Watch: RFK Jr. Hosts Censorship Roundtable -- Journalists, Experts Examine Free Speech Crisis, Lawsuits

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Originally published on by Monica Dutcher

In a roundtable discussion last week, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Children's Health Defense chairman on leave, convened panelists Sharyl Attkisson, Jamel Holley, Jenin Younes and Glenn Greenwald to discuss how free speech has come under attack in the U.S. and what can be done to defend First Amendment rights and "dissidents to establishment orthodoxy."

Democratic presidential candidate and Children's Health Defense Chairman on Leave Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on Aug. 17 hosted a roundtable discussion on how free speech is under attack and what steps citizens, politicians and corporations can take to protect the First Amendment.

Participants Sharyl Attkisson, Jamel Holley, Jenin Younes and Glenn Greenwald shared their experiences and perspectives as advocates for government transparency and defenders of free speech. Attkisson served as moderator.

Kennedy kicked off the discussion with an overview of six lawsuits -- in which he is the plaintiff or a co-plaintiff -- alleging censorship and infringement on First Amendment rights.

He primarily focused on Kennedy v. Google and YouTube and the consolidation of Kennedy et al. v. Biden et al. and Missouri et al. v. Biden et al., referring to them as examples of the "state actor theory," in which companies like Google and YouTube are not acting on their only accord but as "proxies for the government."

Kennedy said:

"There's been this bizarre cooperation between the big social media titans and the government. … We have the FBI and the CIA and a whole army of different government agencies, including the Census Bureau and the IRS.

"I don't know what the Census Bureau has to do with censorship or controlling information, but they were given portals into Twitter, into Facebook, to literally censor people from speaking."

Referring to the consolidated lawsuits against the Biden administration -- and oral arguments last month on whether to uphold the plaintiffs' request for an injunction preventing White House officials from communicating with social media companies or grant the defendants' motion to stay the injunction -- Kennedy said he was confident in the plaintiffs' case, and said it's likely the case will go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

During the oral arguments, held before the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans, plaintiffs' attorneys focused on the extent to which the federal government coerced social media platforms into removing content that contradicted the government's official COVID-19 policy narratives, likening the move to "book burning."

"The judges in that argument were comparing the White House to the mafia," said Kennedy. "Thirty-seven hours after President Biden took the oath of office, people from the White House were calling Facebook and Twitter" and threatening their Section 230 immunity -- which protects online platforms from liability for content created by third-party users -- if they did not remove Kennedy from their platforms.

"That is an existential threat to those organizations," said Kennedy.

Who's pulling strings on social media censorship? 

Attkisson, investigative journalist and five-time Emmy Award winner, asked the panel to elaborate on how censorship has reached critical mass in this country and to identify the bad actors in the "censorship regime."

Greenwald, co-founder of The Intercept who left the organization in 2020 due to censorship and now hosts "System Update" on Rumble, said it started with corporate media's response to the election of Donald Trump in 2016, which "proved" to media giants that "people can't be trusted to communicate freely."

Corporate media "likes to maintain hegemony over the flow of information, in part because of ideological reasons," said Greenwald. So they "started agitating for censorship" by calling companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter "under the guise of reporting" about the proliferation of "hate speech" on their platforms.

In reality, "it's basically an extortion threat," said Greenwald, to get companies to remove content Big Media doesn't like:

"For a journalist to advocate for censorship is like hearing a cardiologist encourage people to smoke more cigarettes. It is so anathema to the core values and functions of what journalism is supposed to be."

Social media companies and journalists are being pressured by the FBI, CIA and other agencies, which are "constantly identifying content that threatens national security," Greenwald said.

"You have this confluence of forces operating in conjunction with one another. … They're very much unified toward the same goal of not just imposing a censorship regime, but one that is designed to silence dissidents to establishment orthodoxy," he said.

Younes, who serves as senior special counsel for the U.S. House Judiciary Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, explained how emails and internal documents obtained as a result of the Missouri v. Biden litigation and the Facebook Files are exposing these alliances between government and private companies.

She said:

"What we've uncovered is quite a bit of evidence of the government's orchestration of this censorship on social media. We knew that the social media companies were censoring people for saying things about, for instance, the COVID vaccines, lockdowns, masks and the 2020 election that didn't align with the Biden administration's preferred message.

"Some of the most important recent evidence that actually came out as a result of my subcommittee's investigation has showed that the companies were giving in to the government's coercion."

How do we disarm the censorship regime?

After identifying the tactics and relationships among the "bad actors," panelists offered solutions to preserving the country's foundational value of free speech.

Holley, a former member of the New Jersey General Assembly Health Committee, said:

"You do exactly what Mr. Kennedy and others are doing -- stepping up and fighting and continuing that change and bringing [these issues] to the forefront [for] the American people.

"Government has long had a history of targeting individuals, residents and people's rights. And the only thing that changes [that] is when people power steps up."

Greenwald agreed with Holley, saying that the freedom movement's primary goal is to bring better public attention to the fact that "the censorship regime is very real" and "very pervasive."

"I think Americans are inculcated from birth with the idea that free speech is an important value and censorship is intrinsically the tool of tyrants and despots," Greenwald added.

Younes, who also serves as litigation counsel for the New Civil Liberties Alliance, didn't think Americans fully understood the truth speech debate. She said:

"I think that there needs to be a renewed appreciation for free speech in the country before we can really move forward. The public has to care about this and they have to understand that silencing your political opponents is not a way to win or to have a free society."

Part of encouraging that education is rehabilitating journalism. Substack is a start, said Kennedy, but none of those thought leaders are being recognized by the mainstream media.

Kennedy said:

"Journalists have always prided themselves on being the gatekeepers and the guardians of free speech and fierce defenders of free expression.

"We need to start developing our own institutions where real journalists can actually come and make a living and be able to flourish. That's absolutely critical to our democracy, and we've lost it. We've lost it here. We've lost it all over the world."

Greenwald agreed it's important to build "alternative ecosystems of independent media where dissent can thrive," citing Rumble as a good example.

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