Two years and 451 degrees

The future looked as bright as a bonfire two years ago.

I had taken on a big new project, having been contracted to edit a new magazine for the scrap metal recycling business. The first issue was hot off the press as Amy and I prepared for what would become our final family vacation to Myrtle Beach. Just days after we returned home, the bonfire was snuffed out.

Two years later, the magazine is prospering. As I had expected, the latest generation of marketing gurus was wrong. Print media is not dead. Honest journalism, in general, is on life support, but people still do appreciate words on paper.

But the achievement of this milestone is no overwhelming cause for celebration. The reason for working through the home stretch of my career isn’t the same as it was two years ago.

With that sunny preamble, I want to share the following commentary that I wrote for the milestone issue of MetalsRecycling magazine:

Two years and 451 degrees

It feels surreal to realize that it’s been two years since the inaugural issue of MetalsRecycling was printed—and more than five years since Greta Thunberg warned us that climate change would wipe out all of humanity unless we stop using fossil fuels over the next five years.

Thunberg’s now-deleted tweet actually misrepresented the scientist’s “warning.”

Humanity remains, but the world has changed since our first issue rolled off the press. My life changed profoundly and forever just a few weeks after that issue reached your mailbox. The learning curve of adjusting to life as half of what I once was has far exceeded the challenge of learning the complex nuances of the scrap business.

The last two years have proven something else: The magazine you’re reading is acknowledgement that there is a strong demand for printed media in a world that is rapidly being digitized. Words on a screen can be seen. Words on a page can be held and carried—and don’t go away when the power goes out.

This endeavor also acknowledges the power of entrepreneurialism in an economy that is increasingly dominated by corporatism. MetalsRecycling isn’t produced from a downtown skyscraper. We don’t have a board of directors. We don’t get infusions of capital from global investment managers whose dollars are attached to agendas. What we do have is a small team of talented individuals who are dedicated to creating a high-quality product that benefits our readers and advertisers. MetalsRecycling was built on a foundation of trusted relationships—mainly those built over nearly three decades by our publisher, Bob Emery.

An advantage of being an independent publication is the ability to report factually and accurately while respecting a diversity of viewpoints on issues that impact our lives, jobs and businesses.

Unfortunately, the past few years have reinforced the reality that that isn’t true for most of the country’s mainstream press and social media giants. As an appreciative American with a passion for exercising the natural, inalienable rights that our nation’s Constitution was designed to protect, I was astonished and appalled while reading a federal judge’s ruling (appropriately issued on July 4) in a First Amendment lawsuit against a government that is theoretically of the people, by the people and for the people.

As a professional journalist for almost 40 years, I am flabbergasted to see so many members of my own profession— a profession that should, more than any other, adamantly defend free and uncensored expression—rush to defend tyrants and bureaucrats who actively suppress the words and thoughts of citizens in the land of the free.

For 155 pages, Judge Terry Doughty, of U.S. District Court, Western District of Louisiana, while granting a preliminary injunction in State of Missouri, et al. v. Joseph R. Biden Jr., et al, described numerous and ongoing government violations of Americans’ right to free speech as protected by the First Amendment.

“If the allegations made by plaintiffs are true, the present case arguably involves the most massive attack against free speech in United States’ history,” the judge wrote, adding that “it is the purpose of the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment to preserve an uninhibited marketplace of ideas in which truth will ultimately prevail, rather than to countenance monopolization of the market, whether it be by the government itself or private license.”

The thrust of the case (3:22-cv- 01213-TAD-KDM), filed by the states of Missouri and Louisiana and five American citizens, is that members of federal agencies coerced and intimidated Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms to suppress facts, opinions and other information that didn’t conform with government-approved narratives relating to such issues as the origin of covid-19; the efficacy of masks, lockdowns and vaccines; the integrity of the 2020 elections; the condition of the economy; and even criticism of Biden— including comedy and parody—before and after he became president.

The censorship—which often suppressed facts that were true, but deemed by the federal government to be inconvenient for the American people to know—was enforced by bureaucrats who are paid to work on behalf of the people, not against the people. The long list of defendants in the suit include almost every federal department and agencies like the FBI, the Commerce Department, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases and White House staff.

The judge issued a preliminary injunction to prohibit the federal government from violating Americans’ First Amendment rights in conjunction with social media companies.

“Journalists” at such government PR tools like the Washington Post and National Public Radio (NPR) were aghast at the “dangerous” and “chilling” ruling that placed “extraordinary limits” on the government’s ability to squash the basic human right of free speech. Fortunately for the Post, NPR and other government- approved media, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals later granted a stay of the injunction, leaving the federal government free to violate citizen’s rights until the case is ultimately decided.

Thunberg’s hysterical warning from 2018 may not have materialized, but we are nearing the point of Fahrenheit 451. Ray Bradbury chose that title for his 1953 novel about government censorship because, he asserted, it’s the temperature at which the pages of books spontaneously ignite.

In the novel, most of the population was perfectly fine with censorship.

Many of us are not.

“There is more than one way to burn a book,” Bradbury once said. “And the world is full of people running about with lit matches.”

(Note: Since I wrote this commentary for MetalsRecycling, Doughty consolidated State of Missouri, et al. v. Joseph R. Biden Jr., et al with a class action lawsuit, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Children’s Health Defense, et al v. Biden, et al.)

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