George Pyle: Is this what Mike Lee means by ‘conservative’?

Instead of launching a crusade against Google, Mike Lee might want to use the online search engine to look up how to avoid standing next to people who make him look bad.

The senior senator from Utah has been after tech giants such as Google and Facebook for what he says is a bias against conservatives, blocking certain content and sites. Which is possible.

But — forgive me for going all Euclidean on you — if, as the social media companies say, what’s being blocked is racist or harmful misinformation. And if, as Lee says, what’s being blocked is conservative. Then what’s racist and harmful misinformation is conservative.

Followers of other strains of conservatism, like Mitt Romney and George W. Bush, might differ. But if that equation is true, has it ever been thus? Or is it a new theorem, about as old as Lee’s four-year journey from Never Trumper to obsequious supporter of the president?

Lee was badgering folks from Google on Tuesday for denying a conservative website called The Federalist access to, and income from, Google’s ads. Google’s guys said the editors of The Federalist are not keeping overtly racist comments off their site and that Google, as is its right, would rather not have any of its content associated with such trash.

Google is not the only web operation that at least tries to not be seen as boosting racist, sexist, violent or dangerously false content. The website you are reading right now has a similar policy, which is sometimes maddeningly difficult to maintain and often leaves our comment monitors suffering a from something akin to post-traumatic stress disorder.

Lee is also steamed at social media giants — and, make no mistake, they are giants — for squelching posts by a bunch called America’s Frontline Doctors and from a preacher/doctor by the name of Stella Immanuel. Some of those posts were blocked even when they were shared by the president of the United States. Or because they were shared by the president of the United States, where they would get more views and do more damage.

The Frontline Doctors and Immanuel say that COVID-19 is no big deal and that nobody needs to wear a mask. They promote roundly debunked snake-oil cures such as hydroxychloroquine. Immanuel rants about humans being infected by alien DNA or sex with demons and says the government is being run by “reptilians” from other planets.

Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc., have been removing such content because anyone believing this wacko stuff could die. Or infect other people, who could die. And, the online overlords reason, that’s bad for business.

Lee is also after Salt Lake City’s KSL.com for an alleged liberal bias, suggesting that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints divest itself of the offending platform.

An example of this slant is supposedly a KSL.com link to an Associated Press dispatch announcing the death of the president’s younger brother: “Robert Trump, a businessman known for an even keel that seemed almost incompatible with the family name, died after being hospitalized in New York.”

That is an empirically true statement. Unless the younger Trump didn’t operate on an even keel. Or hasn’t died. And, given the many people who love the president because he does not operate on an even keel, is certainly no criticism.

And there is nothing new about it. For Republicans or Democrats.

When Jimmy Carter’s brother, Billy, died in 1988, The New York Times wrote, “Mr. Carter, who took charge of the family peanut warehouse and farm in Plains when his brother ran for President, proved incapable of handling his sudden fame after his older brother’s election and became the subject of repeated investigations by the Internal Revenue Service and other Government agencies.”

And there was Maureen Dowd’s unforgettable description of Bill Clinton’s 1994 presidential visit to Oxford: “President Clinton returned today for a sentimental journey to the university where he didn’t inhale, didn’t get drafted and didn’t get a degree.”

Snarky? Sure. But nobody got dragged before a congressional committee because of it.

George Pyle

George Pyle, editorial page editor of The Salt Lake Tribune, would prefer to turn our government over to alien koalas.


Twitter, @debatestate