First They Came for Alex Jones
This past week, the nation’s newspapers took collective umbrage at being called “the enemy of the people” by President Trump.
“That is what Nazis called Jews,” gasped the editors of the Kansas City Star. “A form even appeared in Nazi Germany, when Jewish people were called an ‘enemy of the state,’” fretted the editors of the Topeka Capital-Journal.
These being the only two editorials I read, I have to imagine that many more of the roughly 400 protesting newsrooms engaged in some variation on the reductio ad Hitlerum theme. Even if all 400 did, no halfway sentient adult can take this self-indulgence seriously.
Here is why. Since President Trump’s election, every major magazine, every major social media outlet, every major newspaper, just about all of Hollywood and Broadway, and every major TV network save for Fox News have conspired to destroy the president.
During this time, these “journalists” have treated their audiences to an endless stream of anti-Trump propaganda only marginally rooted in the truth, and not a one of them has seen a pink slip, let alone a gas chamber.
If these media outposts have no cause for alarm, Alex Jones does. So does every other right-of-center voice in America. An exchange on comedian Bill Maher’s HBO show Friday suggests why the reductio ad Hitlerum in the title of this essay, if a stretch, is still more justified than those ululated by America’s newspapers.
When Maher explained to his audience that Apple, Google, Facebook, and Spotify colluded to boot Jones and InfoWars from their platforms, most in the audience applauded enthusiastically. More troubling, guest Jennifer Granholm, a former Michigan governor, shouted, “Thank God.”
To his credit, the contrarian Maher scolded the audience. "If you're a liberal you're supposed to be for free speech,” he said. “That's free speech for the speech you hate." He made little headway with the audience or his guests. If any other prominent liberal voice in the media protested Jones’s exile, he or she or ‘zhe’ has done so sotto voce.
One can argue that the media platforms that evicted Jones were private concerns, but the collusion among them was symptomatic of the nearly universal urge on the left to suppress speech that challenges the left/liberal agenda.
The private enterprise argument cannot be made in the four cases that follow. In these cases, the media conspired with the government to punish individuals whose media efforts threatened Democrats in power. I have met the individuals profiled here in the course of my own work. I am sure there are many more that I have not met who have suffered similar or worse fates.
In 1996, investigative reporter James Sanders was introduced to TWA 747 pilot and manager Terry Stacey by Sanders’s wife Elizabeth, a TWA trainer. Stacey was working on the investigation of TWA 800, the plane that blew up off the coast of Long Island months earlier. “What he told me over those first hours,” said Sanders of his meeting with Stacey, “was one thing -- ‘I know there’s a cover-up in progress.’”
To confirm his suspicion, Stacey Fedexed Sanders a pinch of foam rubber from a seat back to have it tested for missile residue. Sanders submitted half of it to a west coast lab and gave the other half to a producer at CBS News, Kristina Borjesson, for CBS to test. Borjesson prodded her superiors to review Sanders’s evidence for a missile strike. They refused and returned the foam rubber to the FBI, killing Borjesson’s CBS career in the process.
Eventually the FBI arrested Stacey and both the Sanders on the absurd charge of conspiracy to steal airplane parts. At the time of their trial, it stunned Sanders that none among the media managed to frame even one First Amendment question.
One reporter asked Sanders why he did not immediately return the foam rubber and turn Stacey in to the FBI. Another argued the government line, namely that Sanders was not a journalist entitled to First Amendment protection.
In fact, Sanders had written two previous books of investigative journalism, both successful, but on this case his journalism threatened a sitting Democratic president. That threat turned Sanders from a journalist into a “conspiracy theorist.” He spent five years on federal probation, his wife Elizabeth three.
As with Sanders, the major media have refused to concede that James O’Keefe of Project Veritas is a journalist, this despite the fact that at the time of O’Keefe’s arrest his undercover reporting had just brought down ACORN, a corrupt $2 billion leftist organization.
In 2010, shortly after the ACORN bust, O’Keefe and three colleagues attempted to investigate whether Senator Mary Landrieu’s office in New Orleans was blocking calls from Tea Party activists.
Although the four showed their actual driver’s licenses to get into a federal building, the Feds arrested them and charged them with a misdeanor “entry by false pretenses.” O’Keefe spent a night in jail and three years on restrictive federal probation, specifically for telling the Landrieu staffers he was waiting for someone when he wasn’t.
The national media were gleeful. They called the O’Keefe affair the “Louisiana Watergate” and “Watergate Jr.” The New York Times and Washington Post both put the arrest on the front page. The Post headline read, “ACORN Foe Charged in Alleged Plot to Wiretap Landrieu.” Retractions followed -- the four knew nothing about wiretapping -- but who reads retractions.
Even more shameful was the media’s treatment of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula in 2012. Needing to blame something other than her own incompetence for the assault on the Benghazi consulate, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released a memo the night of the attack indicting some “inflammatory material posted on the Internet." Nakoula, an American citizen, produced the video that allegedly did the inflaming.
Nakoula was vulnerable. He had been arrested years earlier for a check-kiting scheme and cooperated quietly with the feds. To protect him, the feds sealed the document. After Benghazi, the Obama DoJ promptly unsealed it and leaked it to the New York Times.
The Times reported on Nakoula’s earlier conviction just three days after the smoke had cleared in Benghazi. The release of this information exposed Nakoula to harassment by the media and reprisal from the ringleader of the check-kiting operation.
Once he was identified, the Times and the other media camped out in front of Nakoula’s California house, not to protect him from the death threats he was facing, but to join in the manhunt. To assure their readers they had tracked the right man, the Times’ reporters pointed out the similarities between Nakoula’s front door and the front door of a house used in the video.
Still on probation and feeling like he had little choice, Nakoula pled guilty to unauthorized use of the Internet in his uploading of the video. He was sentenced to one year in prison and four years of supervised release.
Some months after his arrest I tracked Nakoula down to La Tuna, a federal prison in the westernmost tip of Texas. I was the first person in the media to contact him. As with Sanders and O’Keefe, the media ignored his imprisonment or cheered it.
For more than a year, 20-something David Daleiden and his group, Center for Medical Progress, recorded undercover videos of several Planned Parenthood clinics that trafficked in baby parts. The videos had to potential to shake up the 2016 election. Even Hillary Clinton called them “disturbing.”
The major media, of course, refused to show the videos. When Planned Parenthood’s Democratic allies in Texas and California had Daleiden arrested on charges even more trumped up than O’Keefe’s in New Orleans, the media turned their collective back. Into the void stepped Planned Parenthood spokespeople, now confidently dismissing this damning evidence as “faked criminal videos,” a charge the media reinforced.
To be called ‘an enemy of the people,’ even by the president, carries no known risk. To become an enemy of the media, however, comes with considerable risk -- even for liberals who may have thought themselves immune.
Molly Norris, once a cartoonist for the liberal Seattle Weekly, learned this new reality the hard way. In 2010, upset by Muslim threats against the creators of the TV show “South Park,” Norris conceived the nicely mischievous new holiday, "Everybody Draw Muhammed Day."
“Do your part to both water down the pool of targets,” wrote Norris bravely, “and, oh yeah, defend a little something our country is famous for... the first amendment.”
Norris apparently had not gotten the DNC memo. The national left had absorbed Muslims into the multicultural rainbow and elevated their sensitivities over any quaint notion of free speech. Her cartoon in the Seattle Weekly announcing the event quickly went viral, and just as quickly, Islamic firebrands went postal.
Norris came under increasing pressure and quickly backed off. Not satisfied with Norris’s surrender, Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki insisted she be made “a prime target of assassination.” The FBI took the threat seriously enough to recommend that Norris “go ghost.” In other words, Norris had to scrub her identity and disappear on her own dime.
No one of note in the liberal media, not even her friends at the Seattle Weekly, came to her defense. One colleague informed the readers that “depictions of the prophet are considered sacrilege by many Muslims” as if to suggest that Norris deserved her fate.
Norris went ghost in July 2010 and has not surfaced since. Unlike her former colleagues, it is not President Trump who worries her. To become an enemy of the media is to risk one’s career, one’s freedom, even one’s life.