How the First Amendment Protects Propaganda

Experts: Seraphim Hanisch 

We are in a propaganda war unlike anything anyone ever expected in the United States.

As recently as the 1970's and 1980's, freedom of speech was taught and vaunted as one of our most precious rights, and the Soviet Union's history of oppression was the catalyst by which love of the right of free speech was protected.

Do not let go of this freedom, or we will become like them, we were told.

But in the most recent years we are seeing media control in very clear ways. 

On October 11th, 2018, Facebook's internal news site noted that it was removing what it calls "inauthentic news sites":

Removing Additional Inauthentic Activity from Facebook

Today, we’re removing 559 Pages and 251 accounts that have consistently broken our rules against spam and coordinated inauthentic behavior. Given the activity we’ve seen — and its timing ahead of the US midterm elections — we wanted to give some details about the types of behavior that led to this action. Many were using fake accounts or multiple accounts with the same names and posted massive amounts of content across a network of Groups and Pages to drive traffic to their websites. Many used the same techniques to make their content appear more popular on Facebook than it really was. Others were ad farms using Facebook to mislead people into thinking that they were forums for legitimate political debate.

But on October 20th, Google searches on the terms "Facebook fake news midterm" first revealed absolutely nothing any earlier than August, and nothing related to the recent developments in October. We made several attempts to find news on this that was recent, but nothing – absolutely nothing – showed in the results from Google.

In research for this piece, one known published newspiece was directly accessed. By use of the specific search term "removing additional inauthentic activity from Facebook", we were then able to get the Facebook internal news page. Subsequent searches on "Facebook midterms fake news" revealed quite a different response:

Google/PrtSc

 

Oh! There it is! But several Google searches made before directly fingering the information yielded nothing, just as though the news of FB's efforts didn't exist.

This appears to be one method of Google’s “scrubbing” operations in use. If so, it is clever, because it can be made to seem like Google is doing nothing, but if it can block occasional access to known information, this is genius. It wins both sides of the propaganda battle – restricting information without “really” restricting information.

We already know that Facebook has a core corporate culture that leans left. We also know that many groups have been removed by Facebook for suspicions of being dishonest or fake news. 

What we may not realize is that the major information services on the Internet are intertwined, and they cooperate to manage and suppress information.

Google was the search engine used in this research. And indeed, the big four major purveyors of information and social media are Google, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. These sites are so widely used that they are easy to consider the first stop, the last stop and the only stop for anyone seeking information from the Internet about anything. 

All four sites have left-leaning corporate hierarchies.

The absence of a search result is often enough to lead one to believe the story doesn't really exist, or that it is a rumor. After all, if it is real news it must be on Google, right? 

Wrong.

This would seem to fly in the face of the First Amendment, but it doesn't, because the Amendment applies only to a limit of powers on the Federal Government. It cannot touch private industry, and indeed, the First Amendment actually protects the rights of individuals and companies to make any statements they wish, or to not make them.

Here is the text of the First Amendment itself:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Think of it this way: A newspaper that supports the conservative party writes and publishes news and opinion in such a manner as to bolster support for that party. If a liberal paper wants to report the same news and give its editorial bias that supports its own causes, it may.

The two accounts may completely disagree with one another. Often opinion writing tends to trump hard data, and we see a lot of that in news reporting today. One side, or the other, may even be completely lying about the story in such a way as to bolster their ideological side. Surely, this is illegal, right?

Wrong.

Both the papers and their staff are entirely within their First Amendment rights to do as they do, because the Constitution never said anything about reporting the truth. It only says that the freedom of the press cannot be abridged by the government. 

There is not a soul in government that can stop them. But the owners of the companies can. 

However, those owners and editors can certainly be influenced by hidden efforts. While there is no law restricting free speech in the US, there is certainly a lot of power and money that can accomplish the same thing. 

A sweetheart deal between a company CEO and his or her senator or congressman can subtly change the balance. There is no law to break involved here, though such efforts can rightly be called "collusion." Collusion happens all the time, though, and it is always a cooperative effort so there is very little that can be done to stop it. It is not illegal in most situations, either.

Conservatives know this. They have seen the slant of mainstream media lean unerringly to the side of secular humanism, suppression or humiliation of traditional values and lifestyles, and the crazy, psychotic mixture of pacifism or warmongering as best suits the desires of the Left. We have observed this in stark fashion just this year, as critics hysterically railed at President Trump for his tough stance with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and as they hysterically railed at President Trump for going against his promise to get out of Syria, and then again for not attacking them, and sanctioning Russia even more.

The reasoning behind the Left's attacks was simple: If Mr. Trump wanted it, they didn't. This is simple reasoning, indeed but it is also hysterical reasoning, which means it is insane.

The most recent outburst of media control came during the Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination and confirmation events. The eleventh-hour attacks alleging that Brett Kavanaugh was a drunken would-be rapist and the testimonies of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnik were reported with a heavy emphasis on "believe the women" and they were also tailored for a time to target Judge Kavanaugh for his anger in his response, with CNN heads saying that this anger shows that the Judge is unhinged.

Conservative media efforts to give the truth to this story were certainly going full force on Fox News and with conservative media hosts like Rush Limbaugh, but they were heading for failure. The reason for this was that the conservative arguments were not fielded on mainstream media, so they were not heard or read. 

The Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation might not have gone through because of this. But one move saved this nomination. 

President Trump began talking about it in his rallies, which the media had to cover. When Mr. Trump noted in clear language that none of these allegations were corroborated by anyone, most significantly the named witnesses of Dr. Ford's, the widespread dissemination of that news (because the press had no choice) helped turn that debacle into the nothing-burger it always was.

When news gets around that someone is trying to suppress a story, that often can result in the story getting much bigger. Social media networks have to give the appearance of fairness, after all, and refusing to report a huge story because it runs counter to the political opinion of the network is a risk no network (except maybe CNN) is willing to take. 

The First Amendment means the government cannot control our news media. But this also means that the responsibility lies with the American people to control it, to uphold its freedom and to uphold the freedom of speech, be it risky or offensive or politically perilous. There is a good reason for that need.

The most risky, offensive and politically perilous pieces of news are quite often the truth.


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