N.B.: I originally wrote this piece in early August. After attempting to pitch it to several outlets, only one of which even responded, I decided to publish it here. Please note that my aim here is not to engage in conspiracy-theory-like thinking, but to highlight a serious problem that is borne out by my sources and data, and to expose hypocrisy on both sides of the American political spectrum. Since I wrote this piece, Donald Trump has stepped up his voter suppression campaign, and Bill Clinton was a featured speaker at the Democratic National Convention.
On July 29, Representative Jim Jordan (R–OH) aired concerns about big tech’s censorship of conservatives, only to be dismissed and ridiculed by the Left. The next evening, a tranche of documents placing former President Bill Clinton on the private island of Jeffrey Epstein, where Epstein and others sexually abused underaged girls. Left-leaning media outlets refused to cover the story, and Twitter appears to have suppressed it. This episode lends credence to Mr. Jordan’s concerns about bias and the control of information, even as he fails to grasp his own hypocrisy in supporting a president who consistently works to quash dissent in various forms.
Jordan took major technology corporations to task, claiming “big tech is out to get conservatives,” and questioning big tech’s power to influence elections, as “what American citizens get to see prior to their voting is pretty darn important.”
Many on the Left scoffed at Jordan’s concerns; indeed, it seemed rather ironic for an ardent supporter of such an oppressive administration to raise concerns over censorship and election manipulation.
But the days following the hearing seemed to validate his concerns, showing how protective of liberal politicians big tech and media outlets can be. This raises the specter of these companies withholding critical information to influence the 2020 elections. Media coverage has a tremendous impact on the voting public; if these corporations can turn a blind eye to the indiscretions of a known libertine who hasn’t been in politics in decades, what is to stop them from doing the same in the run-up to the election?
On the evening of July 30, a judge unsealed documents related to Virginia Giuffre’s 2015 civil action against Ghislaine Maxwell for her alleged role in sexually exploiting Giuffre and other minors with Jeffrey Epstein. Those documents also accused several powerful individuals, including former President Bill Clinton, Harvard legal expert Alan Dershowitz, and England’s Prince Andrew, of varying levels of involvement in Epstein’s sex trafficking scheme.
Giuffre’s allegations about Clinton are quite serious. She claims that Epstein joked with her—frequently, it seems—that “Bill Clinton owes me favors.” Giuffre also asserts that Epstein and his associates were “all in each other’s pockets,” and confirms that Clinton, despite his denials, was in fact present on the island with Epstein, Giuffre, and two other underaged girls.
Despite the witness testimony that Clinton visited Epstein’s “Pedophile Island,” Left-leaning news outlets—none of them large—comprised only 16% of news coverage of the documents’ implication of Clinton, per Ground News, a media bias evaluation platform. Conversely, when Fox News apologized for (wrongly) cropping Trump out of a picture with Maxwell and Epstein in early July, 70% of news outlets covering the story were Left-leaning.
If President Trump had been implicated in the court documents, there is no question that Left-leaning outlets would have (rightly) snapped up the story and run with it. Although such outlets had (deservedly) nailed Trump for wishing Maxwell “well” last week, they ignored the documents implicating Bill Clinton in Jeffrey Epstein’s sordid affairs. The Washington Post not only failed to mention Clinton in its story about the documents’ release, despite mentioning both Dershowitz and Prince Andrew, but managed to mention that Epstein met Guiffre at President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, and ran a piece on Trump’s relationship with Maxwell the day after the documents emerged, even though there is no new information about Trump in the newly revealed documents. Such blatant deflection—a tactic the Right has also frequently employed—is a striking example of why many have trouble trusting the news media in this country.
As if this apparent media bias was not enough, it seems that Twitter suppressed the news about Clinton on July 31. Indeed, when Clinton was trending that day, Twitter apparently spun it to be related to the former president’s eulogy for John Lewis, rather than for the new details tying him to Epstein’s island. At about 7 pm EST, Epstein, mentioned in 958,000 tweets, somehow only merited a #25 trend ranking; even then, the news story Twitter associated with his name was only about Dershowitz’s reaction to an episode of The Good Fight that mentioned his—not Clinton’s!—connection with Epstein. Meanwhile, the Lincoln Project’s latest anti-Trump video “Impotus Americanus” was ranked #1, with less than 78,000 tweets at the time. Although data from TalkWalker demonstrates that “Impotus Americanus” clearly dominated Twitter for a few hours, it was a flash in the proverbial pan.
Although Twitter did allow #EpsteinFiles to trend on July 31, and #BillClintonIsAPedo was trending August 2, it seems the latter was artificially subordinated to trends about Formula 1’s British Grand Prix for some time, though that was eventually fixed. What is more problematic is Twitter’s attempt to spin the Epstein trend to be solely related to Alan Dershowitz and the Clinton trend to be about the former president’s remarks at John Lewis’ funeral.
This episode shows that, although big tech and the news media may not be engaged in malicious actions to the extent some conservatives claim, it still exhibits a staunch anti-Republican and pro-Democratic bias that violates principles of objective reporting, whether of hashtag trends or of the news. That this bias extends to ignoring and even suppressing sexual misconduct allegations against President Clinton and others is deeply troubling, especially in light of the Left’s supposed support for the #MeToo movement.
It seems, then, that Jim Jordan was essentially right, in that the information to which Americans are exposed through news outlets and social media platforms is deeply biased, though this bias unfortunately exists on both sides (a fact Mr. Jordan would likely deny).
Mr. Jordan goes wrong, however, in assuming that the control over information exercised by big tech and the news media is the only censorship or election interference worth fearing.
As former President Obama said in his stirring eulogy for the late Rep. John Lewis, “those in power”—Mr. Jordan’s party—“are doing their darndest to discourage people from voting.” This is borne out by all manner of voter suppression measures enacted in the last decade, as detailed by the Brennan Center and the ACLU. But instead of supporting efforts to end voter suppression, Mr. Jordan has worked feverishly against them, claiming that voter fraud is a larger threat, and that the responsibility for preventing voter suppression falls to the states rather than the federal government.
Despite his concerns about voter fraud, Jordan has also remained conspicuously silent on several recent remarks by the president that baldly threaten the integrity of the November elections. He has not commented on Trump’s July 30 suggestion that the 2020 election be delayed, even though other Republicans have rejected Trump’s idea, and a prominent conservative legal scholar who had previously defended Trump and denounced his 2019 impeachment called the president’s suggestion “fascistic” and demanded Trump’s re-impeachment. Additionally, Jordan failed to respond to Trump’s non-answer to Chris Wallace’s question as to whether he would concede the election if he loses.
And even though Mr. Jordan slammed big tech for supposedly censoring conservatives, he has not raised such concerns with the president’s numerous violations of First Amendment rights. He has also vigorously backed the administration’s violent clearing of peaceful protestors for the sake of Trump’s blasphemous photo op with a Bible in front of St. John’s Church, as well as the abuse of federal authority in responding to rioting in Portland and elsewhere, replete with First Amendment violations.
Apparently, the Right’s concern for the complexities of federalism only applies to actions they dislike.
So, yes, Jim Jordan is a hypocrite, as are those like him. He says he is concerned about election interference and the suppression of free speech, but supports an administration that looks to manipulate the 2020 election and actively intimidates protestors and journalists.
But even though he is a hypocrite, Jordan is right to voice concerns that big tech companies and news media outlets are approaching an informational monopoly. This is especially evident in Left-leaning outlets’ refusal to probe Bill Clinton’s place in the new Epstein documents, and in Twitter’s blatant attempt to keep the news from spreading on its platform. Mr. Jordan is also right to contend that these corporations’ control over information poses a threat to democracy.
It’s too bad he can’t recognize that his president does as well.