Senior Judge Laurence Silverman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Friday launched a full-frontal attack on the state of the American media today, calling it “dangerous.”
Judge Silverman bemoaned the “economic” and “ideological” consolidation of traditional and social media into a megaphone for the Democratic Party.
Judge Silverman warned the power of the press is “dangerous” today because America is “very close” to one-party control of the media.
He observed the first step taken by a potential authoritarian or dictatorial regime is to control communications, particularly delivery of news. “It is fair to conclude, therefore, that one-party control of the press and media is a threat to a viable democracy,” he said.
His comments were made in a dissent in a defamation case, wherein he expressed doubt the U.S. Supreme Court today would approve the landmark 1964 decision that protects the press from lawsuits by public figures. He said the case, New York Times v. Sullivan, effectively “allows the press to cast false aspersions on public figures with near impunity.”
Democratic Party Broadsheets
Judge Silverman, who was nominated to the bench by late GOP President Ronald Reagan, referred to the notorious McCarthy era, when Congress engaged in a vicious hunt for Communists in government and Hollywood. “As one who lived through the McCarthy era, it is hard to fathom how honorable men and women can support such actions,” he said.
He called the repression of conservative political speech today by large institutions with market power is “fundamentally un-American.”
Judge Silverman said media bias against the Republican Party – not just “controversial individuals” – has been building since the 1970s.
While the public understands that viewpoint discrimination by the government is unconstitutional, Judge Silverman said, “The ideological homogeneity in the media – or in the channels of information distribution – risks repressing certain ideas from the public consciousness just as surely as if access were restricted by the government.”
He said The New York Times and The Washington Post “are virtually Democratic Party broadsheets. And the news section of The Wall Street Journal leans in the same direction.” Leaning in that direction, he said, are The Associated Press “and most large papers across the country (such as the Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, and Boston Globe).”
Judge Silverman added, “Nearly all television – network and cable – is a Democratic Party trumpet. Even the government-supported National Public Radio follows along.”
He said Silicon Valley filters news delivery in ways favorable to the Democratic Party, pointing to Twitter’s ban on The New York Post’s coverage of the Hunter Biden laptop scandal during the Presidential election. The story raised questions of influence peddling by now President Joe Biden.
On the conservative side of the spectrum, Judge Silverman pointed to Fox News, The New York Post and The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, all owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch and run by his son, Lachlan Murdoch. “Will a lone holdout remain in what is otherwise a frighteningly orthodox media culture?” asked Judge Silverman.
He noted there have been “serious efforts to muzzle Fox News.”
Judge Silverman said several conservative networks that have emerged online in recent years have been “decidedly curtailed by Social Media, either by direct bans or content-based censorship.”
Judge Silverman cited reserch showing that the “distorted” media market benefits Democratic Party candidates by 8 to 10% in a typical election.
Judge Silverman also said he could not hide his “disdain” for the judicial system. But that’s another story.