cultural challenge of the NBA with its overbearing politics and racial emphasis. While there are many successful white stars from Europe, an Asian/ Canadian whose toughness is questioned will have a lonely existence till he proves himself against the LeBrons, Currys and Antetokounmpos. But, like Clark, he could use this summer’s Olympics as a springboard if Canada chooses him to wear the maple leaf in Paris.

They’ve been twinned in triumph at the collegiate level. Let’s see where they go next.

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster  A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History, his new book with his son Evan, was voted the seventh-best professional hockey book of all time by bookauthority.org . His 2004 book Money Players was voted sixth best on the same list, and is available via brucedowbigginbooks.ca.

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