Below is my column in the New York Post on the suggested censorship of bank critics by Sen. Mark Kelly (D., Ariz.). It was only the latest example of how censorship has become a reflexive response of many Democrats to opposing views. It is now increasingly common for certain views to be declared as simply too dangerous to be tolerated or allowed on social media, including (it seems) questioning the solvency of banks.
Here is the column:
Concerned about your money after recent bank failures? You might want to keep those thoughts to yourself.
While some rushed to get their money after the collapses, at least one leading Democrat is pushing for censorship of those who do not have faith in the banking industry.
The Democratic Party for more than a decade has alienated many of us in the party with its embrace of censorship and speech controls.
Democratic leaders actively promote censorship on social media and vehemently defend government efforts to target citizens or groups.
Some have even adopted McCarthyite labels like “Russian lovers” to paint free-speech advocates as disloyal or dangerous in opposing censorship efforts.
Subjects from climate change to gender identity to COVID to elections have been gradually added to the list of prohibited thoughts.
Now Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) has put bank solvency on the list.
It is only the latest example of censorship’s slippery slope.
Kelly shows how censorship is addictive; it not only builds an increasing tolerance for speech limits but a decreasing tolerance for opposing views.
The immediate inclination becomes to silence those who challenge you or refuse to accept your “truth” on any given subject.
In a Zoom call this week with a couple hundred participants, Kelly asked representatives from the Federal Reserve, Treasury Department and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation about censoring social media to remove those raising doubts over bank solvency in the wake of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank crises.
Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) confirmed Kelly suggested “that government should work with social media companies to censor information that could lead to a run on banks.”
As in past censorship calls, Kelly reportedly cited the danger of “foreign actors” using social media — to undermine banks. It’s those pesky Russians again.
The list of subjects justifying censorship keeps getting longer.
In a critical November 2020 hearing, tech CEOs appeared before the Senate. Twitter’s then-CEO Jack Dorsey apologized for censoring The Post’s Hunter Biden laptop story but pledged to censor more people in defense of “electoral integrity.”
Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), however, was not happy. He was upset not by the promised censorship but that it wasn’t broad enough.
He noted it’s hard to define the problem of “misleading information,” but tech companies had to impose a sweeping system to combat the “harm” of misinformation.
“The pandemic and misinformation about COVID-19, manipulated media also cause harm,” Coons said. “But I’d urge you to reconsider” putting in place a “standalone climate change misinformation policy” because “helping to disseminate climate denialism, in my view, further facilitates and accelerates one of the greatest existential threats to our world.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) also warned he and his colleagues would not tolerate any “backsliding or retrenching” by firms “failing to take action against dangerous disinformation.”
He demanded companies keep using “the same kind of robust content modification” — the new Orwellian term for censorship — they did in the 2020 election.
History has shown censorship becomes an insatiable appetite. Once you silence opposing views in one area, opposing views in other areas become increasingly intolerable.
Rather than convince citizens that their deposits are safe, it is easier to just silence anyone who disagrees with you.
With Democrats’ vocal support, Twitter’s former censors recently revealed the standard they used to censor citizens.
Ex-Twitter executive Anika Collier Navaroli explained at a House hearing last month that Twitter tried not to just “balance free speech and safety.”
Rather, it asked “free expression for whom and public safety for whom. So whose free expression are we protecting at the expense of whose safety, and whose safety are we willing to allow to go the wind so that people can speak freely?”
Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D-NM) responded: “Exactly right.”
So now “the expense” of free speech is too high if it might undermine faith in our banks’ stability. It is that easy.
Parag Agrawal explained it years ago. After taking over as Twitter CEO, Agrawal said the company would “focus less on thinking about free speech” because “speech is easy on the Internet. Most people can speak. Where our role is particularly emphasized is who can be heard.”
The great civil libertarian Justice Louis Brandeis once warned, “The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.”
Sen. Kelly is now that man in seeking censorship to protect banks’ assets while leaving free speech insolvent.
Jonathan Turley is an attorney and a professor at George Washington University Law School.