Deception & Misdirection
Twitter Files: Federally Funded Censorship Targeted Veteran U.S. House Staffer
Former chief of staff to mainstream Republican was targeted for posting accurate 2020 election information. Democratic U.S. House members and media sleep through First Amendment assault.
On Thursday morning, the U.S. House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government held a hearing to examine the Twitter Files.
On Thursday afternoon, Jamie Roe was told the federal censorship weapons had been aimed at him.
Jamie has been a friendly acquaintance of mine for many years, so I was shocked to notice Jamie’s Twitter handle (@jamieroe23) in an entry from a Twitter Files thread filed by independent journalist Matt Taibbi. It had been posted an hour before Taibbi and fellow reporter Michael Shellenberger testified in the hearing.
Roe is currently a Republican political consultant based in Michigan. From 1993 through 2015 he was a senior staffer to former Michigan Secretary of State and then U.S. Representative Candice Miller (R-MI). Miller retired from Congress in 2016, leaving behind a reputation as a supremely talented politician who otherwise advanced conventional Republican positions.
Like his longtime boss, Roe has never been accused of being a rabble rouser. (In fact, due to some old professional incidents between us, Jamie would likely apply that label to me.)
So, if Jamie ended up on a government speech suppression list, then anyone confidently expressing any political opinion is at risk.
Making the List
What put him on a list generated by the Election Integrity Partnership was a Twitter post on November 4, 2020, the morning after Election Day. Roe had noticed that Antrim County, a small but deeply Republican slice of Michigan, was reporting 62.5 percent of its ballots had gone to Joe Biden. “There is no way in hell @realDonaldTrump got beat in Antrim County,” he posted a 10:31am. “Those numbers are transposed and that will be a net +6,000 votes for Trump and @JohnJamesMI.” (Now freshman Rep. John James (R-MI), James was a U.S. Senate candidate in 2020).
A little more than an hour later Roe wrote that Antrim officials had admitted and were correcting the mistake. Instead of Biden winning the county by 3,260 votes, it flipped to a 3,788 advantage for Trump—a 7,048-vote swing that exceeded Jamie’s otherwise solid prediction.
Unknown to him at the time, Jamie’s original message was submitted to Twitter by the Election Integrity Partnership (EIP) as one of seven examples of “high profile tweets on that narrative flagged by EIP.” The so-called narrative they worried over was in fact prominent Twitter users commenting on those odd results in Antrim County.
Of the six other names flagged, three of the Tweets just listed the facts as accurately as Jamie did. Two others engaged in mild but (at that early stage) reasonable speculation about whether other Michigan counties using the same software might have reported inaccurately. The only arguably conspiratorial note of the seven was from right-leaning activist Matt Schlapp: “Odd that @GovWhitmer owns property in the county – coincidence? #StopTheSteal.”
Congress Shall Make No Law . . .
“I’m a bit shocked because I never insinuated fraud or the election was stolen,” said Roe, after I told him he had been flagged. “I said there was a mistake which would be corrected, and it was.”
There is no evidence that Twitter acted on or canceled Jamie’s account over the post. Hundreds of people were permitted to comment on and engage with it, including me and my wife.
But that is beside the point. It was a gross violation of his constitutional rights for his government to create such a list in the first place. He wasn’t alone. Matt Taibbi reported the Election Integrity Partnership took some form of action on almost 22 million individual tweets during the 2020 election.
As our president once said in another context, it’s a “big [expletive deleted] deal” if you or your friends end up on one of these naughty lists, even if Twitter didn’t act on it. The Election Integrity Partnership reports that the total project involved analyzing 859 million tweets, more than two for every living American.
The First Amendment, which protects unrestricted political speech, begins with these five, unambiguous words: “Congress shall make no law . . .” Because of the Twitter Files, we know the taxpayer dollars were raining down on the Election Integrity Partnership to do the dirty censorship deeds government couldn’t do directly.
The Censorship Cabal
Taibbi wrote in his Twitter Files post that the Election Integrity Partnership is “the ultimate example of the absolute fusion of state, corporate, and civil society organizations” operating speech suppression on social media.
According to an extensive report submitted to Congress by Shellenberger last week, the “partnership” in EIP is between “four government funded censorship organizations: Stanford Internet Observatory, Graphika, University of Washington Disinformation Lab, and the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab.”
Shellenberger showed these groups have received many millions of dollars in federal grants since 2018 to work against alleged “disinformation.” He found U.S. taxpayers have financed this outsourcing of their own censorship through the Department of Defense, four of the five service branches (excluding the Coast Guard), the Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the National Endowment for Democracy.
The National Science Foundation alone, according to Shellenberger’s research, was used to send $31.8 million in “mis/disinformation” grants since January 2021 (millions of which went to the EIP founding groups).
Shellenberger concluded the Election Integrity Partnership was the “deputized domestic disinformation flagger” for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).
Describing its creation in January 2017, Shellenberger wrote that the “outgoing Obama Administration designated ‘election infrastructure’ as ‘critical infrastructure,’ opening up CISA’s mission to censoring alleged ‘disinformation.’”
Once directed at terrorists, CISA became a government censorship weapon aimed at Jamie Roe and other Americans.
In 2021 the Election Integrity Partnership issued a report on “misinformation” in the 2020 election that mentioned CISA 20 times and did not disguise the federal government’s role in creating EIP. The examples begin on page 2:
The initial idea for the Partnership came from four students that the Stanford Internet Observatory (SIO) funded to complete volunteer internships at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) at the Department of Homeland Security.
The next paragraph begins:
The Election Integrity Partnership (EIP) was officially formed on July 26, 2020—100 days before the November election—as a coalition of research entities who would focus on supporting real-time information exchange between the research community, election officials, government agencies, civil society organizations, and social media platforms. [emphasis added].
A video shows one of the EIP founders saying that it was created to “fill the gap of the things that the government could not do themselves” due to lacking “funding and the legal authorizations.”
Being Wrong on the Internet
All of this and more was serially ignored by U.S. House Democrats during the Weaponization of the Federal Government panel last week. Not permitted to answer most of the questions asked of them by Democrats, Taibbi and Shellenberger had to sit and endure insults and other verbal abuses for a few hours. Before they ever said a word, the ranking Democrat referred to them as “so-called journalists” and “Elon Musk’s public scribes.”
In a nearly herculean feat, the corporate media acquitted itself even worse. As of this morning the Washington Post has run just a small, pitifully weak story on the hearing, not mentioning the Election Integrity Partnership revelations or the serious First Amendment threat. The New York Times doesn’t appear to have covered the story at all.
The First Amendment was—first and foremost—written to protect political expression. All else flows from that. As was noted repeatedly by Taibbi and Shellenberger, free speech fails if the freedom to be wrong is removed from it.
As Antrim County demonstrated, what is “true” is often a matter of time and waiting for good evidence to drive out bad. If the first election results publicly posted by Antrim had been correct, then Jamie Roe, rather than the local government, would have been guilty of so-called “misinformation.”
Of the almost 22 million other Twitter posts flagged along with him by the Election Integrity Partnership, many surely did pass along information that was wrong or didn’t hold up over time. Although, in a hilariously revealing irony, Antrim County’s original and bogus election results probably didn’t make the EIP’s naughty list.
If Roe had been in error, then his First Amendment right to be free of the government-sponsored censorship list should have been no less absolute. Because rather than spreading misinformation or disinformation or whatever other pejoratives are cooked up, he would have instead been guilty of what Shellenberger sarcastically described as “being wrong on the Internet.”
But he was correct.
Who Watches the Censors
As noted, he spent more than 20 years on Capitol Hill as the chief of staff for a decidedly mainstream politician. Every one of those lawmakers who ignored and tried to cover up this story last week, to say nothing of all of their staffers who so horribly briefed them for the hearing, are as vulnerable as Jamie was to landing on that list.
They seemed concerned only with who controls the list making. They should care much more about the censors they are feeding our money.
Similarly, there is media. As an expert on the issue, Roe provided timely, accurate, and important information in the Twitter post. He did so without hyperbole and added an equally accurate, important, and sober prediction about the implications of his revelation.
In other words, he did exactly what we once expected of the corporate media, too many of which haven’t bothered to report on it, let alone analyze its implications. They are vulnerable to landing on the same lists if they say the right thing at the wrong time. Perhaps that has ceased to be a viable concern?
In a wide field with many terrifying options, the scariest revelation from last week’s Weaponization of Government hearing is that nearly all U.S. House Democrats and most of the blue blood corporate media no longer care about the First Amendment.
It’s enough to remind of something I read in the Washington Post while researching: “Democracy Dies in Darkness.”