The House Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government held a hearing Thursday on the Twitter Files, which are exposing pervasive federal browbeating to suppress free speech.
Congressional Democrats championed the National Lampoon definition of censorship: Unless there is a photo of an FBI agent holding a gun to the head of a Twitter employee, the feds did nothing wrong.
Twitter Files reporters Matt Taibbi and Michael Shellenberger were on the witness stand. Though both are bestselling authors with long records of excellent reporting, they were treated as shameless grifters who were basely smearing noble federal agencies.
Taibbi and Shellenberger labored under the misconception that congressional hearings seek to reveal facts.
Instead, Democratic members viewed them as sacrifices on the altar of boundless federal prerogatives. Democratic members continually cut off the witnesses, signaling that their role was to shut up and take a whupping.
Rep. Stacey Plaskett (D-USVI) kicked things off for the Democrats by ominously declaring the pair “pose a direct threat to people who oppose them.”
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) vilified Taibbi: “Elon Musk spoon-fed you his cherry-picked information, which . . . generates another right-wing conspiracy theory.”
She bizarrely accused Taibbi of unfairly profiting from his work because he now has more Twitter followers and Substack subscribers.
She concluded by casting Taibbi’s character into the abyss: “Hypocrisy is the hangover of an addiction to attention.” (Wasserman Schultz was named the “most unethical politician” in Congress in 2017 by the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust.)
Shortly after the hearing, Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas) tweeted that “Republicans have launched a dangerous political circus that’s sole purpose is to inject extremist politics into our justice system” and promised to fight “outright conspiracy theories.”
But Garcia was the Know Nothing Poster Child at today’s hearing.
She pounded Taibbi on whether he disclosed the information in his latest Twitter Files to Twitter before publishing.
He was mystified by her questions: He had posted a series of tweets. Garcia couldn’t comprehend that tweeting is the same as simultaneously publishing on Twitter.
She interrogated Taibbi: “You posted on your umm I guess it’s kind of like a web page. I don’t quite understand what Substack is.” Where do the Democrats find these wizards?
Democrats continually sought to expose ulterior motives that didn’t exist.
Garcia asked Shellenberger how he joined the Twitter Files project. He said his friend Bari Weiss asked him. “So this friend works for Twitter?” Garcia asked.
Shellenberger said no, she is a journalist. “So you work in concert with her,” Garcia continued. “You’re in this as a threesome?” There is no ménage à trois — several other writers are reporting the dirt in the Twitter Files.
Neither Garcia nor any other Democrat showed any interest in the shocking revelations Taibbi and others have exposed.
But Taibbi added new logs to the bonfire today with fresh Twitter Files revelations of a federal contractor pressuring social media companies to suppress “stories of true vaccine side effects” and “true posts which could fuel [vaccine] hesitancy.”
At Thursday’s hearing, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) recapped how his tweets on natural immunity providing better protection against COVID than vaccines were suppressed.
Massie declared, “This truth was toxic to a narrative Pfizer was spreading that Biden wanted out there so he could force the mandates” on everybody — including those who had natural immunity after having COVID.
But according to the Democrats, federal agencies and contractors were merely making polite requests to make certain people and ideas vanish from the Internet.
The fact that President Biden in July 2021 publicly accused social-media companies of murdering people by not suppressing criticisms of COVID policy was irrelevant.
So was the Biden White House threat of antitrust investigations against social-media companies that failed to suppress “disinformation.”
Even the FBI’s November 2022 message to Twitter that “FBI San Francisco is notifying you” it wants action on four Twitter accounts was just a friendly wave from your neighborhood G-man.
Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) sounded the alarm over the Federal Trade Commission’s letter to Twitter demanding information on any journalist involved in the Twitter Files project.
Does the FTC now consider exposing federal abuses to be an unfair trade practice by the media?
Disguising the federal iron fist in a velvet glove is a crime against the Bill of Rights.
Perhaps it is for the Democratic Party to rechristen itself the Leviathan Anti-Defamation League.
Are there any crimes by the Biden administration that his congressional allies will not absolve?
Rep. Harriet Hageman (R-Wyo.) offered the best lesson from today’s hearing: “Sunshine is the best disinfectant and . . . does our federal government need to be fumigated.”
James Bovard is the author of 10 books and a member of the USA Today Board of Contributors.