US Government Says Inability to Censor You Causes It ‘Irreparable Harm’

US Government Says Inability to Censor You Causes It ‘Irreparable Harm’
The White House in Washington, DC, on July 2, 2023. (Daniel Slim/AFP/Getty Images)
Benjamin Weingarten
The U.S. government betrayed its total and utter contempt for the First Amendment in a recent filing (pdf) in the landmark Missouri v. Biden free speech case.
The filing—a motion responding to U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty’s bombshell Independence Day injunction freezing federal government-led speech policing—calls for the judge to permit the federal government to continue its censorship activities while it fights the injunction.
While Judge Doughty has now smacked the federal government down, ruling (pdf) against its motion for a stay, the feds’ perverse position merits scrutiny, especially given it’s likely to persist in it for as long as this case is litigated, and as high as it will reach, perhaps up to the Supreme Court.
The crux of the government’s argument for staying the injunction was this: Prohibiting federal authorities from abridging speech, directly and by proxy, could lead to “grave harm to the American people and our democratic processes,” thereby causing the government “irreparable harm.”
Another way to read the government’s argument is that if it can’t interfere in elections or engage in rampant viewpoint discrimination, that causes it “irreparable harm.”

Still another way to read the government’s argument is that your right to free speech causes it “irreparable harm.”

These are fair characterizations based on the merely limited but no less stunning or overwhelming evidence (pdf) the plaintiffs have obtained in Missouri v. Biden to date—evidence Judge Doughty marshaled in pre-butting the feds’ arguments, substantiating, and then sustaining, the injunction.

The case has revealed that a raft of federal agencies—buoyed by senior White House officials and lawmakers—and a coterie of often government-coordinated and government-funded “anti-disinformation” cutouts have chided, cajoled, and colluded with social media platforms to get them to suppress unauthorized opinions and even inconvenient facts to ruling class orthodoxy at mass scale.

Among the matters these speech policing partners have worked to suppress are the Hunter Biden laptop story in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election, questions about election integrity and outcomes beginning during the same cycle and continuing thereafter, and virtually every aspect of the Chinese coronavirus pandemic since its onset.
The government and its putatively private partners have imposed this censorship regime—one that evidence suggests has impacted at least hundreds of millions of pieces of content—on grounds that “mis-, dis-, and mal-information” (MDM), as determined by authorities who themselves have often proven the most prolific and powerful purveyors of MDM, threatens the republic.

Like all good tyrannies, in other words, this one has been for the good of its victims—to protect our national security and public health. After all, questions about mail-in balloting can lead to insurrections. Questions about vaccine efficacy can get people killed.

Therefore, as the government’s lawyers indicated in response to Judge Doughty’s raising of hypothetical examples of Wrongthink about elections or pandemic mitigation during a May hearing in the case, the feds don’t necessarily consider such Wrongthink protected First Amendment speech.

The government’s position in this case is in keeping with the views and policies of the security state that has been the tip of the spear for government-led censorship activities.

CISA, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, a sub-agency of the Department of Homeland Security, has been the linchpin of government-led speech policing.
It has treated Americans’ questions about election integrity and outcomes on social media effectively as digital domestic terror attacks on critical election infrastructure—and used that national security predicate to induce social media platforms to censor accordingly.

These efforts flow naturally from CISA Director Jen Easterly’s view that America’s most critical infrastructure is our “cognitive infrastructure.”

This is a recipe for nothing less than federal control over the American mind.

The Biden administration’s National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism calls for the whole-of-society application of this view—perhaps unsurprisingly, given that one of the strategy’s architects, Joshua Geltzer, co-authored a piece with Ms. Easterly back in 2018 indicating his shared belief in the imperative to defend “cognitive infrastructure.”
To “confront long-term contributors to domestic terrorism,” the strategy calls for “enhancing faith in government and addressing the extreme polarization, fueled by a crisis of disinformation and misinformation often channeled through social media platform” by “accelerating work to contend with an information environment that challenges healthy democratic discourse” and working to “counter the influence and impact of dangerous conspiracy theories.”
One can easily see, given the nature of the Russiagate-era national security apparatus, how countering “domestic extremism” could serve as a pretext for eliminating dissent to government-favored positions via censorship.

If Wrongthink leads to wrong action, then the areas of speech ripe for suppression are limitless.

This is what has happened, as Missouri v. Biden has exposed.

While the government apparently sees your right to speak as conditional, it views its power to censor as virtually absolute.

The feds claim that the injunction, prohibiting them from maintaining their censorship regime by halting relevant communications with government-colluding cutouts and social media platforms, constitutes an assault on government speech.

That is, the government has the chutzpah to claim that in being prohibited from censoring, it’s being censored—or that preventing the feds from violating the First Amendment, as the injunction does, somehow violates the First Amendment.

This is despite the fact the injunction lays out myriad areas where the feds can continue coordinating with social media companies—including in the very areas such as national security that the feds fear-monger will suffer under the injunction.

Amazingly, the feds also contend the injunction prevents the feds from “speak[ing] on matters of public concern.”

Yet nowhere does the injunction say government authorities can’t hold press conferences, issue press releases, publish social media posts, participate in interviews, or otherwise present their positions publicly.

The plaintiffs’ response to the U.S. government’s motion is manifestly correct. They note that by fighting the judge’s efforts to freeze government-led censorship, the government is simply saying that it wishes to “continue violating the First Amendment.”

As is Judge Doughty’s denial of the U.S. government’s motion, wherein he says, straightforwardly, that the injunction “only prohibits something the Defendants have no legal right to do—contacting social media companies for the purpose of urging, encouraging, pressuring, or inducing in any manner, the removal, deletion, suppression, or reduction of content containing protected free speech posted on social-media platforms.”

The government’s fight for the right to censor reveals a conception of free speech, and its own authority, that is totally backward.

The government operates as if speech is a privilege over which it holds total power, ceding to us only the ability to talk on heavily circumscribed terms—rather than that we have a natural right to speak freely, and that the government’s ability to regulate our speech is heavily circumscribed.

Government derives its powers from us, and with our consent, not the other way around.

At stake, therefore, in Missouri v. Biden is more than free speech.

At stake—and currently on display—is the very nature of what remains of our republican system of government.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Ben Weingarten is editor-at-large at RealClearInvestigations. He is a senior contributor to The Federalist, columnist at Newsweek, and a contributor to the New York Post and The Epoch Times, among other publications. Subscribe to his newsletter at
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