Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Turley on the First Amendment

C.I.'s "Glenn Greenwald on government attempting to censor..." on Monday noted Glenn Greenwald was calling out Congress' attempts to bully tech and media into shutting out certain voices  -- Democrats in Congress trying to shut out conservative voices.  C.I. noted she agreed with Glenn.  If I'd written last night, I would've noted my agreement as well.

Instead, I'll not legal scholar Jonathan Turley.  The law professor testified before Congress on this issue today.  Click here for his prepared remarks and here's an excerpt:

It is important for hearings of this kind to begin with what is not in dispute. We all agree that there is a torrent of false, hateful, and extremist speech on social media and other public forums. This speech is not without cost. It fuels the rageful, victimizes the gullible, and alienates the marginal in our society.

It is a scourge in our society, but it is not a new scourge.

As I often note in testimony before Congress, the Constitution  only written for times like these, it was written during times like these. While politicians often describe their opponents as being unprecedented in their obstructionist or hostile attitudes, politics in the United States has always been something of a blood sport, literally.

At the start of our Republic, the Republicans and Federalists were not trying to cancel” one another in the contemporary sense. They were trying to kill each other in the actual sense through measures like the Alien and Sedition Acts. Thomas Jefferson once described the Federalists as “the reign of the witches.” That period was also notorious for scurrilous and false information on both sides. There were also rampant conspiracy theories of alliances with Great Britain, France, Spain, and other powers. Newspapers and pamphleteers were highly biased and partisan. 

There is also a common suggestion that false information or “disinformation” is dramatically on the rise or more prevalent today than in prior periods. The fact is that there are no dark mysterious forces at work. The Internet and other communicative technologies have given a greater voice to millionsfor better or worse. For the first time, media figures and politicians do not largely control the public debate. The Internet is empowering for individual expression. Indeed, it represents the single greatest contribution to free speech since the printing press. With such enhancement comes an increase in all types of speech: good, bad, and everything in between.

The reliance on the Internet and social media has also been enhanced by the decline of trust in the mainstream media. For years, media companies have catered to viewpoint constituencies in what is often called “echo journalism.” Many people now confine their viewing and reading to newoutlets that offer confirmatory coverage in line with their own viewpoints. It is the journalist version of comfort food. Few venture out of this siloed comfort zone. This is true on both the left and the right of the political spectrumThe open bias of much of our news has left many citizens without a source for reliable information. To make matters worse, some academics(and some reporters) are discarding traditional views of neutrality in reporting. For example, Stanford Communications Professor Emeritus Ted Glasser has publicly called for an end of objectivity in journalism as too constraining for reporters in seeking “social justice.”

Given such views, it is hardly surprising that trust in the media is at an all-time low. As a result, many citizens attempt to construct what is true from a variety of sources on the Internet. They do not trust the mainstream media and they certainly do not trust politicians.

This erosion of faith in the media has been accelerated by false or exaggerated stories on both the left and the right. There is currently a bizarre QAnon theory that Trump will become president on March 4thbecause an 1871 law converted the government into a corporation and that the country will return to a sovereign state next month. That facially absurd theory attracted roughly 1.5 million views.6Anotherexample were the claims of systemic voting fraud by former President Donald Trump, including in his speech on January 6, 2021. I was critical on Twitter of that speech while it was being given and I opposed the challenge of electoral votes in Congress. I also condemned Trump for his false statements about the authority of Vice President Michael Pence to “send back” electoral votes. In other words, I was able to  exercise of free speech to combat what I viewed as false speech.

It is also true that the existence of such countervailing information will not always change minds, particularly when there is a mistrust of official or media sources of information.

This can create a dangerous blind spot. The same is true on the left. For years, false stories were rampant on the Russian investigation. For example, stories about Carter Page being a Russian agent were carried on a wide array of news sites despite the fact that there was little evidence to support the allegation. He wasin fact,  an American intelligence asset. Other widespread accounts continued to be reported even after being refuted. For example, I testified on the protests around Lafayette Park and was surprised how members in the hearing repeated a debunked theory that former Attorney General Bill Barr cleared the area to make way for a photo op for Trump before a church.

In reality, the plan to clear the area was approved long before any photo op was discussed and Barr was not aware of the photo op when he gave his approval. As with the recent fencing around the Capitol, federal agencies decided a wider parameter was needed after protests threatened to breach the White House security area. The threat of a breach was deemed sufficient to require that the First Family be moved briefly to the White House bunker. Indeed, media like National Public Radio (NPR) still have articles proclaiming this false theory as a fact.

Another example is the handling of the Hunter Biden story by the New York Post. The story was blocked by Twitter as based on suspected “hacking” despite the fact that the story made clear that the source of this information came from an abandoned laptop, not hacking. To this day, even after admitting its mistake in blocking the story before the election, Twitter maintains the hacking rationale.8

The question is who will be the arbiter of truth in any public or private regime of speech regulation. There are rampant false stories across the political spectrum. However, the First Amendment limits the ability of the government to regulate or censor speech. Accordingly, the United States has been spared a history with a state media like China or Iran. The focus on preventing state media controls is increasingly inconsequential in light of the growing levels of control exercised by Big Tech with the urging of many politicians. The last few years have shown there is no need for a central ministry controlling the media if there is a common narrative or bias among private companies controlling much of our communications. What is particularly concerning is the common evasion used by academics and reporters that such regulation is not really a free speech issue because these are private companies  and the First Amendment only addresses government restrictions on free speech. As a private entity, companies like Twitter or publishing houses are clearly not the subject of that amendment. However, private companies can still destroy free speech through private censorship. It is called the “Little Brother” problem. That does not alter the fundamental threat to free speech.

This is the denial of free speech, a principle that goes beyond the First Amendment. Indeed, some of us view free speech as a human right.

Use the link to read Turley's full opening statement, it's powerful and needs to be heard.

"Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS):

 Wednesday, February 24, 2021.  The pope prepares for his Iraq visit and more.

Starting in the US.  Angela Walker, the Green Party's vice presidential nominee last year, speaks about Tara Reade.

Tara made credible accusations against Joe Biden last year.  She stated he assaulted her -- I believe Tara.  Tara was bullied and intimidated and lied about.  The corporate press -- and much of the 'independent' media -- allowed Joe Biden's hideous campaign to set the parameters of the discussion. Tara had more proof than anyone else in a he said/she said.  And yet she was attacked.

I believe Tara.  You don't have to believe her.  That's your choice.  If you examine the issue and find you don't believe her, that's your business.  But if you were a woman self-presenting as a feminist who, for example, wrote an NYT column insisting you believed Tara but you were voting for Joe Biden, the question is what are you doing now?  You got Joe elected.  What are you doing now?

As a self-proclaimed feminist who stated you believed Tara, what are you doing now?

The sad reality is: Not a damn thing.

Again, you don't have to believe her or anyone else.  We have brains for a reason.  We should use them.  And if someone's telling doesn't ring true, fine.  

I don't believe that Woody Allen molested Dylan Farrow.  I say that not as a Woody fan.  I do know Woody, through Mia, we are not friends.  We were never friends.  I didn't like Woody and he didn't like me.  And none of that was the end of the world.

Then, in 1992, as the scandal brewed -- we'll come back to that -- being Mia's friend, I supported my friend.  And continued to do so for years.  It wasn't until the Golden Globes gave that honorary award to Woody that I changed my viewpoint.  Mia, remember, was all upset on Twitter: How dare they!!!!

That honorary award was preceded by clips from Woody's films.  Every actor who had appeared in a clip had to sign off on it, a permission slip, if you will.  Mia signed off on it.  That's when I thought about all the times Mia has lied and manipulated.  By the time Dylan was attacking Diane Keaton, I was speaking out against this nonsense.

This has been an organized campaign and it's built on one lie after another.  The scandal, I said we'd get back to it, is on display in HBO's hideous ALLEN V. FARROW which needs to be pulled immediately.  It features calls with Woody that Mia taped.  The calls don't prove anything except that Mia is a criminal.  She taped those calls without Woody's consent or knowledge and did so from her Connecticut home -- it was a violation of Connecticut law.  Woody should sue HBO, the filmmakers and Mia Farrow.  As Ava and I noted in "TV: Back into the cesspool," Mia knew she was breaking the law -- she had been told that before she started taping and that's why her friend was suggesting getting people to wear wires instead.

A lot of idiots, this includes JEZEBEL writers, are insisting that the documentary makes the case.  Not only does it not make the case, it weakens the case.

What was episode one about?  Woody Allen's consensual affair with an adult: Soon-Yi.  

Mia's babbling away and rewriting history but just stop there.  

Woody and Soon-Yi remain a couple to this day, they have two daughters.

Their affair has nothing to do with Dylan Farrow. 

But it's still being used to work up rage against Woody.  As Mia's friend (then, not now), I was appalled that Woody had an affair with Mia's daughter.  I was appalled because of the hurt that caused Mia.  I was not appalled on any other level because, like all of Mia's friends, I knew the relationship was pretty much over and hadn't been 'exclusive' since around 1985 when Woody was having his semi-public affair with Dianne Wiest.  That's why Mia wanted a child with Woody, to try to bring them back together.  It didn't.  Woody would go house hunting with her but he would not a buy a house for them to live in together.  They hadn't been having sex for years, per Mia.

It's been decades since Woody first slept with the adult Soon-Yi.  

Get over it, Mia.  Get over it.

But she can't and so a bunch of trash does a 'documentary' about Dylan that uses Soon-Yi because they have no case to make for Dylan.  

Soon-Yi and Woody having an affair and building a life together has nothing to do with the allegations made by Dylan and Mia.  But the affair is used by the 'documentary' to stoke outrage.  I'm not outraged.  I felt sorry for Mia in 1992.  Then I saw Mia trying to break up Mike Nichols' marriage to Diane Sawyer (she failed, he had no interest in her and quickly withdrew a job offer because of her crazy attraction to him -- a one-sided attraction).  I long ago lost sympathy for her and I long ago realized the media was playing Soon-Yi as the dragon lady and how racist that was.

Soon-Yi was beaten by Mia and so was Moses.  HBO and their program?  They avoid that reality.  And it's getting tired and it's getting old.  In 1992 and 1993, Dylan's charges were heard and found to be wanting, repeatedly.  

But because she is White, she gets a platform in the media over and over again.  She gets to keep telling 'her' story.  It's not her story.  Opening with Woody and Soon-Yi's affair is not Dylan's story.  But that's used to try to make you hate Woody Allen.

I don't love Woody, I don't hate him.  (And, again, Woody and I do not like each other -- we didn't like each other when he was with Mia.  Carly Simon loved Woody.  She might want to explain that.)  But I do value the truth and when I look at what's going on, I don't see the truth.  I see a jealous and disgraced woman (Mia) still upset that Woody is with a younger woman, that he actually married her (he refused over and over to marry Mia).  And that's why Soon-Yi is so featured in a documentary that supposedly is about Dylan's claims of molestation.

I don't find the tale truthful or logical and I don't believe that the molestation happened as a result.  And it's not the end of the world.  I could be right, I could be wrong.  Not being present when the event supposedly took place, I have to use my abilities to evaluate and analyze.  That's what I've done.  So if you don't believe Tara, that's your take on it.  Fine.  But if you say you do, or said you did, why are you silent now?  

Jonathan Turley.  We're going back to an issue that was raised weeks ago.  I thought I'd have time before and didn't.  Joe Scarborough wanted to sue Donald Trump, or said he did, for Donald implying/stating that Joe had involvement in the death of his intern when Joe was in Congress.  Joe declared on MSNBC that his attorney said the time ran out on it or something.  Jonathan did a post where he stated the time hadn't run out and though Joe had a strong case.

No, Joe didn't.

Jonathan knows the law.  I think he's our brightest legal scholar.  Doesn't mean I always agree with his take on the law (I generally do).  In this regard, I didn't disagree with his take so much as I knew more on the topic than he did.

Joe Scarborough?

Never knew him or of him when he was in Congress.  He may have been on MSNBC when I learned of him or he might have gotten that right after.

But I learned of him in 2004.  And I learned of him because of the death of his intern.

Did I learn that from Donald Trump?  No, I did not.  I learned that over the airwaves.  AIR AMERICA RADIO.  Sam Seder repeatedly noted that and noted that he thought Joe was guilty.  He did that on THE MAJORITY REPORT.  In addition, Rachel Maddow and Lizz Winstead spoke of that on UNFILTERED.  Al Franken spoke of it on his program as well.

My point?  If Joe wanted to sue, he could sue.  Anyone can.  But I think a court would look down upon a case that sued Donald Trump for this years after the rumors were broadcast -- as reality -- on a radio network over and over and over again.

Did Joe have anything to do with the intern's death.  I don't believe so.  I could be wrong.  But if he wants to be outraged by it, all Donald Trump would have to say is, "The news media covered this" -- meaning AIR AMERICA RADIO.  And they did, over and over and over.  I'd never heard of Joe before that.  (Joe and Mike Pap of RING OF FIRE were law partners, I don't know if most people realize that.  Or if they grasp that Sam Seder now works for RING OF FIRE.)

I don't think there was a strong case on Joe's behalf.  It would look selective and vengeful and it would tie up the courts which the court would not look fondly on.

On that, I'm not going to name the idiot that has been on Twitter telling everyone to sue Donald for frivolous reasons with the plan that Donald would lose some of them because he would be too busy and too cash strapped to respond to all the suits.

I'm not going to name the idiot.  But if that plan goes into action, that idiot can be held responsible.  The courts are not there to adjudicate your rage and anger.  They are there for genuine legal issues.  If you start trying to tie someone up with frivolous lawsuits, you are tying up our legal system.  

I saw the idiot Tweet that twice this week already.  It needs to stop.  If the plan were to go into action, these Tweets could be used by a judge to move court costs over to the person Tweeting this nonsense -- and anyone reTweeting them.

Moving to Iraq.  March 5th through 8th, Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Iraq.  If the visit takes place, it will be the first visit by a sitting pope to Iraq ever.  The visit is scheduled to take place while Iraq, like every other country, struggles with the COVID pandemic.  Jonathan Stevenson Tweets:

The Iraqi Ministry of Health and environment registered 13 fatalities, 4,306 new cases and 2,110 recoveries of #COVID19 in the past 24 hours. #Iraq

The visit is hoped to inspire many.

The following sites updated: