Jonathan Turley, a liberal constitutional scholar at George Washington University, wrote Saturday that some Democrats were using the coronavirus pandemic to demand China-style restrictions on free speech.
In the op-ed, published in The Hill, Turley criticized “the politicians and academics who have called for the censorship of social media and the internet,” including Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Hillary Clinton, and others:
The only thing spreading faster than the coronavirus has been censorship and the loud calls for greater restrictions on free speech. The Atlantic published an article last week by Harvard Law School professor Jack Goldsmith and University of Arizona law professor Andrew Keane Woods calling for Chinese style censorship of the internet.
They declared that “in the great debate of the past two decades about freedom versus control of the network, China was largely right and the United States was largely wrong” and “significant monitoring and speech control are inevitable components of a mature and flourishing internet, and governments must play a large role in these practices to ensure that the internet is compatible with society norms and values.”
The justification for that is the danger of “fake news” about coronavirus risks and cures. Yet this is only the latest rationalization for rolling back free speech rights. For years, Democratic leaders in Congress called for censorship of “fake news” on social media sites. Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube have all engaged in increasing levels of censorship and have a well known reputation for targeting conservative speech.
Citizens now will have to decide, as Goldsmith and Woods insist, if “China was right.” For my part, I remain hopeless in my desire for old fashioned free speech before the pandemic. You see, this “new normal” seems a lot like the old normal that the Framers changed with the First Amendment. China may be right for many in Congress and academia, but it remains on the wrong side of history. Not even a pandemic will change that.
Turley, who does not support President Donald Trump, nevertheless testified in Trump’s defense before the House Judiciary Committee during the impeachment inquiry, warning Congress it was abusing its power.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). His new book, RED NOVEMBER, is available for pre-order. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.