At some point in this column, I have probably had occasion to quote these famous lines from Walter Scott’s poem “Marmion”:
“Oh, what a tangled web we weave
When first we practice to deceive.”
In another, better world, I like to think, the Bidens and their protectors and puppet masters would ruefully be contemplating Scott’s admonitory observation.
In this world, however, I suspect that—until quite recently, anyway—they had smugly sided with J.R. Pope’s sly amendment to Scott’s moralizing couplet:
“But when we’ve practiced for a while
How vastly we improve our style.”
I note that Pope’s amusing title for his opuscule is “A Word of Encouragement.”
Many of us feel a great contradiction at the heart of the Biden phenomenon.
On the one hand, he—“Big Guy” Joe—and his entire Snopes-like family—coke-head Hunter, “Dr.” Jill, the litter of grasping, on-the-make siblings—all seem like ciphers, the veritable incarnation of Gertrude Stein’s description of Oakland, CA: “there’s no there there.”
Indeed, from this point of view, Joe’s painful mental and, increasingly, physical vacancy seems to be the objective correlative for the entire Biden enterprise. It’s as if the nasty brother of the scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz suddenly came to life and occupied the White House. “If I only had a brain,” he snarls softly to himself, frightening everyone around him.
And that “as if” brings me to the extraordinary “other hand.” Joe Biden is president of the United States, still, if just barely, the most important political office in the world. Amazing. How could that be? Talk about going from zero to one!
Of course, history is littered with the spectacle of destructive lunatics and incompetents in high office, as such names as Caligula, Nero, Commodus, and Elagabalus remind us. (As an aside, I hereby note that Elagabalus is poised for a rerun, so perfectly does that epicene, “gender fluid” freak epitomize some of the central pathologies of our time).
The Bidens have yet to achieve the notoriety of such grimly illustrious predecessors. Nevertheless, these past months have not been kind to the Biden conglomerate.
First, there were the serial revelations of the Elon-Musk-enabled Twitter files, as journalists like Matt Taibbi, Glenn Greenwald, Bari Weiss and Michael Shellenberger took the ball and ran with it, exposing some portion of the Fed intrusion into and censorship of the media, social and otherwise. Those revelations might well have taken down another administration, but key segments of the media are too housebroken to respond to the scandal with condign outrage.
Second, the Republican takeover of the House, and the robust performance of Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Committee chairs like Jim Jordan (Judiciary) and James Comer (Oversight and Accountability) to ferret out, expose and hold to account the corrupt actors of the deep state, have opened a network of fissures in the edifice supporting the Biden conglomerate. Elections, as another politician observed, do have consequences.
Finally, there are the courts. The wheels of justice grind slow, we are told, but exceedingly fine. The Supreme Court has lately delivered a series of decisions that threaten to upend the entire “diversity industry” upon which the regime battens in its efforts to enforce ideological conformity throughout the educational establishment and a cowed and tranquillized populace.
The latest judicial intervention, released with what seems like poetic justice, on July 4, i.e., Independence Day, comes from U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty of Louisiana. In an extraordinarily forthright 155-page ruling, Judge Doughty issued a preliminary injunction barring the White House and clutch of federal agencies from liaising with social media to suppress, censor or otherwise subvert the expression of political opinions critical of the regime.
Responding to Missouri v. Biden, a suit brought by the Attorneys General of Missouri and Louisiana, Doughty noted with refreshing frankness that “the censorship alleged in this case almost exclusively targeted conservative speech.”
“The evidence produced thus far depicts an almost dystopian scenario,” he wrote, “During the COVID-19 pandemic, a period perhaps best characterized by widespread doubt and uncertainty, the United States Government seems to have assumed a role similar to an Orwellian ‘Ministry of Truth.’”
And at issue is not just censorship of contrary opinions about Covid, its origins, severity and appropriate treatment, along with still-burning questions about the efficacy and safety of vaccines imposed upon a stupefied public. The censorship also extended to other subjects, including the Hunter Biden “laptop from hell” story, which all the world now knows was ruthlessly censored on the lead up to the 2020 election. And then there is the 2020 election itself, whose long shadow includes the January 6 imbroglio.
As Judge Doughty noted, “All were suppressed.” Furthermore, he wrote, “it is quite telling that each example or category of suppressed speech was conservative in nature. This targeted suppression of conservative ideas is a perfect example of viewpoint discrimination of political speech. American citizens have the right to engage in free debate about the significant issues affecting the country.”
“Have” or “had?”
Philip Hamburger, Columbia law professor and CEO of the New Civil Liberties Alliance (which represents plaintiffs in the case), crisply summarized the state of play in an OpEd for The Wall Street Journal. The case, Hamburger predicted, may well “become one of the most important free-speech cases in the nation’s history.”
The injunction is against the FBI, the DOJ, the CDC and five other federal agencies, as well as against such officials as the Surgeon General and various White House staffers. It prohibits them from “threatening, pressuring, or coercing social-media companies in any manner to remove, delete, suppress, or reduce posted content of postings containing protected free speech.”
Everyone expects the Biden administration to appeal the judgment. After all, having been in the censorship business so long and so successfully, the administration will be loath to open the window on free expression and opinions critical of their performance.
We don’t yet know how this case will turn out. Perhaps Judge Doughty will be overturned and the censorship and suppression industry will go on its merry way making the world safe for Democrats. But I suspect that the genie has been let out of the bottle. The Deep state will howl. The forces of freedom will howl louder, and now they have the House and, most likely, the courts on their side.
Whatever happens, the Wall Street Journal’s Jacob Gershman is right: “The case is among the most potentially consequential First Amendment battles pending in the courts, testing the limits on government scrutiny of social-media content on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other major platforms. Never before has a federal judge set such sweeping limits on how the federal government may communicate with online platforms.”
I wish I knew what Judge Doughty’s favorite tipple is. I’d like to buy him a case of it.