We received some seemingly excellent news over the weekend. The appellate court of the 5th Circuit has reimposed the restrictions on the White House, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the FBI to stop bullying social media companies to censor content.
This has taken place ahead of the actual trial because two judges found that the practice was so egregious that it needed to be stopped right now before more damage is done to the First Amendment.
“The officials have engaged in a broad pressure campaign designed to coerce social-media companies into suppressing speakers, viewpoints, and content disfavored by the government,” a three-judge panel wrote in Missouri v. Biden.
“The harms that radiate from such conduct extend far beyond just the Plaintiffs; it impacts every social-media user.”
That’s all excellent news so far.
But there's a fly in this ointment.
The lower court’s injunction included restrictions on a whole host of agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security (and its sub-unit, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, or CISA), and the State Department and its relationships with other third-party agencies.
I was personally disappointed that the initial injunction didn't name the CIA and all of its thousands of proxies, to say nothing of the other 400-plus agencies in the administrative state of the federal government.
What’s strange and disappointing is that the appeals court stripped all of this out of its ruling.
It vacated the most devastating parts of the injunction, including that which hit the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department. It specifically stripped out the list of defendants.
I’m not a lawyer or an expert in administrative law, but the decision is packed with hints and suggestions that this injunction might be mostly cosmetic. It stops the most aggressive and overt censorship but also offers a road map for how they can do this in other ways, simply by burying the mechanisms of control one layer more deeply.
In short, the initial injunction didn't go nearly far enough. The renewed injunction, with its careful carve-outs, is far more toothless still.
What are the next steps? There will eventually be a trial and decision. That's likely to be settled for the plaintiffs in some measure and will imply certain policies. That could be appealed to the Supreme Court, which might take years to unfold. In the meantime, it’s unclear as to whether and to what extent the true Deep State does face much of a restriction on its activities.
One way that we will know could come in a matter of days.
If the White House appeals this injunction to the Supreme Court for an emergency ruling, it would suggest that some people at the top are very worried, even to the point of panic.
If they do nothing, which is very possible, it means that they can live with the current ruling. That would be a very bad sign.
There's very little public knowledge of the extent of the problem here. Over the weekend, at a scholars and fellows retreat for Brownstone Institute, we heard a presentation by Andrew Lowenthal, one of the journalists who was given access to the Twitter files after Elon Musk took over. Mr. Lowenthal and his colleagues found vast evidence of an extensive and complex network of censorship that reaches every part of mainstream social media: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, TikTok, Reddit, Wikipedia, and beyond.
The controlling parties are the Department of Homeland Security and all of its agencies, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense, all of their contractors in universities and state and local governments, media organs including The New York Times and The Washington Post, and all major technology companies, especially Google and Microsoft. Looking at what he calls the “Censorship Industrial Complex” on the screen during his presentation was truly ominous.
Talking with Mr. Lowenthal afterward, I pointed out to him that CISA wasn't just censoring. This agency on March 19, 2020, issued an edict to the country that defined every U.S. worker as either essential or nonessential. It created a techno-feudal structure that gave rights to the elites and those who serve them, while excluding the vast middle layer of the U.S. workforce as unessential.
CISA issued the kind of edict that no free and civilized society would or should ever tolerate. It was incredibly egregious. And yet there has been little to no public discussion of this outrage, and hence no awareness of how this came to be. Exactly who decided to do this? What was its impetus? Keep in mind that there are deep links between CISA and Big Tech, which suggests that this central plan was hatched in cooperation with the companies that benefited from it.
Mr. Lowenthal naively asked why the Department of Labor wasn't consulted. I explained that the department is an old-time civilian bureaucracy packed with old-fashioned public servants with no interest in high-tech hijinx. They're there just to assemble data. What happened in March 2020 was a coup d’état by a new generation of techno-despots from the intelligence community. They have their own agencies and methods of control—all suited toward the 21st century.
As I further pointed out to him, this isn't only about censorship. The censors do what they do for a bigger purpose. What they're really seeking is complete control of society itself; that is, human beings. And they don’t just work on a national basis but an international one, which is why most countries on the planet Earth had exactly the same policies. The intelligence community that's ruling this machinery is truly global at this point.
In other words, this isn't just a Censorship Industrial Complex. It's a totalitarian hegemon that wants total control of our bodies, lives, and communities. The purpose of the censorship is to keep this from being debated and protested by the public. The censorship is bad, but its purpose points to something far worse than merely controlling the flow of information.
And there's another layer of control that wasn't even on the chart: the money-laundering machinery of, for example, FTX. There's little doubt that this crypto-exchange was set up to launder funding from venture capitalists to nonprofits and political candidates. That was the whole point. It was a ruling-class pump and dump. There's no political or legal process ongoing that will prevent something such as this from happening again.
It’s easy to look at such realities, realize the depth of the Deep State, and get discouraged. Sometimes, it feels as if we're just a tiny band of writers and podcasters with zero influence or power. But Mr. Lowenthal was careful to point out that this isn't true. The bad guys in this story feel very much outgunned and under vast pressure from all sides. They're right now under the impression that they're losing badly. That's because public opinion keeps shifting in the direction of freedom and democracy and against control and compulsion from the centralized despots.
I hope that he's right because it's hard to think of a struggle more important than this one.
“There can be little doubt that man owes some of his greatest successes in the past to the fact that he has not been able to control social life,” economist F.A. Hayek wrote more than 60 years ago in “The Constitution of Liberty.”
“His continued advance may well depend on his deliberately refraining from exercising controls which are now in his power.
“In the past, the spontaneous forces of growth, however much restricted, could usually still assert themselves against the organized coercion of the state. With the technological means of control now at the disposal of government, it is not certain that such an assertion is still possible; at any rate, it may soon become impossible. We are not far from the point where the deliberately organized forces of society may destroy those spontaneous forces which have made advance possible.”
We can't have freedom and democracy with a deep state run by the intelligence community, in league with all the major universities and corporations, running our lives, elections, and communications. Something has to give. And without public understanding of the problem, there will never be a fix.