As far as the managerial class was concerned, Twitter’s permanent ban of journalist and author Alex Berenson in August 2021 was entirely justified. Indeed, most of the reaction to his ban consisted of mockery of the lawsuit he subsequently filed to force Twitter to reinstate him.
Since his ban, Berenson has not only been vindicated, but news surfaced that his silencing was the direct result of a request from the White House.
Documents Berenson obtained during the discovery phase of the lawsuit he filed against Twitter illustrate how the government actively works to shut down free speech on issues of public interest. Berenson’s criticisms of the Covid vaccines, which he claimed were ineffective and possibly harmful, came exactly at the time when the federal government, as well as many states and cities, were using every available coercive means at their disposal to force Americans to take them. As such, his speech was deemed extremist and needed to be suppressed to save lives during the pandemic.
While President Biden blithely labels his political opponents as “semi-fascists,” it is he who has been playing the part of a fascist by using powerful corporations to stifle opposition. And thus, Berenson’s Twitter ban must be acknowledged as a rank injustice.
At the time of his ban, support for vaccine mandates had become both official public health policy and a sign of left-wing virtue. Berenson’s journalism was thusly treated as dissident advocacy and considered not merely irresponsible but beyond the pale.
The Washington Post denounced a segment with Berenson on Tucker Carlson’s show as “dishonest and dangerous.” And in April 2021, The Atlantic profiled him as “The Pandemic’s Wrongest Man.” So when Twitter quietly reinstated him this month, it should have been heralded as a major vindication for Berenson, but outside of one article in The Atlantic, it was largely ignored by the same legacy media that had written him off as an extremist crank who was hurting the public.
There are two important takeaways from this development.
First, everyone must now acknowledge Berenson’s views that were labeled wrongthink a year ago were largely correct about the shortcomings of Covid vaccines.
The second point concerns the way the government used a public health emergency not only to seize unprecedented power but to trash civil liberties by leveraging the resources of Big Tech companies.
Berenson’s final tweet before being banned said the following about Covid vaccines: “It doesn’t stop infection. Or transmission. Don’t think of it as a vaccine. Think of it – at best – as a therapeutic with a limited window of efficacy and terrible side effect profile that must be dosed IN ADVANCE OF ILLNESS. And we want to mandate it? Insanity.”
As The Atlantic admitted this past week, his claims are inarguably correct. The notion that merely stating his concerns on an issue about which much is yet to be learned was something that merited government intervention and censorship is risible.
It may be advantageous to take the vaccines, especially for those who are most at risk due to age or other health problems, but you don’t have to be an anti-vaxxer to understand that in the U.S., the government is not meant to have the power to shut down debates.
Some might claim that normal rules don’t apply during public health emergencies, but that is undermined by the fact that pretty much all of the advice and warnings that came out of the public health establishment during the height of the pandemic were eventually proven wrong. The fact that the government was able to pressure the regulators of the 21st-century town square to silence controversial speech is outrageous and dangerous to democracy.
It’s not clear whether Berenson will be able to successfully sue the Biden administration for compelling Twitter to erase him from a forum that is now the main address for contemporary public discourse. But the stakes involved in these actions going unpunished are incalculable.
Presidential demands that those who are skeptical about their policies be de-platformed on the basis of false claims about “harm” is something that must be forbidden if constitutional protections for free speech are to be preserved.