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OPINION: Broadcast Censorship Threatens First Amendment and Sunday Eagles Games

The Federal Communications Commission recently opened public comment on the renewal of the broadcast license for WTXF-TV, a Philadelphia Fox affiliate—better known as Fox 29. Normally such a renewal would be a routine and hum-drum affair without public comment. However, this unusual move is being undertaken thanks to a petition from The Media and Democracy Project, which is asking the FCC to punish the station due to its affiliation with Fox News and controversy about news coverage questioning the legitimacy of the 2020 election.

This attempt to use government regulators to punish the exercise of First Amendment rights is disturbing, short-sighted, and an affront to the people of Philadelphia, the very birthplace of our Constitution.

One of the essential aspects of being a free people is the freedom of the press. It is not surprising that the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights explicitly protects Americans, and the press that serves them, from being silenced by the government. However, without a culture that values and defends these freedoms, the First Amendment becomes little more than ink on some old paper.

The fact that supposedly pro-democracy activists are seeking to weaponize the government to punish people they disagree with, and the fact that the FCC has decided to open the issue to public comment, demonstrates just how fragile our cherished freedoms are. What’s even more unusual in this case, is that the FCC hasn’t even announced how long it will be receiving comments—a procedural omission that lacks transparency. Add in the fact that the complaint is over merely one single hour of programming each week, the Fox News Sunday program carried by Fox 29. It is hard to interpret this move as anything but an attempt to dissuade other broadcast media from airing views with which The Media and Democracy Project, or anyone else able to raise a fuss, disagrees. What’s worse, failing to renew Fox 29’s license would also deprive Philadelphians of the Eagles’ Sunday games.

Beyond being fundamentally anti-American, this attempt to weaponize a regulatory agency to silence the press is extremely short-sighted. Today there is a Democrat president and a Democrat head of the FCC. Eventually there will be a Republican president and a Republican head of the FCC.

Up until now, FCC heads of either party have been explicit that the FCC does not have the authority to revoke a license based on the editorial content of the station. In response to calls by then-President Donald Trump to censor media that he disagreed with, the former Republican head of the FCC, Ajit Pai, stated in 2017 that “under the law, the FCC does not have the authority to revoke a license of a broadcast station based on the content…the FCC under my leadership will stand for the First Amendment.” The current head of the FCC, Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel, has stated that licensing renewals do “not involve the government making editorial decisions about content. Doing so would be an affront to our First Amendment tradition.”

If this bipartisan consensus on regulatory neutrality is lost,  there will be nothing to stop future presidents, of either party, from weaponizing the FCC to punish critics and incentivize favorable press coverage. The Media and Democracy Project may be displeased with Fox, but attempting to take out that displeasure via the government is opening a Pandora’s Box that assures only future strife and the further breakdown of the pro-free speech norms that are at the heart of our republic.

Ultimately, the assumption upon which this complaint rests is perhaps the most insulting and worrisome aspect of this entire ordeal. Complaining that Fox 29 aired falsehoods, and therefore must be punished by the government, is really saying that Philadelphians, viewers in the Delaware Valley, South Jersey and Delaware are too ignorant to look at the evidence and decide for themselves what they think is true and what is false and need guidance from “wise” bureaucrats who obviously know better.

It is a simple fact of life that well-intentioned people will disagree about what is true and what is false. Rational people can look at the same evidence and come to different conclusions. There are two ways to deal with this disagreement: we can either learn to live together despite our disagreements, or we can attempt to force those who disagree with us to be silent. History is full of attempts at the latter option and none of them have ended well. The First Amendment is America’s declaration that we have learned from this history of violence over deep disagreements and have chosen a different course.

So far, the FCC has withstood attempts by both sides of the political spectrum to punish “the other side,” but the fact that it has opened public comments on what should be a routine license renewal is worrisome.

However, people across the political spectrum who value our hard-won liberties, but especially those in the Philadelphia area, can use this as an opportunity to remind the FCC by commenting on its website that Americans still value free speech, don’t want to further inflame political tensions by turning it into a regulatory cudgel, and that we are more than capable of deciding for ourselves which news station to watch.

America is unique in the extent to which free speech and the press are protected from government censorship. It is only by continuing to be vigilant in defending these hard-won freedoms that we and our descendants can continue to enjoy and make use of them. At the end of the day, Philadelphians care about being home to the Constitution and the watching the Eagles win. The Media and Democracy Project is attacking both.

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Casey Mattox is an attorney specializing in the First Amendment and Vice President of Legal and Judicial Strategy at Americans for Prosperity.


OPINION: Government Blocks Food Advertiser From Telling the Truth

Advertisers sometimes stretch the truth. But small-business owner Ketan Vakil got in trouble for the opposite reason: He wanted to put correct information about his meat broths and spice blends on product packaging.

His New York company, Gourmend Foods, uses ingredients that are low FODMAP, an acronym for difficult-to-digest sugars. People with sensitive stomachs look for low FODMAP options when they shop, so Vakil decided to make things easy.

He designed labels that clearly and accurately described the contents as “low FODMAP.” The claim is not just slick marketing. Vakil’s products are laboratory tested and independently certified as low FODMAP.

No one disputes the fact. Yet, when Vakil expanded his product line to include beef broth, the Department of Agriculture forced him to remove any mention of FODMAP from the label. He could not even say “digestible” or “gut-loving.” The USDA also alerted the Food and Drug Administration, which has jurisdiction to regulate Vakil’s chicken broth and seasoning mixes.

Packaging for these products already included the “low FODMAP” claim. Now Vakil must worry about an FDA crackdown. The reason has nothing to do with truth in advertising.

Regulators ban using “low FODMAP” and similar language on food labels because federal agencies follow an outdated list of preapproved “nutrient content claims.” No one can call any product “low FODMAP,” regardless of the ingredients, until the government catches up with consumer demand and expands its menu of permissible descriptions.

Vakil and his customers cannot wait. Tens of millions of citizens suffer from digestive disorders, including Vakil. He started his business in 2021 to fill a market gap after spending years searching for low FODMAP options for himself. Finding packaged foods with the information he needed proved difficult, he developed his recipes and eventually launched Gourmend Foods. That’s when he discovered the problem was government censorship, not market resistance.

Rather than accept the restrictions on his speech, Vakil and Nevada customer Michelle Przybocki fought back with a First Amendment lawsuit filed in March 2023. Our public interest law firm, the Institute for Justice, represents them.

The case hinges on the constitutional right to convey truthful, factual, verifiable information without government permission.

The war on FODMAP labeling is just one example of abuse. Regulators tried to stop Florida creamery owner Mary Lou Wesselhoeft from calling her skim milk “skim milk” in 2014. They said she had to call it “imitation” skim milk, ironically because she refused to add artificial vitamins. Wesselhoeft had to go to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to defeat the government censors.

Daniel Staackmann, the founder of plant-based food company Upton’s Naturals, fought his own First Amendment battle in Mississippi. State lawmakers, acting at the behest of the meat lobby, told him in 2019 he could not call his veggie burgers “veggie burgers.” He could not call his meatless hot dogs “meatless hot dogs.” And he could not call his vegan bacon “vegan bacon.” The state did not back down until Staackmann sued in federal court.

A similar feud has continued for years over the right of plant-based milk producers to use the word “milk.” Actress Aubrey Plaza sided with Big Dairy on April 20 when she starred in a satirical ad for “wood milk.”

The backlash from her fans was swift. For now, at least, they can continue buying plant-based milk products with accurate and easy-to-understand labels. Draft guidance from the FDA, released in February, rejects the dairy industry’s push to criminalize common terms like “almond milk,” “coconut milk,” “soy milk” and “oat milk.”

This conclusion should never have been in doubt. Like low FODMAP foods, the First Amendment is easy to digest. The underlying concept is simple: Businesses have a right to tell the truth, and customers have a right to hear it.

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T/E Backs Down From Censorship of Conestoga High School Newspaper

It took a strongly worded letter from First Amendment and journalism organizations—with the threat of a lawsuit–to get the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District to back down from its censorship of the Conestoga High School newspaper.

Ben Shapiro, the incoming editor for The Spoke newspaper, noted versions of the student destination map, which tell where seniors are going immediately after graduation, whether to college, to work, to the military, or taking a gap year. or going to a vocational school had been published by The Spoke every year since the 1960s.

Suddenly, in 2023 there was a problem with it.

Shapiro said Principal Amy Mesinger, the assistant principal and the English department chair, met with the school newspaper’s editors about the destination map after they asked permission to publish a questionnaire on Schoology, an official school website. The students had already posted it on the paper’s website and social media.

“She told us the district couldn’t support our senior map,” said Shapiro, a rising senior. “And no district resources could be used because the district believed it was harmful to students.”

Asked how it could be harmful to students, Shapiro said the principal said he believed “other students might judge them for what their post-high school was, whether that be a college that someone might not deem as like a ‘good school’ or someone was going to take a gap year if people have negative perceptions of gap years.”

“Basically, she was telling us that the district couldn’t support the map because of that,” Shapiro said. Shapiro said there was an equity argument because she talked about some people not getting into their first choice of college or being unable to afford it. In an email, she told Shapiro the information was “arguably discriminatory.”

But Messinger told him later it was actually for “mental health” reasons rather than equity.

“My stance on this is that it doesn’t matter why they don’t want us to publish, that their attempted censorship was the issue at hand,” said Shapiro. “And they were breaking not only school board policy but Pennsylvania state law and the First Amendment by telling us we couldn’t.”

Lawyer Lindsie Rank, with the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression [FIRE], told DVJournal that due to previously adopted board policies, Treddyfrin/Easttown falls under case law that offers robust protection for student journalists. However, some other districts may not.

In a letter that the Pennsylvania School Press Association also signed, the Student Press Law Center, and the Journalism Education Association, the principal told the students the map “does not align with the district’s equity goals” and that it “highlights individuals who can afford more prestigious colleges and that one student had cried to their guidance counselor out of concern over being judged if their peers saw what college they planned to attend.”

“This act of censorship defies district policy governing the relationship between school administration and student media, not to mention the First Amendment,” the letter said. “District policy and Pennsylvania state law prohibit Conestoga from acting against The Spoke for publishing content that, controversial among school officials and some students, poses no threat of causing a material and substantial disruption to the classroom or general order of the school.”

Shapiro said the students who run the newspaper were worried about getting into trouble.

“I mean, rightfully so,” said Shapiro. “I think my editorial board is very scared because we’re all about 15, 16, or 17-year-olds fighting our principal.”

Rank said FIRE would have taken legal action against the district if needed, but school officials backed down.

Chris Connolly, a district spokesperson, denied “equity” was involved in the map brouhaha.

“The Spoke is permitted to print the senior destination map as usual. There was not a discussion about equity as it relates to the map,” Connolly said.


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SOAVE: Emails Reveal CDC Role in Silencing COVID Dissent on Facebook

After he acquired Twitter, Elon Musk granted several journalists access to internal messages between the government and the platform’s moderators, which demonstrate concerted efforts by various federal agencies — including the FBI, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the White House — to persuade Twitter to restrict speech. These disclosures, known as the Twitter Files, are eye-opening.

But Twitter was hardly the only object of federal pressure. According to confidential documents obtained by Reason magazine, health advisers at the CDC also had significant input on pandemic-era social media policies at Facebook. They were consulted frequently, at times daily. They were actively involved in the affairs of content moderators, providing constant and ever-evolving guidance. They requested frequent updates about which topics were trending on the platforms, and they recommended what kinds of content should be deemed false or misleading.

These files show that the platform responded with incredible deference. Facebook routinely asked the government to vet specific claims, including whether the virus was “man-made” rather than zoonotic. (The CDC responded that a man-made origin was “technically possible” but “extremely unlikely.”)

In other emails, Facebook asked: “For each of the following claims, which we’ve recently identified on the platform, can you please tell us if: the claim is false; and, if believed, could this claim contribute to vaccine refusals?” (Twitter, for its part, gave the CDC access to a special portal that made it easier to report misinformation infractions.)

The platforms may have thought they had little choice but to please the CDC, given the tremendous pressure to stamp out misinformation. This pressure came from no less an authority than President Biden, who famously accused social media companies of “killing people” in a July 2021 speech.

“What’s at stake is the future of free speech in the technological age,” said Jenin Younes, the New Civil Liberties Alliance’s litigation counsel. “We’ve never had a situation where the federal government at very high levels is coordinating or coercing social media to do its bidding in terms of censoring people.”

These concerns are well-founded, as the emails obtained by make clear. Throughout the pandemic, CDC officials exchanged dozens of messages with content moderators.

Facebook is a private entity and thus is within its rights to moderate content in any fashion it sees fit. But the federal government’s efforts to pressure social media companies cannot be waved away. A private company may choose to exclude certain perspectives, but if the company takes such action only after politicians and bureaucrats threaten it, reasonable people might conclude the choice is an illusion. Such an arrangement — whereby private entities, at the behest of the government, become ideological enforcers — is unacceptable. And it may be illegal.

There is a word for government officials using the threat of punishment to extort desired behaviors from private actors. It’s jawboning.  Will Duffield, a policy analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute, thinks the federal government’s jawboning on COVID-19 misinformation might violate the First Amendment.

“Multiple arms of the administration delivered the jawboning effort together,” Duffield said. “Each one component wouldn’t rise to something legally actionable, but when taken as a whole administration push, it might.”

A proposed solution is to explicitly prohibit government officials from engaging in jawboning. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R–Wash., has introduced a bill, the Protecting Speech from Government Interference Act, that would penalize federal employees who use their positions to push for speech restrictions. Enforcement would be akin to the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from using their positions to engage in campaign activities. If this bill were to become law, federal officials would have to be more careful about advising social media platforms to censor speech or risk loss of pay or even termination. 

This is the superior approach: Legislators should regulate government employees’ encouragement of censorship on social media platforms rather than the platforms themselves.

The loudest jawboners are the nation’s senators and congressional representatives, frequently inveighing against the tech industry and its leaders. Democratic lawmakers routinely accuse Facebook of subverting American democracy by allowing too many Russian bots and then threatening to break up the company. Republicans say virtually the same thing, except they claim American democracy was subverted by Big Tech’s mishandling of the Hunter Biden laptop story.

Prohibiting lawmakers from demanding censorship is legally thornier than prohibiting federal bureaucrats from making demands of private media companies. The Speech or Debate Clause of the Constitution gives members of Congress fairly broad latitude to say whatever is on their minds. So, ultimately, it is up to voters to punish congressional jawboning and politicians who don’t support free speech.

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Philly Dem Files Bill to Strip School Boards of Power to ‘Ban’ Books

State Rep. Christopher Rabb plans to reintroduce a bill that would prevent what he calls “book banning” by school boards, arguing that only school employees — and not elected officials — should have that power.

Rabb, a Philadelphia Democrat, told Delaware Valley Journal that the bill is needed as districts are pulling books from shelves over parents’ concerns about sexually graphic or racially inflammatory content.

“It’s in response to rampant censorship efforts in school districts statewide,” said Rabb, when asked if he was targeting the Central Bucks School District in particular. That district has come under fire after the school board voted to institute a process where community members can ask that books be reviewed. A spokesperson for the district declined to comment on Thursday.

Image from “Gender Queer,” one of the books parents object to.

Rabb circulated a sponsoring memo about the bill in October and Reps. Nancy Guenst (D-Hatboro) and Ben Sanchez (D-Abington) signed on as co-sponsors.

Rabb’s bill died in the 2021-22 session without leaving the education committee.

That memo said, “These book bans are an attempt to censor educators and restrict the information and educational materials that students can have access to in school. In addition, these effectively unilateral decisions made by school boards are extremely harmful to LGBTQ+ youth and students of color given that the subjects discussed in these so-called ‘inappropriate’ and ‘explicit’ books often discuss many serious and real issues impacting these communities.”

Rabb argued elected school board members should not have the power to make decisions about educational materials. That power, he said, should be in the hands of school employees like principals and teachers.

“It’s not up to any elected school board member to ban it,” Rapp said. “That’s a pretty low bar. Where’s the due diligence?” People like superintendents, principals, teachers, and school librarians should be in charge of what books are available to students he said, not school board members.

“If school boards decide to ban a book, that’s the definition of censorship,” said Rabb.

Rabb said safeguards are in place for parents who disapprove of certain books. They can tell their district that their children “opt out” from reading those books, he said.

Some local mothers vigorously disagreed.

Malvern mom Fenicia Redman is suing the Great Valley School District and state officials in federal court to keep obscene and pornographic books out of her son’s high school.

“Do parents ‘of color’ know that a representative ‘of color’ endorses material in school libraries depicting children giving each other oral sex, pedophilia, masturbation, and more?” Redman asked. “As a mother ‘of color’ I’m happy to lend a few posters and books so the representative ‘of color’ can host a show-and-tell with his children and the press, advising how the material isn’t harmful to children or a federal crime.”

Parent Jamie Walker of Chalfont said, “Parents vote in school board members they feel best represent them and want the best for their children. I believe this bill is an attempt by Democrats to push their agenda of getting inappropriate books into schools because they are failing to do so at the local level. This is exactly what the Democratic Party did with COVID mitigation. History repeats itself and parents should be upset.”

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FLOWERS: Musk’s Twitter Stock Stake Brings Hope Censorship Will End

“Elon’s coming, You can tweet, girl

Elon’s coming, You can tweet, girl

Girl, Elon’s a coming no need to hide

Girl, Elon’s a coming no need to hide

Girl, Elon’s coming, Trump might tweet too…”

I’ve been singing this to the tune of “Eli’s Coming” by Three Dog Night ever since I heard the Tesla founder just bought a sizeable stake in Twitter. It’s not that I think things are going to change overnight, or that President Donald Trump will be gracing us anytime soon with midnight commentaries from the golden bidet.

However, the fact that an accomplished capitalist has decided to look in the face of censorship–and call it what it is–fills me with a hope I haven’t felt since the initial days of the Black Lives Matter riots. I suppose I should call them protests, because “riot” was one of the words that used to get you banned from social media platforms back when Orwell was just an old, dead White guy with no current relevance.

But, Elon’s coming, and with him the possibility that people will actually be able to express themselves without fear of using the wrong word, an improvident letter, an offensive pronoun. Musk may not be the sort of change agent we need in these censored times, but he’s a start.

The thing that seemed to push him over the edge into action was Twitter’s decision to suspend the satirical site, Babylon Bee, because it had the audacity to point out the fact that Rachel Levine is a biological male. Yes, she is a trans woman who spent the vast majority of her life as a man. Yes, she was praised by USA Today as one of its “Women of the Year,” (Unlike Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the newspaper can at least propose one definition of the term.) And yes, it’s not nice to make fun of people.

But, um, that’s what satire is, and really good satire can sting. The Babylon Bee has an exquisite sting (hence the name), and there are many of us who need our daily dose of what I like to call “uncommon nonsense” from some of the best writers in the business. Its sharp, perceptive, sometimes cruel but always entertaining, and intelligent commentary is water in the ideological desert, at least for thirsty conservatives.

Twitter, however, wasn’t amused. When Elon Musk saw this technological megalith was selectively silencing people who violated the accepted standards of woke virtue and secular sacrament, he did what any good entrepreneur would do: he bought himself some power. I love the fact that, in this case, money really did talk. Or rather, tweet.

Of course, progressives are apoplectic. They started out pretending that it was no big deal and that Musk’s share of the company wouldn’t change its direction. Then, when he was asked to sit on the board, they started talking about how Twitter wasn’t a governmental entity and the constitutional principles that they usually venerate (choice, equality, fairness) didn’t apply to the marketplace of ideas.

Fortunately for them, Elon has, at least temporarily, decided that he won’t join the board. This might be because he would have been limited to only a 14.9 percent stake in the company as a board member, and could exercise greater financial control if he wasn’t on the board.

Regardless, his decision not to assume an official leadership position hasn’t stopped the apoplexy.

The thing that these triggered Twittorwellians don’t understand is that the marketplace is not just composed of government actors.  If a private company reaches such mammoth dimensions that it essentially “becomes” the marketplace. It is a quasi-governmental entity, and I think that Justices Brandeis and Holmes would agree that the First Amendment has at least some relevance.

Watching progressives sweat is both a delight and an inspiration. I don’t have the billions that Elon Musk does, but I think I will start using my own limited wallet to make my voice heard. I’ll cancel my subscription to WHYY because it no longer welcomes conservative voices. I already canceled my subscription to Disney Plus because of its support for inappropriate content for toddlers. The Inquirer, which seems to think White people killed Christ and did a lot of other things to destroy the universe, is now lining my lizard’s cage. Elon is an inspiration.

But beyond the money, it’s good to see a public figure step up and defend speech, all speech, regardless of content, against the ideological Stalinists. And it’s really great to know that Elon’s coming, and we don’t need to hide our tweets, anymore.

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YouTube Censors Video of PA Republican Governor’s Forum Hosted By Pro-Family Group

In the latest incident of Big Tech appearing to target Republican politicians, YouTube has pulled down the video of last week’s GOP gubernatorial debate hosted by the Pennsylvania Family Institute.

“In a stunning and scandalous attack on a fair and free democratic process, today YouTube took down the recorded livestream video of Pennsylvania Family Institute’s Gubernatorial Candidate Forum,” the group said in a statement.

The forum drew seven of nine Republican candidates for governor to Cairn University in Langhorne on March 24.

The Delaware Valley Journal covered the two-hour forum, which was also broadcast over Philadelphia radio station WPHT and via live stream.

In a message to the conservative group alerting them of the action Youtube said, “Our team has reviewed your content, and, unfortunately, we think it violates our misinformation policy. We’ve removed the following content from YouTube: [the Gubernatorial Forum Livestream].”

Pennsylvania Family Institute President Michael Geer was outraged by the action. “YouTube offered no specifics of what is alleged to be in violation, beyond indicating that it had to do with content related to the 2020 presidential election,” said Geer, who was a co-moderator of the forum with radio host Rich Zeoli. “That election was not mentioned in our questions, and we can only conclude that the YouTube censors did not like the answers given by one or more of the candidates.”

“This is a blatant assault on free speech, free elections, on the ability of candidates to freely state their views,” Gree continued, “and on the right of citizens to hear the varied perspectives of those who are seeking their votes. It hinders the process of democracy, shuts down the free marketplace of ideas, and ironically, further erodes confidence in our elections.”

Dave White, one of the candidates who participated in the forum, denounced YouTube’s move as “another example of the leftists in Big Tech trying to silence conservatives, specifically traditional values conservatives. Apparently standing up for the sanctity of human life and defending the rights of young girls who want to play sports is out of bounds for YouTube. The beauty of our First Amendment is that it is not simply freedom of speech, but the freedom to exercise that speech, which includes making our voices heard at the ballot box. YouTube may be able to silence us on their platform, but they will not silence us this November.”

In fact, YouTube has not identified the specific content it found objectionable and did not respond to requests for comment from Delaware Valley Journal. Geer said the only input he had was YouTube’s reference to discussions of the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election.

Another candidate, Congressman Lou Barletta, tweeted: “Big Tech is absolutely out of line censoring the @PFIpolicy Gubernatorial Forum from YouTube! I was proud to participate in this forum and discuss the important issues facing PA. Just because Big Tech doesn’t agree with our politics does NOT give them the right to silence us!”

Fellow candidate Charlie Gerow, a GOP consultant, said, “YouTube’s cancellation of the PFI Forum for the Republican candidates for governor is an outrage. As soon as they did it I spoke out forcefully against their attack on free speech. Attempting to silence the voices of the Republican candidates is yet another example of the cancel culture that is ripping us apart. We’re fighting back and won’t allow ourselves to be silenced, sidelined, or shut down.”

Greer said his organization filed an appeal with YouTube.

“It is clearly a First Amendment issue,” said Greer. “The First Amendment protects free speech, particularly political speech, and YouTube has “squelched it.”


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COUNTERPOINT: ‘More Speech, Not Enforced Silence’

Editor’s note: For another opinion see Point: Mad About Joe Rogan? Be Madder at Streaming Monopolies

My name is Michael, and I am a recovering talk show host. And I rise in defense of Joe Rogan.

I make this confession reluctantly, knowing it could mean cancelation, condemnation or  — horrors! — becoming the topic of a CNN news panel. (Please not Jim Acosta — anybody but Acosta!)

But I cannot stand by silently any longer. Too much is at stake. No, not Spotify’s stock price or comedian Joe Rogan’s jaw-dropping $100 million licensing deal. What’s at stake is the idea of free speech as a social good.

While we’re making confessions, allow me another one: I’ve never listened to a minute of a Joe Rogan podcast. Based on media reports, he’s either holding wide-open conversations about COVID-19 public health policy with an eclectic mix of experts and celebrity guests; or he’s spreading anti-science disinformation while posting recipes for how to make bootleg ivermectin in your toilet.

Either way, my view is the same: Let him talk.

I’m with Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis on this: “If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the process of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.”

This used to be a given in American society. A decade ago, when I was still on the air — in liberal Boston, Massachusetts, no less — we still looked down on the thin-skinned losers demanding to be protected from ideas that made them feel icky.

The answer to “I don’t like what that guy is saying” was still, “Then change the damn channel!”

Now the goal is to shut down the channel, to force Spotify to dump Rogan or die tryin’. And how embarrassing that the effort to de-platform a performer is being led by “artists” like Neil Young and Joni Mitchell.

As legal scholar Jonathan Turley put it, “Artists against free speech is like athletes against fitness.”

Some have turned the focus on the technology itself: Podcasts have no FCC regulation, social media allows too much false information to flow freely, tech companies have too much control.

But arguments about monopolies and access are meaningless without an audience that demands free speech and open discourse. And based on polls — and the passion of Rogan’s opponents — that’s where we could be headed.

The climate on college campuses is so bad, just half of students say they feel comfortable voicing disagreement with their professors or peers, according to a new Knight-Ipsos poll. That same poll found that, among Americans as a whole, 60 percent support a government-imposed ban on ideas and opinions deemed racist or bigoted.

A Government. Ban. On. Ideas.

A decade ago, that was good for three hours of mockery on my radio show. Today, it’s the view of the majority.

That fact is far more frightening than any tech monopoly or debate over Section 230 regulations.

Grab a copy of Ray Bradbury’s classic novel in defense of free speech, “Fahrenheit 451” — while you still can. You’ll be reminded that the reason books were banned in this fictional future wasn’t because of government tyranny. No, books were banned by popular demand. The citizenry demanded a “safe space,” free from upsetting thoughts and ideas.

Far too many of my fellow citizens are demanding the same today.

Censorship is cowardice. Cancel culture is crybaby crap. You hear an opinion you don’t like? Put on your big girl panties and deal with it, Francis.

Oops. Sorry about getting so saucy. As I said, I’m a recovering talk host.

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BLOOMQUIST: Atlantic Broadband Dumps Newsmax: Business as Usual, or Corporate Censorship?

For some fans of Newsmax, 2021 ended with a fizzle, not a bang.

On December 31, Atlantic Broadband, a cable provider that serves 18 states — including Florida, Pennsylvania and New York –dropped the conservative news channel from its lineup without notice. Newsmax immediately responded to that decision with full-throated charges of censorship.

“Despite our high ratings… it is clear that Atlantic doesn’t like Newsmax’s point of view,” Newsmax said in a thundering message to its viewers. “They don’t want our strong support of American values you care about…Atlantic doesn’t like Newsmax or its news perspective and they want to shut us down.”

Predictably perhaps, Atlantic Broadband’s response seemed to paraphrase the last words of “The Godfather’s” Tessio: Tell Newsmax it was never politics. It was just business.

According to a statement posted on the company’s website: “While we worked in good faith to negotiate a new agreement, Newsmax insisted on unreasonable terms and conditions that would have resulted in increased TV fees for all Atlantic Broadband customers even though Newsmax is available for free for other viewers. This is unfair to Atlantic Broadband customers, including those who enjoy the channel.  Because we could not reach a new agreement, the channel is no longer offered on our lineup.”

So, what to make of this? Supporters of Newsmax are understandably suspicious given progressives’ ongoing calls for cable channels to drop conservative news outlets, including Newsmax and Fox News Channel, that they claim spread falsehoods about the January 6, 2021 assault on the U.S. Capitol.

In one state, the Newsmaxers’ arched eyebrows might be further raised upon learning Atlantic Broadband recently signed franchise agreements with at least four New Hampshire localities to provide high-speed fiber internet, voice, and TV service. Could there have been a quid pro quo involved?  Not inconceivable. But that would be a big concession for Atlantic given that it serves viewers in numerous deeply red states, including Mississippi and Alabama.

On the flip side, cable providers routinely drop content providers, including local broadcast TV stations and national cable networks. That typically happens because the two parties can’t reach a new agreement on how much the cable provider will pay to carry the station or network’s content. You know, those radio ads urging you to “Call XYZ Cable today and tell them you want the Bowling Channel”?  That’s the content provider seeking negotiation leverage with the cable provider.

And as for ratings, in 2021, Newsmax’s viewership ranked 60th among cable TV networks, with an average daily viewership of 186,000.

If that number seems small in a nation of more than 330 million people, keep in mind the highest-rated cable channel, Fox News, averaged 1.3 million last year. Its highest-rated show, Tucker Carlson, typically had about 3 million viewers.

CNN averaged just 787,000 daily viewers.

In other words, battles over cable carriage are becoming more like fights in academia. The brawls are so bloody because the stakes are so low. Cable TV is on the wane. In 2016, 63 percent of Americans had cable TV, according to a CBS News poll. Today that number is 45 percent. During that same period, households that stream their video content jumped from 20 percent to 37 percent.

A similar 2021 study by the Pew Research Center makes it clear that older Americans are the last bastion of cable TV viewership:

“Only about a third (34 percent) of Americans ages 18 to 29 now get TV through cable or satellite, down 31 percentage points from 2015. Among those 50 and older, the decline has been less dramatic. Those ages 50 to 64 saw a 14-point drop since 2015. Those 65 and older saw a 5-point decline, which is not a statistically significant difference.”

Viewership for cable news channels tends to skew older. The median age of Fox News viewers is 68. The median for CNN is 64. So, it makes sense for Newsmax to fight to stay on every cable provider’s roster.

But cable TV is like an icicle on a 38-degree day. It will be around for a while, but it gets smaller every minute. Smart content providers, including Newsmax, understand the future lies in live streaming and video podcasts. As Atlantic Broadband pointed out in its statement, Newsmax fans can stream the channel from the Newsmax website for free. It is also available via several streaming services and devices, including Roku, Amazon’s Fire TV, and Apple TV.

And, as Newsmax noted in its statement, cable devotees in New Hampshire can always switch to another cable or satellite service that continues to carry Newsmax, such as DirecTV or AT&T.

The messaging from Newsmax and other conservative media outlets may remain consistent. But how that message is delivered is very much in transition.


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Senate Candidate Dr. Oz Decries Facebook Censorship

Dr. Oz is off Facebook, and he says it’s censorship.

Even before Facebook and Twitter nuked former President Donald Trump’s accounts, there were instances of Big Tech censoring conservatives, Republicans, and right-leaning media outlets.

A case in point is the New York Post’s bombshell report about Hunter Biden’s salacious laptop, which was suppressed by Twitter before the Nov. 2020 presidential election. Later, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey admitted the social media company should not have censored that article, but the damage was done. Facebook also put restrictions on the news article, whose accuracy has never been challenged or disproven.

Now, as celebrity Dr. Mehmet Oz enters the 2022 Republican race for the Pennsylvania Senate seat being vacated by GOP Sen. Pat Toomey, he is accusing Facebook of returning to its old tricks.

“I just got some disturbing news,” Oz said in a press release on Tuesday. “Facebook has restricted my account – and is not letting me advertise to you. It could hurt the momentum that we’ve been building with this campaign. Now, we’ve asked them what’s going on and they say they’re looking into it, but it’s been more than 24 hours. I need to get my conservative messages out. They matter.

“I don’t want big tech putting their thumb on the scale to shift the balance of power here,” said Oz. “You need to learn about strong families and how to protect your individual freedoms. We’re not going to be canceled. We won’t be censored. We won’t be shut down.”

Oz spokeesman Casey Contres said, “Big Tech and the political establishment are trying to stop Dr. Oz’s campaign to empower Pennsylvanians, but it is not going to work. We are seeing incredible energy and enthusiasm at every stop and that will only continue to grow.”

Oz, a cardiothoracic surgeon and star of the television show, “Dr. Oz,” has entered a crowded field. It includes Republicans Montgomery County businessman Jeff Bartos, author and television commentator Kathy Barnette, Sean Gale, a Montgomery County lawyer, and Carla Sands, who served as ambassador to Denmark for President Trump. Democrats include doctors Val Arkoosh, chair of the Montgomery County commissioners, and Kevin Baumlin, a Philadelphia ER doctor; U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb; Lt. Gov. John Fetterman; and state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D-Philadelphia).

Libertarian Erik Gerhardt is also a candidate.

Facebook, meanwhile, did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding Oz’s complaint.


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