by Glenn Greenwald
Enormous sums of money have poured into racial justice groups since the May, 2020 murder of George Floyd by the Minneapolis Police Department. “The foundation widely seen as a steward of the Black Lives Matter movement says it took in just over $90 million last year,” according to a February Associated Press review, while at least $5 billion was raised by groups associated with that cause in the first two months alone following Floyd’s death.
Two weeks after the Floyd killing, The New York Times said that the “money has come in so fast and so unexpectedly that some groups even began to turn away and redirect donors elsewhere,” while “others said they still could not yet account for how much had arrived.” Propelled by the emotions and nationwide protest movements that emerged last summer, corporations, oligarchs, celebrities and the general public opened their wallets and began pouring money into BLM coffers and have not stopped doing so.
Where that money has gone has been the topic of numerous media investigations as well as concerns expressed by racial justice advocates. AP noted that BLM’s sharing of financial data in February “marks the first time in the movement’s nearly eight-year history that BLM leaders have revealed a detailed look at their finances.” That newfound transparency was prompted by what AP called “longstanding tensions boil[ing] over between some of the movement’s grassroots organizers and national leaders — the former went public last fall with grievances about financial transparency, decision-making and accountability.”
In December, ten local BLM chapters severed ties with the national group amidst questions and suspicions over the handling of activities and finances by one of its co-founders, Patrisse Cullors, who had assumed the title of Executive Director. On April 10, The New York Post published an exposé on what it called Cullors’ “million-dollar real estate buying binge.” The paper noted that as protests were unfolding around the country, the BLM official was “snagging four high-end homes for $3.2 million in the US alone, according to property records,” including a California property valued at $1.4 million. The article also revealed that the self-described Marxist and her partner “were spotted in the Bahamas looking for a unit at the Albany,” an “elite enclave laid out on 600 oceanside acres,” which “features a private marina and designer golf course.” The Post included photos of several of the properties obtained from public real estate listings.
In an interview about that Post story with Marc Lamont Hill, Cullors — except saying she has not visited the Bahamas since the age of 15 — did not deny the accuracy of the reporting, but instead justified her real estate acquisitions. She denied she had taken a salary from the BLM group, pointing to other income she earns as a professor, author, and a YouTube content creator as the source of this sudden outburst of real estate purchases. She denounced the Post reporting as “frankly racist, and sexist.”
So that seems like a perfectly healthy cycle for covering a controversy, obviously in the public interest. In the wake of concerns from activists about where this massive amount of BLM money has gone, The New York Post did its job of unearthing the splurge of real estate acquisitions by the person who controls and directs BLM’s budget and who has been a target of accusations and suspicions from activists. Cullors then had the opportunity to publicly provide her side of the story concerning her aggressive and ample financial investments.
But then something quite unhealthy and unusual occurred. Five days after publication of that Post article, the Substack journalists Shant Mesrobian and Zaid Jilani reported that Facebook was banning the sharing of that article worldwide on its platform — similar to what Twitter and Facebook did in the weeks leading up to the 2020 election to The New York Post‘s reporting on the Biden family’s business dealings in China and Ukraine. The Substack reporters noted that Facebook ultimately confirmed the worldwide ban of the Post‘s reporting to The New York Times’ media reporter Ben Smith, justifying it on the ground that the article “revealed personal details about [Cullors] and her residence in violation of Facebook’s community standards.”
Message received by Facebook users attempting to post The New York Post article about Cullors’ real estate acquisitions
In his weekly New York Times Sunday night media column, Smith returned to this subject. When a Facebook lawyer justified the censorship by citing an alleged policy that the tech monopoly will ban any “article [which] shows your home or apartment, says what city you’re in and you don’t like it,” Smith expressed extreme skepticism:
The policy sounds crazy because it could apply to dozens, if not hundreds, of news articles every day — indeed, to a staple of reporting for generations that has included Michael Bloomberg’s expansion of his townhouse in 2009 and the comings and goings of the Hamptons elites. Alex Rodriguez doesn’t like a story that includes a photo of him and his former fiancée, Jennifer Lopez, smiling in front of his house? Delete it. Donald Trump is annoyed about a story that includes a photo of him outside his suite at Mar-a-Lago? Gone. Facebook’s hands, the lawyer told me, are tied by its own policies.
Presumably, the only reason this doesn’t happen constantly is because nobody knows about the policy. But now you do!
Smith was additionally disturbed that Facebook was, in essence, overriding the editorial judgment of news outlets, which grapple every day with how to strike the balance between ensuring the public knows of information in the public interest and protecting a person’s right to privacy. For obvious reasons, public figures and organizations — which both BLM and Cullors undoubtedly are — are deemed to have a lower expectation of privacy when it comes to what is newsworthy. That is why, for example, the extramarital affairs of Donald Trump or Bill Clinton are deemed newsworthy whereas, outside of the dead-but-returning Gawker sewer, the sex lives of private citizens are not. Yet Facebook accords no deference to the editorial judgments even of the most established media outlets. Instead, they told Smith, “Facebook alone decides.”
Whatever one’s views are on this particular censorship controversy, there is no doubt that it is part of the highly consequential debate over online free speech and the ability of monopolies like Facebook to control the dissemination of news and the boundaries of political discourse and debate.
The ACLU or Atheists.Communists & Lawyers.Underground
Facebook’s, Twitter’s and, indeed, the entire spectrum of leftist media, “standard” is to shield leftists and vilify and silence conservatives. This is how the nation looks as if it stupidly elected the idiot Biden (note: It didn’t).