Trump’s ‘Social Media Summit’ Will Not Stop Big Tech

News: Commentary
by Dr. Christopher Manion, Ph.D.  •  •  July 11, 2019   

For a century, Democrats sought censorship with help of U.S. bishops

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President Donald Trump has invited a group of conservative leaders to a "social media summit" at the White House on July 11. And every pro-life group knows why.

For years, "Big Tech" — most prominently Facebook, Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Wordpress — have been censoring conservative, Christian and pro-life groups. In recent months, however, the intensity of the blackout has markedly increased. Many of us have suffered from it firsthand.

Social media companies have a myriad of secret ways to "shadow-ban" content they don't like. Big Tech lures us with "free" access, so we invest time and money to develop a community on their platforms. Once we're committed, they start putting up roadblocks that mysteriously reduce our reach. In effect, the practice is a hidden "tax" — often an onerous one — arbitrarily devaluing our efforts, talent, investment and ideas and keeping us from unfettered entry in the marketplace of ideas.

When challenged, the Left relies on its usual tu quoque whine: "It's we who are being attacked," they squeal. That's why, for years, the Left has routinely attacked President Trump for "undermining press freedom" and "putting the First Amendment at risk." In the Land of the Left, hypocrisy is king.

It's the Democrats, from Woodrow Wilson to Barack Obama, who have not only threatened, but followed through on banning 'undesirable' freedom of speech.

Behind that flimsy facade lies a tawdry historical truth: It's the Democrats, from Woodrow Wilson to Barack Obama, who have not only threatened, but followed through on banning "undesirable" freedom of speech.

By far the worst of them was Franklin Roosevelt, who banned from the mails and the airwaves one of the most popular Catholic priests in America. And he did it with the support of major American bishops.

The Radio Priest

In the 1930s, Fr. Charles Coughlin's Sunday radio broadcasts reached some 30 million listeners nationwide. His journal, Social Justice, had over a million subscribers.

Fr. Charles Coughlin

Early on, Coughlin was a strong supporter of Roosevelt and a favorite of Catholic Democrats. Notre Dame even invited him to speak at its 1933 commencement. There he was joined by two other Catholic favorites, former New York Gov. Al Smith, the Democrats' presidential candidate of 1928, and Indiana Gov. Paul V. McNutt. The prestigious delegation was led into the hall by law professor Clarence Manion.

In his baccalaureate address, Coughlin attacked "rugged individualism," "licentiousness" and "greed." These vices had eroded "the old principles of Catholic Loyalty" and encouraged the breakdown of "Christian decorum," he told the graduates.

At the time, Coughlin was simply reflecting the bishops' "Catholic loyalty" to FDR's secular gospel of the New Deal. Coughlin was a powerful ally of Msgr. John Ryan, a key figure in that era's version of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). So rabidly pro-FDR was Ryan that Time magazine once called him "The Right Reverend New Dealer."

So in 1933, Coughlin, Ryan, FDR and the bishops were all sweetness and light. But it didn't last for long.

By 1936, Coughlin had broken with Roosevelt, arguing that the New Deal had abandoned the truly poor. Coughlin posed a real threat to FDR and the bishops, so Ryan was given a national radio platform to go after him. There he denied Coughlin's charge that FDR's administration was riddled with communists (the charge was later proven true), and to reject Coughlin's criticism of Roosevelt's rapacious monetary policy — in 1933, FDR had seized all the gold currency in circulation and devalued the dollar by 40%.

As the Depression dragged on, Coughlin railed increasingly against war profiteers and bankers, often criticizing Jews as well. These latter attacks were rebutted in Father Coughlin, His 'Facts' And Arguments, published in 1939 by an umbrella group of prominent Jewish organizations. With a foreword by Chicago's Cdl. George Mundelein, the book rejected allegations that Jewish bankers had financed communism and that Jews played a pivotal role in the Bolshevik Revolution.

By the late 1930s, Catholic bishops, solidly Democrat since Cdl. James Gibbons a quarter-century before, were comfortably in the tank for Roosevelt's welfare state. They joined in the increasing clamor condemning Coughlin, who by then was attacking Roosevelt for violating U.S. neutrality by siding with Stalin in the European war (for which claim there is ample evidence).

That's when the Democrats' raw power came into play. The bishops and FDR had had enough. Using his vastly increased presidential power, Roosevelt quietly threatened the National Association of Broadcasters until they barred "controversial" commentators — meaning Coughlin and no one else — from the airwaves.

Then, waving the Sedition Act, FDR commanded Postmaster General Frank Walker to revoke Coughlin's mailing permit, virtually shutting him down. In that era, there were virtually no other means of mass communication, so millions of Coughlin's readers and listeners were left high and dry.

"Big Tech" Isn't the Target: We Are

Today, some argue for regulating Big Tech, others against. But rest assured, the White House meeting Thursday will resolve nothing. The reason is simple. The participants will limit their efforts to legal means — the courts and Congress — and find none.

Well, Democrats do things differently, and someday a Democrat will once again occupy the White House. When he, she or it does, the next Democrat president's commissar of communications can easily invoke FDR's unilateral precedent and simply pull the plug on all undesirable outlets, Antifa-style. And Big Tech will be happy to oblige.

The next Democrat president's commissar of communications can easily invoke FDR's unilateral precedent and simply pull the plug on an all undesirable outlets, Antifa-style.

But wait, won't Catholic bishops rise up in rage against Big Brother's power play?

Forget it. Today's hierarchy is in the tank with Democrats as solidly as their predecessors were in the 1930s. They were fine with Obama, the most pro-abortion president in history, and they can't stand Trump, the most pro-life president in history.

Why? Because even though Obama betrayed them on Obamacare, he gave the bishops billions of dollars in taxpayer funding for their NGOs. Moreover, the Democrats are indispensable allies on the bishops' prime mandate of amnesty for illegal aliens. So, like the "Right Reverend New Dealer" bishops of the 1930s, they will fall in line.

Moreover, the USCCB will have something to gain from a little censorship. Waving their "Vatican List Of Approved Catholic Outlets," they can demand that authentic Catholic voices be silenced. After all, the Communist Party has already silenced China's underground Catholic Church, with the Vatican's seal of approval.

Why not silence us?

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