The Republicans who worry about big tech censorship are censoring other Texans – Houston Public Media
File Photo: Governor Greg Abbott leads a round table discussion on public safety priorities at the Texas Department of Public Safety Headquarters in January 2021.
The Texas Republican Party believes its views are being silenced by big tech. The Republican-led legislature has passed a bill to prevent so-called deplatforming, which bans YouTube, Twitter and Facebook users.
“Freedom of expression is under attack in Texas,” said Governor Greg Abbott as he signed the law earlier this month.
Now Texans, including the attorney general, can sue social media companies that ban users for their political views. But, in his own words, Abbott is not interested in protecting all voices and views.
“It is now law that conservative positions in Texas cannot be banned on social media,” he said at the end of his video message in which he promulgated the law.
WATCH LIVE: Signing of House Bill 20, which protects Texans from unlawful censorship on social media: https://t.co/VXu8pMPRPn #txlege
– Governor Greg Abbott (@GovAbbott) September 9, 2021
Statements to protect the First Amendment are increasingly at odds with the actions and legislation of elected Republican leaders. Republican incumbents in Texas have been particularly aggressive over the past year and term in attempting to silence other viewpoints.
Legislators have passed a bill banning teachers from talking about current events and systemic racism in the classroom. The so-called “Critical Race Theory” bill has been attacked by educators and historians who believe that the state should adopt standards for educators, not scripts of what can and cannot be said.
“As soon as you start banning and limiting the teacher’s ability to debate – especially things that can be controversial for many individuals and students and their parents – I think this has gotten into a dangerous area of censorship,” said Armando Alonzo , Professor of History at Texas A&M University.
The CRT banning bill wasn’t the only one looking at how people talk about Texas and its history. The so-called 1836 project was supposed to convey a patriotic story through official committee brochures.
“We must never forget why Texas became so special in the first place. And the law that started the 1836 Project causes the 1836 Project to promote patriotic education across Texas, ”Abbott said.
Historians like Alonzo argued the bill was an overreaction to the nation’s efforts to highlight and combat systemic racism. It derives its name from the New York Times “1619 Project”, which recorded the history of the nation from the arrival of the first slaves in North America.
Alonzo said it will likely gloss over the negative parts of the state’s complex history – like the violent history of the Texas rangers on the border or the racist legislation that has been passed in the Texas legislature for years. And forget about Texas’s 100 year history that preceded 1836.
And because the state puts out these pamphlets and dictates what shouldn’t be said in the classrooms, rather than a private organization, the effort takes on an eerie look.
“Unfortunately, it resembles some of the dictatorships we know from the recent past, where there are nation-states that only teach history the way they want to teach it,” Alonzo said.
Chris Tomlinson realizes what he’s seeing in Texas. Prior to author and columnist for the Houston Chronicle, he was an Army Intelligence Analyst during the Cold War.
“You know, the 1836 project and all those laws about what parts of Texan history are allowed and not allowed come straight from the Soviet Union,” he said.
Elected leaders have aggressively tried to quell discussions about race in Texas history over the past year, he said.
He finds it hypocritical to hear the governor talk about silencing conservative voices.
“Governor Abbott and Lieutenant-Governor Dan Patrick stifled my freedom of speech when they canceled the book talk we had planned at the Bullock Museum just three hours before we were due to take the stage,” he said.
Tomlinson co-wrote the book “Forget the Alamo”. It examines the role of maintaining slavery in the state’s struggle for independence. The book highlights what he called the legend of “white supremacy” over the motivations of the Alamo Defenders.
The lieutenant governor admitted pressuring the museum to cancel the book launch and called “Forget The Alamo” a rewrite of history. After a backlash, Patrick tried to organize a counter-book lecture attended by Tomlinson and his co-authors. Tomlinson called the event an attempt at a “kangaroo court” in which non-experts would try to challenge the authors’ work.
During #BannedBooksWeek, Lt. Gov. @DanPatrick to cancel our book (Forget The Alamo) again â ???? this time with a show trial disguised as a panel. He says he doesn’t care if we show up or not, he wants to make an example. THREAD:
– ChrisTomlinson (@cltomlinson) September 21, 2021
Texas demographics are changing rapidly, and soon Latinos will be the largest ethnic group. Tomlinson said these leaders are trying to use fear of this change to drive people to the polls.
An ad targeting the same voters was recently run from a University of Texas football game.
Anti-Trump conservative activists The Lincoln Project bought a 60-second ad during the University of Texas vs Rice University game, which aired nationwide on the Longhorn Network. The game was a 58-0 blowout for the Longhorns, but the ad called “Abbott’s Wall” never aired.
Emails from the Lincoln Project stated that the ad had been purchased, reviewed by ESPN (a co-owner of the Longhorn Network), and approved for broadcast.
The ad showed a row of coffins standing like a wall at their ends when a ticker counted 60,000 Texans who had died from COVID and criticized Abbott’s handling of the pandemic. Abbott is fighting cities, counties and school districts for their efforts to keep the disease from spreading.
The co-founder of the Lincoln Project, Reed Galen, said they found out about 10 minutes before launch that it had been pulled by the university, which is also a co-owner of the network.
Galen said he believed the governor – who appointed the university’s council of regents – would have withdrawn it.
“It’s just very convenient that an ad that highlights and de-emphasizes your failure suddenly … kind of disappears from the air,” said Galen.
The governor’s office referred TPR’s questions on the matter to the governor’s campaign, which flatly rejected claims that they had anything to do with the withdrawn complaint.
University of Texas officials did not respond to multiple emails from TPR. But in a replay of a faculty council meeting, Provost Sharon Wood said the ad was pulled on Friday by Learfield, which handles all of the national ad placements for the network.
“For over a decade, Learfield has had an ongoing policy of not selling any political ads other than candidate-sponsored ads. And our understanding is that Learfield posted this particular ad on Friday night, which is in line with this long-standing policy,” said Wood named.
Wood did not explain why the ad was sold to begin with. Your office did not respond to follow-up questions. Learfield did not respond to TPR questions, including a query regarding the policy that the ad violated.
Regardless of what happened to that one ad, it may be true that freedom of expression in Texas is being attacked, just not by the people the governor says.