Picard facepalm

No, Republicans, DirecTV Dropping Newsmax Is Nothing Like This (Botched) Holocaust Quote

Right after International Holocaust Remembrance Day, no less.

When DirecTV announced they’d be dropping Newsmax, the ultra-conservative propaganda network, it seemed cause for celebration—even if parent company AT&T didn’t do so for particularly noble reasons. When the network’s contract was expiring, they reportedly wanted to raise their prices, to which AT&T said, “No thanks.”

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Far be it from conservatives, however, to let an opportunity to play victim pass them by, which is perhaps why Rep. Eric Burlison, from Missouri’s 7th district, took a moment on Tuesday, January 31, to claim that Newsmax’s removal was yet another example of big corporations censoring conservatives. Then, in case his accusation wasn’t spicy enough, he misquoted a famous quote about the Holocaust.

That’s right: Only four days after International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Burlison invoked Godwin’s Law, which holds that in any online conversation that continues long enough, someone will compare someone or something else to Hitler or the Holocaust. And what is the House of Representatives if not a sentient comments section?

Burlison claimed that “these companies” are given special privileges by the government—most likely referring to the billions of dollars in government subsidies ISPs receive—and then they turn around and attack the First Amendment. 

“Companies choose to silence conservative speech,” he said, “by first deplatforming or eliminating One America News, and now they’re going after Newsmax.” DirecTV removed OAN in April after pressure from watchdog groups who expressed concern about the potential consequences of giving a large platform to the fringe network, which spreads misinformation about the 2020 election, COVID-19, asylum seekers, and more.

But there are a few things wrong with Burlison’s statement. Not only was Newsmax removed for monetary reasons, but his claim of censorship is also factually inaccurate. It’s a dubious though oft-repeated claim that research finds is not just untrue, but it’s the polar opposite of what is happening to speech in the U.S. 

In fact, a recent study conducted by disinformation expert Paul M. Barrett found that social media platforms’ algorithms actually boost conservative and far-right speech, giving them farther reach than their political opponents. But I digress. Reality won’t stop Burlison and his fellow conservatives from claiming censorship by Big Tech, mainstream media, and other giants who frequently give them far too much room to spread lies.

In fact, Burlison believes so strongly that Newsmax’s removal from DirecTV is censorship that he very clumsily misquoted Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller’s famous “first they came for” confession, officially known as the Stuttgart Confession of Guilt. 

You know the one: “First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out, for I was not a communist. Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out, for I was not a socialist.” And it goes down the list of the groups Nazis targeted during their genocidal regime, until finally, the confession ends, “Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

Burlison? Well … that’s not exactly what he said. In fact, he botched it. He botched it hard. He tripped over his words—and the piece of paper on the lectern in front of him that probably had a written version of his statement on it. And instead, he gave us this gem: “There’s a famous quote about what happened during the Holocaust. When individuals—when—when the Nazis first came for some, and people said nothing. And then eventually, they’ll come for you.”

He continued, “I say this, not as a Republican or as a Missourian, but as a concerned citizen for a country who has these rights that were here because of the blood that was shed by thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of patriots from the time of the American Revolution until today, who fought and died so that you and I would have free speech. We must fight for all the attacks against the First Amendment and uphold the values that make this country so very special.”

Well stated, sir.

Niemöller’s confession is especially powerful because he himself was an anti-Semitic Nazi supporter at the beginning of Hitler’s regime. According to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, it was only when the dictator started interfering in the German church that Niemöller became an outspoken critic of the regime and spent eight years in Nazi prisons and concentration camps until the end of the war. His confession is now famous precisely because it underscores the importance of speaking up on behalf of the marginalized and vulnerable, even if you yourself are not a member of that group.

And maybe Burlison didn’t want to mention the Nazis going after communists and socialists and risk inviting unwanted comparison to the GOP, which also loathes communists and socialists. But part of me suspects that it’s because his brain is likely just powered by a hamster running on a wheel, and maybe the hamster was taking a break.

The important thing is this: He thinks an enormous ISP that donated to election deniers in the midterms is censoring his friends. It’d be laughable if it weren’t so terrifying. Some examples of marginalized populations whose rights are actually being stripped away Burlison could speak up for: trans people, asylum seekers, refugees, people of color, and people who can get pregnant, to name a few.

But then again, why would he do that when Newsmax says straight, white, Christian men are under attack? He’s gotta protect himself, or else, eventually, they’ll come for him too.

(featured image: Paramount)


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