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On Friday, June 11, resourceful process servers working for Children’s Health Defense (CHD) Chairman Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. served a subpoena in San Francisco on Markos Moulitsas, founder of Daily Kos, a liberal progressive news and activist forum. The subpoena, from a Westchester County New York Supreme Court Judge, orders Moulitsas to disclose the true name of “Downeast Dem” — a blogger who libeled Kennedy on the Daily Kos platform on Aug. 29, 2020.
Moulitsas had been fighting the order in court since December 2020, when Kennedy filed, and dodging the subpoena for a fortnight. Earlier this month, Daily Kos security guards at the company’s San Francisco headquarters twice blocked Kennedy’s process servers from entering the building.
The Daily Kos’ malicious article claimed that Kennedy spoke at a Nazi rally in Berlin “organized by right-wing extremist organizations, including the AFD party and various anti-Semitic conspiracy groups as well as the neo-Nazi NPD party.”
When Kennedy provided Daily Kos proof that the claims were false, Daily Kos nevertheless refused to remove the defamatory statements, claiming immunity under Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act, which provides a legal shield to internet platforms against lawsuits redressing defamatory statements by its guest writers.
Daily Kos took the position that Kennedy’s beef was with its pseudonymous author and that Kennedy’s only remedy was to sue Downeast Dem. But then the Daily Kos refused to disclose Downeast Dem’s true name or address.
Accordingly, Kennedy filed a petition with the Supreme Court of Westchester County to order Daily Kos to disclose “Downeast Dem’s” identity and contact information. Justice Mary H. Smith ruled in Kennedy’s favor in April, ordering Daily Kos to unmask Kennedy’s incognito attacker. Downeast Dem has no immunity from libel laws. Moulitsas and Kos Media have until tomorrow, June 30, to respond to the subpoena.
Immediately after Kennedy completed service, his team received a call from a Paul Levy, Esq. of the consumer rights advocacy group Public Citizen to inform them that Public Citizen is now representing Downeast Dem, pro bono, in a bid to save Downeast Dem, presumably a Maine Democrat, from having to reveal his identity.
Public Citizen has a long and noble history of advocating against corruption in the pharmaceutical industry. Kennedy himself has fought alongside Public Citizen during his well-documented history of battling regulatory and industry corruption.
Mary Holland, a former NYU Law professor with her own record on the frontlines for human rights and other liberal causes, now serves as CHD’s president and general counsel.
“Public Citizen’s choice to take on this case as its cause celebre is one of the most dismaying emblems, to date, of the co-optation of liberal institutions by Big Pharma and the medical cartel,” said Holland. “We have seen a lot of ideological chaos, confusion, doctrinal bankruptcy and intellectual dishonesty among our leading liberal institutions in the wake of the COVID crisis.”
Kennedy’s speech in Berlin was a part of his crusade against Pharma’s growing power over government agencies and public policy. Kennedy says that the industry’s claims about COVID vaccines merit heightened scrutiny during their rollouts.
“Unlike other drugs,” he argued, “vaccines are given to healthy individuals. We therefore should be far less tolerant of risk.”
When asked about Public Citizen’s decision to take Pharma’s side in the lawsuit, Kennedy remarked, “Public Citizen has done an extraordinary job documenting the pharmaceutical industry’s relentless and intractable history of homicidal corruption. It’s dismaying that the organization is switching sides at a time when this crisis has amplified the need for fearless pharma watchdogs.”
Kennedy reasoned that no matter how badly you want to believe in these vaccines, “there is no reason to think that COVID-19 has suddenly changed Big Pharma’s corrupt institutional culture. We need to be mindful that their opportunities for criminal profiteering are now manifold.”
He pointed out that vaccine makers are getting billions in government subsidies and support for their products.
“Furthermore, they are immune from liability and therefore have no incentive to make COVID vaccines safe. The vaccines are unlicensed, unapproved experimental technologies. Their short pre-licensure trials were incapable of spotting long-term injuries. The government’s post-licensing surveillance system is badly broken and fails to capture most vaccine injuries, making risk assessment impossible.
“It’s appropriate for us to be hyper-vigilant when governments mandate medical interventions or compel citizens to consume profit making pharmaceutical products. We need to be especially attentive to risks in children about whom there is almost no relevant safety information. Children, after all, have almost no risk from the disease and so any risk from the vaccine is unacceptable.”
Instead of championing Kennedy’s right to raise these questions, Public Citizen is now defending the supposed right of an anonymous individual to make misleading and false claims about Kennedy that are clearly defamatory.
“It’s elemental fairness — an American tradition — that Kennedy should be able to face his accuser,” observed Holland. “It seems both cowardly and unfair that Downeast Dem is going to great lengths to remain faceless.”
Holland said that Public Citizen’s position does not appear to arise from any coherent ideological conviction but simply because Downeast Dem is attacking an enemy of Big Pharma, which is now thoroughly aligned with Democratic party leadership.
“That’s tribalism,” said Holland. “Tribalism is poison to democracy. It is the enemy of truth. It is the enemy of dialogue.”
Reflecting on her own history as a Democratic Party stalwart, Holland remarked:
“I’m in shock that instead of debating Kennedy’s questions and prevailing in the marketplace of ideas, the liberal intelligentsia has responded with censorship and name calling. As a lifelong liberal, I find it mind-blowing that Pharma’s biggest critics have suddenly become its strongest defenders.
“I also find it troubling that liberals, once the champions of free speech, are now advocating censorship. The fundamental essence of the liberalism I grew up with was a fearlessness toward lively debate, even on the most difficult issues. All these sensible people who were heroes of mine are now behaving as if there is a pandemic exception in the First Amendment. We see leading liberal institutions, media moguls and social media robber barons acting as patronizing, elitist self- appointed ‘thought police’ to protect Americans from dangerous information.”
Daily Kos, Public Citizen and other liberal institutions are calling for the muzzling not just of Kennedy but of the many scientists and doctors and anyone else who raises difficult questions about vaccines. They are even deplatforming Americans who report their own vaccine injuries or who cite to government statistics on injury.
“They are trying to silence and gaslight their fellow Americans who question government policies,” said Holland. “Criticizing our government is not just a right, it is a duty of citizenship. Kennedy is gagged by the censors while Daily Kos gives his detractors a bullhorn to make false charges, cravenly defame him and then hide themselves behind Section 230.”
Downeast Dem’s defamatory article — “Anti-Vaxxer RFK, Jr. joins neo-Nazis in massive Berlin ‘Anti-Corona’ Protest” — falsely accused Kennedy of “join[ing] neo-Nazis” at a Berlin protest “organized by” “various anti-Semitic conspiracy groups as well as the neo-Nazi NPD party.”
The post purports to describe an Aug. 22 speech Kennedy delivered to more than 1 million people at the Rally for Peace and Freedom in Berlin organized by the German group Querdenken 711, or “Critical Thinking 711.”
“That post,” remarked Holland, “is the opposite of true.” The Querdenken movement is a broad-based, peaceful citizens’ movement for freedom, justice and human rights. It strongly opposes Nazism, anti-Semitism and all forces of extremism.
As usual, Querdenken took great pains to exclude extremists from the Berlin event. Those efforts were spectacularly successful. Among the speakers who followed Kennedy on the podium were politicians from Germany’s Green Party, Labor Leaders, human rights activists, doctors, lawyers, clergy of many religions, soldiers, police officers, parents, children, world-famous athletes and leaders of politically progressive nonprofit organizations.
The event’s Master of Ceremonies was a Black African born in Ghana. The musical performance included an Indian Hare Krishna monk. The principal stage ornament was a giant mural of Mahatma Gandhi, who is hardly a Nazi hero. The banners were rainbows, peace signs and the flags of every European nation.
“The crowd looked like Woodstock,” said Holland. “The speakers and audience were racially and religiously diverse.”
This complete absence of extremist influence or right-wing iconography is evident from the program, from all the footage publicly available, including this video. Anyone interested in accuracy could have easily check hundreds of sources to understand the true nature of the event. The fact that the erroneous nature of Daily Kos’ inflammatory “fake news” was so easily discernible attests to the Downeast Dem’s malicious intent.
Kennedy’s Berlin speech video was a screed against Nazism, tyranny, fascism, autocracy and a celebration of traditional liberal values, freedom of speech, worship and assembly, and justice and due process, and jury trials.
“It was a powerful message against totalitarianism,” said Holland. “Downeast Dem’s comments were not just abusive and false, they were cowardly. Downeast Dem slandered Mr. Kennedy from the shadows. His hope was to sling his barbs and then flee from public debate. That is the classic cowardice of a bully.”
Rather than acknowledging the Daily Kos post was fake news, Moulitsas has dug in and is now resorting to pleading with his readers to send cash to fund his crusade to keep Downeast Dem anonymous.
“Those fundraising letters have the poisonous, nasty, baiting tone of a schoolyard bully,” said Holland, “and by school, I mean elementary school — they are shockingly childish. It’s almost beyond comprehension that this low-level diatribe is coming from one of the most revered exemplars of the liberal intelligentsia, one of our Democratic Party’s superstars.”
Moulitsas wrote, “One more thing, Robbie or Bob or whatever people call you, because you sure as hell don’t deserve to be called by your initials like our great president.”
When asked about Moulitsas’ attacks, Kennedy refused to respond saying only that he was surprised that Moulitsas seemed to believe that his father won the 1968 Presidential election. Robert Kennedy was assassinated after winning the California Primary that June. “It’s pretty much common knowledge,” Kennedy commented dryly.
Ironically, the Daily Kos founder, who has been relentlessly bobbing and weaving to dodge any confrontation with Kennedy, is suddenly challenging Kennedy to engage. His invitation — it can only be described as an unhinged vitriolic diatribe — doubles as a fundraising appeal.
“Obviously, this fight isn’t inexpensive,” Moulitsas pleads with his readers, adding, “And if Kennedy isn’t a coward, he can drop the suit targeting Downeast Dem and come directly after me … So bring it, a**hole.”
Holland said Moulitsas’ challenge was surprising.
“We originally did sue Daily Kos directly,” she said. “It was Mr. Moulitsas himself who pointed his finger at Downeast Dem as the culprit we needed to pursue.
“If Mr. Moulitsas really wants to debate, I doubt that would be a problem. Kennedy has always been willing to debate all comers. I’m quite sure that if Mr. Moulitsas is looking for a civil conversation, all he has to do is ask. Daily Kos presents itself as a serious forum for liberal debate, but the fact is that no one dares to debate Kennedy. Everyone saw the way that he demolished Alan Dershowitz in their debates, and so they all prefer to resort to name calling from a safe distance.”
Holland wonders out loud why Daily Kos is going so far to protect Downeast Dem from embarrassment.
“If they really think this is truthful information,” she asked, “why don’t they come forward? Why does Downeast Dem have to slink around in darkness? Why doesn’t he come out of the shadows and engage in an open dialogue with Mr. Kennedy?”
“I think we need to all move beyond vituperation and polarization and have a larger discussion.
“I grew up in a milieu when liberals were the champions of civil rights, religious freedom, free speech and due process. Liberals were sworn enemies of censorship and the control of the government by corporate multinationals, including pharmaceutical corporations. Why do we now fear to have conversations about science? Why are we retreating instead into appeals to authority?”
Kennedy was referring to the persistent liberal mantra that people should “trust the experts” rather than research government claims, cultivate scientific curiosity and engage in critical thinking. Putting faith in “experts,” is a “logical fallacy,” Kennedy said. “It is a feature of religion, not science.
“That notion is anathema to both science or democracy, which begin with skepticism, with curiosity, with relentless questioning, and with critical thinking. Furthermore, the particular group of experts that they are instructing us to trust are mainly badly conflicted government and industry stooges.
“They are aggressively censoring the armies of highly credentialed independent experts who challenge the official orthodoxies.”
“Why have some in the liberal establishment folded their tents on the field of logic, reason and scientific literacy, and retreated from dialogue?” asked feminist icon Dr. Naomi Wolf.
“Why are so many reduced to ad hominem attacks and to efforts at censorship? Why must they often accuse those who simply disagree with them of being Trump supporters, ‘Qanon followers,’ ‘anti-vaxxers’ or even Nazis? Many in our intellectual class have devolved — in a single year — into adolescent bullying, and it is bad for journalism and for our country.”