News outlets from the Daily Mail to the Huffington Post are falsely claiming that Florida congressman Matt Gaetz told supporters at a rally in Georgia that they should use their Second Amendment rights to target social media companies in Silicon Valley, even though that’s not what the Republican actually said at all.
Here’s how the Huffington Post portrayed Gaetz’s comments:
“The internet’s hall monitors out in Silicon Valley, they think they can suppress us, discourage us,” he said at a rally in Dalton, Georgia, co-hosted by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.). “Well you know what? Silicon Valley can’t cancel this movement, or this rally, or this congressman. We have a Second Amendment in this country, and I think we have an obligation to use it.”
That sounds pretty freaking inflammatory, doesn’t it? The only problem is that the quote used by the Huffington Post leaves out a pretty good chunk of what Gaetz actually said, as Newsweek’s James Walker reports:
The Florida Republican actually told an “America First” rally in Dalton, Georgia, that Big Tech firms were “the internet’s hall monitors,” and said they were trying to “suppress” conservatives as he called on the movement to use the First Amendment to speak and assemble.
He later made a separate point about the Second Amendment and a Twitter user edited the speech to make it look like Gaetz was calling on people to shoot Silicon Valley employees. The clip went viral.
Gaetz’s actual remarks about cancel culture and Silicon Valley were far more benign than what most media outlets are reporting.
“Let us use the Constitution to strengthen our argument, and our movement,” he said. “We have a First Amendment right to speak and assemble, and we better use it. The internet’s hall monitors out in Silicon Valley, they think they can suppress us, discourage us. Maybe if you’re just a little less patriotic, maybe if you just conform to their way of thinking a little more, then you will be allowed to participate in the digital world? Well, you know what? Silicon Valley can’t cancel this movement, or this rally, or this congressman.”
Later in his speech Gaetz brought up the right to keep and bear arms, telling those in attendance “We have a Second Amendment in this country, and I think we have an obligation to use it. The Second Amendment… this is a little history for all the fake news media… the Second Amendment is not about hunting, it’s not about recreation, it’s not about sports. The Second Amendment is about maintaining, within the citizenry, the ability to maintain an armed rebellion against the government, if that becomes necessary. I hope it never does, but it sure is important to recognize the founding principles of this nation, and to make sure that they are fully understood.”
In other words, even when Gaetz was talking about the Second Amendment, he wasn’t calling on rallygoers to take up arms against the federal government. He was simply saying that the Second Amendment is ultimately about the people’s right to keep and bear arms as a check on federal tyranny. If anyone finds that to be a controversial statement, I’d suggest they read James Madison’s Federalist 46, where the father of the U.S. Constitution explicitly argues that “citizens with arms in their hands,” along with state and local governments elected by a vote of the people, would be the last line of defense against a federal government that descended into tyranny.
I’m not a particular fan of Matt Gaetz, but I am a fan of the truth, and this kind of deceptive editing should never have been amplified and portrayed as fact by news outlets. Gaetz never came close to suggesting that gun owners should take up arms against Silicon Valley and employees of Big Tech companies like Facebook or Twitter. Instead, he argued that Americans should keep using their First Amendment rights to speak out against cancel culture, and frankly, his contention that the media will try to suppress the views of conservatives was only given weight by the actions of outlets like the Huffington Post and others who were eager and all too willing to help spread a falsehood instead of taking the time to report the facts.