I watched “The Wizard of Oz” again, as I do each year; an annual ritual and a private cleansing. Dorothy, adorably naive and idealistic, becomes ensnared in a whirlwind drama. You know the score: she wants to go back home; her roots; her truth; her loving family. And what obstacles prevent her sojourn home? That menacing propagandist of a would-be Wizard.
Recently, Matt Taibbi — a suitable enough Dorothy, walked the “yellow brick road” to Capitol Hill, witch’s broom in hand, and sat eager and anxious, looking up at the Wizard in the form of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Weaponization of the Federal Government. Taibbi is a journalist of 30 years with a well-earned reputation for deep, gutsy reporting that has garnered him peer accolades, though few friends in places of power.
How well-regarded he must have felt when one of the world’s most powerful, Elon Musk, had messaged him: “Are you interested in doing a deep dive into what censorship and manipulation … was going on at Twitter?” Handed to him on a silver platter were Dorothy’s ruby slippers: a digital trove of messaging between Twitter executives and the FBI, CIA, Homeland Security, and an assortment of other government agencies, collectively referred to as the “Twitter files.”
The Twitter files are not innuendo, inference, or the dreams of a Kansas farm girl. They are many thousands of emails from government employees directing who and what tweets got censored at Twitter. Taibbi in his opening testimony before the subcommittee concluded that this was a “sweeping effort … to turn the internet into an instrument of censorship and social control.” Twitter was not the only firm receiving “moderation requests” from the DOD, DHS, and others. Facebook and Google also have cozy partnerships with like-minded government propagandists. Twitter is unique in that they have disclosed the evidence. The tomb was unsealed in October 2022.
Backdoor collusion and the revolving door between major media outlets and the government they are pretending to keep honest has existed for decades — nothing particularly new there, but the Twitter files makes plain a form of “digital McCarthyism” that removes whatever slender veil of separation remained between Big Brother and Big Media. As Musk tweeted on Dec. 10, 2022: “Twitter is both a social media company and a crime scene.”
And as with any crime scene, a professional investigator or dignified legislator (assuming a lot here) would look for motive. Why on earth would the FBI and DHS dedicate scores of staff to scrutinize millions of tweets (at taxpayer expense)? We know that the CIA has been and continues to use social media to shape public opinion overseas. One of Central Command’s Arabic Twitter accounts supports U.S. sponsored Saudi attacks on Yemen — the latest disclosure in countless social media strategies to “win hearts and minds.” But now, like some mutated cell, we attack our own internal organs.
The smoking guns are in the blacklisted accounts, the tweets, and the puppeteers’ emails. In the runup to the 2020 presidential election, there was a simmering fear, not solely but primarily amongst liberals, that Donald Trump was “an unprecedented threat to democracy.” The media, forced to wear a dunce hat in the corner of the White House during Trump’s four years — were only too eager to accommodate the “censorship industrial complex.” And then there were those dissonant unofficial COVID narratives that required silencing — ones that the FBI are now beginning to walk back.
Silly me. I had wished that when Dorothy presented the evidence and the motives were laid bare, the Wizard of Oz would come clean, pull the curtain to expose the cheap amplifiers and pyrotechnics, and humbly declare himself a phony. But that’s my own idealism at play. The stellar opportunity for confessions, for transparency, took the normal course and devolved into our elected toddlers throwing sand in a sandbox. Business as usual.
Meanwhile, Musk’s latest threat is to place “propaganda warnings” on CNN tweets. More mutual humiliation. I saw not a soul in that room closing their eyes, tapping their heels together three times, and thinking “there’s no place like home.” Go ahead, call me a sucker for happy endings.
After years of globetrotting, Broadman finds himself writing from his perch on the Palouse and loving the view. His policy briefs can be found at US Renew News: usrenewnews.org.