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House Hearing Targets Conservative Media for Spreading ‘Disinformation and Extremism’

Feb. 24 , 2021 (EIRNS)—Today, the Communications and Technology subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing provocatively titled “Fanning the Flames: Disinformation and Extremism in the Media.” In a statement issued prior to the hearing, Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and subcommittee chairman Mike Doyle (D-PA) warned that the COVID-19 pandemic and the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol brought home the “frightening reality” that “the spread of disinformation and extremism by traditional news media presents a tangible and destabilizing threat. Some broadcasters’ and cable networks’ increasing reliance on conspiracy theories and misleading or patently false information raises questions about their devotion to journalist integrity.”

Journalist integrity? “Since when is it in the role of the U.S. Government to arbitrate and enforce precepts of ‘journalistic integrity’?” demanded investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald in a Feb. 23 column. This, he warns, goes way beyond just stifling divergent views—they are demanding the removal of conservative cable outlets, including Fox News, from the airwaves. Greenwald says, revealing are the letters that senior Democratic committee members Rep. Anna Eschoo (CA), who represents Silicon Valley, and Rep. Jerry McNerney (CA) sent to seven of the nation’s largest cable providers (Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, Cox, etc.) as well as to digital distributors of cable news (Amazon, Google, Apple etc.), demanding to know what they did to prevent conservative “disinformation” prior to the election and after, and asking whether they were “planning to continue carrying Fox News, Newsmax and OANN” and “if so, why?”

This is nothing less than “an authoritarian assault on free speech,” Greenwald charges. which is justified by the claim that conservative outlets put out “dangerous” and “destabilizing” information, which incites people to violence, subversion, and “domestic terrorism.” As if to drive home the point, in his opening remarks to the hearing, Chairman Pallone asserted “the First Amendment prohibits us from passing laws that inappropriately limit speech—even when it is controversial or overly partisan. But that does not mean that we should ignore the spread of misinformation that causes public harm.... Disinformation and extremism is a threat to our nation.”

Perhaps Pallone should reexamine what the First Amendment considers to be an “inappropriate” limit to speech!

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