For years we’ve been hearing how American conservatives are being censored. Whether it’s not being invited on Sunday talk shows or being kicked off social media platforms, conservative voices are being silenced in a liberal media environment that can’t handle dissent or political incorrectness.
The censorship has gotten so bad, in fact, that it’s front page news.
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) January 25, 2021
The New York Post published this column by Missouri Senator Josh Hawley on Sunday, who claims that America is being “muzzled.” The headline and photo combined track more like an Onion post—it’s an op-ed written by Republican senator writing about conservative censorship … on the cover of a major newspaper.
Hawley, of course, has been front and center with Donald Trump’s election challenges. He was the first senator to announce he’d vote against certifying the electoral votes declaring Joe Biden the winner of the 2020 election. Hawley has become a de facto conservative villain in the weeks since, showing solidarity to Capitol rioters and being exposed as a fascist who has shown signs of radicalism for years. And like any good Republican lawmaker, he’s turned his newfound villainy and newsworthiness into a grift.
Still, Hawley is hardly the first conservative to cry censorship into a major media platform—hosts on Fox News do it roughly every single night. GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene took it a step further recently, wearing a mask that read “CENSORED” during a House vote on Trump’s second impeachment. Many howled at the hypocrisy, including Washington Post columnist Karen Tumulty, who tweeted that Greene wearing her mask while being broadcast on national television was the “death of irony.” But that implies the irony is lost on Republican lawmakers and pundits that know exactly who and what they’re appealing to.
Grievance has long been the center of conservative political identity, and Trump’s rise to power only made it worse. Hawley knows this as well as anyone—Trump’s election challenges weren’t based on concrete evidence, but a general feeling among his supporters that it was rigged (a feeling planted by the president himself). What’s followed has been a three month circus of bullshit that’s only amplified conservatives’ marriage to straight up misinformation, political violence, and, once Trump was kicked off Twitter, false claims of censorship. But no one stopped Trump from walking into the White House Press Briefing Room to address the country or answer questions from reporters, just like they didn’t stop Republican lawmakers from appearing on Fox News or in the literal halls of Congress to make their bogus cases and cry about suppression of speech.
Conservative media—like the Murdoch-owned Post— are perfectly happy to center the conversation because it drives their audience engagement too. It’s not about whether or not the conservative censorship arguments make sense. It’s just about how often and loudly they can make them.