Former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson slammed the mainstream media and Big Tech for its continued attempts to censor and “deplatform” views it does not like or does not want to debate, during his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Fla.
Berenson joked with the crowd that his otherwise liberal politics wouldn’t often land him at the nation’s premier conservative activist event.
“I’m honestly surprised as any of you that I’m here — if you knew my voting record you’d think I should be speaking at the ACLU, not CPAC,” he said at the conference, which is streaming live on Fox Nation.
“Times have changed and the New York Times, where I used to work, has changed.”
Berenson said that he and other classical liberals have not changed their views on freedom of expression or open public discourse:
“It’s not me, it’s the Times,” he said adding that columnists at liberal mainstream papers like the Grey Lady have pivoted to routinely call for censorship of their political opponents.
“I never would’ve imagined being on Fox, while the Times either ignored me or tried to bash me.”
Berenson made clear the threat of censorship from powerful entities comes both from public and private concerns: the government, Big Tech and media.
The pro-censorship crowd is frustrated, he said, because they are recognizing their inability to control public narratives as easily as they want, given the diaspora of media and technology in recent years.
“75 million people voted for Donald Trump, and they think that’s a cataclysm,” he added.
Berenson went on to describe more of his own experiences with censorship, claiming that Amazon initially refused to market his recent book — which expresses a narrative on coronavirus and lockdowns that runs counter to conventional media and Big Tech thought — until entrepreneur Elon Musk spoke out against it, and the Jeff Bezos-helmed firm later relented.
“This censorship is still happening — a lot of people still can’t get their stuff published on Amazon.”
He added that Amazon’s power is compounded by the fact it and other tech firms like it have been allowed to control most of the business in their particular fields.
“Squeezing the flow of information is extraordinarily dangerous for big companies to do this because they’re quasi-monopolies.
“When ideology and profit are running the same way, it’s almost impossible for people to reconsider their actions or consider the consequences of their actions,” he added.
Berenson remarked that his CPAC badge lists him as a “self-employed” journalist, adding that being “self-employed” is now the only way for reporters to ultimately guarantee they won’t be fired or discriminated against in the workplace for personal views.
“I’m stunned I’ve fallen in with the conservative movement,” he added.
“You’re more committed to freedom of thought and speech and debate than anyone else and you should be proud of that.”
Berenson said it is important for people of any political stripe, who believe in the constitutional protections in the First Amendment, not to be afraid to go to unfamiliar territory to exercise those rights.
“It is sad that people who think they know best will not talk to you or debate to you.”