Republicans are trying to establish a new definition of censorship, one that apparently means “not giving us freedom to spread dangerous lies on independently owned platforms.”
Lately, we’ve seen this most prominently in the conservative movement’s complaints about social media moderation. Now House Republicans are taking the tantrum to one of the nation’s top television providers.
GOP lawmakers are up in arms that DirecTV might pull the plug on a major source of right-wing disinformation, and they’re trying to throw their weight around to stop it. In a letter late last week, more than 40 Republicans decried the possibility that DirecTV would no longer offer Newsmax — the archconservative, Trump-loving network known for spreading lies.
“It has recently been revealed that Congressional Democrats and the White House coordinated closely with private companies to de-platform, de-monetize, or otherwise limit the reach of viewpoints they oppose and classify them as ‘misinformation,’” the House Republicans wrote. “As members of the House Republican Conference, we are deeply concerned about this un-democratic assault on free speech.”
Yet again, the GOP proves the hollowness of its claim to be the party of free enterprise.
As you might expect, this is a dramatic exaggeration of what actually occurred.
In reality, shortly after the deadly, conspiracy-driven Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol in 2021, two Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter to several cable TV providers — including DirecTV’s majority owner, AT&T — asking whether and why the providers would continue giving a platform to outlets that were known to have spread disinformation in the lead-up to Jan. 6.
In last week’s letter from House Republicans, the lawmakers cite the continued presence of “11 liberal news and information channels” on DirecTV while arguing that the TV service is “actively working to limit conservative viewpoints on its system.”
Yet again, the GOP proves the hollowness of its claim to be the party of free enterprise. But from a business perspective, it seems like one reason for DirecTV discontinuing its relationship with Newsmax — as it did with the right-wing One America News Network last April — is the potential legal liability.
In 2021, Newsmax offered a public apology for repeated lies that its hosts and guests spread about a Dominion Voting Systems employee after the 2020 presidential election. But after the apology and a reported settlement with the employee, Newsmax was found to have spread lies about the Jan. 6 attack.
And just last year, a judge allowed a Dominion-backed lawsuit against Newsmax for more than $1.5 billion to move forward.
The GOP lawmakers’ letter to DirecTV conveniently leaves out these details, instead painting Newsmax as a responsible conservative media outlet.
Whether it’s targeting Disney for defending LGBTQ employees, or Twitter for moderating hate speech, or DirecTV for wanting to break ties with their favorite conspiracy theorists, Republicans are showing it’s not free enterprise they want.
It’s not freedom they’re after. It’s subservience.