With less than a week to go before the event, the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) finally agreed to give my organization, the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), a room for a panel discussion on how social media is censoring conservatives.
This was the culmination of a process that began last September, when I first contacted Matt Schlapp of the American Conservative Union (ACU), CPAC’s sponsoring organization, and asked to become a CPAC sponsor so that I could host an event. I was willing to pay the full price for this sponsorship. CPAC did not allow that, but months later they did finally give me a room – and then put numerous obstacles in my way, finally pulling the plug altogether.
The deal they ultimately offered me came with a number of strings attached. One of their ACU sponsors, the American Principles Project (APP), had a room it was not using and would let us use it. But even then, this would not have been an event sponsored by AFDI. CPAC would not allow that. Instead, they said that my event had to be sponsored by the APP, a group I had never heard of before.
My unfamiliarity with the APP was of no import. The issue of social media censorship was paramount — the most critical issue facing conservatives today. So it was great news. We moved forward.
In nailing down the final details with CPAC, I put up with a great deal. CPAC officials put up one roadblock after another. They gave us a room, but after we announced where the event would be, they told us that room was not available. They moved us from a room for 150 people to a room for 70.
CPAC then told us that the featured speakers at my event would have to buy tickets to get in – and tickets were not cheap, running upwards of $300. Then late Tuesday night, I received a call from Terry Schilling, the ACU board member who runs the APP, demanding that I remove one of the speakers from the panel. I refused.
A panel on free speech is not going to drop a speaker for saying something that offended the left.
It was Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft they wanted banned, because of his post on the Florida shooting, arguing that some of the pro-gun control students who got so much media attention had likely been coached. For that, Hoft was attacked by the likes of Chelsea Clinton and Paul Krugman – and CPAC folded.
Whenever a leftist is attacked, the left circles the wagons and defends its own. Whenever the left attacks a conservative, the establishment right throws that conservative to the wolves.
Yet our panel had generated enormous interest. It was the most talked about panel at CPAC. The announcement on Breitbart had thousands of comments.
Schilling told Breitbart News that the cancelation was “completely Pamela’s call and completely avoidable.”
Yet by banning a speaker, APP effectively canceled the panel. They would not allow the panel without him, and they knew that I would never do the panel without him. They made it unavoidable.
Schilling also said: “I’m scrambling right now to put together a new panel on this, because she sabotaged it.”
What is he talking about? They never had a panel. They had an empty room. That’s how it was offered to me – as an empty room in which I could put a panel discussion. It was a small available space that came with APP’s CPAC sponsorship package. It was offered this past Sunday. APP had nothing going on, “no new panel to put together.” I organized the entire event.
The Breitbart article further quoted Schilling: “‘I didn’t want the entire conversation to be about Jim Hoft. And guess what? Now it is.’” Yet the APP signed off on Jim when I sent Schilling the entire speaker list on Monday. Even worse, Breitbart reports that Schilling “acknowledged that Hoft had helped his father, Robert Schilling, in his successful run for Congress in 2010 — notably, by exposing the incumbent Democrat’s lack of regard for the U.S. Constitution — but said that ‘personalities’ should not be the focus of the panel.”
Schilling added: “This has nothing to do with CPAC. This was my call.”
Schilling is CPAC — he is an ACU board member. He and Dan Schneider cobbled together this last minute solution. And it was Schilling who made this all about Hoft, when Tucker Carlson and others have pointed out the same things Hoft has. CPAC is not going to throw Tucker under the bus. But Hoft and me? Sure.
This is just the latest in how CPAC has worked to sabotage true conservatives. Longtime Geller Report and AFDI members are familiar with my decade-long struggle with CPAC. This year’s imbroglio is unlike how the conference has shut me out in previous years. After I hosted wildly successful events there every year from 2008 through 2012, they began to bar me, coming up each year with new excuses. Last year they even told me that I was being denied because of the “negative press coverage” I had previously given them over being barred in the years before that.
This is the panel that CPAC has now prevented from being held this year:
Suppression of Conservative Views on Social Media: A First Amendment Issue
Major social media platforms such as Google, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube have created the new town square, having become the primary portals through which Americans receive news today. On these platform, the Left has a monopoly. The social media giants are moving actively to erase and hide any viewpoint or person that does not conform to the “progressive” values for which they stand.
This has resulted in massive losses of readership and revenue for conservative sites, and endangers the very freedom of our Republic by allowing only one point of view to be aired. The social media corporations today hold more power over the public discourse than any totalitarian regime ever held. They do not just target voices with whom they disagree, but they make sure that those voices are unable to sustain themselves.
This panel will discuss the magnitude of this phenomenon, and discuss ways that the power of these Leftist social media outlets can be limited, such that voices that dissent from the hard-Left agenda can again be freely heard.
Panelists will include:
Pamela Geller, Editor and Publisher, Geller Report, President, American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) and author of Fatwa: Hunted in America
James Damore, Google whistleblower
Harmeet K. Dhillon, renowned free speech attorney
Dan Gainor, Vice President for Business and Culture, Media Research Center
Jim Hoft, Editor-in-Chief, Gateway Pundit
James O’Keefe, Project Veritas
Marlene Jaeckel, Tech Entrepreneur
CPAC has now joined with the left in this censorship.
It’s ironic. In a conversation last week with Dan Schneider of the ACU, I asked that we bury the hatchet and said that we had to unify and have a “big tent” if we were to defeat our common enemy. I said that of course we won’t agree on all issues, but that’s not who we are – that’s who the left is, marching in collectivist lockstep. I was respectful, deferential even. I was only concerned with the mission — to get this essential message to the grassroots. Those of us who have been at the front of the firing lines in the information battle-space must communicate with like-minded lovers of freedom — we must build an army. What could possibly be the motive of the ACU in blocking that?
Schneider told me that there were four qualifiers for acceptance and I passed them all, except that I had been critical of CPAC within the past year. I said that was a year ago, after the last CPAC. I was a couple of days before the one-year deadline. And it couldn’t be that CPAC did not permit dissent. He said of course it does, but CPAC didn’t like my “choice of words.”
And clearly, with all the roadblocks they constructed to make sure my event this year wouldn’t happen, they still don’t like dissent.
This issue — the suppression of the freedom of speech on social media — affects all of us on the right. In fact, it is the most critical issue of the day: if we are stripped of the means to communicate with one another, it’s all over. It was free people speaking freely on social media, outside of the reach of the media establishment, that got Donald Trump elected President of the United States.
The Democrats were onto the power of social media with Obama’s 2008 election, and here we are ten years later and the RINOs are still fighting not against the left, but against the most effective leaders on the right. The work my organization and I do is critical and singular. It addresses the most serious issues of our time. CPAC should be inviting us, not banning us.
Now the APP says they’re organizing the panel anyway, without either me or Hoft. In reality, I organized the panel and gave it its focus; the APP had no hand in it. This is the height of irony: a panel on free speech from which not one, but two speakers have been banned. How can they claim to stand for free speech after dropping a speaker because of pressure from the authoritarian left? What value can a free speech panel have when two free speech leaders were banned from that panel?
The panel is now bitterly ironic. Social media censorship discussed in a heavily censored event.
Conservatives are noticing what is happening with CPAC, and they aren’t happy. A new hit piece on CPAC in Vanity Fair reveals that “there are currently only 31 groups sponsoring the convention this year, compared to 47 in 2017, and just 30 listed exhibitors, down from 44 grassroots activist groups the year before….CPAC had lost nearly a third of its attendees from a peak of roughly 12,000 in 2014.”
We cannot accept the silencing of our colleagues. We can disagree, of course, and debate. But banning and shutting us down? No, that’s what the left does. That is not who we are.
Pamela Geller is the President of the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), publisher of The Geller Report and author of the bestselling book, FATWA: Hunted in America, as well as The Post-American Presidency: The Obama Administration’s War on America and Stop the Islamization of America: A Practical Guide to the Resistance. Follow her on Twitter or Facebook.