Anaheim government: The canceled Gaetz/Greene event did "not reflect our city and its values"

AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

This makes twice in three days that a government has admitted to lobbying a private entity to silence proponents of a disfavored viewpoint. We don’t know what was said between the White House and Facebook or between Anaheim officials and the owners of the M3 Live Anaheim Event Center, where Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene were supposed to speak yesterday afternoon, but the goal in both cases was the same — to deplatform people on the other side of an issue from the government.

In fact, Gaetz and Greene have had three separate venues cancel on them this week, reminiscent of Jen Psaki suggesting a few days ago that if you’re banned by one social media platform for disinformation you should be banned by all of them.

Originally the two were supposed to speak at the Pacific Hills Banquet & Event Center in Laguna Hills, part of Orange County, California. But that didn’t last. “As soon as we found out who the speakers were we immediately canceled it,” said the general manager of the venue afterward. Next stop was the Riverside Convention Center in Riverside County. “The hateful and racist rhetoric that will be perpetrated at this event by these two well-known extremists has absolutely no place in our City,” said one Riverside city council member after the booking was announced. Soon that event was canceled too. “I recognize this was a divisive issue in our community, and I am glad it has been resolved,” the mayor commented afterward.

Fun fact: Although the Riverside Convention Center is privately operated, it’s owned by the city. If in fact local officials were in touch with that business about barring Gaetz and Greene then this wasn’t a case of government “lobbying” a private entity. It was a property owner — and a state actor — warning its own building manager to discriminate on the basis of viewpoint. No wonder Gaetz and Greene are thinking of suing on First Amendment grounds.

Yesterday morning they announced that they’d found a third venue, the M3 Live Center in Anaheim. The city government was unhappy and made clear that the speakers’ politics was a factor:

Nonsense. They have no “duty” to “call out” private speech within their jurisdiction that doesn’t reflect their values, which happens a million times a day in Anaheim. And it’s unthinkable that they’d call out, let alone try to deplatform, an event that veered further left than city officials were personally comfortable with.

Hours before the event was set to happen, the venue pulled the plug. Last night the city admitted that it had been in touch with the owners and reiterated that Gaetz and Greene don’t reflect their “values”:

They offered a content-neutral justification, “public safety,” but it’s not clear what that means. A local paper pointed out that city security was stretched thin yesterday by other events, including an Angels game, a different conservative event, and a labor rally outside Disneyland, and the fact that the Gaetz/Greene rally was moved from Riverside to Anaheim at the last second gave them little time to plan. But were there really not enough police available to make the event safe, with various activist groups vowing to protest, or was that just a pretext to execute a “heckler’s veto” of two politicians whom the city didn’t want to host?

What happened to Gaetz and Greene seems more sinister at first blush than what happened with Facebook and not just because Zuckerberg’s company has vastly more resources to resist government pressure than some banquet hall somewhere. For one thing, Facebook already has a policy against misinformation; the White House is asking it to enforce its own policy more vigorously against anti-vaxxers. There’s no reason at the moment to think the M3 Live Center had any preexisting policy against pro-Trump politicians or Gaetz and Greene specifically. The city seems to have strong-armed them into it.

The White House is also targeting factual inaccuracies about the vaccines on Facebook. But Anaheim officials haven’t framed their problem with Gaetz and Greene as an objection to falsehoods they’re telling, like Trump having won the election. Their objection sounds broadly ideological based on the statements they’ve issued: They’re not MAGA and so they don’t like MAGA rabble-rousers dropping by their city and stirring people up.

Did they threaten the M3 Event Center to get yesterday’s event canceled? Did the Riverside city council threaten the convention center? Gaetz’s and Greene’s lawyers will be keen to know.

Ultimately the two ended up holding a short and hastily scheduled rally outside Riverside City Hall:

Around 20 counterprotesters showed up and reportedly ended up exchanging taunts and middle fingers with the MAGA crowd on the scene after Gaetz and Greene finished speaking. Below you’ll find a bit from his remarks, including the requisite election trutherism. Congrats to the idiots in California local government who’ve made him a free-speech martyr because they prioritize progressive virtue-signaling over minding their own business about private political opinions being expressed in their jurisdiction. Exit question: Would the venues have ended up canceling Gaetz and Greene even if their local governments hadn’t intervened? They were getting an earful for booking them from critics online too.