Louisiana federal Judge Terry A. Doughty shocked Americans with his July 4th restraining order against Biden’s digital team which was supposed to be fighting “disinformation” but was in reality just banning views online it didn’t like.
Doughty’s opinion is a jaw dropping expose of how White House staff bullied Facebook, Twitter and other platforms to remove content about election fraud, COVID concerns and other matters of public interest in blatant violation of the First Amendment. Governmental actors cannot demand that others do what they cannot under the Constitution, just as you can’t have proxies break the law for you. Yet that’s exactly what Biden officials did and that’s exactly what Judge Doughty stopped.
Curiously, Doughty’s order was stayed by the Fifth Circuit pending appeal. The case has been fast-tracked, however, given its serious nature, and an appellate decision is expected this fall.
Regardless of the outcome, White House staff either don’t know they are governed by the First Amendment (unlikely) or don’t care (likely). Their conduct also shows that COVID was almost certainly a fraud as were the measures imposed in its name, which were not only unwarranted but also anti-health and anti-medicine.
The opinion’s first 20 pages are most revealing. The Administration was sued by Missouri and Nebraska as well as doctors who signed the Great Barrington Declaration, a Statement by medical professionals opposing COVID masks, lockdowns and vaccine mandates. All claimants said their voices were silenced by the Administration and on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter when they tried to inform the public of alternative views about viruses and vaccines and alternative approaches to health. In criticizing masks and vaccine mandates, they highlighted that the vaccines had been rushed and were therefore experimental; and masks not only could not keep out tiny viruses but also blocked fresh air, a known tonic. Masks also harmed children’s development, especially their speech.
Within days of Biden taking office, however, high-level White House officials such as “Director of Digital Strategy” Robert Flaherty flagged tweets for removal when they had this kind of content. For example, Flaherty targeted tweets by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., now a Democrat presidential candidate but mostly known for his work exposing corrupt pharmaceutical companies, including vaccine manufacturers who have immunity from lawsuits even if their products seriously or fatally injure someone. “Get moving on the process of having [the Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. account] removed ASAP,” Flaherty ordered. He likewise micromanaged Facebook, at one point accusing it of “political violence” when it did not censor vaccine skeptics quickly enough: “We’re gravely concerned that your service is one of the top drivers of vaccine hesitancy – period. …. we want to know that you’re not playing a shell game with us …”
Worse, Flaherty threatened to have the Justice Department sue the platforms if they did not immediately obey – a gross abuse of our court system.
Sadly but unsurprisingly, the platforms were not only quick to appease but also servile when faced with this obnoxious pressure. In emails labeled “Misinformation themes,” Facebook responded, “Obviously we have work to do to gain your trust.”
No staff lawyer at Facebook suspected this pressure was unlawful?
Or did platforms acquiesce in a good-cop, bad-cop routine, with the White House and social media actually on the same team, working in concert – colluding – to deprive Americans of information?
By way of reminder, the free flow of information is always critical to sound decision-making whether that decision is what house to buy, what toothpaste to use – or what medical course to follow.
Has no one noticed the sudden prevalence of the terms “misinformation” and “disinformation” as rationalizations to ban content? Ten years ago these words were limited to spy novels or CIA operatives. Now they’re everywhere – even as reasonable people know that more information is always better than less and that citizens have always had to distinguish between what’s reliable and what’s not. It’s called due diligence. And it works fine.
Needless to say, this is not the Biden approach. Flaherty actually flaunted his power over platforms in classic, control-freak fashion, telling YouTube that his concern “was shared at the highest – and I mean the highest – levels of the White House.”
Similar tactics were used to remove posts that questioned election security. Biden officials actually accused platforms of contributing to riots and violence. When Facebook failed to censor Tucker Carlson, for example, White House Advisor Andrew Slavitt emailed, “[The last time we did this dance [about a failure to censor], it ended in insurrection.”
Understandably, reactions to this case have included both disbelief and disgust. But a few points should not get lost.
First and most basic – honest people do not behave this way.
Honest people do not desperately try to shut others up, wringing their hands about what’s being said or posted. Only shady characters do that, especially when they have something to hide and they know their story is falling apart. The collapsing story here is the security – and therefore legitimacy – of current elections as well as the entire COVID narrative. What’s more, when you’re told you can’t question something, you know you’re over the target and getting to the root of a problem.
Second, real medicine does not behave this way. Real medical care is not top-down, heavy handed, one-size fits all diktats where newborns and octogenarians are treated the same.
In fact, real medicine is extremely individualized and varies greatly, depending on a patient’s age, weight, genetics, environment and particular medical history.
Real medicine never pressures.
Indeed, what we saw with COVID – no talk of proper rest or proper nutrition and no tolerance for different approaches for different people but instead, exclusive if not maniacal focus on an experimental injection as a panacea – was the opposite of medicine and the opposite of public health.
And Flaherty & Co. aren’t medical professionals or public health officials but political hacks – if not henchmen.
“Misinformation” and “disinformation” are now code for doing government dirty work – withholding valuable information and banning legitimate medical opinions in violation of the First Amendment and to serve the interests of Big Pharma – or worse.
In short, “disinformation” means you’re over the target.
Teresa R. Manning is Policy Director at the National Association of Scholars, Vice-President of the Virginia Association of Scholars, and a former law professor at Scalia Law School, George Mason University.