Glenn Greenwald
Politics • Writing • Culture
New Russell Brand Accusations Deserve Scrutiny & Due Process; Yoel Roth Wails Over Censorship-Regime Backlash; & 4 Republicans Demand Insane Ukraine Escalation
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September 20, 2023
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It's Monday, September 18. Welcome to a new episode of System Update, our live nightly show that airs every Monday through Friday at 7 p.m. Eastern, exclusively here on Rumble, the free speech alternative to YouTube.

Tonight: The accusations against Russell Brand. The famed comedian, actor and political commentator stands accused by four different women, all of whom are anonymous, of various forms of sexual misconduct, including an allegation of rape from one of them. The year-long investigation that culminated in these accusations was conducted by a consortium of British media companies, including the newspaper Times of London, which is owned by the Murdoch family, as well as the television network Channel 4. All of the allegations concern alleged behavior he undertook from the period of 2006 to 2013 when Brand worked for Channel 4, as well as for the BBC. There are no allegations involving behavior after 2013. Prior to the publication of the Times article and the Channel 4 documentary, none of these women had ever filed a criminal complaint, and there are no indications that even with the publication of these accusations, they have done so yet. 

Brand skyrocketed to cultural celebrity as a result of hosting numerous television programs, acting as the lead in several Hollywood studio films and being married for a short time to the pop star Katy Perry. He has always been political and was long associated with the British left, being a vocal supporter of the British socialist Jeremy Corbyn and identifying for a long time as a democratic socialist. 

But over the last several years, Brand's politics has become less susceptible to being ideologically pigeonholed for many of the same reasons that's true of the independent journalists Matt Taibbi and myself. In particular, Brandt has developed a profound distrust of and deep contempt for the leading institutions of authority in the West, including the corporate media, the Western security state, neoliberal financial institutions, and the COVID pandemic. 

One of his main targets became the pharmaceutical industry. He is an outspoken opponent of the U.S.-EU role in the war in Ukraine and has long crusaded for the freedom of Julian Assange and Edward Snowden. He vehemently denounces the union of state and corporate power to censor political speech on the Internet – views which are now bizarrely coded as being right-wing and thus provokes the greatest amount of animosity from establishment centers of power, particularly from corporate media outlets. 

Until the last few years, Brand largely worked within mainstream media and mainstream culture, he has been extremely candid about the difficulties of his past, including the years he spent in substance abuse and sex addiction and generally living what he describes as a spiritually deprived lifestyle built around hedonism. He wrote a book on that and the recovery process in which he engaged to get out of that lifestyle. He has also now built one of the most influential and powerful platforms in independent political media. His daily Show on Rumble and the segments of it that he posts on YouTube are routinely watched by millions of people. And that's been true for several years.

The allegations against Brand obviously have the potential to destroy his reputation permanently. It is the biggest story in the UK, occupying the cover of every newspaper and tabloid and dominating news programs on television. It also flooded the American media as well. The allegations deserve to be taken seriously in the sense that they are likely to have massive ramifications on numerous levels. We'll take a look at the accusations themselves, what we know and do not know about what happened in these events. We will also examine the reaction to the story and the ways in which it is predictably instrumentalized. There are a lot of important lessons in all of this, and we will do our best to examine those lessons with the intent to highlight what we think are the more generalized insights this case offers. 

Then: When Elon Musk purchased Twitter in October 2022, an extraordinary amount of transparency was brought to that company. In particular, we learned a great deal about the censorship regime that had taken hold of Twitter and the other Big Tech platforms, and especially the ongoing continuous aggressive pressure from the U.S. government to engage in that kind of censorship. One of the key figures in Twitter's censorship scheme was someone named Yoel Roth, who headed what the company called its Trust and Safety unit. Many of the disclosures from reporters who had access to the Twitter files to Twitter's internal corporate documents revealed that it was Roth who was at the center of many of the platform's most controversial censorship decisions, including but by no means only the ones involving restrictions on the political speech of the then sitting president, Donald Trump. Once Roth began speaking in public in an attempt to justify and rationalize what he had done, it was clear that he sounded like some extreme liberal elite caricature and that the censorship inclinations that drove him were based almost entirely on his ideological and political convictions, which, like so many of those similar to him, he mistook for objective truth, data and science. 

Roth, after effectively disappearing for a good while, has returned today with an op-ed in The New York Times. Part of the op-ed is designed to recount his victimhood, and the threats and insults he received online, but its real point is to lament what he says is the weakening of the censorship regime he helped build and the growing backlash among Americans having to have their political discourse limited and policed by the wrath of the world. 

I think, and most definitely hope, that he is right about this, that the public backlash is now making it more difficult for social media companies and their government allies to continue to degrade the Internet into one of the most potent weapons of thought control and propaganda ever created. It is definitely long past time for Americans to backlash against this sort of despotic control. We’ll examine Roth's warnings to determine whether some victories are finally emerging against the wannabe authoritarians who are increasingly fearful of allowing free political discourse to flourish because they know free speech results in their being exposed as chronic disinformation agents and then, ultimately, they're losing their stranglehold on power. 

For now, welcome to a new episode of System Update, starting right now.

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Listen to this Article: Reflecting New U.S. Control of TikTok's Censorship, Our Report Criticizing Zelensky Was Deleted

For years, U.S. officials and their media allies accused Russia, China and Iran of tyranny for demanding censorship as a condition for Big Tech access. Now, the U.S. is doing the same to TikTok. Listen below.

Listen to this Article: Reflecting New U.S. Control of TikTok's Censorship, Our Report Criticizing Zelensky Was Deleted
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🏆Dog-of-the-Week:

Dog-of-the-Week goes to KIERA. Our cute-as-can-be cohost got some rest while Glenn and Victor did the heavy lifting of answering our Weekly Weigh-In questions. But, she wasn’t the only one, Toby – seen in our second photo – also got to nap.

UPDATE: Alan Dershowitz vs. Glenn Greenwald at The Soho Forum
15 hours ago

I’m impressed with how well informed and how IFORMING some of the audience here is! Someone offered a list of reports from Al Jesera that includes a report on the current use of the floating aid port and how it’s being received from the perspective of Gaza and the international community. It’s really important to know about! Thanks to who did this!

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As the Daily Wire Publicly Negotiated a Debate with Candace Owens, it Secretly Sought -- and Obtained -- a Gag Order Against Her
Due to a prior restraint order against Owens, the much-anticipated Israel debate with Ben Shapiro appears to be off.

On April 5, Candace Owens publicly invited her former Daily Wire colleague Ben Shapiro to a debate about "Israel and the current definition of antisemitism." It was Owens' criticisms of U.S. financing of Israel, and her criticisms of Israel's war in Gaza, that caused her departure from the Daily Wire two weeks earlier.

Both Shapiro and Daily Wire CEO Jeremy Boreing responded by saying they would like to arrange the debate requested by Owens. That night, Shapiro appeared to accept her offer, writing on X: "Sure, Candace. I texted you on February 29th offering this very thing." The Daily Wire co-founder added: "Let's do it on my show this Monday at 5pm at our studios in Nashville; 90 minutes, live-streamed."

After Owens objected to the format and timing, she and Boreing exchanged several tweets in which they appeared to be negotiating, and then agreeing to, the terms and format for the debate. Owens had suggested the debate be moderated by Joe Rogan or Lex Fridman. Shaprio said he wanted no moderator. They ultimately agreed to the terms, with Boreing offering a series of conditions, including a no-moderator debate, and with Owens publicly accepting

Two weeks later, many readers of both Shapiro and Owens noticed, and complained, that the debate had not yet happened. On April 24, Owens addressed those inquiries by explaining that the Daily Wire had yet to propose dates, while reiterating her strong desire to ensure the debate happened.

But the debate was never going to happen. That is because the Daily Wire -- in secret and unbeknownst to its readers -- sought a gag order to be placed on Owens after she had called for a debate. They did this under the cover of secrecy, before a private arbitrator, at exactly the same time that they were claiming in public that they wanted this debate and were even negotiating the terms with her. To this date, the Daily Wire has not informed its readers, seeking to understand why the much-anticipated debate had not yet happened, that they had sought and obtained a gag order against Owens.

When seeking a gag order to be imposed on Owens, the Daily Wire accused her of violating the non-disparagement clause of her agreement with the company. To substantiate this accusation, the company specifically cited Owens' initial tweet requesting a debate with Shapiro as proof of this disparagement, along with concerns she voiced that Shapiro appeared to be violating the confidentiality agreement between them by publicly maligning Owens's views to explain her departure from the company. While the company claimed before the arbitrator that it did not object in principle to a "healthy debate," it urged the imposition of a gag order on Owens by claiming that the way she requested the debate constituted disparagement of Shapiro and the site.

To justify the gag order it wanted, the company also cited various criticisms of the Daily Wire and Shapiro on X that Owens had "liked." This proceeding took place as part of an exchange of legal threats between the parties after the public agreement to debate about Israel was solidified. Those threats arose from the fact that various Daily Wire executives and hosts, in both public and private, were castigating Owens as an anti-Semite. On March 22, Daily Wire host Andrew Klaven published a one-hour video that hurled multiple accusations, including anti-Semitism, at Owens. The Daily Wire cited Owens' response to that video -- her defense of herself from those multiple accusations -- as further proof that she needed to be gagged.

The initial tweet from Owens not only requested a debate, but also included a video from the popular comedian Andrew Schulz, who had mocked the Daily Wire for firing Owens over disagreements regarding Israel, and specifically mocked Shapiro for his willingness to debate only undergraduate students. The tweet underneath Owens's original debate request included a summary of Schulz's mockery of Shapiro which stated: Schulz now "realizes Ben Shapiro is only good at debating college liberals & can’t win debates against serious competition." 

After the prior restraint hearing sought by the Daily Wire and Shapiro, the arbitrator sided with them and against Owens. The arbitrator agreed with the Daily Wire that Owens' call to debate Shapiro, and her follow-up negotiations of the debate, constituted "disparagement" of the company and Shapiro. The company argued that any further attempt by Owens to debate, as well her suggesting that the debate would expose the Daily Wire's real "priorities," constituted criticisms of the site and of Shapiro, criticisms that the arbitrator concluded Owens was barred from expressing under her contract with the company.

The arbitrator thus imposed a gag order of prior restraint on Owens. Among other things, the order banned Owens from saying or doing anything in the future which could tarnish or harm the reputation of the Daily Wire and/or Ben Shapiro. Given that the Daily Wire had argued, and the arbitrator agreed, that Owens' offers to debate Shapiro about Israel and anti-semitism were themselves "disparaging," the Daily Wire has ensured that the debate with Owens that they publicly claimed to want could not, in fact, take place. Any such debate would be in conflict with the gag order they obtained on Owens from expressing any criticisms of the site or of Shapiro.

When asked for comment to be included this story, Owens replied: I "wish I could comment on this but I can’t." She added: "can neither confirm nor deny."

Boreing said: "your story is inaccurate to the point of being false," though he did not specify a single inaccuracy, nor did he deny that the Daily Wire had sought and obtained a gag order on Owens at the same time they were publicly posturing as wanting a debate with her. The confirmation we obtained of all these facts is indisputable. Boreing added: "I’m sure you can appreciate how fraught a high profile break-up like this is. For that reason, we are trying to resolve our issues with Candace privately."

It certainly seems true that the Daily Wire is attempting to achieve all of this "privately." Nonetheless, Ben Shapiro has constructed his very lucrative media brand and persona based on his supposed superiority in debating, a reputation cultivated largely as a result of numerous appearances at undergraduate schools around the country where he intrepidly engages with students who are often in their teens or early twenties. Both Shapiro and the Daily Wire have also predicated their collective media brand on an eagerness to engage in free and open debate with anyone, and to vehemently oppose any efforts to silence people, especially those in media, from expressing their political views.

It was the imperatives of this media branding that presumably led the Daily Wire and Shapiro to publicly agree to a debate with Owens over Israel and anti-semitism in the first place. Indeed, when it became apparent early after the start of Israel's war in Gaza that Owens had major differences with Shapiro, Boering responded to calls from Israel supporters for Owens to be fired by proclaiming in November: 

[E]ven if we could, we would not fire Candace because of another thing we have in common - a desire not to regulate the speech of our hosts, even when we disagree with them. Candace is paid to give her opinion, not mine or Ben’s. Unless those opinions run afoul of the law or she violates the terms of her contract in some way, her job is secure and she is welcome at Daily Wire.

But a mere four months later, Owens, despite being of one of the company's most popular hosts, was out. The company had concluded that her increasingly vocal criticisms of Israel, opposition to U.S. financing of it, and her views on anti-semitism were incompatible with the Daily Wire's policies.

All of those issues would likely have been the subject of the public debate that Owens sought, and that the Daily Wire claimed to want. Instead, the Daily Wire has succeeded in obtaining a gag order that, on its face, prevents Owens, in advance, from questioning or criticizing both the Daily Wire or Shapiro in any way.

 

 

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THE WEEKLY UPDATE: MAY 13-17
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We are pleased to send you a summary of the key stories we covered last week on SYSTEM UPDATE. 

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SYSTEM UPDATE RECAP: May 13-17
Weekly Recap

Welcome to the SYSTEM UPDATE recap: your weekend digest featuring everything we’ve covered throughout the previous week. 

 

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MONDAY, MAY 13 - EPISODE 269

Jen Psaki's Lies Expose the Fraud of "Disinformation"; Israelis Endanger Americans and Block Humanitarian Aid

Full transcript available for paid supporters: HERE

 

WATCH THE EPISODE

Intro (7:26)

Queen of Disinformation (14:11)

Israelis Block Gaza Aid (47:32)

Outro (1:12:12)

 

TUESDAY, MAY 14 - EPISODE 270

House Prioritizes Israel Over Funding U.S. Government; Seinfeld Commencement Debacle Fuels Antisemitism Panic; PLUS: China and Hungary's Close Ties Explained

Full transcript available for paid supporters: HERE

 

WATCH THE EPISODE

Intro (10:29)

House Prioritized Israel Over U.S. (16:19)

Media Meltdown (48:28)

Hungary and China Strengthen Ties (57:50)

Outro (1:17:07)

 

Supporters-Only After Show for Tuesday, May 14

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WEDNESDAY, MAY 15 - EPISODE 271

INTERVIEW: Professor Jeffrey Sachs on Ukraine's Failures, Israel's War in Gaza, China, and More

Full transcript available for paid supporters: HERE

 

WATCH THE EPISODE

Intro (6:31)

Interview with Professor Jeffrey Sachs [13:12 - 1:10:23]

  • Ukraine (13:12 - 48:33)
  • Israel (48:34 - 58:40)
  • Columbia Student Protests (58:45 - 1:03:23)
  • China (1:03:24 - 1:10:23)

Outro (1:10:24)

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