Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) used his time meant for questioning during a recent hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee to complain about ostensible censorship perpetrated by government officials.
Hawley compared a hypothetical situation in which the government seeks to stop publishing companies from releasing certain books to the alleged situation with authorities expressing concerns to certain social media companies about some content on their sites. The Constitutional issues with extensive government meddling with the book publishing process aren’t about anyone being allowed to say anything, which sounded like the direction Hawley was going on Tuesday. Neither is it accurate to characterize the government as broadly having forced social media sites to take certain actions in content moderation.
Hawley’s purported examples were bizarre. He pointed to a claimed incident in Missouri where someone posted on a site called Nextdoor in favor of leaving face masks optional at local schools, allegedly finding their online commentary to have been surreptitiously removed. It defies basic logic to assert that isolated anecdotes are evidence of some kind of extensive conspiracy, and though Hawley leaped from the claims about these seemingly random social media users to assertions of a nefarious plot, he provided little precise evidence beyond vague references to meetings. Yelling — as he often does, Hawley also mentioned long known email communications between federal personnel and high-profile social media companies — which do not prove these companies were forced to take action through any extrajudicial means.
Republican Senators so often prove themselves to be startlingly animated. In this same hearing, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) — also yelling, for some reason — alleged that those expressing concerns about efforts that broadly culminate in book bans were effectively trying to silence Americans. That imagined ambition, however, is not the point, as it was explained. The area of concern for many is where ostensible claims about the impacts from certain materials on a community can be used as cover for suppressing already marginalized individuals and groups.