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Free Speech, the First Amendment, and Joe Rogan Under Attack by the Biden Administration

It seems the latest chapter in the ongoing Joe Rogan versus the establishment Saga took place this week when White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked about the comments of the Administration's Surgeon General, the recent announcement that Spotify would add labels on Covid related podcast which would provide "official data'', and if she felt enough was being done. What followed was nothing more than a Government pressured attack on free speech and the First Amendment designed to protect their precious propaganda. Here is what happened.

On January 25, Surgeon General Vivik Murthy was featured on an MSNBC segment of Morning Joe and was asked for his thoughts on the ongoing Spotify/Joe Rogan drama. The Biden Administration official wasted no time pushing the established narrative on Covid and Vaccines while pressuring the Social Media Sites, in this case Spotify, to do more to censor anyone who uses the First Amendment to challenge it. Murthy went on to say that Big Tech has an "important role to play" since they are the "predominant places where we're seeing misinformation spread." He continued by saying "These platforms have still not stepped up to do the right thing and do enough, I should say, to reduce the spread of misinformation...This not just about what the government can do," he claimed, "this is about companies and individuals recognizing that the only way we get past misinformation is if we are careful about what we say and use the power that we have to limit the spread of misinformation." This is the Surgeon General not so subtlety telling Spotify to do something about Rogan. This isn't the first time Murthy said something like this. In July of last year, he came out and called for Social Media companies to censor what the government labeled as misinformation. He basically said well Americans have the right to view information but we want the Social Media companies to work with us to make sure that the information that is made available has the government stamp of approval on it.

A White House press reporter asked Jen Psaki about what the Surgeon General said last week about Joe Rogan's show on MSNBC and if the White House and the administration think this is a satisfactory step of do you think Companies like Spotify should go further then putting a label saying go do your own research. Psaki gladly jumped in head first and said "Sure. Well last July...the Surgeon General also took the unprecedented step to issue an advisory on the risk of misinformation on public health, which is a very significant step. Amid that, he talked about the role Social Media platforms have. So, out hope is that all major Tech platforms and all major news sources for that matter be responsible and be vigilant to ensure the American people have access to the most accurate information on something as significant as Covid-19. That certainly includes Spotify, so this disclaimer is a positive step but we want every platform to continue doing more to call out misinformation while also uplifting accurate information....But ultimately our view is that it is a positive step but there is more that can be done."

This was not a poor choice of words by the WH Press Secretary. It is directly in line with what Joe Biden has said recently. He pressured Big Tech saying "I make a special appeal to Social Media companies and media outlets. Please deal with the misinformation and disinformation that is on your shows. It has to stop!" This message was bumbling and as hard to understand as most things he says but whoever wrote it for him was telling you the administration's stance on censorship.

One of the last real Journalist to achieve notoriety, Glenn Greenwald broke this issue down better than most when on his February 3rdedition of System Update, he said "So often the decisions to censor nominally being made by Big Tech, by Silicon Valley Companies are in fact being directed by political officials in Washington. Specifically by Democratic Party officials who are using their control over both houses of Congress and the White House along with the entire Executive Branch to pressure, cajole, and often threaten explicitly that these companies need to start censoring more in accordance with the Democratic Party's view of what should or shouldn't be heard or they will face legal or retaliatory reprisals. It's not just these Big Tech companies or other corporations making decisions for themselves about what to censor. They're being pressured and cajoled and coerced and intimidated by the majoritarian party in Washington which is something that the Supreme Court and a long line of other Cases has repeatedly said violates the First Amendment. We all know the First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees the right of free speech which means the State and Government Officials can't directly censor. They can't force or order certain content to be removed from the internet. But what they have tried to do in the past is circumvent that Constitutional guarantee by pressuring or bullying or threatening private actors to censor for them. This is not the first time this has happened. It's happened repeatedly and multiple times including the Supreme Court has intervened and concluded that when the Government does does violate the First Amendment. We have had multiple cases, serious cases, where top level Democratic Party officials have explicitly and overtly threatened various companies to censor more. This has happened now over and over and over again."

Greenwald went on to add "The Latest in a long line of examples came yesterday [Feb 1] at the White House when press secretary Jen Psaki was asked about the Controversy concerning Spotify and Joe Rogan and specifically about Spotify's half measure to try and appease growing anger that they platformed Joe Rogan by essentially saying that from now on any discussions of Covid on their platform will contain a label that says if you want to hear the scientific consensus you can go to this site. She was asked if she was satisfied by that. Remember, this is not pundit speaking. Her job is to speak on behalf of the White House and the Executive Branch and she essentially said we think it is a good step. So she patted Spotify on the head. But we expect much more to be done."

After playing the footage of what Jen Psaki said Greenwald commented "It's a good step but THEY want more to be done. She didn't specify what it is but she made very clear she likes the direction they're going in, the Government does. Why is the Government even opining at all on what a private company is doing in regard to who they platform in terms of podcasters and how they deal with their content? But she is opining and she is saying we like the direction they're going in, meaning taking action against Joe Rogan, but we want more done. We don't think it is enough."Glenn went on to say that if you were a partisan hack you might try to defend this as her misspeaking or just something she wished would happen but this is not the first time. He went on to lay out various examples including AOC demanding that Apple and Google take down Parlor, House Democrats were repeatedly subpoenaing heads of Big Tech executives and demanding that they censor more content that they view as disinformation. He pointed out how Democratic Senator Ed Markey was speaking to the heads of FB, Twitter, and Google and representing the party in power told them "The issue is not that companies before us today are taking down to many posts, the issue is that they are leaving too many dangerous posts up"!

Ben Wizner of the ACLU said on February 20, 2021 "For the same reasons that the Constitution prohibits the Government from dictating what information we can see or read (outside narrow limits), it also prohibits the Government from using its immense authority to coerce private actors into censoring on its behalf."

The ACLU is far from perfect but as recently as 2018 they filed a brief on behalf of the NRA suing Governor Cuomo because he was trying to pressure and bully private companies in New York to cease doing business with the NRA because he didn't like their agenda. The NRA sued because even though the Governor was directly censoring them he was pressuring other private businesses to do it for him it violates the First Amendment free speech clause. The ACLU agreed that this was Unconstitutional and joined the suit in defense of the NRA. In their brief on behalf of the National Rifle Association, the ACLU said "The communications of Cuomo's aides to banks and insurance firms 'could reasonably be interpreted as a threat of retaliatory enforcement against firms that do not sever ties with the gun promotion groups,'...that conduct ran afoul of the well established principle 'that the government may violate the First Amendment through action that falls short of a direct prohibition against speech,' including including retaliation or threats of retaliation against speakers."They went on to say "Courts have never required plaintiffs to demonstrate that the government directly attempted to suppress their protected expression in order to establish First Amendment retaliation and they have often upheld First Amendment retaliation claims involving adverse economic action designed to chill speech indirectly."The NRA and UCLA suit was proven correct when the Judge ruled not to dismiss the case against Governor Cuomo. Reuters even called the case "a timely reminder that officials can't use their power to squelch speech" saying "The National Rifle Association's favorite part of the Bill of Rights is the Second Amendment, but it was the Constitution's protection for free speech that kept alive the NRA's lawsuit accusing top New York officials of pressuring insurers to ditch the Gun rights group."

The above brief and breakdown by the ACLU is exactly what is happening in this case. The Biden Administration is saying that your actions are not enough and if you don't start censoring speech we claim is misinformation then we are going to come after you and you will pay the price legally and through government regulation. This is illegal and a direct violation of the First Amendment. They have done this to FB, Twitter, and other Social Media companies. Spotify is just the most recent. Spotify is a platform who hosts the Joe Rogan podcast. They are not the publisher of the podcast. They do not have editorial or creative control over the show or Rogan. The CEO of Spotify made this much clear in an employee town hall meeting this week. The current Administration doesn't care. They want to make sure that Joe Rogan can't use his massive platform to give tens of millions of Americans the opportunity to hear a different perspective to the establishment narrative from credible Doctors like Dr. Robert Malone and Dr. Peter McCullough and then make up their own minds. This Administration is scared to let people view all the facts and come to their own conclusion. They know that 100% of medical experts agree with their propaganda as long as they censor all the experts who challenge it.

That is why this is more than an attack on Joe Rogan or Spotify. This is an attack on the Constitution and everyone that it was created to protect. The Government can't censor your right to Free Speech and that has been proven in court over and over again. In Norwood. V. Harrison ruling on June 25, 1973, the Supreme Court stated Congress "may not induce, encourage, or promote private persons accomplish what is Constitutionally forbidden to accomplish...For more than half a century courts have held that governmental threats can turn private conduct into State action."So when the government tells FB, Twitter, YouTube, Spotify, or any other private business to censor speech they don't like it and if you don't we will pass laws or regulatory power to punish you, that is State Censorship and a clear violation of the First Amendment and the Constitution.


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