The Escalating Assault on Citizen Journalism
In December 1997, after the FBI arrested independent journalist James Sanders for investigating the destruction of TWA Flight 800, not a single reporter at a post-arraignment press conference managed to frame even one First Amendment question.
In fact, the Newsday reporter argued the government’s case, insisting the Justice Department found insufficient evidence to declare Sanders a journalist. The fact that Sanders had already written two successful investigatory books did not count. By challenging the media’s defense of a Democratic administration, Sanders all but sacrificed his First Amendment rights.
At the time of Sanders’s arrest roughly 40 percent of America was using the Internet. Within 20 years that figure would approach 90 percent. The Internet was the great equalizer. It enabled citizen journalists to report stories that the major media underreported or failed to report at all. As the reach of the Internet grew, the apprehension of the progressive establishment grew along with it. Sanders’s conviction on a bogus conspiracy charge was a sign of payback to come.
Here I use the phrase “progressive establishment” broadly to include any institution, private or public, which works to mute the voice of independent conservative journalists. In Sanders’s case, the active institution was the FBI aided and abetted by the mainstream media.
This past week, the progressive establishment attempted to silence two more independents. In the first case, Twitter and Facebook conspired to deny the audacious 25-year-old journalist Laura Loomer her rapidly growing audience. In the second, Special Counsel Robert Mueller lowered the boom on Jerome Corsi, a 72-year-old Harvard Ph.D.
An all too typical headline this week from ABC News -- “Conspiracy theorist becomes key figure as Mueller builds case” -- delegitimizes Corsi even before the article begins.
Corsi is not a journalist; he is a “conspiracy theorist.” The media are not opposed to conspiracy theorizing in general -- Michael Moore did win an Oscar -- but rather to theorizing that has the potential to harm the progressive establishment.
Corsi is said to be cutting a deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. According to ABC, Mueller and pals believe that “Corsi may have had advance knowledge that the email account of Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta, had been hacked and that WikiLeaks had obtained a trove of damning emails from it.”
Even if true, it is not at all clear why a journalist should have his career destroyed because of his “advance knowledge” of anything. If Corsi worked for ABC, the media would be howling in unison as they did upon the murder of “progressive” Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Corsi’s case is instructive. The first major “conspiracy” he helped bring to life was the media conspiracy to suppress John Kerry’s dubious war record. What prompted Corsi’s partner, John O’Neill, to launch the Swift Boat project was the Kerry campaign’s use of the “band of brothers” theme to position Kerry was a war hero.
An attorney and swift boat veteran, O’Neill ran down the 19 officers featured in a photo with Kerry from his Vietnam days. Almost to a man, they challenged Kerry’s war record. Only two of the 19 supported Kerry for president.
As had become standard practice, the establishment media rushed to their preferred candidate’s defense. In August 2004, while admitting there were “legitimate questions about Mr. Kerry's behavior,” the Washington Post decided the authors “crosse[d] the line in branding Mr. Kerry a coward and a liar.” The Post’s evidence to the contrary was scant and superficial. Corsi and O’Neill’s evidence was strong enough to counter the media pushback and deny Kerry the presidency.
As the reader might recall, the major media generated the one real smear during the 2004 election cycle. At CBS, anchor Dan Rather and his crew tried to undermine George Bush’s military record with forged documents. In defending Rather’s reporting, the New York Times memorably called these documents “fake but accurate.”
Over time, of course, the media get their way. Today, dictionaries define “swiftboating” as “an unfair or untrue political attack.” Corsi is remembered as a “smear artist,” and Robert Redford played Dan Rather in a 2015 film unblushingly titled Truth.
Corsi has written a dozen books since Unfit for Command. The major media largely ignored his work until he started writing about Barack Obama. In particular, Corsi challenged what Obama biographer David Remnick called Obama’s “signature appeal: the use of the details of his own life as a reflection of a kind of multicultural ideal.”
By 2009, Corsi was reporting facts about Obama’s first year of life that made hash out of that “ideal.” As is their wont, the major media disregarded any reporting from independent journalists, Corsi especially, that challenged their narrative.
In three separate biographies published during the following two years -- one by New Yorker editor Remnick and one each by star reporters from the Times and Boston Globe -- each author crudely bent the facts of Obama’s infancy to sustain the illusion of a happy multicultural family.
It was not until 2012 that the Washington Post’s David Maraniss confirmed Corsi’s reporting. Yes, Obama’s mother fled to Seattle with the baby immediately after his birth. No, there never was an Obama family. Sorry, but Obama’s famed 2004 convention speech was a lie.
I do not know Laura Loomer well either, but I have met her and can confirm, yes, she is a pistol. If I were in the progressive establishment, I would want to silence her too. Her combination of smarts, sophistication, and fearlessness makes her arguably the most effective under-30 journalist in America today -- if, that is, Loomer were a journalist.
Predictably, in a November 22 piece on her travails, NBC News denied Loomer that status in the very first sentence: “Far-right activist Laura Loomer became the latest conservative figure to be kicked off Twitter when her account was shut down Wednesday.” According to NBC, Loomer merely “touts herself” as an “investigative journalist.”
The tweet that got Loomer banned reads as follows: “Isn’t it ironic how the twitter moment used to celebrate ‘women, LGBTQ, and minorities’ is a picture of Ilhan Omar? Ilhan is pro Sharia Ilhan is pro-FGM Under Sharia, homosexuals are oppressed & killed. Women are abused & forced to wear the hijab. Ilhan is anti Jewish.”
Ilhan Omar was recently elected to Congress. Admittedly, Twitter is a private enterprise, and the First Amendment is not in play. That said, Milo Yiannopoulos’s take on Twitter’s “permanent” ban of Loomer nicely sums up the un-American spirit of her silencing: "She was banned for criticizing an elected politician." More troubling still, Loomer’s criticism of Omar was on target.
As to Corsi, he appears to be fighting back. He told CNN in a phone call that he was offered a deal to plea to one count of perjury for his alleged role as an intermediary between Roger Stone and Wikileaks. "They can put me in prison the rest of my life. I am not going to sign a lie," said Corsi. Roger Stone associate says he won't agree to plea deal
Corsi and Loomer are two victims out of many. As I argued in an earlier piece on American Thinker, “First They Came for Alex Jones,” the progressive establishment is picking off those citizen journalists with the least institutional support. The left applauds the silencing and the respectable right pretends not to notice.
Perhaps when the left’s street-level agitators assault the homes of the George Wills and Peggy Noonans of this world, our right-leaning betters will understand how thin is the line between “conservative journalist” and “far-right activist.”